Snowden Ran A Major Tor Exit Relay, Hosted CryptoParty In Hawaii While Waiting For Greenwald To Reply

from the teaching-tor-and-truecrypt dept

Kevin Poulsen over at Wired has the interesting story of how Ed Snowden both ran a CryptoParty in Hawaii while waiting to hear back from Glenn Greenwald after his first email, and also apparently hosted a Tor node. In October of 2012, we wrote about the CryptoParty movement, launched by digital rights activist Asher Wolf, and apparently Snowden thought it was a good idea as well. The details seem fairly straightforward, though it does suggest (yet again) that he was legitimately interested in protecting the American public, rather than (as some continue to argue) working for some "foreign power." At the CryptoParty, he apparently taught folks how to use TrueCrypt and Tor.

Perhaps more interesting is the news that he ran a Tor exit relay. The story kicks off with Snowden emailing Runa Sandvik, a key Tor developer, asking if she can send him some Tor stickers that he can pass around at work. It's long been noted that Snowden has a Tor sticker (along with an EFF sticker) on the laptop he uses, but now we know where and how he got it. But in that email, he noted that he ran a "major tor exit" relay:
In his e-mail, Snowden wrote that he personally ran one of the “major tor exits”–a 2 gbps server named “TheSignal”–and was trying to persuade some unnamed coworkers at his office to set up additional servers. He didn’t say where he worked. But he wanted to know if Sandvik could send him a stack of official Tor stickers....

“He said he had been talking some of the more technical guys at work into setting up some additional fast servers, and figured some swag might incentivize them to do it sooner rather than later,” Sandvik says. “I later learned that he ran more than one Tor exit relay.”
Of course, some may also point out that one minor weakness in Tor is that malicious exit node operators can do some spying on users -- at least opening up the question of whether or not Snowden was running that exit relay for himself (and being good about it) or running it for the NSA.

Either way, to get the stickers, Snowden gave Sandvik his real name and address, and she mentioned plans to be in Hawaii, leading to the idea of hosting a CryptoParty, which turned into reality:
Sandvik began by giving her usual Tor presentation, then Snowden stood in front of the white board and gave a 30- to 40-minute introduction to TrueCrypt, an open-source full disk encryption tool. He walked through the steps to encrypt a hard drive or a USB stick. “Then we did an impromptu joint presentation on how to set up and run a Tor relay,” Sandvik says. “He was definitely a really, really smart guy. There was nothing about Tor that he didn’t already know.”

“Everything ran very smoothly,” she adds. “There were no questions about how to do things or where to put the chairs. Maybe he’s just really good at organizing events.”
As for the timing, Snowden apparently emailed Greenwald for the first time 11 days before the party, and was still waiting for a reply when the party happened...

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  1.  
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    Meso (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 12:17pm

    It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    At this point, it doesn't matter what Snowden's motivations were. He has probably done more damage to US security than any spy since the "a-bomb" spies of the 40's and '50s.

    The US didn't predict Russia's invasion of the Crimea. I wonder why...

    Snowden had other routes to follow if all he wanted to do was expose spying on Americans. He could have gone to a congress-critter hostile to the NSA - there were some. He could have published *only* the information about spying on Americans. He could have followed the honorable route of civil disobedience, like the civil rights activists did.

    Instead, he stole a huge amount of very sensitive information, put it in the hands of an anti-American left-wing reporter at the Guardian, and then fled, first to our geopolitical enemy China, and then to the very hostile and dangerous Russia.

    The guy deserves to rot in super-max.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 12:32pm

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    "He has probably done more damage to US security than any spy since the "a-bomb" spies of the 40's and '50s."

    I disagree. The NSA has done more damage to US security than any spy since then. Snowden's actions just brought that damaging behavior to out attention so that, hopefully, we can put a stop to it.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2014 @ 12:35pm

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    How much does being a shill pay? Maybe I could get a job doing it.

    One of the problems with the NSA, is that they are known to employee shills for exactly the purpose of discrediting things they don't like, for example Snowden. Snowden provided slides all about the program, and there have already been several articles about it.

    That means that everyone who posts pro NSA things has lost the benefit of the doubt and must be assumed to be a shill. Yet another example of how the NSA has shot itself in the foot.

    So even if you are not a shill, your opinion is lost amongst the astroturf created by the NSA. So you can thank the NSA for removing your online voice. So sad. Too bad.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2014 @ 12:39pm

    Given the personal sacrifices Snowden has made in order to inform people around the world about mass surveillance, I doubt he was running Tor exit relays for nefarious purposes, or for the NSA. Aliases, not real names, would have been used if the NSA was involved. I can't see the NSA setting up Tor crypto parties to teach the public about how to remain anonymous and use encryption tools.

    While it's true exit relays can view unencrypted data being sent to the final destination. The exit relay cannot tell which entrance relay 'guard relay' the Tor user connects to. That's the whole point of Tors 3 hop layered encryption circuits.

    Timing attacks a feasible. Say for example the exit relay delays reply packets being sent back through the Tor circuit, back to the Tor user, for a couple of seconds. Then an adversary tries to match up the timing of those intentionally delayed with packets being sent, to entry relays displaying the same delay times.

    Such an attack is possible for an organization with a global view of all Tor entry and exit relays throughout the entire world, but I suspect timing attacks aren't very accurate given the additional delays imposed by routers outside the Tor circuits themselves.

    It is something to worry about, and hopefully the Tor developers are considering adding random delays to Tor relays in order to mitigate such issues. I've read the Tor developers don't want to do this, because they're striving for a low latency anonymous network. Maybe random timing delays could be added as an optional Pluggable Transport plugin.

     

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  5.  
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    tomczerniawski, May 21st, 2014 @ 12:44pm

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    It must chap you NSA boys something fierce that Snowden became a global hero.

    Hint: if someone becomes a hero to the world for defying your nation, you just might be the bad guys.

     

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    rapnel, May 21st, 2014 @ 12:49pm

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    a-bomb, 40's and 50's, Crimea, so much damage, anti-american, other routes, left-winger.

    Should I go on or do you already have zero cred?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2014 @ 12:55pm

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    "Anti-American"

    You think about that

     

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    Robert, May 21st, 2014 @ 1:10pm

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    "The US didn't predict Russia's invasion of the Crimea. I wonder why..."

    Tell us why. What does Snowden have to do with the failures of the NSA and US activities destabilizing the Ukraine?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2014 @ 1:25pm

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Yawn.

     

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    CK20XX (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 1:30pm

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    It's probably worth noting that US security has been handled very, very badly since 9/11, and the terrorists already knew how weak we were beforehand anyway. That's what Snowden was trying to call attention to. We would have been even more screwed if he had kept quiet, and we'll continue to be screwed as long as we refuse to heed his warnings.

    I mean, cripes, the Snowden fiasco like is a mirror of the climate change one, with people trying to warn everyone about the danger that's looming and the people in power telling them to shut up because our immediate and extremely temporary security and status quo matters more. It's a conflict between short-sighted and far-sighted people.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2014 @ 1:38pm

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    You are correct, it does not matter what his motivations were.

    Constitutional violations are just that, and whether the person who exposed those them is a patriot or a traitor, that does not change the fact that they are constitutional violations.

    It also does not matter what the motivations are of those who authorized the violation. Patriot or tyrant, it is still a crime against the people, and they deserve to be tried for it.

     

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    JSL, May 21st, 2014 @ 2:41pm

    Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Note that Sarah Palin did in fact warn of the possibility of a Russian invasion of the Ukraine. At the time this was mocked as being a “extremely far-fetched scenario”.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 2:47pm

    Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    The only way the NSA damaged security was by failing to secure its secrets from Snowden.

    Do you know of any other way it did so?

     

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  14.  
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    Meso (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 2:50pm

    Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Snowden took a lot of material describing US signal intelligence, which is the primary means of detecting Russian intentions.

    It is not unreasonable to suspect that these releases, which showed that NSA had more capability than foreign intelligence agencies previously knew about, led the Russians to do the same thing that Al Qaeda did after the leaks - change their signals security defeating the NSA.

    Beyond the security leaks, do you know of other NSA failures?

     

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    Meso (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 2:53pm

    Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Snowden wasn't trying to show how weak our security was. His public claims are to show it was too strong, revealing a whole multitude of capabilities.

    So, how badly has US security been handled since 9/11? It seems to work a whole lot better than before 9/11. There have been a large number of disrupted terrorist plots, and I'd bet that a substantial number of those were detected and/or tracked by signals intelligence - the NSA.

    What danger to our security was Snowden purportedly warning about? How would you have made it better>

     

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    Meso (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 2:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Of course. Successful Republican women (and blacks) scare the heck out of the left. They cannot imagine that such people aren't Democrats. No matter what Palin says, whether it is right or wrong, it will be mischaracterized and then viciously attacked.

     

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  17.  
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    Wired Article Gets It Right, May 21st, 2014 @ 3:10pm

    What A Legend!

    The Wired article is a great read, and it aptly sums up the situation. Edward Snowden is a legendary figure in the history of the Internet, an awesome guy who re-introduced us all to both the Internet and the government. Bravo!!!

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 3:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    You mean besides spying on us all, weakening certain encryption standards, allowing avenues of security breaches to persist, etc?

    No.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous, May 21st, 2014 @ 4:14pm

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Are you playing devil's advocate, or have you really gone full retard?

     

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    soillodge (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 4:55pm

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    I don't agree. I think motivation is an important factor. If his motivation was self-serving, there are a handful of ways he could have exploited this situation to his benefit. Opposed to sacrificing himself, giving away classified info, and allowing journalists and the public to have a debate while the organizations in question are only concerned with damage control. Not improving their security or allowing oversight on their methods and results.

     

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    soillodge (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 5:04pm

    Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    I also cannot bring myself to agree with you. "Constitutional violations are just that". That statement does not work with a system, organization, or administration that picks and chooses how it interprets and adheres to the Constitution.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2014 @ 6:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Of course. Successful Republican women [Palin] (and blacks) scare the heck out of the left.

    The bar for "success" is you quit your jobs?

     

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    Whatever, May 21st, 2014 @ 6:28pm

    that's it for TOR then

    With Snowden (and his office buddies) involved, it's likely that TOR has been compromised. It leaves little doubt that the people inside the NSA have got a nice inside line on it.

    Funny as heck to think that TPB is busy pushing everyone onto TOR.

     

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    Dooby, May 21st, 2014 @ 7:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    You mean like preventing what happened in Boston? Raging success that one.

     

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    If a Tree Falls in the Forest Will the NSA Hellfir, May 21st, 2014 @ 7:54pm

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Rot in a supermax.

    Hmmmm.

    In a cell adjoining Capt. Jean-Luc Alexander of the Star Trek Enterprise?

     

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    Meso (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 8:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    "Constitutional violations are just that".

    You are talking about practices that were created by the Executive, fully briefed to the Legislative, and ruled on and constantly watched by the Judiciary. It's hard to get closer to constitutionality than that, in our system of constitutionally divided powers.

    Also, you need to be careful about what the Constitution actually says about privacy: nothing. Then look at judicial interpretation - finding some privacy rights in the 4th Amendment. So far, the judiciary, in all cases so far, has held metadata collection to be constitutional. And yes, the Supreme Court has ruled on this sort of thing, in the recent past.

