How Can NSA Surveillance Leaks Both Be No Big Deal And Put Us All In Danger?

from the do-tell dept

As the NSA and the administration continue to seek to spin the fallout from the leaks that revealed some of the overreaching surveillance efforts of the NSA, what's incredible is how self-contradictory the statements are, even when coming from the same source. The go-to defender of the program has been Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has tried arguing both that the leaks and these programs are no big deal and that they present a grave danger to intelligence operations. It's incredible.

First, there's playing it down as no big deal:
In a statement issued Saturday, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. described PRISM as “an internal government computer system used to facilitate the government’s statutorily authorized collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision.”

“PRISM is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program,” the statement said.
Hmm. So if it's no big deal, and all they're doing is facilitating statutorily authorized collection of data, why all the secrecy? Why not be transparent about all of that? And, also, if it's just keeping track of all the legally obtained stuff, why then would he also say the following:
“For me, it is literally – not figuratively – literally gut-wrenching to see this happen because of the huge, grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities,” Clapper told NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell.
And later, he claimed that the leaker (this was before Snowden revealed himself) had "chosen to violate a sacred trust for this country" and that the leaks "affects the safety and security of this country."

I can't see any way to put together the earlier statements with the later statements that makes any sense at all. If all they were doing is analyzing statutorily authorized data, then there shouldn't be any concern. We'd expect the NSA to have a computer system to do exactly that, right? So... um... why is it damaging to the nation and putting us all at risk? It seems more likely that the truth is that what was revealed wasn't just a simple system for collecting data, as we can see, but rather just how much information the NSA is gathering up into its huge databases. Furthermore, the idea that this puts us in danger is, frankly, insulting. Most folks involved in terrorist activity already assume their phone calls are being tracked, so it's not like this is going to change their tactics.

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  • icon
    Robert (profile), 10 Jun 2013 @ 10:28am

    Simple

    It means it is not a big deal that the public is in danger. Because that danger is the erosion of civil liberties under the false-veil of security.

    If Clapper really wanted to make America safe, he'd get control of the corporations whom are exploiting countries around the world, using US soldiers and diplomats as their proxy. Of course it's all in the name of profits. Profits for military equipment, profits for security companies, profits for natural resource companies (oil, metals, etc..), agricultural via food services (McD's harvests cows on their farms in Africa, or at least they used to), etc..

    Stop that and you'll stop the terrorist threats. Seriously, do you think Osama would have wanted to attack the US if they were not meddling in Middle Eastern affairs? Some would say "they hate we are free" but that's total bullshit. They hate your interference!

    That's how you can have security and liberty co-existing, by NOT giving a reason for security in the first place!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      pixelpusher220 (profile), 10 Jun 2013 @ 12:24pm

      Re: Simple

      Oh the leaks DO present the "huge, grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities" Clapper says.

      However, since said intelligence capabilities are by any measure unconstitutional it's not a 'bad' thing to damage them as such.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, 10 Jun 2013 @ 10:49am

    Guess same way Google both SPIES and "serves".

    Just depends whether one has an agenda to push.


    Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up same place!
    http://techdirt.com/
    Where Mike fights CISPA without mentioning major data sources Google and Facebook.
    06:49:40[h-402-4]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2013 @ 11:02am

      Re: Guess same way Google both SPIES and "serves".

      You seem to have assume Google is the evil one in this. Google has been one of the few companies that came forward about government over reach in the past. What data are you basing your accusations?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      jameshogg (profile), 10 Jun 2013 @ 11:04am

      Re: Guess same way Google both SPIES and "serves".

      When the government starts using DRM to gather this data, you will probably come up with the most ridiculous amateur-psychoanalysis ever:

      "Government tendencies to overreach their powers by using DRM through corporation backdoors, are NOT in fact due to a long history of states trying to exert their powers using whatever means necessary... but are instead down to, wait for it, pirates. Pirates who DARE to demonstrate that DRM is a utopian fantasy. Aren't I a genius?"

