Feeds

back to article NSA: Secret 'Perfect Citizen' project does not spy on US

The US National Security Agency (NSA), the world's premier codebreaking and eavesdropping organisation, has strongly denied that it is setting up monitoring equipment on American privately-owned networks deemed to be critical national infrastructure. A story in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, which we reported on here, said …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Silver badge

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive”

"As for seeking to spy on US citizens by means of examining their power or phone usage, tracking them through transport systems etc, the NSA would simply never think of such a thing." ..... LOL

If they didn't think of doing such a thing would they be failing themselves and Uncle Sam on an epic scale and whatever bozo was heading the agency should be booted out of office, tout de suite and immediately.

Of course, what is more probably the case is that NSA spokesperson Judith Emmel's answer by email is a tissue of lies spun to hide truth.

4
0

Oh what a web...

Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive

But when we've practiced for a bit, we find that we're quite good at it.

1
1
Big Brother

Its far more likely its a pack of lies to partly hide the truth.

Plus why they hell call it PERFECT CITIZEN if that isn't part of what its capable of giving.

Its yet more of their endless Machiavellian cunning and duplicity. :(

As for ... "Any suggestions that there are illegal or invasive domestic activities associated with this contracted effort are simply not true. We strictly adhere to both the spirit and the letter of US laws and regulations," insisted Emmel.

Ahhh playing the affronted victim. Sulk all you like Emmel, I recognize Victimization Response when I see it and I don't buy it for a second. (Yeah its not their fault, yeah it never is). Plus thats written like a lawyer. i.e. it leaves intentional holes they can exploit. We learned from the last government that the law is whatever they want to say is the law. They can and do change the law to justify just about anything especially in the perpetual war against Terrorism which is used like a blank cheque way to totally erode all civil liberties, in the name of safety from fear.

Plus as soon as they get new capabilities they cannot resist feature creep to exploit it even more and so it goes on getting ever worse. It starts off as anti-terror and ends up as for example another way to create more fines and taxes to fund ever growing government departments and pay rises and so on and so their increasingly insufferable control over us continues to grow ever worse. :(

Two faced Machiavellian control freaks. :(

2
0
FAIL

not so

not so good at lying as you think. the truth will always come out eventually. it's hard to prove lies but very easy to prove truth.

0
0

@MinionZero

>>"Plus why they hell call it PERFECT CITIZEN if that isn't part of what its capable of giving."

Maybe they're trying to distrat your attention from what's /really/ happening?

Or maybe they actually have a sense of humour, and just like winding up the conspiracy merchants?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

There's nothing wrong with instrumentation.

Before debuggers became all powerful, instrumentation's how I used to develop software.

It's completely harmless, and just provides information on what the system's doing.

I reckon this is a non story.

0
1
Anonymous Coward

NSA does not spy

Neither is it the biggest employer of mathematicians nor biggest buyer of supers in the world. In it is prime example of governmental openness. These are facts, and I endorse them.

1
0
Black Helicopters

Re: Actually true

The NSA itself does not "spy".

However, it does most, if not all, of automated analytical processing for both the FBI, CIA, and other three letter no-names within legitimate and not so legitimate agencies of federal governments, and not just the US. It leases out its expertise and equipment on a timeshare basis to whoever it is authorized to by US law and its charter, depending on the capabilities and access of the equipment and personnel being leased. This loophole has fueled (valid?) fears about Echelon to this day...

It also has standard, if "secret", contracts in place to perform wholescale processing of intercepted communications - especially if it doesn't look too hard at where or when these interceptions may or may not have taken place, as that's not its pervue...

All such use of the NSA's capabilities are (supposed to be) subject to FISA boards, but those are usually based on (whatever) intelligence agency's use of NSA resources are, and whether it should have used them. If FISA doesn't specifically ask if NSA resources were involved, in the proper phrasing, money is simply listed as an unconspicuous "internal resources budgets" line item.

This is obviously demonstrated by NSA resource use under US Cyber Command - while they are using NSA equipment and personnel, those NSA resources are constrained (or expanded?) to the limits of jurisdiction of the leasing agency or company - in this case the military. As long as they can maintain some semblence of separation of responsibilities, they enjoy the dissociation of liability and scrutiny.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

That's a rather long-winded way to say...

... that the NSA doesn't spy in the same way that hollywood movies don't make money.

1
0
Thumb Down

With the codename PERFECT CITIZEN...

... who can blame us all for thinking this will be a surveillance and monitoring system.

We will see whats said after the mission creep occurs in 5 years time...

1
0
Anonymous Coward

RE: With the codename PERFECT CITIZEN...

If they'd called it "Blackout Ressurection" it would have made more sense.

I do like the way that it's *always* referred to in block-capitals though. Just to make it a little more creepy (and I don't mean mission-creepy, that's taken for granted)

1
0
Terminator

Re: Captial letters

Those are just the tell-take signs of automated processing.

Either the email is generated automatically from language parsing and processing of the inquiry email received, or for easier context-sensitive searches for contact management and information control (obstenibly to make it easier for FOIA transparency and not for easier deletion... uh... handling of "missing" records, yes?).