    Too many people think the Constitution says what they want to believe, rather than what it really says or what the courts have actually ruled on it.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 8:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    "You mean like preventing what happened in Boston? Raging success that one."

    So one out of over 50 terrorist plots succeeded, and a minor one at that. Clearly we have failed.

    Get serious!

     

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    CK20XX (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 8:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    It's not too strong. It's too broad. The NSA is casting a wide net over as much as possible, and what's worse is that net is old and ratty and full of holes. To compensate, they've been trying to bend the law to their favor. Haven't you seen the stories about the NSA holding encryption back so it can make use of zero day exploits, allowing many other thieves and con men to take advantage of them too?

    That's why the NSA and FBI have had to make up a lot of stories about terrorism plots being foiled, but they're running out of people to fool. Before 9/11, the USA had gone over 200 years without a major terrorist attack, and we haven't seen a major one after, either. Terrorist attacks have always killed less people than drunk driving, smoking, and even falling off ladders, so to combat it so relentlessly is senseless.

    However, I must say thanks for you not coming in name calling and shouting everyone down. I sincerely appreciate you being civil, even if your stance is completely wrong. Just don't get so caught up in wanting to preserve your own sense of safety and security that you start blaming individuals who have been alerting us to the real danger around us every day.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2014 @ 9:19pm

    I finally got time to read the whole Wired article. What an amazing read! I also found a quote in one of the links of the Wired article, that I find insightful into Snowden's logic and intentions for informing the world about mass surveillance.

    "The shock of this initial period [after the first revelations] will provide the support needed to build a more equal internet, but this will not work to the advantage of the average person unless science outpaces law. By understanding the mechanisms through which our privacy is violated, we can win here. We can guarantee for all people equal protection against unreasonable search through universal laws, but only if the technical community is willing to face the threat and commit to implementing over-engineered solutions. In the end, we must enforce a principle whereby the only way the powerful may enjoy privacy is when it is the same kind shared by the ordinary: one enforced by the laws of nature, rather than the policies of man."

    -Edward Snowden
    https://blog.ageispolis.net/snowden-cryptoparty/


    I believe Snowden's statement about technology, not political policies or laws, being humanities only true option for the human right to communicate securely and privately, is 100% correct.

    We just saw what happened to the USA Freedom Act in Congress. The bill has been thoroughly gutted of all the privacy and civil rights protections it was originally designed to accomplish.

    What more proof do we need that technology is the only way to solve the human rights crimes being carried out against all of humanity, in the form of un-targeted mass surveillance against entire countries and populations. At this point we may as well say against the entire world's population.

     

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    Tice with a J (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 9:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    True, the term "privacy" does not appear in the Constitution. Then again, neither does the term "guns", yet people keep implying that the Second Amendment gives us a right to own and use them. Crazy, right?

    The Fourth Amendment exists for the sake of privacy, and the Fifth picks up nicely where the Fourth leaves off. You might also want to think about the implications of the Ninth Amendment.

    But even if the Constitution said we didn't have a right to privacy, we'd still have a real need for privacy, and we'd just have to overthrow the government and replace it with a better one. You know, like we did last time.

    And as our three branches of government continue to conspire against us, it's looking like we'll need to do it again.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 10:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    I think you are seeking perfection in a field, intelligence, where that doesn't happen. The NSA tries its best, and for a government operation, it has been historically remarkably good - compared to, say, the CIA or FBI. I have a lot of respect for NSA, and the few professional and other encounters I have had with NSA folks have been impressive.

    As to the stories... I lived those years. I had a copy of the original public key paper while the NSA was still embargoing its publishing. I remember the Clipper chip. So I do have a bit of a background here.

    NSA originally didn't want to prevent encryption - they wanted a back door into it. Public pressure prevented that (perhaps that was good, but it's arguable).

    For many years, people thought the NSA had intentionally weakened DES encryption, when NSA insisted that the key be 56 bits (plus 8 bit parity) when the original developers at IBM wanted 112 bits. Much later, academic cryptology researchers discovered that DES, counter-intuitively, was *stronger* at 56 bits than 112! Apparently NSA was decades ahead in this regard, and used their knowledge to improve publicly available encryption.

    The increasing potential of Islamist terrorism was apparent to those of us paying attention in the 1990's. But, civil libertarians were doing their best to defeat our CI capabilities. 9-11 would have been prevented if the Gorelick rule had not been promulgated in the '90s. This was a civil liberties rule keeping FBI CI and criminal investigations separate.

    But, once the real threat was demonstrated - with 3000 civilian casualties - more than the death toll at Pearl Harbo - NSA used many techniques. Too many (maybe all) of which have now been revealed by Snowden, which increases the threat and empowers our adversaries.

    They are not making up stories - the threats and attempts are real. Does anyone imagine that the Islamists no longer want to kill American civilians in large numbers?

    Also, before 9/11, the US indeed has a history of terrorist attacks. My former residence, Lawrence, KS, had all of its male residents killed by terrorists during the civil war. Puerto Rican nationalists attacked the US several times, including an attack in the Capitol building. There have been plenty of other incidents. But, nothing as lethal as 9-11.

    Modern times have made the potential damage from a terrorist attack much more serious, while at the same time making it easier for foreigners to attack. Air transport, the internet, and the modern telephone system all enable adversaries. American adversaries, whether foreign governments or ideological groups like Islamists, represent a far greater danger than they did in the past, so just looking at history is missing a bigger picture. These days, genetic engineering applied to pathogens can make them more lethal. And, you no longer need a big institution to do it. A member of my family learned, and used the techniques as an undergraduate at a good US university. We did a business plan for some GE products, and the cost was surprisingly low - well within the budget of terrorists. And... Al Qaeda employed an Islamist scientist for this purpose - who had a doctorate in neuroscience from MIT (or was it Harvard... whatever). We captured her.

    America has a long history of retreating into isolationism. Our geographical isolation has allowed us to get away with not worrying about foreign threats, with a few exceptions like Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center. We can no longer afford that luxury.

    We need to make *rational* tradeoffs between civil liberties and protection. I believe NSA did a darned good job of it, based on what has been revealed so far. They had procedures to limit the scope of actual use of the vast data they gathered. They had approval of both houses of congress, who were regularly briefed, and approval of the FISA courts.

    Obviously once can disagree. But too many people are just assuming that NSA is evil, that the programs are gigantic conspiracies to deprive us of our rights, and that the threats are minimal. Our deadly serious, evil and dedicated adversaries are quite happy about this.

     

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    Whatever, May 21st, 2014 @ 10:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    More and more, things pile up to show Snowden not as some sort of whistleblower, but rather a guy with an agenda and the desire to do what is needed to further an agenda - in this case private communications online.

    When you read it that way, you can realize that he applied for and got the job at NSA not because he was interested in the job, but rather because he was looking for something to further his agenda.

    What that means is that it is likely that some of what he released (if not all) is made up - taking actual facts and bridging them together in a manner that provokes outrage and furthers the agenda.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 11:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Well, to me, his motivations matter as follows:

    If he ever comes back, noble motivations should get him an hour a week of sunlight at supermax. Otherwise, no sunlight at all.

    They guy did incalculable damage, including damage to democracy by putting his judgement above that of our duly elected and appointed members of government. No, I don't think those folks are saints, but they are what representative democracy provides. Snowden is totally anti-Democracy - it's Snowden uber alles. Screw him.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 21st, 2014 @ 11:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    If the people decide that our government indeed is conspiring against us to an intolerable level, then we'll have a nasty, vicious revolution which has some chance to make things better.

    The Fourth does not exist for the sake of privacy - it exists for the sake of constrained security. The fifth only addresses privacy in the realm of criminal defense - which is not the primary issue with the NSA.

    The Ninth, unfortunately, is currently inoperative.

    But... let's see what sort of privacy folks imagine they are entitled to. The claim is that the government use of metadata, not actual conversations, violates privacy rights. That isn't implausible. But for a very long time, courts have held that you have not right to privacy for information you give up to others - and that's what metadata (and email, these days) is. You do have a right to encrypt your email, after all.

    The term "guns" doesn't exist in the Second, but it certainly a completely obvious part of it, since firarms were very common arms that were borne in the era.

     

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    CK20XX (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 1:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Eh, no, not perfection. Just trust. And the NSA has betrayed the trust of the American people. You are aware of all the lies they've told to preserve their operations, right? You can't trust them now just because they used to be good years ago.

    I'm not convinced that the terrorists really want to destroy us that much anymore either. It was just a flash in the pan, not something worth modifying this country's core principles over. All they had to do was attack once, then watch the country slowly destroy itself, saving them a lot of effort.

    And it's really not possible to make rational tradeoffs between civil liberties and protection. As Ben Franklin once wrote, "They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." We should follow Norway's example and respond to crisis with more democracy and transparency, not fence people in "for their own good".

     

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    CK20XX (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 2:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    I should also point out that there's really no such thing as official channels for whistleblowers. They are a fictitious construct. The main reason whistleblowers pop up in the first place is because the official channels have broken down and no longer work due to any feedback sent through them being systematically dismissed. Claiming that Snowden would have been fine if have used them makes absolutely no sense and puts you on the wrong side of history.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 3:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    You are talking about practices that were created by the Executive, fully briefed to the Legislative, and ruled on and constantly watched by the Judiciary. It's hard to get closer to constitutionality than that, in our system of constitutionally divided powers.

    Okay, now I know you work in the Intelligence field, you'd have to to make a claim like that and expect anyone to believe it.

    In case you haven't been following along(or have been forbidden to do so), other than a handful of NSA-cheerleader 'insiders', the vast majority of the legislative branch had no idea what the NSA was doing, and in particular the scope of what they were doing. This was helped along by the aforementioned cheerleaders quite happily misleading and lying to their fellows, doing everything they could to make it as difficult as possible for anyone else to know what was going on.

    As such to claim they were 'fully briefed' on matters is, to put it in lying weasel words, 'the least untruthful statement', or in english, 'complete and utter rot'.

    As for 'constantly watched by the judiciary', all of one 'court', and I use that term loosely given they in all but name are a part of the NSA itself, is involved in that 'watching', and despite only being given what information the NSA deigns to hand them, even they have slapped down the NSA on occasion for violations of the few rules they have in place(not that this in any way stops or even slows down their 'Approved' stamping of every request the NSA hands them).

     

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    That One Guy (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 3:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    So one out of over 50 terrorist plots succeeded...

    As the saying goes, 'Citation needed'.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 4:08am

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    I think snowden is a hero, everyone that thinks he is a traitor show that the government had them well trained "sit, roll, no protests"

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 4:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    "They guy did incalculable damage, including damage to democracy"

    Such a joke, damage to democracy by showing that your government lies, spies, and the american people don't actually live in a democracy

     

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    carlosjii (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 5:12am

    Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    The NSA has done Major damage to the US economy!

     

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  42.  
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    Quinn Wilde, May 22nd, 2014 @ 6:11am

    Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    It is not unreasonable to suspect that these releases, which showed that NSA had more capability than foreign intelligence agencies previously knew about, led the Russians to do the same thing that Al Qaeda did after the leaks - change their signals security defeating the NSA.