      You should surely see how I, as a materialist, am perfectly entitled to treat this view in the same way I treat the Creationist view of the world?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2013 @ 11:16am

      Re: Guess same way Google both SPIES and "serves".

      Damn Google for the Holocaust.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2013 @ 11:23am

      Re: Guess same way Google both SPIES and "serves".

      call me when Google can rendition you

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2013 @ 10:51am

    OOTB

    Google is not the government. You can opt out of using Google.
    Idiot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2013 @ 10:56am

    Security at the expense of transparency, privacy and freedom is no security at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2013 @ 11:01am

    violate a sacred trust?

    I don't know any trust more sacred than being true to one's conscience.
    As far as I can see, Snowden's been truer to his sacred trust than anybody I know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 10 Jun 2013 @ 11:03am

    Is anyone else looking at this and thinking, "this is what the endgame looks like"?

    As in, the reason all of these leaks are coming out now is because the powers that be are sufficiently entrenched and secure that they don't really think that having this information come out will accomplish anything that can stop them now...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2013 @ 11:03am

    that's easy to answer! simply pretend you're a politician! even better, pretend you're a Senior politician! and even better still, pretend you're in charge of a law enforcement agency!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mark Harrill (profile), 10 Jun 2013 @ 11:16am

    Doublethink

    A little Orwellian quote seems appropriate here:

    “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2013 @ 11:36am

    There's a simple explanation for this

    He's lying.

    This shouldn't surprise anyone: THAT'S HIS JOB.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan, 10 Jun 2013 @ 11:42am

    sounds familiar

    Somehow this sounds familiar... relate to copyright and pirates... Some pirate s/w and games for convenience and those who purchased are stuck with DRM - (read terrorists know how to surpass surveillance and common man has lost his privacy)

    Funny...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2013 @ 12:02pm

    "Most folks involved in terrorist activity already assume their phone calls are being tracked, so it's not like this is going to change their tactics."

    Proof please!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shadow-Slider, 10 Jun 2013 @ 12:05pm

    Incredibly Cynical

    Here is an incredibly cynical idea: the U.S. federal government is the least corrupt in the world. Every other government doing the same thing, the difference is a few people in the U.S. who have security clearance do not trust the government whereas everywhere else the everyone with security clearance trust their government implicitly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Paul Renault (profile), 10 Jun 2013 @ 12:09pm

    Next they'll say...

    ..that this isn't news.

    It's in the playbook.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2013 @ 1:45pm

    "How Can NSA Surveillance Leaks Both Be No Big Deal And Put Us All In Danger?"
    Simple.
    When the people in power spies on the peons it's no big deal in their minds.
    When the people in power gets revealed spying on the peons they get in danger of losing elections, careers, money, etc.
    And that's why it's both "No Big Deal" and "Very Dangerous" at the same time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    BentFranklin (profile), 10 Jun 2013 @ 2:02pm

    James Clapper is the one who violated his sacred trust for this country.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    teka, 10 Jun 2013 @ 8:19pm

    It is just like some of the Bradley Manning response.

    "This is totally not a big deal and there was nothing important or newsworthy"

    "Releasing this information is literally the same as murdering a billion puppies.. Literally. Whoever did it needs to be buried under a jail"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    horse with no name, 10 Jun 2013 @ 9:13pm

    Has anyone else noticed

    That Techdirt is trying desperately to keyword stuff "NSA SURVEILLANCE" into almost every post title? Why not go a step further and have:

    NSA PORN
    NSA HARDCORE
    NSA VIDEOS
    NSA HIDDEN CAMERA
    NSA SECRETS

    Come on... you missed a few!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JustMe (profile), 11 Jun 2013 @ 3:26am

    You weren't SUPPOSED to put his two statements next to each other

    "But but *sputter* You mean that the two different information channels BOTH reached the public? No no no, that's not right at all. The 'gut wrenching' stuff was for the Grand Jury!" Clapper, J. June 10, 2013

    Also, on an unrelated note. Adding an 'e' at the end of Grand makes the 'Grande Jury' seem all old timey and less intimidating, like 'ice cream shoppe' - so Snowden has got that going for him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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