Either could be seen as *really* creepy.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

That statement...

..."PERFECT CITIZEN is purely a vulnerabilities-assessment and capabilities-development contract," reads like the covers for being in Viet Nam when it was still purely covert. Maybe you have to be a cynic to see it that way, but then it's the endless lying of the likes of the NSA that makes us cynical in the first place, therefore...

1
0
Silver badge
Black Helicopters

If you want to know who's spying on US citizens

ask GCHQ (Cheltenham and Menwith)

2
0
Big Brother

With a name like Perfect Citizen...

...they're really asking for this.

2
0
Boffin

The bigger question should be "Why Raytheon"?

It's not like Raytheon is at the forefront of cyber security. Their mainstay is aerospace, which due to reliability demands, is technologically way behind (half a decade or more) bleeding edge consumer electronics.

1
0
Big Brother

Re: Why Raytheon?

Two terms: Reliability and Embedded Control.

Its that record of reliability engineering that is attractive, as well as experience in embedded control and monitoring. Now, a better question is what's wrong with Honeywell in doing this? No GSA classification for research projects (just construction contracting)?

Mitsubishi would be an obvious choice, if not for the "not made/designed/owned in USA" thinking... but doesn't Raytheon have foreign investment as well?

Like everyone else in the US, the "reasons" for final selection of a government contractor are a collection of mystical and confusing alchemical formulae that obfuscate the fact that government offical A wanted person B who works for contractor C to do it. Whether the reason is kickbacks, preivous working relationship, sleeping with someone's daughter, or who knows what else.

1
0
Happy

Overlords

I, for one, welcome our new NSA overlords.

0
0

who are they kidding

American citizens have been spied on for years. In a few years, they will detect how the NSA is spying on them today, just as the Quantico circuit was exposed, and its twin in San Francisco monitoring all communications between Americans and Asia was uncovered. Then, they will be punished, with a nod and a wink. Nobody went to jail for the above two abrogations. I doubt they were even shut down.

If nothing was going on, the NSA would have said nothing. These days, our civil rights are worth less than flatulence.

This pains me, but it's the truth. Had Orwell lived long enough, he would have seen that his vision was rosy compared to reality.

The only way to really be undetectable, is to either be a perfect citizen (my preferred method), or to be a foreign terrorist planning to ram a jet into a large building.

These NSA guys are hyper-intelligent Keystone cops, with no dedication to the ethics of what being an American really means. Raytheon is the company which designed the SCUD missile, which missed its target by 80 miles or so, about 50% of the time.

It's all a sad joke, really.

2
0

@mandolinman

>>"Raytheon is the company which designed the SCUD missile, which missed its target by 80 miles or so, about 50% of the time."

I hope the NSA's intelligence gathering is better than yours.

0
0
Flame

Democracy? The clocks have long since struck thirteen on that bright cold morning in April.

@mandolinman

"This pains me, but it's the truth. Had Orwell lived long enough, he would have seen that his vision was rosy compared to reality"

You're correct. The clocks have long since struck thirteen on that bright cold morning in April.

It's pretty hard to not believe what you're saying is the truth, only fools and the ignorant would disagree with you. What's more, electronic surveillance makes spying easier now than in Orwell's day: no footslogging, being exposed to the elements or other physical discomforts except perhaps a sore arse from sitting and staring at a screen too long.

The fact is if you are an ordinary citizen then essentially we've democracy in name only. Of course, if you wield power or are controlling the centres of power then you'll believe--err sorry--you'll know that 'democracy' is very much alive and well and under your control.

The modern [20th C.] concept of The State unnecessarily interfering in the lives of its citizens is not new. In 1935 the American libertarian thinker Albert Jay Nock, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Jay_Nock succinctly pointed out how 'The State' controls our lives in a short book called 'Our Enemy: the State'[1]: http://mises.org/books/Our_Enemy_The_State_Nock.pdf

Orwell came to this conclusion from a strong left wing perspective whilst Nock came to a similar view from a (bigoted) right wing libertarian one. When both sides of the political divide agree on certain political fundamentals, albeit a narrow agreement, then only a fool would ignore the conclusion (or at least do so without giving the issue some considerable thought).

The only difference between the 1930s and '40s and the present day is that now the positive feedback loop in 'The State's' servo system is tighter and faster than it's ever been before. Moreover, electronic surveillance is its key modus operandi.

_______

[1] Even if you don't read the book it is worth perusing if for no other reason other than the quotes at the beginning, of which one, written in 1926 by the great American journalist and author Henry Louis Mencken, is very perceptive and still relevant and germane to this article about the NSA.

0
0

@Graham Wilson

>>"What's more, electronic surveillance makes spying easier now than in Orwell's day: no footslogging, being exposed to the elements or other physical discomforts except perhaps a sore arse from sitting and staring at a screen too long."

What about the difficulty of trying to pick out a serious intellectual opponent of the government from the legions of people just whining on the internet at a sub-Daily-mail level, or find a needle of actual rebellion in giant haystacks of paranoid ramblings?

0
0

@Graham Wilson

>>"The modern [20th C.] concept of The State unnecessarily interfering in the lives of its citizens is not new."