    That is genuinely stupid reasoning.

    No actual tradecraft has been released by Snowden. The full extent of intelligence capabilities has not been revealed.

    The only thing Snowden has revealed is the *extent* to which we are being spied on as ordinay citizens.

    People who are NOT ordinary citizens, people likely who are likely to be targeted by intelligence agencies, will always have assumed just that - that they were being targeted.

    Members of Al Quaeda or Russian Government or Military personel, will know that they are likely to be specifically targeted by intelligence agencies.

    And in those cases, they will already have taken steps to defeat the kind of targeted surveillance we *all* already knew was possible.

    What Snowden has revealed is merely that we should *all* assume we are being watched, all the time. Anyone planning to do something drastic will have already taken such steps as part of an entirely reasonable suspicion that they are being watched.


    People who assumed they were being targeted will have

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 8:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Fuck's sake, the both of you. If you want to discuss your wet dreams with each other there are better sites for that sort of thing.

     

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  44.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 8:59am

    Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    "His public claims are to show it was too strong"

    Not too strong, too invasive. That's a different thing entirely.

    "It seems to work a whole lot better than before 9/11."

    What do you base this on? ("Another 9/11 hasn't happened" is not a valid answer).

    "What danger to our security was Snowden purportedly warning about?"

    You mean besides that the NSA has deliberately weakened some forms of our security (in the form of encryption), has deliberately concealed security weknesses specifically so that nobody would fix them, and exposing us to the insecurity that comes with pervasive surveillance?

     

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  45.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 9:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    "fully briefed to the Legislative"

    The legislative branch was not fully briefed. Even the oversight committee wasn't fully briefed.

    "ruled on and constantly watched by the Judiciary"

    Also bullshit. By "the Judiciary", you mean the FISC -- a thoroughly subverted court that even by their own admission has consistently failed in their oversight role.

    "It's hard to get closer to constitutionality"

    Who was briefed and who has oversight is not necessarily related to whether an action is Constitutional or not.

    "So far, the judiciary, in all cases so far, has held metadata collection to be constitutional"

    No, not in all cases. But in most, yes. However, when reading the arguments in these cases, it's my opinion that the courts are not just wrong, but are egregiously wrong.

    "Too many people think the Constitution says what they want to believe"

    True, but this isn't a case of that. This is a case of a clear violation of the fourth amendment as it's written.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    You need to look more closely at the Islamist movement. They most certainly intend to cause us grievous harm.

    As to the history, they didn't just attack once. They tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. In later 1990's, the set off two huge car bombs at US embassies in Africa, killing hundreds. The attacked the USS Cole with a boat filled with high explosive, killing a number of sailors. They tried to set off a bomb in Times square and the only reason it wasn't a disaster was incompetence - it fizzled. They set off a bomb at the Boston Marathon. They fought a significant war with us in Iraq, killing thousands including many Americans.

    As to abandoning our core principles... It isn't a core principle that the government can't gather and scrutinize telephone call data. They have been doing that for a very long time before the terrorism started, and it has been held constitutional by the Supreme Court.

    And yes, you have no choice but to make rational tradeoffs between civil liberties and safety (and order). It's done all the time and has been since the start of the republic. People love to quote Ben Franklin, but Franklin understood this need. That's why we have a court system, and we have other government officials swearing to defend the constitution: so that a democratic system, bolstered by the Constitution, can find the boundaries of liberty without sliding all they way down the slippery slope into tyranny.

    For example, you probably have heard that you are not free to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there is no fire. That in itself is a compromise between security and civil liberty - in this case the right to free speech.

    One cannot have a rational discussion of policy without understanding that no freedom is absolute - that there will always be compromises, and that there always have been.

    As to the NSA - which lies?

     

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    Meso (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 12:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Sorry for the typos. There doesn't seem to be an "edit" button.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 12:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    There are official channels. They are often abused by the government.

    But there are also unofficial channels, the use of which is a lot more responsible than spreading critical national security secrets around the world. He could have gone to a congressman critical of the administration, for example.

    Also, there is a tradition in this country of civil disobedience. One believes the government is acting unfairly, one violates the law to try to get it corrected, and then on takes whatever punishment is meted out by the courts. This is what the civil rights people did in the 50's and 60's. It's honorable.

    Snowden shows the following by his actions:

    1) He believes that he is entitled to release critical national security information even though all three branches of the federal government are aware of this information, approve of what is being done, and are keeping it quite. That is profoundly anti-Democratic.

    2) He is a coward. Rather than taking the honorable route, he flees to our geopolitical enemies.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    No, I don't work in the intelligence field. I have worked with classified information (in other fields, and when I was in the military) and know people who were in intelligence.

    Of course the vast majority in congress had no details. It's called "need to know." You can't spread sensitive secrets to 535 people and their staff! This isn't to hide things from the public - it's primarily to protect the secrets that we used to have until Snowden.

    But, those in the legislature who did know were from both parties, and were put on those committees with the knowledge of all that they would be handling highly secret information and not letting it out.

    You can call them cheerleaders if you want, but I think they are people who know enough about the real dangers (due to their access to classified information) that they keep their mouths shut even when the actions are by an administration they deeply dislike.

    As for one court - yes, one court that has had quite a number of federal judges roll through it during the time of this activity, and all of those judges knew about the activity. The very fact that they occasionally "slapped down" the NSA (actually, they minimized a few requests) shows that they weren't toadies.

    As far as I can tell, by your logic, we can not defend ourselves against certain kinds of threats. The *necessary* secrecy leads you and many to believe that there is no oversight, so we just can't do it.

    That is the sort of logic that lead to 9-11. Civil libertarians believed that the FBI should not allow it's counter-intelligence folks to communicate with it's anti-crime folks - the Gorelick rule. Without that rule, 9-11 almost certainly would have been prevented.

    My argument is that we need balance. We need procedures to minimize the impact of necessary intrustions.

    A secondary argument is that, if we fail, and the inevitable mass casualty attack happens, we will then have to rush into a massive surveillance program - under public pressure. Better to have one in place where safeguards are worked out and experience gained.

    There are plenty of federal agencies I don't trust at all. The NSA is not one of them, because their mission is specific and targeted on certain kinds of security, and because they are a military organization (which leads to different ethics and behavior towards civilians). I do believe that the DEA should not be a legal customer of NSA in these sensitive areas, because I don't think their mission is a critical national defense issue, and their involvement threatens to tarnish an otherwise very important activity.

    As to the "lying weasel words" - that is not helpful. If those are lies, one might believe you if you offered evidence rather than pejoratives.

    Perhaps you can elucidate how we are to protect ourselves against modern threats. Try just one very plausible scenario, one that causes national security folks to lose sleep, and one they have spent almost $100 billion to prevent and prepare a reaction to. It is the one I was expecting when 9-11 happened. I have been following Islamist terror for a long time, and on 9-11, the 9-11 surprises to me were the date, the target and the method. I was not surprised at a mass casualty attack, and the moment I saw the second plane hit, I knew it was Al Qaeda.

    The scenario: terrorists get hold of a contagious, deadly biological agents such as smallpox; they conspire to spread it at US airports in the security lines. The death toll from such an attack ranges from the low thousands to the tens of millions.

    Backup for the scenario... Al Qaeda (and other Islamists) clearly intend to do us grievous harm. They believe that if they kill enough of our civilians, we will leave them alone to construct the new Caliphate. Iran, btw, has similar religious views, and also engages in terrorism, and might try such an attack if pressed too hard. There is clearly no reduction in Islamist terror, but we have successfully defended ourselves in the U S(except for the Boston Marathon).

    In 2001, Al Qaeda was actively experimenting with chemical weapons, and was interested in biological weapons. The US captured a PhD neuro-scientist who was Al Qaeda's leader in this area.

    Biological weapons terrorism has been made a lot easier by modern advances. Genetic engineering is widely taught in universities, and the cost of it has gone down. There is even a genetic engineering maker movement, and you can buy time on sequencers and PCR equipment, etc, and you can purchase made-to-order DNA sequences. You can get the needed lab equipment and reagents.

    Al Qaeda may be fanatics, but not all of them are stupid. Core Al Qaeda has a high percentage of engineers and medical people. The current leader of Al Qaeda is an MD.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 1:26pm

    Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Yeah, anyone who disagrees with you is obviously brainwashed. Sure.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Snowden revealed a whole lot more than "the extent to which we are being spied on as ordinary citizens." If that was all he revealed, I wouldn't be so bothered about it.

    What he revealed was a whole lot of details about domestic, but more importantly, foreign intelligence capabilities and methods.

    For good reasons, that class of information has long been considered extremely sensitive, subject to the highest classification levels and protection.

    The idea that releasing this information doesn't help our adversaries is untenable. In World War II, the Japanese encrypted their communications. The US broke their naval codes, which directly led to the victory at Midway (and a lot of other places, including the assassination of Yamamoto). If the Japanese know this, they would obviously have taken countermeasures.

    Our adversaries know we are trying to "read their mail." But they didn't know that the NSA had penetrated systems in a way that they could get around SSL encryption without breaking it by cryptography. They do now.

    And they know a whole lot more. We don't even know how much they have discovered, because we don't know what Snowden has given them.

    The Russian security services are very good at getting information from people, and are utterly ruthless. They will get what Snowden has, if they haven't already.

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous, May 22nd, 2014 @ 3:08pm

    Re: that's it for TOR then

    LIKELY that Tor has been compromised? Two words: Silk Road.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 4:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    ""It's hard to get closer to constitutionality"

    Who was briefed and who has oversight is not necessarily related to whether an action is Constitutional or not."

    I was referring to the constitutionally created mechanisms for government actions. When an activity is managed across all three branches, that's working the way the constitution intends.

    You seem to live in a dreamland where we can all do whatever we want, in complete secrecy, as long as nobody else is harmed. Unfortunately, that is in direct conflict with the enforcement of laws and the protection of the citizenry from foreign powers and agents.

    There is plenty of room to agrue about where to draw the line, but from your vehemence, I doubt you are interested in anything other than shouting your absolutist bullshit.

    That you disagree with the rulings of the courts is fine, but to call other opinions "bullshit" repeatedly is tendentious.

    "This is a case of a clear violation of the fourth amendment as it's written."

    No, it is not. Go back and read the fourth amendment:

    The relevant part of the fourth is "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."

    Note the word "unreasonable." Note that information given to others is not covered. Note that jurisprudence has allowed authorities to gather metadata for centuries - early on, that metadata was whatever was written on the outside of the envelopes. Now it is the electronic equivalent: call records.

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2014 @ 4:38pm

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Just continue to believe what your told sheep

     

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  55.  
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    That One Guy (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 5:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    You're really going to make me dig through the links... well, enjoy the link-spam and reading. I'll try not to post too many links, only a handful for each topic, but there's a ton more available to dig through if you'd care to look.

