Domestic Surveillance v. NSA: Point/Counterpoint
(i figured that having a bit of fun with this subject might make it a bit less dry…think of it in the fashion of an old snl sketch, although a tad less rude.)
JANE: Good evening Dan; let’s cut right to the subject at hand, shall we? Among other issues, you and other detractors of Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald claim that the NSA stories are a distraction that has served to paper over the vast US domestic security apparatus, right? Let’s review what we know already, shall we? Do you see that I am smiling sweetly, Dan?
DAN: Just like a barracuda smiles, Jane. Ahem; have you forgotten already the ACLU’s report, entitled “Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI’s Unchecked Abuse of Authority,” that compiled examples of the post 9-11 changes of law and policy which they say unleashed the FBI from its traditional restraints and opened the door to abuse? Are you so addle-pated and star-struck that don’t you don’t remember the discovery of their racial and ethnic mapping program, which allows the FBI to collect demographic information to map American communities by race and ethnicity? Or their use of secret National Security Letters, which asked for account information from telecommunications companies, financial institutions and credit agencies and required no judicial approval; their warrantless wiretapping; and the recent revelations about the government’s use of Section 215 of the Patriot Act to track all U.S. telephone calls? Not to mention that they refer to dissenters of all stripes: ‘Terrorists’. That’s domestic, non-NSA spying, baby!
JANE: Yes, Dan. But fortunately some us can see past our initial biases. Haven’t you been able to consider that the abuses of broad strokes under the updated sections of the Patriot Act have been highlighted by the Snowden documents, not hindered? Did Americans ever hear about, or care about the fact that the FBI had begun to label dissenters and/or advocates of human and animal rights, environmental dangers, war, and other Dirty Fucking Hippie concerns as ‘Terrorists’? Do you think traffic has increased at the Constitutional Rights websites over the past six months? To what do attribute the polls that indicate that Americans are vastly more concerned about their personal privacy than terrorist attacks? And haven’t more civil rights abuses been exposed since the relative cricket response back in March of 2011 to the FBI having paid Lockheed Martin a billion bucks to develop a bio-Matrix ID system? Do you really believe that the Times would have published information on Phase II of the program, BOSS facial recognition by ubiquitous cameras, with even night-vision capabilities? Sure, Savage wrote that ‘they said’ it’s not quite ready yet, but we might not quite believe them, eh?
DAN: Well, sure the Times covered it; they serve their Plutocratic Masters well. Can’t you see that part of the so-called ‘revelations’ are in aid of causing the Rabble class to be more afraid to dissent and engage in their Constitutionally protected rights, rather than get angry enough to massively act against the State’s fascism? Fear always trumps outrage, at least almost always. Not to mention that we’ve known by way of whistleblowers for at least a decade that the state has been spying on Americans. None of the NSA snoop stories are all that ‘revelatory’, but we’re supposed to care that the NSA spied on heads of state in 35 countries, some of them our putative ‘friends’?
JANE: Oh, the cynicism, and how conveniently you forget, or didn’t you know, that even William Binney recently told CBS Boston (for crying in a barrell) that no one would listen to his warnings about NSA spying on US citizens until the Snowden documents were revealed? Drake, Tice, Hastings…such a long list of Those Whistleblowers Who Could Be Ignored or Discredited, Persecuted, and Prosecuted. Sure, in a way the outrage over hacking and spying on world leaders is gratuitous, but it also can aid the theme that the US is hypocritical as hell about ‘freedoms, spreading ‘democracy’, and respecting sovereign laws, not to mention becoming more authoritarian and militaristic both at home and abroad as it weakens in so many ways. That the US has lost standing around the globe is clear. That the NSA is far more about hegemony-for-profits and spying on US is also clear. I read recently that even one of their own documents even said that only 35% of their energy goes into anti-terrorism efforts.
DAN: Well, Jane, in your ignorance you must not know ACLU staff attorney on privacy said that if we’re all so exercised over NSA spying, we damned well better start paying attention to the dragnet surveillance being done by our police departments. She says that technological capabilities are driving policy, and that’s very dangerous. License plate scanners, maybe even the ones that are standard on the DHS fleet of Predators, can take high-resolution photos over a fifteen-square-mile area. Napolitano claimed in 2009 that she shut down the use of military satellites to spy on US citizens, but…did she, or just hand it off to a different acronym? Heh. Meanwhile, the DHS Customs and Border Protection is acting like a drone lending library to police and sheriff departments, the DEA, FBI, and won’t even name it agencies that used them over a hundred times the EFF discovered. That shit doesn’t require any NSA SigInt, now does it, Jane?
JANE: Well, no, that case may indeed not require NSA stored intel, unless more info is sought to build a case against a suspect, not that even once arrested and indicted, will anyone admit the source of their illegally obtained intel (say the DEA cases we’ve read about). But let’s look just at the Prism program for a minute, and just Microsoft’s part in it. I’ll get out my notes here…okay. The Guardian said (in part) that:
‘The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide; they also worked with the FBI’s Data Intercept Unit to “understand” potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases.
In July last year, nine months after Microsoft bought Skype, the NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism; that material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a “team sport”.
‘The files show that the NSA became concerned about the interception of encrypted chats on Microsoft’s Outlook.com portal from the moment the company began testing the service in July last year; within five months, the documents explain, Microsoft and the FBI had come up with a solution that allowed the NSA to circumvent encryption on Outlook.com chats; an entry dated 8 April 2013 describes how the company worked “for many months” with the FBI – which acts as the liaison between the intelligence agencies and Silicon Valley on Prism – to allow Prism access without separate authorization to its cloud storage service SkyDrive.
The document describes how this access “means that analysts will no longer have to make a special request to SSO for this – a process step that many analysts may not have known about”.
The information the NSA collects from Prism is routinely shared with both the FBI and CIA. The NSA, the entry reveals, has even automated the sharing of aspects of Prism, using software that “enables our partners to see which selectors [search terms] the National Security Agency has tasked to Prism”.
The document continues: “The FBI and CIA then can request a copy of Prism collection of any selector…”
A Team Sport, Dan, you thickwit! Or have you never engaged in something as common as a sport? Yes, there may be fierce competition among the Big Bad Acronym agencies, but which of them would look a Gift Selector in the mouth? As an aside (and I know you love asides, Dan), the indomitable Emptywheel asked recently, ‘What Does NCTC Do with NSA and FBI’s Newly Disclosed Databases?’ She could find zilch, which led her to the conclusion that the National Counterterrorism Center is a beard for some of the NSA ‘activities’, even though Clapper oversees it, *and* sharing intel is…it’s job.
“But it also means that NCTC can play with these databases — the dragnet and the access via PRISM to 702 data — as well as any other data in the Federal government, including databases that John Brennan gave it the ability to go get”. But when I peeked into the NCTC’s website, I crowed in delight to find that they offer their own calendar, with terrorist groups and flags (although the Dirty Fucking Hippies must not have an identifiable flag or logo), Bad Guy pin-ups, profiles, and More! So, Dan; at least I know what I’ll be getting you for Christmas. What say you to my information about the interdependent domestic/NSA/CIA Team Sport issues, and your coming holiday gift?
(cross-posted at Cafe-Babylon.net)