The NSA Needs To Get In Front Of The Leaks: Stop Lying And Open Up

from the only-way-to-regain-trust dept

Bruce Schneier has yet another interesting article over at The Atlantic, in which he notes that the only real way for the NSA to regain trust is to get in front of the coming leaks by finally opening up. He makes a compelling case. First off, every time the NSA has tried to defend various leaks, its defenses have been shown to be lies or, at the very least, misleading, just days later. This is, in large part, because it still doesn't seem to have any idea what Snowden took. And in its usual fashion, it seems to hope that if it just keeps lying, or redefining words, that it will be able to get away with keeping stuff hidden. But that's clearly not working, and the public has pretty much lost all trust. The only real way to deal with that is to finally be honest for once. That doesn't mean making everything public, but having someone who can look through everything and see what's really going on.
It's time to start cleaning up this mess. We need a special prosecutor, one not tied to the military, the corporations complicit in these programs, or the current political leadership, whether Democrat or Republican. This prosecutor needs free rein to go through the NSA's files and discover the full extent of what the agency is doing, as well as enough technical staff who have the capability to understand it. He needs the power to subpoena government officials and take their sworn testimony. He needs the ability to bring criminal indictments where appropriate. And, of course, he needs the requisite security clearance to see it all.

We also need something like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where both government and corporate employees can come forward and tell their stories about NSA eavesdropping without fear of reprisal.
Now, obviously, some will claim that there's so much the NSA does that needs to be kept secret -- and, that's true. Except for one little tidbit: Ed Snowden already walked out the door with much of this stuff and gave it to reporters. Meaning that most of it isn't likely to be kept secret very long. And that's why this is the only reasonable course of action, even if it goes against the NSA's general DNA.
Yes, this will overturn the paradigm of keeping everything the NSA does secret, but Snowden and the reporters he's shared documents with have already done that. The secrets are going to come out, and the journalists doing the outing are not going to be sympathetic to the NSA. If the agency were smart, it'd realize that the best thing it could do would be to get ahead of the leaks.

The result needs to be a public report about the NSA's abuses, detailed enough that public watchdog groups can be convinced that everything is known. Only then can our country go about cleaning up the mess: shutting down programs, reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act system, and reforming surveillance law to make it absolutely clear that even the NSA cannot eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant.
In many ways, this is like the difference between real security and security by obscurity. If the NSA is confident in what it's doing and why it's necessary, it should be able to come out and show what's really happening, and the public can take an educated position on whether or not it's appropriate.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Alt0, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 10:43am

    Been holding out

    ...but OK, I'll do it.
    If they do decide on this course of action I can go through everything for them. I'm "untied" to pretty much everything (except my lovely wife) so there should be a short vetting process.
    I'm kinda bored at my current position anyway.

     

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  2.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 10:51am

    The "secrets are going to come out", but stalling keeps the criminals out of jail!

    Total fantasy to even think that NSA will open up; at the very least, that path leads directly to jail.

     

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  3.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 10:53am

    The "secrets are going to come out", but stalling keeps the criminals out of jail!

    Total fantasy to even think that NSA will open up; at the very least, that path leads directly to jail.

    >>> Gee, didn't post again. "Comment held for Moderation", eh? -- I'll change IP address soon as done recording.

     

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  4.  
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    Conspiracy Nut or Not, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:01am

    The leaks have mostly stopped

    Have there been any significant revelations about the NSA's illegal surveillance programs following the destruction of The Guardian's hard drives on the one hand and the announcement of Obama's plan to attack Syria on the other? Censorship and distraction appear to have effectively silenced any major coverage of the Snowden leaks.

     

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  5.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:03am

    If this were to occur the NSA would likely get defunded.

     

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  6.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:04am

    Re: The leaks have mostly stopped

    Is that a conspiracy theory?

     

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  7.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:10am

    Re: The leaks have mostly stopped

    Have there been any significant revelations about the NSA's illegal surveillance programs following the destruction of The Guardian's hard drives on the one hand and the announcement of Obama's plan to attack Syria on the other?

    Yes.

    Censorship and distraction appear to have effectively silenced any major coverage of the Snowden leaks.

    No, actually, it hasn't.