    Regarding the 'need to know', 'oversight committees':

    Even Senate Intelligence Committee Admits That NSA Oversight Is Often A Game Of 20 Questions
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131014/17191824879/even-dianne-feinstein-admits-that-nsa -oversight-is-often-game-20-questions.shtml

    Political Moves: How Dianne Feinstein Cut Off One Of The Few Attempts At Actual Oversight By Senate Intelligence Committee
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130926/17335724671/political-moves-how-dianne-feinstein- cut-off-one-few-attempts-actual-oversight-senate-intelligence-committee.shtml

    There Is No Oversight: The NSA Withheld Documents From Intelligence Committee Heads
    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140327/08140826708/there-is-no-oversight-nsa-withheld-docum ents-intelligence-committee-heads.shtml

    More Examples Of How The House Intelligence Committee Limits Oversight, Rather Than Does Oversight
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131010/14510724832/more-examples-how-house-intelligence- committee-limits-oversight-rather-than-does-oversight.shtml

    Key Loophole Allows NSA To Avoid Telling Congress About Thousands Of Abuses
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130817/02451024219/key-loophole-allows-nsa-to-avoid-telling -congress-about-thousands-abuses.shtml

    Rep. Justin Amash: House Intelligence Committee Withheld NSA Documents From Incoming Congressmen
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130811/19404824139/rep-justin-amash-house-intelligence -committee-withheld-nsa-documents-incoming-congressmen.shtml

    Regarding the FISA 'court':

    How Three Decades Of Conservative Chief Justices Turned The FISA Court Into A Rubber Stamp
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130621/17360623578/how-three-decades-conservative-chief-just ices-turned-fisa-court-into-rubber-stamp.shtml

    Judge Walton Catches The DOJ Withholding Info About NSA Metadata Lawsuits
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140321/12060026649/judge-walton-catches-doj-withholding-i nfo-about-nsa-metadata-lawsuits.shtml

    New Snowden Docs Reveal How The FISA Court Reinterpreted The Law -- And Its Own Role -- In Total Secrecy
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140311/17562426536/new-snowden-docs-reveal-how-fisa-court- reinterpreted-law-its-own-role-total-secrecy.shtml

    FISA Court Waited Until After Snowden Leaks To Actually Explore If Bulk Phone Record Collection Was Legal
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140124/07511725976/fisa-court-waited-until-after-snowden-lea ks-to-actually-explore-if-bulk-phone-record-collection-was-legal.shtml

    Even A FISA Court Judge Basically Called The NSA's Bulk Record Collections 'Illegal'
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140122/10452925956/even-fisa-court-judge-basically-calle d-nsas-bulk-record-collections-illegal.shtml

    US Secret Surveillance Court Approves All Domestic Spying Requests For A Second Year In A Row
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130505/19242922955/us-secret-surveillance-court-approves-all-r equests-second-year-row.shtml

    That's Not Oversight: Head Of FISC Admits He Relies On NSA's Statements To Make Sure They're Obeying The Law
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130815/18401824197/thats-not-oversight-head-fisc-admits-he-rel ies-nsas-statements-to-make-sure-theyre-obeying-law.shtml

    (Really let that last one sink it, that is what I was referring to when I said the FISA 'court' only knows that it's bosses tell it)

    Couple of misc. 'oversight' articles:

    Mike Rogers Says NSA Told Congress About Spying On Foreign Leaders; Cuts Off Rep. Who Say That's Not True
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131029/13033825055/mike-rogers-says-nsa-told-congress-about-s pying-foreign-leaders-cuts-off-rep-who-say-thats-not-true.shtml

    President Obama Says He Had No Idea His Own NSA Was Spying On Angela Merkel
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131028/00233025029/president-obama-says-he-had-no-idea-his- own-nsa-was-spying-angela-merkel.shtml

    In response to your constant mentions of 9/11, and because it sounded rather familiar:

    NSA's Talking Points On Snowden Leaks Say To Emphasize 9/11
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131030/10331725067/nsas-talking-points-snowden-leaks-say-to-e mphasize-911.shtml

    'A secondary argument is that, if we fail, and the inevitable mass casualty attack happens, we will then have to rush into a massive surveillance program - under public pressure. Better to have one in place where safeguards are worked out and experience gained.'

    If the USG wanted to give the terrorist groups a second massive victory, sure, but I'd say once is enough. Not to mention the current 'massive surveillance program' is already a joke, so just applying more of the same seems like an exercise in futility if the joke is protecting people.

    Latest Revelations Show How Collecting All The Haystacks To Find The Needle Makes The NSA's Job Harder
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131014/17303424880/latest-revelations-show-how-collecting-a ll-haystacks-to-find-data-makes-nsas-job-harder.shtml

    The Problem With Too Much Data: Mistaking The Signal For The Noise
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130909/12361124455/problem-with-too-much-data-mistaking-sign al-noise.shtml

    Senators Wyden And Udall Say They've Seen No Evidence That NSA Surveillance Stopped Dozens Of Terrorist Attacks
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130613/10352023450/senators-wyden-udall-say-theyve-seen-no -evidence-that-nsa-surveillance-stopped-dozens-terrorist-attacks.shtml

    Regarding weasel words and lying:

    Just Weeks Ago, Keith Alexander Said Review Of NSA Found Not A Single Violation; Reality: Thousands Of Violations
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130816/10360724207/just-weeks-ago-keith-alexander-said- review-nsa-found-not-single-violation-reality-thousands-violations.shtml

    Clapper: I Gave 'The Least Untruthful Answer' To Wyden's 'Beating Your Wife' Question On Data Surveillance
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130610/09473723393/clapper-my-answer-to-wydens-beatin g-your-wife-question-data-surveillance-was-least-untruthful-answer.shtml

    Now That The Intelligence Community Got Away With Lying, How Can You Trust Anything They Say?
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130731/17240924030/now-that-intelligence-community-got-away-w ith-lying-how-can-you-trust-anything-they-say.shtml

    NSA Boss Pretends He Doesn't Know Anything About Wikileaks
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130625/11012523614/nsa-boss-pretends-he-doesnt-know-anyt hing-about-wikileaks.shtml

    Senators To NSA: Your 'Fact Sheet' Isn't Factual; Can You Tell Us The Truth For Once?
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130624/17374523600/senators-to-nsa-your-fact-sheet-isnt-fact ual-can-you-tell-us-truth-once.shtml

    Keith Alexander, On Stage While Story Of NSA Infiltrations Breaks, Tries To Mislead With Response
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131030/10454725068/keith-alexander-stage-while-story-nsa- infiltrations-breaks-tries-to-mislead-with-response.shtml

    'As far as I can tell, by your logic, we can not defend ourselves against certain kinds of threats. The *necessary* secrecy leads you and many to believe that there is no oversight, so we just can't do it.'

    Nice strawman there, mind if I use it to hang some wet towels on to dry?

    What I actually want surveillance wise is targeted(the current 'everything from everyone' is anything but) spying, with actual, real oversight, spying that falls withing the constitutional limits(going back to the 'targeted' like above, as unless a warrant is specifically targeted, it is not constitutional, no matter how many pet judges claim otherwise), and conducted by an agency that actually gives a damn about the rights of the people, rather than seeing those rights as inconvenient obstacles.

    And finally, in regards to your implications elsewhere that it's only due to Snowden that other countries like Russia know the NSA's capabilities(never mind the massive hubris of such a belief, the idea that the spy agencies in every other country are staffed by nothing more than incompetent morons):

    1,000 Sys Admins Can Copy Any NSA Document Without Anyone Knowing About It; Think Only Snowden Did?
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130826/12223124315/1000-sys-admins-can-copy-any-nsa-document- without-anyone-knowing-about-it-think-only-snowden-did.shtml

    Enjoy the reading.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 5:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    You seem to have left some words out there.

    'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.'

    But please, do explain, how does grabbing everything possible, from as many people as possible, just in case some of it might be useful at some point in the future satisfy that bolded half, which requires specific targets, both in what is to be gathered, and where it is to be gathered from?

     

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    Meso (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 6:20pm

    4th amendment

    I left the words out on purpose, because I didn't want my main point to get confused with the rather obscure meaning of the 4th's warrant clause (which is not what most people think). But that's a digression from the main point here...

    The answer to your specific question is: because the grabbing does not constitute a search. What will constitute some sort of search is *using* that data - depending on how it is used and what it is used for.

    NSA has "minimization procedures" to limit that usage, which means that very few people are "searched" in any meaningful way. Those procedures are meant to provide a balance between gross civil liberties violations, and the loss of all useful intelligence. Obviously, many people disagree that they are sufficient, but the FISA court liked them (and in a few cases, adjusted them).

    There is a new theory, which I think may eventually be accepted by the courts, that grabbing a lot of data may constitute a search even though each individual piece does not. This is the "mosaic theory." But... it would be *new*. It is not a matter of settled law or understanding, and obviously is not what the drafters were thinking about.

    My position is simple: in the modern era, technology has created new threats, and new ways that adversaries can operate. We need a way to deal with this. The right balance of detection and civil liberties is not obvious to me. I think the anger at NSA is way out of line. But... we need to try to figure out how to defend ourselves against adversaries without turning our government into one of the adversaries. This has always been a difficult problem.

    BTW... I deeply dislike the current administration. My support for the NSA is not partisan at all. I am a national security hawk, I pay a lot of attention to the threat environment, and I have my own opinions as to the proper balance of detection technologies vs. civil liberties. YMMV.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 7:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    The Russian security services are very good at getting information from people, and are utterly ruthless. They will get what Snowden has, if they haven't already.

    So torture, CIA style, might as well of just said it plainly. Given how much global attention he's got though, driven in large part by the USG's continued tantrums anytime his name comes up, such actions would be rather unlikely, as the Russian government is already pretty unpopular, why would they do something so utterly pointless and make it even worse for themselves?

    Additionally, I believe the applicable saying here is 'You can't squeeze water out of a stone', it would be rather difficult to 'get what Snowden has', given he doesn't have any documents with him, and any knowledge they almost certainly already have, given they're not idiots, and the NSA was, and likely still is, laughably weak on internal security.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 9:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    No, the Russians are ruthless. The CIA is not. If the Russians believe that extreme measures are needed, they will have no qualms about it. I don't just mean repeatedly gagging someone (waterboarding) or stress positions. Heck, the US did that to *me* in SERE school. I mean whatever torture they feel will work - amputation, burning, electric shock, drugs... whatever. They are not constrained to a few lawyer-approved methods, unlike the CIA.

    A to Russian "unpopularity" - the Russian government (i.e, Putin) is not unpopular with the people it cares about: Russians. Quite the opposite.

    The Russians might not want to risk the bad foreign publicity of Snowden disappearing. But more likely, they are finding his continued value as an propaganda tool more useful at the moment than the remaining secrets (if there are any) that they might get. Also, since Putin is a sadist and a narcissist, I suspect he gets off on Snowden's antics - Putin gets to once again humiliate the US - over and over.

    Snowden claims not to have any documents with him. Okay - do we believe that? Do we believe that a narcissist like him would not have provided some way for him to get them as he needed them? I sure don't.

    I do agree with one thing: the NSA was tragically weak on security. You can't generalize that to generally weak internally, but certainly they failed to take adequate precautions in Snowden's case.

