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Administration And NSA Continue To Avoid The Privacy Vs. Security 'Discussion'

from the more-uncomfortable-than-parents-handling-sex-ed dept

This "discussion" about the whole "security vs. privacy" thing the administration claims it has "welcomed" since the Snowden leaks began? Yeah. Still not happening. As Cal Borchers at BetaBoston reports, government reps at an MIT event focused on "big data and privacy" couldn't have appeared less interested in discussing any of the implications of widespread domestic surveillance.

The kicker came during an afternoon panel discussion, when John DeLong, the National Security Agency's director of compliance, should have been awarded an honorary degree in tongue biting. DeLong sat right next to Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, yet refused to engage when she made pointed comments, like this one: "Everything's being done in secret. But for Edward Snowden, we wouldn't even be having this conversation."

DeLong would look down and away (perhaps there was an interesting piece of metatada on the floor of Wong Auditorium), waiting silently for another panelist to move the discussion away from his agency.
This is nothing new for DeLong. Back in August of last year, he gave the Washington Post permission to quote him "by name and title" after holding a 90-minute interview with the paper, after the White House routed all press queries to him directly. When the paper refused to edit quotes after the government's "internal review" of the interview draft, the administration and the NSA then informed the Washington Post that nothing DeLong said could be used. All of his input was replaced with a bland, prepared statement.

Now, DeLong could have been interested in participating in this discussion, but this previous administration intervention seems to indicate that the NSA and the White House would prefer DeLong keeps his head down and his mouth shut -- at least in cases where it can't push through its own edit of the "discussion."

DeLong wasn't the only government rep uninterested in discussing government surveillance.
Before DeLong's group took the floor, US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker made a brief speech in which she barely touched on the subject of privacy, then exited quickly without fielding questions.

Someone seated near me, in one of those fake whispers that's really meant to be heard by a lot of people, summed things up nicely: "No questions? Why have a real discussion, right?"

Snickers rippled a few rows in every direction.
As Borchers points out, there was plenty of discussion about private companies and privacy, but when it came to the biggest "company" of all, the US government, no one had much to say. White House counselor John Podesta somehow even managed to "phone in" his phoned-in statement (Borchers describes Podesta's contribution as "bland remarks") to open the event.

This is the US government's idea of "discussion." Canned statements and floor-gazing. The NSA made this bed and now refuses to lie in it. (Although officials will often lie outside of it -- ho, ho! *coughJamesClapper*) The administration plays along, making small gestures but refusing to consider making any substantial statements or changes. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence continues to pass out redacted documents with implied transparency, glossing over the fact that every document release so far has been compelled by an FOIA lawsuit.

This isn't a discussion. This is low murmurs and unintelligible mumbling being passed off as a "discussion" in hopes this new era of faux-openness will soon blow over and allow everyone involved to return to the opacity and darkness they've become accustomed to operating in.



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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 12:35pm

    Why are they even there?

    At this point it might be worth it to just stop inviting them to such events, no matter how much 'prestige' big names like that may bring, and make it very clear that the pulling of the invitations are entirely due to the fact that the government reps and spying agency reps are completely and utterly indifferent to adding to the discussion in any meaningful fashion.

    A huge public snubbing like that, from multiple sources, would likely do more to further the discussion than their presence and silence ever could, and really put the focus on how completely and utterly silent they've tried to be any time the subject has come up.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 12:53pm

      Re: Why are they even there?

      Or, asking your very valid question the other way around, why do those officials even attend? Do they not realize that this sort of behavior makes them look even worse than simply not showing up?

       

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        That One Guy (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

        Re: Re: Why are they even there?

        Really, really lousy intelligence gathering?

        Maybe they're going there to listen in and try and gauge the reactions to their actions, not realizing that their presence is only going to make those reactions worse.

        It's also possible they're showing up at events like that to try and 'guide' any discussion in the direction they want it to go in(like they've fairly successfully managed with the MSM), avoiding as best they can the topics they'd rather avoid. Of course, if that's the aim, they don't seem to have picked a very good target, as most people at a conference dealing with security are likely to see through their lies.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2014 @ 12:54pm

    the government, and i'm including the security agencies in this title too, have done many bad things, using a disaster that happened a decade ago as cover. had it not have been for Snowden, no one would have been any the wiser as to what was happening, until, that is, someone was arrested and taken to court for doing something that the evidence could only have been got in some covert, underhand manner. even the heads of nations wouldn't have been warned as to what was going on. the distinct advantages the USA was taking into meetings concerning different 'deals' (and i use that word very lightly!) basically gave the other nations involved the rough end of the wedge from the start. everyone else, everywhere else was being totally screwed with only more of the same to come. this is a real big problem and although it has been attempted before, those that think they are the best there is and should be controlling everyone else still keep trying to turn the world into a 1% with everything verses the rest of us with zilch by turning the world into a police surveilled, corporate state. it needs stopping because once an industry gets control of the Internet, that is what will happen. the USA entertainment industries have been heading towards that goal for a decade or so but are nearer now than ever. if they get it, the USA government will either then be given it or will take it and everyone else everywhere else will be well and truly fucked!! and for a long time too, because there is no way anyone is going to be giving up that control without one hell of a fight!!

     

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    limbodog (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 1:10pm

    Are there *any* legislators willing to have open discussions about this issue with the public?

     

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    Baron von Robber, Mar 7th, 2014 @ 1:35pm

    DeLong: "Run away!"

    "That's no ordinary discussion!"

     

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    tqk (profile), Mar 8th, 2014 @ 12:19pm

    You know what to do. What's taking so long?

    This isn't a discussion. This is low murmurs and unintelligible mumbling being passed off as a "discussion" in hopes this new era of faux-openness will soon blow over and allow everyone involved to return to the opacity and darkness they've become accustomed to operating in.

    So, arrest them. Citizen's arrest. Subpoena their agency's archives in discovery. Put the bums in jail or it will just keep on happening! Stop them!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2014 @ 2:06pm

    After a few are tarred and feathered, they won't come to the discussions any more. After a few don't live to collect their pensions, it gets harder to recruit good people. Recruiting the usual crop of moochers and layabouts will continue. I am hoping that the legislature trims the agency back until it starts showing results that matter. How is it we were surprised by Putin in the Ukraine? Why are not heads rolling already?

    The sad thing is the real enemies know not to use cell phones and use non approved encryption, not the approved kind that the NSA can easily break. The real enemies are not who the NSA is going after anymore. They are doing the equivalent of reviewing comments dropped by the mass murder, after the mass murderer has selected himself for special attention by committing mass murder.

    Just like cops who show up after a crime, stand around, and brag about their homicide response. When seconds count, the police are minutes away. When you really need advanced notice, the NSA will tell you what the murderer did last year.

     

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