     

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  8.  
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    TheLastCzarnian (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:13am

    Re: The leaks have mostly stopped

    Syria? Seriously? The administration wants to try to reign in the use of chemical weapons which could easily be used on nations neutral or friendly to the US, and you see that as only a smokescreen.
    It was a lie about chemical weapons that got us into Iraq. This time, there is actual evidence.
    I would prefer that we had support of more countries, not just France.

     

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  9.  
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    Conspiracy Nut or Not, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:22am

    Re: Re: The leaks have mostly stopped

    What, exactly, has been revealed? All I can think of is the Washington Post's publication of the NSA's secret budget, which was highly redacted in consultation with the Obama Administration, and which didn't reveal anything of real significance.

    The media is focused on Syria and the Guardian has failed to top itself on previous leaks despite senators and others saying that we know about the NSA surveillance programs is only the tip of the iceberg.

     

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  10.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:23am

    Adapting

    The secrets are going to come out, and the journalists doing the outing are not going to be sympathetic to the NSA.

    I think the last part is what they're still trying to wrap their heads around.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:24am

    Re: Re: The leaks have mostly stopped

    War is peace.

     

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  12.  
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    Applesauce, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:25am

    Stop lying?

    Easier to ask a shark to stop eating.

     

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  13.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:25am

    Re: Re: The leaks have mostly stopped

    "It was a lie about chemical weapons that got us into Iraq."

    More likely it was a bout of shitty intelligence resulting from our lack of movement against Saddam in the 90's when he used chemical weapons on the Kurds, but the end result is the same. One of the chief reasons you go after guys like Assad hard when they commit this kind of attrocity is so you don't breed another Saddam....

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 12:01pm

    Re: Re: The leaks have mostly stopped

    Syria? Seriously? The administration wants to try to reign in the use of chemical weapons which could easily be used on nations neutral or friendly to the US, and you see that as only a smokescreen. ...

    Yes, actually. Whenever there's this much international-scope fainting, indignation, hand-waving and self-aggrandizing posturing by Those In Power, all slickly packaged for consumption by the public, I see smoke and I smell burning manure.

    But maybe I'm just becoming a bit jaded...

     

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  15.  
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    Violynne (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 12:02pm

    The NSA isn't lying.

    They've [REDACTED] the truth.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 12:06pm

    I got news for you. The time to come out with the truth is over and past. No matter what is claimed now, by either government officials or security branches, that public trust has been shattered. You can not just simply now say ok, we'll tell the truth and everything will be ok. It won't.

    You can not trust what you are hearing. That has been demonstrated multiple times. There is no creditability within the any of the branches of government over this matter. Nothing can now be revealed that will cure that. It will take as mentioned, a truly independent special investigator, with the power to go anywhere and see anything unimpeded and reveal what is found. Anything short of that is a wasted effort akin to Obama's investigation committee that wants Clapper involved despite knowing he has confessed to lying before congress in an investigation committee. If he'll lie there, he'll lie anywhere and any report findings coming through his hands are automatically suspect not to be factual. Loading this committee with those with a vested interest in maintaining status quo as has been done won't work either. The time for coming clean is long past.

    What should be done at this point is to cut all funding from this agency gone rabid. Demand the resignations of all senior and top men in charge. Then see if what remains can be salvaged at all.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: The leaks have mostly stopped

    "One of the chief reasons you go after guys like Assad hard when they commit this kind of attrocity is so you don't breed another Saddam...."

    Here's the problem with Syria

    We are not spying on Americans, turns out they are.
    We are not collecting info about all phone calls, turns out they are.
    We are not watching all Internet traffic, turns out they are.

    Syria has chemical weapons and is using them.
    I am expected to believe this is the truth when everything else out of their mouths are lies?

    Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 12:42pm

    Re:

    Our government officials are like crack addicts.

    They claim that whatever money you give them will be used for the better good.
    If you fail to give voluntarily they take what they are owed.
    You can't trust a word they say because they will say anything to get what they want.

     

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  19.  
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    Internet Zen Master (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 12:52pm

    Re: The leaks have mostly stopped

    Of course, the problem with the whole "silencing coverage of the Snowden leaks/documents/whatever we're calling today" is that the Guardian/WaPo/New York Times/Der Speigel have the actual documents in their position (or at least the Guardian does anyway).