    I'd bet that, today, sysadmins aren't able to operate as freely as Snowden was. The NSA may be a government bureaucracy, but it has a lot of extremely smart and determined people in it. If they have been able to get through the bureaucratic thicket, they have patched this hole, and are looking hard for others.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 10:02pm

    Re: Re: 4th amendment

    Sorry, but a couple of misses there:

    "You haven't had your privacy violated until you become aware of it'(otherwise known as the peeping-tom excuse). "

    That isn't what I wrote or meant. I meant that your civil liberties haven't been harmed unless the government acts illegally on that information. That they have a big pile of your metadata is not, per se, harmful. It is what they do with it.

    As to the rental analogy... It has long been adjudicated that renters have privacy. The fourth amendment doesn't distinguish rental houses from owned houses (or, per courts, apartments). So, very different situation. A better analogy is if you put tiny labels on all your documents, stuck stamps in the corners, and dropped them in the mailbox. That's more akin to what's happening here.

    On to your links... they look like what I would expect when the system is working right: the NSA goes beyond in some areas, and the court reins them in. Duh. Do you imagine that they will always, magically, be exactly right?

    So, show me one American who was harmed by the violations listed in your links. You can't.

    So I will be generous: there were a few cases where NSA personnel used systems to spy for personal reasons. That's clearly abuse. And when they were caught, they were disciplined. And that' what you would expect when things work right, because government agencies are compose of actual human beings. And that's one reason we have minimization procedures and oversight in the first place. I just wish they had been as careful in overseeing their sysadmins!

    If you demand that the NSA be perfect, then you are not being realistic. But if you recognize that they created rules, mostly abided by them, and were slapped down when they missed, then you understand the situation. That's how these systems evolve, too. When they go beyond, usually its because they think they are not beyond. So the courts detect it, and change their guidance, and that is pushed down into the agency.

    That's the best you can do with this sort of thing. And it's certainly good enough for me.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), May 22nd, 2014 @ 11:31pm

    And lo, the FSM did say, 'Let the the links be fruitful and multiply in this comment section'

    They are not constrained to a few lawyer-approved methods, unlike the CIA.

    About that...

    Latest Leak From Senate's CIA Torture Report: CIA Tortured Many More People, Hid Details From Everyone
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140411/00453626877/latest-leak-senates-cia-torture-report -cia-tortured-many-more-people-hid-details-everyone.shtml

    The Senate Is Sitting On A Devastating Report About How The CIA Avoided Oversight Of Unnecessary Torture Program
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131019/02001424935/senate-is-sitting-devastating-report-ab out-how-cia-avoided-oversight-unnecessary-torture-program.shtml

    Senate Report Shows CIA Agents Used Torture Techniques Not Approved By DOJ Or CIA
    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140403/16051326788/senate-report-shows-cia-agents-used-tortur e-techniques-not-approved-doj-cia.shtml

    From that last one:

    'CIA officers subjected terror suspects it held after the Sept. 11 attacks to methods that were not approved by either the Justice Department or their own headquarters and illegally detained 26 of the 119 in CIA custody, the Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded in its still-secret report, McClatchy has learned.

    The spy agency program’s reliance on brutal and harsh techniques _ much more abusive than previously known _ and its failure to gather valuable information from the detainees, harmed the U.S.’s credibility internationally, according to the committee’s findings in its scathing 6,300 page report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention program.'


    A to Russian "unpopularity" - the Russian government (i.e, Putin) is not unpopular with the people it cares about: Russians. Quite the opposite.

    Which of course explains why they're cracking down on social media and any alternative sources of news the Russian public might access, because they're ever so popular with their own people.

    Also, since Putin is a sadist and a narcissist, I suspect he gets off on Snowden's antics - Putin gets to once again humiliate the US - over and over.

    Being able to point out the hypocrisy of the USG would be pretty tempting for any country I'd imagine, especially one who'd been on the receiving end of said hypocrisy, so it's hard to blame him there, though I'd say it's the USG's fault for leaving themselves wide open by doing the very things they called out other countries for doing.

    Snowden claims not to have any documents with him. Okay - do we believe that? Do we believe that a narcissist like him would not have provided some way for him to get them as he needed them? I sure don't.

    Well first of all, how many lies has Snowden been caught out on, versus how many lies the NSA/Government has been caught out on since the whole debacle started? If we're going with the truth/lies ratio, I'd say Snowden comes out pretty solidly there, so why wouldn't you believe his claims regarding that?

    Second, and I see this pretty consistently from those that attack Snowden, but what exactly makes him a 'narcissist'?

    If it's the claim that he thought he 'knew better than the entire government', consider the following: he saw something noticeably wrong with how things were going. It wasn't just a local problem, but a systemic one, with the 'rot' spreading far and deep. The few times he tried bringing the problems to the attention of those above him, he was brushed off, and all the 'official avenues' for whistleblowing are... ineffective to put it mildly at actually fixing any problems(well, 'problems' other than the jobs and freedom of pesky people who ask too many questions anyway). Going off of the history of what happened to other whistleblowers in the US, and how well the problems they tried to expose got fixed, it was pretty obvious he'd have to try something else if he wanted anything to actually get done.

    Given all of that, what else was he supposed to do, other than what he did?

    Lastly, what possible benefit could Snowden get from the files that would outweigh the negatives? You say it as though there's some reason he would care about them after he'd delivered them to Greenwald and the other reporters.

    I do agree with one thing: the NSA was tragically weak on security. You can't generalize that to generally weak internally, but certainly they failed to take adequate precautions in Snowden's case.

    The only reason they knew what he'd done, and that he was responsible, was he told them, and they still have no clue what exactly he copied, so yeah, I think I can say that they had pretty weak security in general, not just regarding him.

    And think on this, given the above, if the Russians wanted to 'peek through' the NSA's database, do you really think they'd have had any trouble doing so, all the while keeping it secret from the NSA? The odds that Snowden would know anything they don't already, is pretty much nill I'd say.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 12:10am

    Re: Re: Re: 4th amendment

    As to the rental analogy... It has long been adjudicated that renters have privacy. The fourth amendment doesn't distinguish rental houses from owned houses (or, per courts, apartments). So, very different situation.

    Not so much really. Though I only realized it afterwards, a better example would be renting a place at a storage facility, and the government demanding access to all of them, 'just because', copying all the documents they found and recording any other information they ran across.

    Though you're claiming otherwise, the fact that you continue to insist that simply collecting and having the data isn't a violation of people's privacy right, only using it, by that same argument the example I described above would be perfectly fine, as long as the government didn't do anything with what they'd gathered.

    So, show me one American who was harmed by the violations listed in your links. You can't.

    NSA Admits: Okay, Okay, There Have Been A Bunch Of Intentional Abuses, Including Spying On Love Interests
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130823/18432024301/nsa-admits-okay-okay-there-have-been- bunch-intentional-abuses-including-spying-loved-ones.shtml

    More generally, how about all of the companies who are suddenly finding it much, much harder to do business with other countries, all because the NSA poisoned the well and no-one trusts US tech companies anymore?

    'Some' areas? A 'few' cases? Are we looking at the same things? Because I'm not seeing 'some' abuses, I'm seeing systemic abuses, going on regularly, with even their pet judges admitting as much. The fact that they try and brush all such abuses under the rug and pretend they 'don't count' doesn't suddenly make them go away.

    And that's one reason we have minimization procedures and oversight in the first place. I just wish they had been as careful in overseeing their sysadmins!

    I know I've been linking to a lot of articles in this thread, but have you actually been reading more than just the titles? Because a good many of them are pointing out the those 'minimization procedures' are regularly abused and/or ignored, and the 'oversight' is non-existent. Rules and those that would make sure they're followed only matter if they are followed, and are watched, something that clearly does not apply to the NSA and their 'oversight'.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    "the Russians are ruthless. The CIA is not."

    It's not? I beg to differ.

    "If the Russians believe that extreme measures are needed, they will have no qualms about it."

    Same with the US. True, for particular acts that they think they won't be able to sell to the US public (like they managed to sell waterboarding), they won't do it directly -- they'll farm the prisoner out to some other nation who will do it for them. But, in my view, that is no different than doing it themselves.

    "Snowden claims not to have any documents with him. Okay - do we believe that?"

    Yes, I believe that. I have no reason not to -- it makes logical sense.

    "certainly they failed to take adequate precautions in Snowden's case"

    And thank god. If they hadn't failed, then we would never have been able to prove all the allegations that we knew were true.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 10:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    "You seem to live in a dreamland where we can all do whatever we want, in complete secrecy, as long as nobody else is harmed"

    Nope. I live in a dreamland where the government is not engaging in wholesale spying of the population. I live in a dreamland where the constitution protects of from government misbehavior of the sort that the NSA is doing.

    It's much preferable to the nightmare world that the government is bringing down on us through agencies like the NSA.

    "to call other opinions "bullshit" repeatedly is tendentious."

    What I was calling bullshit was an assertion of a specific fact: that the actions of the NSA has effective judicial oversight. This is demonstrably untrue.

    "The relevant part of the fourth is "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.""

    Indeed. That's the part that is being violated.

    "Note that information given to others is not covered."

    Not true. You're talking about the third party doctrine, which states that information you give to another is subject to that other's whims -- including giving it to the government should they wish. That is a world apart from claiming that the fourth amendment doesn't cover that information.

    "Note that jurisprudence has allowed authorities to gather metadata for centuries - early on, that metadata was whatever was written on the outside of the envelopes. Now it is the electronic equivalent: call records."

    There are a number of problems with this line of reasoning, so I'll just pick one. Call records are not the electronic equivalent of what's written on the outside of the envelope. Call records are far more revealing. This is, in part, why there's a whole separate body of law about call records, dating back even before CALEA.

     

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    CK20XX (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 10:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    But there are also unofficial channels, the use of which is a lot more responsible than spreading critical national security secrets around the world. He could have gone to a congressman critical of the administration, for example.

    That would not have worked at all. Snowden was dealing with confidential information, so revealing it to anyone, even a sympathetic congressman, would have gotten him labeled as a traitor and dumped into the same situation he's in now. Senators like Ron Wyden have tried to be activists inside the system and not only have gotten thwarted and bogged down by its glacial pace and the tangled web of people trying to outmaneuver each other, but they also cannot officially share information about what they're actually fighting against, not even to their own allies, otherwise they could be imprisoned or worse. That is why there's no such thing as official channels for whistleblowers. If you want to alert people about dangerous government activity, the only way to do so is to break the law.

    Also, there is a tradition in this country of civil disobedience. One believes the government is acting unfairly, one violates the law to try to get it corrected, and then on takes whatever punishment is meted out by the courts. This is what the civil rights people did in the 50's and 60's. It's honorable.

    If you just take whatever punishment the courts had you without protest though, then you're no longer being civilly disobedient, are you?

    Besides, honor before reason is usually not a good policy. There's an important differences between being honorable and being plain stupid. Ghandi was able to appear peaceful and honorable in 1920 when he protested the British Raj because he had the backing of the United States Congress, while Snowden was completely alone. Being a martyr may be honorable, but you can't be an activist after you're dead or locked away for life, so it's horribly impractical.

    I'm not convinced you have a sense of honor either. It seems you call other people dishonorable for the same reason kindergarteners call each other "poopyheads". It sounds to me like you're calling Snowden a coward just because you don't like how he was thoroughly smart and savvy about what he was getting himself into, including trying all those "official channels" before realizing that they didn't work and he had only one option left. He did not do anything lightly.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 11:43am

    "That would not have worked at all. Snowden was dealing with confidential information, so revealing it to anyone, even a sympathetic congressman, would have gotten him labeled as a traitor and dumped into the same situation he's in now."

    It's been done plenty of times without the outcome Snowden faces.

    "If you just take whatever punishment the courts had you without protest though, then you're no longer being civilly disobedient, are you?"

    Nonsense. You just made up your own definition of civil disobedience that is contrary to history.

     

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    CK20XX (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 1:10pm

    Re:

    I think you're dealing with a fantasy version of civil disobedience that isn't actually supported by history, myself. You seem to look only on the surface of people's actions and presume there's some kind of nobility involved when that isn't the case at all.

    People only engage in civil disobedience when they think they have some kind of safety net that'll save them from serious consequences, or when the consequences already unfolding are so bad that they decide that have nothing left to lose. In either case, there's no nobility involved, but instead people carefully weighing security versus desperation. We are not an honorable species and it is foolish to pretend that we are or ever will be. For better or for worse, we're all human in the end, and honor more often than not tends to be an excuse for behaving irrationally. Don't be fooled by history's tendency to doll up the corpses and give them lavish funerals.

    I wish I had kinder words since you compose yourself rather well, but I'm afraid you seem very blind to how the world actually works and how it has changed as well. It's like your arguments are relics of a bygone age or something.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 1:52pm

    I think you have a misperception of the risks the civil rights activists took. Some were killed, after all. Many were beaten.

    I'm not sure why you think things are different now in this regard. Espionage was treated more harshly in the past than now. It's true that Daniel Ellsberg got off, but he couldn't know that ahead of time.

    But... my primary problem with Snowden is not that he embarrassed the NSA (they beclowned themselves by allowing him that broad, unsupervised access) or that he is a coward. It is that he released information that is clearly gravely damaging to US national security, and that he chose to do so based purely on his own arrogance, the arrogance that he knew better than Congress, the FISA courts, and the Administration. It is that he released this information to a journalist who is strongly anti-American. It is that he didn't even try releasing it to a congressman - when it is clear that many congressmen (many of my own party) who are happy to pummel the NSA for political gain. It is that he fled to enemy countries.

    He certainly isn't the first to have caused grave harm this way, although I don't think any previous releases were as damaging, except the "A-bomb" spies (the Soviet run officers and agents in the US nuclear weapons project).

     

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    Gwiz (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 2:21pm

    Re:

    It is that he released information that is clearly gravely damaging to US national security, and that he chose to do so based purely on his own arrogance, the arrogance that he knew better than Congress, the FISA courts, and the Administration.

    Care to elaborate on what is "clearly gravely damaging to US national security"? I haven't seen an once of evidence of this yet, so I'm not sure how you claim it's clear to anyone.

    And based on what we learned of the these programs and the unconstitutionality of it all, it appears he DID know better than those in power.


    It is that he released this information to a journalist who is strongly anti-American.

    Wait a minute. A journalist who is exposing Constitutional violations is un-American? What kind of crazy dictionary are you using?


    It is that he didn't even try releasing it to a congressman - when it is clear that many congressmen (many of my own party) who are happy to pummel the NSA for political gain.

    I'm not sure I would have chosen that option myself. Money and power have a funny way of convincing even our best congress people to abandon their scruples.


    It is that he fled to enemy countries.

    Don't be daft. The US stranded Snowden in Russia by revoking his passport, he didn't choose to stay there.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Re:

    Wait a minute. A journalist who is exposing Constitutional violations is un-American? What kind of crazy dictionary are you using?

    Don't you know, questioning the all knowing and benevolent government is tantamount to treason, and something only anti-american commies would do. True patriots believe what the great government tells them, and never, even for a moment, assume that the government might be wrong about something.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 3:16pm

    Re: Re:

    "clearly gravely damaging to US national security" - release of details about means, methods and practices of signals intelligence is damaging, because the primary target of these activities is foreigners whose actions may harm the interests of the US.

    Al Qaeda is one obvious example - they introduced three new encryption programs shortly after the NSA internet programs were made public.

    Another example: the tapping of Merkel's phone. Germany is an ally, but Germany can and does act against US national interests. Revealing that we had the means to intercept her phone is quite dangerous.

    Intelligence is largely the process of collecting lots of bits of data and building a picture from it. Our adversaries do this. In the case of the Snowden releases, instead of bits of data, it's mountains of data.

    Do you really think that those many documents Snowden took are just about spying on Americans?

    "A journalist who is exposing Constitutional violations is un-American? What kind of crazy dictionary are you using?"

    A journalist writing for a foreign left-wing anti-American paper (The Guardian).

    "The US stranded Snowden in Russia by revoking his passport, he didn't choose to stay there."

    Yeah... except before that happened, Snowden had already fled to China, that human rights haven which is constantly spying on Americans, stealing our secrets, and rapidly building a military whose stated purpose is to sink our ships.

    Then he went to Russia, another paragon of virtue.

    That shows real taste, eh?

     

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    CK20XX (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 3:23pm

    Re:

    The problem is, Snowden DID actually know better than Congress, the FISA courts, and the Administration, and I suspect that's the major impasse between us that will keep this conversation from going anywhere meaningful.

    Nevertheless...

    It is that he didn't even try releasing it to a congressman - when it is clear that many congressmen (many of my own party) who are happy to pummel the NSA for political gain.

    Think about that statement a little more. Reach deeper into it. The key phrase there is "political gain". The motivations of the congressmen you speak of are selfish, not for the benefit of the people they're supposed to serve. Look carefully at that statement, and it's kinda like you're admitting that the government is filled with people that are not worthy of their positions. That's one of the major reasons more and more people have been hailing Snowden as a hero; he gave us the information and the power to combat the corruption in our government and turn the United States back into the country it was supposed to be all along. We can worry about that terrorists again after all that work is done.

    Even if that avenue had had greater than a 0% chance of working in the first place, what do you think would have happened after your congressmen had gained that upper hand? It would have been back to serving their corporate masters. Snowden's revolution would have just been a flash in the pan at best, while the path he's chosen has already been reaching far and changing much more, forcing people to wake up and realize what's really been going on in the world.

    Besides, as I said before, terrorism isn't really a threat to us. Look at these statistics here:

    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/04/statistics-you-are-not-going-to-be-killed-by-terrorists. html

    Your chances of dying in a terrorism attack in the United States are ridiculously low, just like they were before 9/11. We do not need to go insane as a country and restrict everyone's freedoms when there are far many other things killing us in far greater numbers than a few Taliban agents who happened to get lucky one fateful day in history. You can't have a free country that also restricts freedoms for the sake of security because then you no longer have a free country.

     

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    Meso (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 3:46pm

    Risk of terrorism

    Your statistics are misleading. It's like saying in 2000 that the risk that terrorists would fly an airplane into a US building were zero, because they hadn't done it.

    As I've said before in this thread, the threat is not little acts of terrorism, like the Boston Marathon bombing or the fizzled Times Square bombing. The risk is of major attacks. Al Qaeda know this too. That's why they had a PhD scientist on their Afghanistan staff in 2001. The risk is a major biological attack, or an attack on a nuclear plant (say, to set off explosives in a quickly drained cooling pond), or a chemical attack in a highly crowded area like NYC. And, the risk is just not how many are killed, but the economic *and civil liberties* consequences of the attack.

    9-11 cost over $1 trillion in direct economic damages, and a lot more in the resulting wars.

    The US government, incompetent as they and all governments must necessarily be, at least recognizes this. They have spent over $70 billion dollars on combating bio-terrorism. Sadly, because of the nature of the threat, a lot of that is on how to respond after the attack happens and thousands of people are dying. But they take it seriously.

    We should too, even if our media and our visually focused, short term thinking public doesn't.

    And... that's just an example of one serious threat. There are others.

    As to what Snowden should have done... It is my opinion that he should suffer for the Americans who will die as a result of his action. I'm tired of talking about it, and nothing will change the minds of those more afraid of having their phone records stored than of those countries and organizations how to destroy our way of life and to kill some of us.

     

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    CK20XX (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 4:22pm

    Re: Risk of terrorism

    I don't think my statistics are misleading, I'm afraid. I think they're frank, and I'm concerned you're a little too afraid of another major terrorist attack that probably won't be as significant as the last major one we had because the economy's been systematically run into the ground since then and we've gotten many more important things to worry about since.

    Or maybe you're so convinced that Snowden is the enemy that you secretly, deep inside, find it hard to let go of your personal desire for revenge or something. I mean, you keep talking about how he should be locked up for all eternity and should never see the sun again, which is a rather violent sentiment to share. Even if he was the bad guy in all this, you should never wish for such destruction on a fellow human being. You should be sad and regretful instead because it's always a shame to see a person go to waste, even if that person has given you nothing but headaches.

    It's like Mega Man said at the end of the Curse of Ra Moon arc:

    Mega Man: "Dr. Light, I'm worried about how I'm reacting again."
    Dr. Light: "What are you feeling now?"
    Mega Man: "...happiness? I mean, I'm relieved it's really over. I'm glad nobody has to worry about Ra Moon again. But... I don't like being happy that something is dead. I mean... he was evil! But... it still doesn't seem right to be happy he's gone. That I... killed him."
    Dr. Light: "And you never should be. I have no easy answer for you, son. But the fact that you have that concern shows a greater humanity than some. May you never lose that, Rock."

    (Yeah, I'm using a Mega Man reference. We could use the levity since we pretty clearly hate each other's guts by now, right?)

    Something I probably should have mentioned before though: evidence suggests that the terrorists already knew about our weaknesses before Snowden made his move. It wouldn't be surprising if they did, since you kinda have to know about a target's weaknesses before making a successful attack, and security measures generally tend to keep the amateur ne'er-do-wells at bay, but not those that are really determined to crack them and break through them. DRM is a notorious example of that. If that evidence is true, then Snowden's revelations had little if any effect on compromising our already weak security.

    Furthermore, we know now that our security has continued to be weak long after 9/11 even though steps should have been taken to strength it right away. Again, it's not Snowden's fault if he was alerting us to how the USA's pants are already down around its ankles and the only one who can't see that is the USA itself, as if it's the emperor in The Emperor's New Clothes or something. It's the USA's fault for being so willfully proud and ignorant instead.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 4:24pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Actually he went to Hong Kong, which while technically part of China, is still independent enough to have their own government for the most part.

    As to why he was going to and traveling through countries that aren't friendly with the US? I'd think that would be obvious, but just to spell it out, it's because any country friendly, or small, would have had Snowden arrested, bagged, and on a plane to the US as soon as the USG asked them to, if not before. Given the entire point was to stay out of the hands of the USG, the government that he'd just thoroughly embarrassed and made look bad, traveling through countries that wouldn't happily extradite him as soon as they were asked makes perfect sense, nothing nefarious about it.

     

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    Gwiz (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 5:05pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Al Qaeda is one obvious example - they introduced three new encryption programs shortly after the NSA internet programs were made public.

    That means nothing really. Do you really think that Al Qaeda is unaware that the USG uses every means possible to gain intel on them and wouldn't have increased their communication security anyways? That's pretty naive.