    They can cover both the Syria debacle and continue releasing new info from the leaks during the same time frame.

    Depending upon how pushy the US/UK governments get, I foresee the possibility for the Guardian to unleash an earth-shaking bombshell of a story in collaboration with maybe the New York Times and the Washington Post for a front page headliner that could tear attention back to the antics of Western governments and push Syria back to page 8 (or off the paper's home page if you read them via the interweb).

    But if you're worried about the local politicians forgetting about things, I wouldn't worry too much. They might not be the brightest lot of people in the world, but they are capable of multitasking. Well, at least half of them are... I hope.

    As the Zen Master says, "We'll see."

     

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  20.  
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    Guardian, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 1:26pm

    why ask the public said hte nsa man

    THEY are after all the enemy....

    and that's the problem they are in that mindset.....everyone is guilty and evil and you all deserve to get arrested , surveilled and watched like a criminal that you are or will be....

    HEIL HITLER

     

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  21.  
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    Guardian, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 1:35pm

    @6 then @9 then @14 @15 @17

    @6
    actual evidence WHO used them , that is the crux....if as you allude hte usa had 100% proof assad did it the day of the attack that they went on air and said they had such proof they owuld have shown the world and had dozens a antions lined up to go....and russia and china would have had no choice but to back off...

    BUT here we are a month nearly later and no one has seen such proof yet you spill your mouth like the good ol american bullshit news agencies....
    FUCK OFF with your low iq stupidity ok were not falling for it.

    @9 and the ends never justifies the means.....and only a nazi would deal in absolutes.....

    @14 the only way to begin to reapir world trust and i mean world trust is to 100% dismantle the nsa.....not gonna happen ot many powerful rich crazy nutbars in it blackmailing anyone they can to hold onto power....

    perhaps the only way is to start hanging a few of the ones at the top and then gut the program .....

    had it until you mentioned syria is using chemical weapons...yes an attack happened but who did it , not even your own USA gvot will show 100% proof because they do not have such.

    @17 ya mean like the one both are doing as we speak about how nearly all the encryption is exploitable or cracked that has to do with communications and unless you really know what you are doing and end to end strong arm yourselves you are being surveilled.

     

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  22.  
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    Michael, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 1:42pm

    Re:

    They would just be replaced by the OTB - which makes for a better acronym anyway.

     

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  23.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 2:24pm

    Re:

    Which is why they would never agree to such a thing, for all their 'it's perfectly legal!' claims, actual, real oversight is something that clearly terrifies them, and it doesn't take much thinking to guess why.

     

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  24.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Adapting

    What, the whole journalists with integrity, or the people push back when you try to intimidate them piece?

     

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  25.  
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    gorehound (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 2:48pm

    National Staszi Association.............never going to admit and always going to take........till they have taken it all.

     

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  26.  
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    Namel3ss (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 3:11pm

    As much as I would LOVE to see this happen...

    It never will, not if 0bama has anything to say about it.

    The only way it CAN happen is if we the people collectively DEMAND it. I've already contacted my representatives and demanded they support investigations into the entire NSA debacle. If we ALL do this, 0bama and his minions won't be able to refuse.

     

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  27.  
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    Conspiracy Nut or Not, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 3:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: The leaks have mostly stopped

    To answer my own question:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130905/12295324417/nsa-gchq-covertly-took-over-secur ity-standards-recruited-telco-employees-to-insert-backdoors.shtml

    Glad to know I was wrong about coverage of Snowden leaks growing silent. I still think Syria is a distraction tactic, but if it is I suppose it's not going to work.

     

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  28.  
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    Jesse (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 6:04pm

    Oath

    "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?"

    "I swear to be as honest as government organizations such as the NSA."

    ...problem?

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 6:30pm

    Re: Re:

    OTB? No wonder out_of_the_blue is being such an NSA cocksucker.

     

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  30.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 6:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The leaks have mostly stopped

    Fortunately there are people in the administration who are willing to do the right thing here, no matter what your misgivings about them. I applaud them when the deserve it, and standing up to uses of chemical weapons is on the right side of history....

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Sep 6th, 2013 @ 6:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The leaks have mostly stopped

    So when are you going to suit up and report for duty?

     

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