    Another example: the tapping of Merkel's phone. Germany is an ally, but Germany can and does act against US national interests. Revealing that we had the means to intercept her phone is quite dangerous.

    Why? Seems nothing more that a diplomatic embarrassment to me. Where's the danger?


    Intelligence is largely the process of collecting lots of bits of data and building a picture from it. Our adversaries do this. In the case of the Snowden releases, instead of bits of data, it's mountains of data.

    Ummm...what "mountains of data" are you talking about? As far as I know only a few people have access to the documents and only a small percentage has been released (and in a very responsible manner, IMHO) to the public.


    Do you really think that those many documents Snowden took are just about spying on Americans?

    Thus far, quite a few are. But I really wouldn't know. Do you?


    A journalist writing for a foreign left-wing anti-American paper (The Guardian).

    Ahhh. I'm sure you think that a lapdog, press pass chasing mainstream media reporter would have handled it better, right? Not me. I'd rather have truth over propaganda.


    Yeah... except before that happened, Snowden had already fled to China, that human rights haven which is constantly spying on Americans, stealing our secrets, and rapidly building a military whose stated purpose is to sink our ships.

    Then he went to Russia, another paragon of virtue.


    Dude, at least get your facts straight. He went to Hong Kong (ie: somewhere marginally neutral) to pass on the documents to the press. That didn't work out so well because of intense pressure from the USG. He was on his way to Ecuador to seek asylum and the USG stranded him en route at the Moscow airport by yanking his passport.

     

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  77.  
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    Meso (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 5:19pm

    Re: Re: Risk of terrorism

    So you're reduced to psychoanalyzing me, eh? That's not constructive.

    But I can respond in kind... obviously you are so enamored of Snowden's carefully constructed hero image that you cannot see anything else. Here we have this low grade sysadmin, whose parents were in grade school when I first hacked into an operating system, thrilling the world with his brilliance. Worship at his feet. I'm not impressed.

    While we're at it, I see you are projecting "hate one's guts."

    Enough of that.

    Actually, by internet standards, this has been pretty civil, which I do appreciate.

    Snowden was most certainly not alerting us that the US "pants were down." I have seen that nowhere in his leaks. The only security vulnerability he alerted us to was that NSA was lax in one specific way: failure to adequately supervise highly cleared, sworn individuals with sys-admin access. He could easily have revealed that with *one* document dump of non-injurious data - and fled to Russia or whatever after he did it (or even put it out anonymously). That he chose to dump reams and reams (to use an old technology term) of data shows otherwise.

    As to the statistics - I'm not arguing whether they are correct. I am arguing that they not very relevant. The threat isn't great for any one individual - so what (although people I knew were killed by Islamist terrorists, not all by Al Qaeda). One could use the same reasoning to suggest that we shouldn't have been afraid of Soviet nukes during the cold war, because they never used them.

    Seriously, do you believe 13 years of disrupted plots and low casualty counts means there is no more danger? Does this mean that if they only kill another 3000 in the US in one attack a few days from now, it doesn't matter? Are you familiar with the plot just barely stopped, in 2006, where 10 airliners were going to be blown up as they descended from Europe over US cities? At the time, we had no measures in place to stop the liquid bombs that were going to be used. Can you imagine what that attack would have done? It would have had a higher death toll than 9-11. It would have devastated air transportation (and the economies of the world that depend on it). We got lucky on that, because MI6 and MI5 weren't asleep at the switch and weren't hobbled by civil libertarians (unlike the FBI pre-9-11). Although the initial tip-off to that plot didn't come from signals intelligence, it could have. It is a lot less likely to be caught now, because Al Qaeda knows our capabilities, which before they could only guess at.

    This was not the first and won't be the last large scale attack. Al Qaeda first tested this in 1994, killing one passenger and blowing a hole in the side of an en-route airliner. They were planning a ten or more plane attack to follow, which was only disrupted because of an accidental fire in their bomb facility (Google bojinka plot for details).

    Americans tend to think short-term about this stuff. Using 13 years of statistics is an example of that. Islamists are thinking in 100 year time spans. They may have a nutty ideology, but that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous (invoking Godwin's rule here: the Nazi ideology was just as whacky). Our short-sightedness on these issues is largely because we have been isolated from many dangers by the oceans, and haven't been invaded since the war of 1812.

    That short-sightedness has been visible in the past. Before WW-II, there was a large and very influential anti-war movement in the US. They didn't want to fight the Nazi's, and never imagined that the Japanese would attack us.

    After Vietnam, we retreated into our isolationist heads-down shell again. We gutted the CIA and the military, imagining that we could just sweet talk our adversaries into goodness (sound familiar?). That didn't work, as the Iranian revolution, and rapid spread of Soviet influence around the world shows.

    After the cold war, we did it again. As mentioned before, we crippled our counter-intelligence capabilities by locking them out of any information gleaned by criminal investigations, and vice versa. The result was 9-11. (As an aside, I think the US should move CI out of the FBI into it's own MI-5 equivalent agency - to reduce conflict of interest and goals).

    I have been following Islamist terrorism since the early 1980s. As I said up-thread, an attack of the scale of 9-11 did not surprise me, and I knew as soon as the second plane it that it was most likely Al Qaeda. When the USS Cole was bombed, I knew Al Qaeda was still after us. When Massoud was killed in Afghanistan on 9-9-2001, I was afraid that something was up.

    Those guys don't give up. They can't. It's a holy mission.


    Perhaps you are not used to thinking about strategic threats, viewing Al Qaeda instead as a pin-prick organization that just got lucky. And indeed, Al Qaeda may not get that lucky again. But they are not alone, and they are surely trying, and lately we have been strengthening their hand by giving them more and more sanctuaries in which to operate: Syria, parts of Libya, western Iraq, and soon, all of Afghanistan, to name a few. The last time they had Afghanistan, they plotted 9-11, and succeeded. They also, in their sanctuary, experimented with chemical weapons - with their PhD neuroscientist (and their physician current leader, al-Zawahiri MD).

    Hezbollah, which has also killed a bunch of Americans, operates in Mexico. If the dictators in Iran feel a need to hit at us, they'll use Hezbollah in an asymmetric strike (or a bunch), because they can't do anything with conventional warfare. How will you feel when, statistics still tiny, a few dozen school kids are blown up in school busses across states near Mexico? Not a big threat? The same measures which work against Al Qaeda work against Hezbollah (or worked until Snowden blew them).

    My point is: the threats are real. Sure, any individual American is unlikely to be killed in them. But, terrorism isn't about killing lots of people - it is about causing societal or economic damage through the fear generated by such attacks (hence the word "terror"). It is an ancient and tried and true technique.

    We discount it at our peril.

     

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  78.  
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    Gwiz (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Risk of terrorism

    My point is: the threats are real. Sure, any individual American is unlikely to be killed in them. But, terrorism isn't about killing lots of people - it is about causing societal or economic damage through the fear generated by such attacks (hence the word "terror"). It is an ancient and tried and true technique.

    Do you not acknowledge the enormous societal damage of having an Orwellian government? I fear that more than dying, because it will shape how my grandchildren and their children will live.

    I could be wrong, but I thought Bin Laden's main goal was to cause our government to become a police state and destroy our way of life. Thanks to those with mindsets similar to yours, it seems he's winning. That's what scares me.

     

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  79.  
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    Meso (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 5:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "That means nothing really. Do you really think that Al Qaeda is unaware that the USG uses every means possible to gain intel on them and wouldn't have increased their communication security anyways? That's pretty naive."

    Your comment is naive. In warfare, and that's what this is, adversaries rarely have perfect information, but they strive to get the best they can. The very fact that AQ came out with new encryption shortly after Snowden's releases is telling.

    You ask what releases are telling. The deep penetration of the internet was news to me, and I'd bet it was news to AQ. Remember, these guys *have* to trade off security with operational capability. They can't just use the most absolutely secure techniques - partly because they can't know what those techniques are! Did they know that NSA was able to read their mail even though it was SSL encrypted? No? Did that affect their actions - of course!

    "Thus far, quite a few are. But I really wouldn't know. Do you?" Not directly. But the NSA wouldn't be as upset about this if they didn't think it was seriously compromising their mission. Contrary to what the paranoid think, their mission is primarily SIGINT on foreign threats, and that what has been compromised.

    Now one can believe that the members of both parties on the intelligence committees in both houses are just lying about the damage. But if you believe that, you might as well find another place to live, because all hope is already gone!

    But this statement suggests just that: "I'm sure you think that a lapdog, press pass chasing mainstream media reporter would have handled it better, right? Not me. I'd rather have truth over propaganda."

    Apparently you are not talking about the US media, since they *love* scandals and have *loved* this one. Yeah, they are propagandistic - they tend to strongly favor the Democrats and the left - but there is no way they would bury this one.

    "Dude, at least get your facts straight. He went to Hong Kong (ie: somewhere marginally neutral) to pass on the documents to the press. That didn't work out so well because of intense pressure from the USG. He was on his way to Ecuador to seek asylum and the USG stranded him en route at the Moscow airport by yanking his passport."

    So he claims. He didn't go to, say, Bolivia. No, he went to a place controlled by our enemy: China. Then he went to a place controlled by another enemy: Russia. How remarkable that only these places were available to him. Now he is in a place where our enemy (Russia, you know, the nice guys who just ate Crimea) can get anything they want out of him. Their methods make the CIA look tame.

     

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  80.  
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    CK20XX (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 5:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Risk of terrorism

    But I can respond in kind... obviously you are so enamored of Snowden's carefully constructed hero image that you cannot see anything else. Here we have this low grade sysadmin, whose parents were in grade school when I first hacked into an operating system, thrilling the world with his brilliance. Worship at his feet. I'm not impressed.

    No-no, step out of that fantasy drama, Mister. That's how destructive religions form. I'm not the one who's expressed violent sentiments here, so I don't think you have the right to go pointing fingers back. Go sit in the corner and think about what you've said.

    My main point is that your hatred of Snowden is misplaced. He's the messenger, and shooting the messenger accomplishes nothing. If there is going to be another big terrorist attack on American soil, it's going to be one that would have hit us with or without Snowden, and if Snowden hadn't discovered the flaws and abuse in the system, then someone else or even multiple someone else's would have because of all the holes in it, so focus your disdain on the people who actually got us into this mess in the first place.

    But I don't think another major terrorist attack is likely to happen either. One of the reasons we haven't been invaded since 1812 is because the United States has become HUGE, like Russia. There's just too much land mass to invade, so all our enemies can really hope to do is take pot shots at us from outside.

    Or... cause divisiveness from within so the country collapses in on itself. Thanks to the country shooting itself in the foot with a bazooka so much, the world already hates the USA, so the terrorists probably aren't going to try anything because they've already won. I think we can expect the next major attack after we use the Snowden revelations to repair our government and become a respectable world power like we used to be.

    I do appreciate the historical primer though. Interesting that our intelligence capabilities got repeatedly nerfed, as if the US felt remorse for all the bad situations it got into. Part of the reason that World War 2 is so significant is because that was pretty much the last war where the United States did any good, where we had a clear decisive win over an unambiguously evil villain, not like all these wishy-washy recent wars where we run in, stomp all over a developing nation, then run out again declaring victory around the time the locals have to start eating their own dead.

    ...OK, maybe that was a bit too graphic there...

    I sense that we're finally starting to see eye-to-eye, but you should probably go back and read all of That One Guy's links. A lot of your claims haven't been supported by evidence, and when you call upon your admittedly impressive experience, it's like you don't wield it to your advantage and instead somehow end up arguing on a disconnected level... which is how most disagreements form, I suspect.

     

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  81.  
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    CK20XX (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 5:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Risk of terrorism

    Dude's got a point, yo, and he said it better than I could since I tend to easily get verbose.

     

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  82.  
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    Meso (profile), May 23rd, 2014 @ 6:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Risk of terrorism

    "If there is going to be another big terrorist attack on American soil, it's going to be one that would have hit us with or without Snowden,"

    If we are to talk fantasy, then I'd say you're there with that statement. SIGINT has already stopped attacks, after all. Just one tiny bit of non-SIGINT intelligence thwarted the 2006 attack. That's why you don't want to throw away any advantage when peoples' lives are at stake. In a free society, this is always tough. It's hard to catch spies, for example. And, it's hard to justify intelligence methods when the population sees differently, even though they know little about the issues.

    "if Snowden hadn't discovered the flaws and abuse in the system, then someone else or even multiple someone else's would have because of all the holes in it, so focus your disdain on the people who actually got us into this mess in the first place."

    Somebody more responsible, hopefully. It didn't have to be a guy who stole a zillion documents, leaked a whole bunch about foreign intelligence operations, and fled to the territory of the two most significant enemies we have in the world. When I had security clearances, I took them seriously.

    As to the world hating the US... first, it's not true. Travel much? Second, a lot of those who hate us do so because we are successful and we are not Muslim. Envy is a great way to gin up hate, as is religious fanaticism.

    The intelligence capabilities got hammered in the past because well intentioned people were not aware of the damage their actions actually would do. They were sometimes abetted by ill-intentioned folks. Snowden, who may have been well intentioned (I doubt that but cannot prove it) followed in their footsteps.

    As to historic wars, it's hard to find modern villains worse than Stalin, Saddam Hussein or the Taliban. We lost 100,000 soldiers fighting against Stalin and his successors in Vietnam (where I served) and Korea. The only significant difference between those two wars was the way they played out in US politics, and the resulting policy differences. Both were wars against Soviet-arranged aggression. Both ended up the same militarily, except in Vietnam, we just left after we won, where in Korea, we stayed behind.

    Perhaps it wasn't wise to get rid of Saddam, but those who decry those wars rarely examine the likely consequences of staying out. After all, Saddam launched a war that killed 1,000,000 or so people, and then a few years later invaded one of our allies, threatened a critical (if evil) one, and rocketed a third. At the time, he was armed with huge stocks of WMDs and was working on nuclear weapons. The guy didn't change 12 years later (unlike Qhadaffi, another nasty guy who gave up his external nastiness and his WMD programs in return for our protection, something Obama failed to honor).

    The Iraq war showed another repeating (rhyming?) theme in modern history: in both Vietnam and Iraq, the US failed in the first 3 years of the war, which destroyed domestic support. It then succeeded, but it was too late - the support was gone. In both cases, demagogues in the new media grossly misrepresented the issue as the wars dragged on.

    "But I don't think another major terrorist attack is likely to happen either. One of the reasons we haven't been invaded since 1812 is because the United States has become HUGE, like Russia. There's just too much land mass to invade, so all our enemies can really hope to do is take pot shots at us from outside."

    Actually, you just gave one of the reasons that we *will* suffer another major terrorist attack: we are big, so only asymmetric warfare can harm us. Terror attacks can be from stateless entities, like Al Qaeda, or state directed actors like Hezbollah (or the Iranian Quds force who fought us in Iraq).

    ---

    As to my claims, it is always hard to defend intelligence agencies, because of necessary secrecy. And, for me, it tends to be pretty hard to defend the government. But, I would appreciate it if you told me which evidence at TOG's links refutes what I am saying.

     

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  83.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2014 @ 7:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    "Yeah, how dare he not let us stymie every step of the way of trying to get the truth out! He should have told us so we had a reason to bump him off silently in the night and whitewash everything!"

    You're the sort of person who'd go into the boxing ring only if your opponent had his arms chopped off, and you call that honourable. You're disgusting.

     

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  84.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2014 @ 7:22pm

    Re: that's it for TOR then

    Except that people who torrent are regularly told not to torrent over TOR since it slows everything down, so people who do torrent and use TOR are already making adjustments on how to cover their ass for downloading the next WoW update.

    But keep kidding yourself, troll boy.

     

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  85.  
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    Gwiz (profile), May 24th, 2014 @ 6:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Now one can believe that the members of both parties on the intelligence committees in both houses are just lying about the damage. But if you believe that, you might as well find another place to live, because all hope is already gone!


    You strike me as a very intelligent person, so I find hard to believe that you really think that partisan politics is anything more that a dog & pony show in this fine age of Super PACS and rampant lobbying. Following the money trail is the only real indication of determining a politicians allegiances these days.

     

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  86.  
    identicon
    Joe, May 25th, 2014 @ 2:57am

    Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Probably the same reason that the Russians don't know the names of all of our planted people since WWII. It's mutual, if the encryption is decent. In theory, that genie has been out of the bottle for decades ever since PGP and other more modern technologies were created. Remember that every major world power has professional teams of mathematicians working constantly to find weaknesses (and strengths!) of encryption technology so they can maximize the relative amount of information they own. With strong encryption, there's a huge amount of asymmetry where defense beats offense. The real offensive strength in an intelligence agency is it's people, of course. Sadly, the people in charge seem to have designed systems that let Snowden do what he did quite blatantly, in the name of 'improved and timely access' to agents without any kind of alarm or oversight. What worries me is that this applies to _personal_ information they have on us.

    Meh, "other routes" have been exhausted, sadly. Have you seen how many more whistleblowers have been prosecuted since Obama took office than the previous Presidents? :(
    Yeah, it was supremely douchie of him to release it the way he did, though. Way too much details that should have waited a few years at least. Even just a little of that information revealed a lot of the crimes being committed - we didn't need all of it. It's screwed-up that documenting criminal behavior against the constitution is illegal.

     

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  87.  
    identicon
    Joe, May 25th, 2014 @ 3:07am

    Re:

    Freenet has had this feature for about a decade. Random delays and needle-in-a-haystack approaches to shared storage make it in theory a lot harder to attack. That and it doesn't _have_ outgoing proxy services. Plausible deniability at the very least, if you have some pseudonymous friend on the other end forward a message on to normal WWW. It's practically invented for leaks!

    I thought it was old news that Snowden operated a node. It's not exactly shocking, even if a new revelation. I remember the old Wikileaks debacle where it turned out that _US_ _State_ _Department_ employees, diplomats, etc. all were using unencrypted (plaintext) messages (i.e. email) and only bothering to take advantage of the source/destination hiding feature of TOR. It would have been trivial to have used PGP or equivalent developed for them... If I wasn't in the CP-assumption-of-guilt capital of the world, I'd be tempted to run an exit node just to see what people are sending over it. ;)

     

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  88.  
    identicon
    Joe, May 25th, 2014 @ 3:15am

    Re: What A Legend!

    Meh, it's not really news to the folks who actually run rival agencies. Heck, this kind of behavior was practically overt during the PGP controversy. I remember reading a certain book on encryption and about these phones sold to companies located in our 'ally' countries in Europe that not only had backdoors, but that they were used! DES dropped effectively 8 bits in export versions? Hello, this stuff has been going on for decades if not longer!

    What makes him so important is that he documented RECENT events and made it more than just some Alex Jones theory.

     

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  89.  
    identicon
    Joe, May 25th, 2014 @ 3:33am

    Re: Re: that's it for TOR then

    Actually, spreading the magnet/ED2K/etc. links over TOR is fine. It's the files themselves that it's stupid to. I wonder if sending negotiation packets over a TOR-like protocol would be good for BT. Oh wait... ;)

     

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  90.  
    identicon
    Joe, May 25th, 2014 @ 3:38am

    Re:

    Remember when you had to 'prove' you were in the USA to download PGP code? But hey, you could oddly download it from non-USA websites? Then people started printing books for plausible deniability since there was a 1st-amendment loophole on the source code?

    Imagine trying to prevent the horse that is strong public encryption from bolting after the barn door is closed now, yet alone in the 1990's.

     

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  91.  
    identicon
    Joe, May 25th, 2014 @ 3:47am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It shouldn't even matter, if we all believe in the enlightenment principles we claim we do in the constitution and bill of rights. Look up the definition of inalienable.

     

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  92.  
    identicon
    Joe, May 25th, 2014 @ 3:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Risk of terrorism

    Yeah, I'm thinking it's almost got to be the goal. People worrying about the remote possibility that they could be involved in a single ~3000-death instance and somehow ignoring the many, many more deaths caused by everything from drunk driving to heart disease and cancer. It's not rational by any stretch of the imagination. Even back in 2001, people were discussing how the predicted concentration on terrorism would cause other forms of law enforcement and overall quality of life to lower.

     

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  93.  
    identicon
    Joe, May 25th, 2014 @ 4:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Risk of terrorism

    Oh, forgot a link to this article.
    "Then, something odd and unexpected began to happen."
    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/world/magazine/88632/failing-democracy-venezuela-arab-spr ing

    I'm willing to bet that it WAS expected and considered desirable. Some people just are that big of di**s.

     

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  94.  
    identicon
    Joe, May 25th, 2014 @ 4:08am

    "Security through obscurity, generally isn't [secure]."

     

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  95.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2014 @ 11:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Considering that neither the Chinese or Russians made any effort to keep hold of Ed Snowden, they probably had all the documents he had and more from their own sources inside NSA. (He is in Russia because that is where the US withdrawal of his passport trapped him.)

     

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  96.  
    identicon
    JEB, May 29th, 2014 @ 9:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: It doesn't matter what his motivations were

    Yea, Sarah could probably look out her window across the strait and see what was going on.

     

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  97.  
    identicon
    as in horny?, Jun 5th, 2014 @ 5:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Risk of terrorism

    Oh jeez, did you really drink all that kool-aid about "the rapid spread of Soviet Expansion?" The Soviets barely expanded anywhere, they never even had the resources to; all that red scare nonsense was an elaborate PR ruse to drum up support for US imperialism in order to make sure the developing world would be friendlier to the interests of US capitalists than to their own people. That's why we fought in Vietnam, Korea, supported brutal terrorists all throughout South America including Nicaragua and Guatemala, and overthrew the democratically elected ruler of Iran in the 1950's (which by the way was, along with the horrifically repressive 20+ year regime we supported there after our CIA backed coup, the reason for the revolution in 1979 and Iran's subsequent turn to theocracy). America has been among the most violent, oppressive empires the world has ever seen. We have constantly gone from one country to another, using violence to ensure our capitalist elite has access to the resources there instead of the local population. That's why they hate us, the notion that it's jealousy is laughable at best. (Oh, and maybe something about taking their land and supporting an occupying force known as Israel)

     

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


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