So what has changed between 1935 and today that justifies calling today 'post-1984-ish'?

Apart from the small fraction of people who have somehow got the attention of the authorities and ended up being physically tailed, the average person in the UK/USA today seems able to do pretty much anything that people in 1935 (or in almost any other past time) could have done without obviously greater fear of being spied upon or silenced by the state.

As far as I can tell, Albert Jay Nock didn't seem to think there was much chance of attaining his ideal society in the short or medium term, believing that the sheep-like bulk of the population couldn't really be persuaded to get rid of the state, and being opposed to violence.

In such a situation, it doesn't look like the state has a great deal to fear, so it's not obvious why it would need to be terribly oppressive when it comes to people simply disagreeing with it.

What kind of subversive activities is the modern state preventing that were allowed in the past?

Whose views or what kind of views are the population being denied access to?

0
0
Unhappy

@ david wilson - Even if we found such people it wouldn't make any difference!

Even if we were able to find such people would it make a difference? I think not. Not one iota!

Look at it this way: all three people I've mentioned: Nock, Mencken and Orwell were all very articulate high achievers. They all had broad access to the media for years and were widely known yet, all up, they achieved zilch change in our governance. Let's look at them again:

* A. J. Nock - was well known and influential, his book 'Our Enemy: the State' has been in print since 1935 and it still is. A lot of what Nock said is correct but he didn't change anything.

* H .L. Mencken, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._L._Mencken was one of the best writers I've ever read [I only wish I could write as well]: he was brilliant, perceptive, to the point, acerbic and had a profound working understanding of society and its governance. He had full access to a daily newspaper for most of his life and he was widely read by millions every day. Yet nearly 60 years after his death his only real legacy is the witty quote one sees from time to time at the bottom of a daily calendar.

* George Orwell we all know, of 'Animal Farm' and 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' fame, and the word 'Orwellian' has even entered the language. His achievement, perhaps, has been to bring the machinations and working of authoritarian governments before the eyes of public but he never achieved the slightest change to the way they work.

The fact is nothing will change until there's a popular movement that forces change, and even then perhaps it may have to use force to do so. Modern democracy as we know it really didn’t get started until after the English Civil War--nor would this change have been possible without it. And at the moment there's certainly no stomach amongst the populus to war over the issue (being spied on isn't that important or motivating--not yet anyway). Even if there is to be change then it will either evolve slowly or something cataclysmic and unforeseen will force it to do so.

…In the meantime we can all bitch and bellyache on the Internet about any number of ills of government, the only thing it will achieve is that we'll all feel better after doing so.

0
0
Unhappy

@ david wilson - I'd love to have the time to persue this debate to its conclusion but it's too big.

I'd love to have the time to pursue this debate to its conclusion but I simply don't have the time to do so, it would be massive exercise. Let me say this however:

- Whether you live in Canada, NZ, Australia, US or the UK there have been thousands of laws added to the statutes since the 1930s and that doesn't include the myriad of new regulation that accompanies these laws. [I specifically mention these English-speaking countries because they weren't invaded in WWII and thus were never forced to add or change their laws (a la Japan and Germany), they added them all voluntarily.]

- Laws are very rarely removed from the statutes, if they are it's because they conflict with the ones that are replacing them.

- Every single new law that's enacted by 'The State' further reduces the citizenry's freedom, ipso facto. It has to be so by simple logic--the more law on the statues the less freedom we citizens have.

- There is so much law about that no single person including lawyers and lawmakers can ever fully grasp the full extent of it (even they acknowledge that).

- With so much law about it is not possible for the average 'law abiding' citizen to obey the law all the time, even if he wants to. Often he will break the law simply by not knowing about it. No proper system of governance, if working correctly, responsibly or in the best interests of the citizenry, should put a citizen into a position where he unknowingly breaks the law [in the knowledge sense as opposed to accidentally]. Nevertheless, this can and does happen all the time.

- Because we have so much law in place, the normal 'law abiding' citizen rarely ever operates to the extent of the law but well within its boundaries. The reason is obvious: not knowing the boundaries of the law and not wanting to get into trouble, citizens regularly refrain from doing things that they want to but which are actually legal. When the law is spread over thousands of different aspects of a citizen's life it becomes a significant problem. The net effect spread across the citizenry as a whole is that we're developing into a timid compliant society (which is what 'The State' wants as governance is easier and less stressful for it, but that stress is reflected directly back to citizenry who bears the brunt of it.

- Surveillance--even if just threatened--and subversion laws etc. aid and abet this process, throughout out daily lives we see examples of this all the time. People who are under surveillance (or even just the threat of it) behave in a much more timid manner, they will not assert themselves to the extent they would when the 'The State' is not looking (even within the extent of the law). We don't even need Psychology 1011 to tell us that, it's even obvious to Blind Freddy.

- I could mention how changes in the law and tighter control of 'The State' over citizen's lives have had a huge effect on our culture since WWII but that alone is a huge topic too big to cover here.

- In my lifetime alone I've seen changes to the law bring huge changes to my life, these changes affect just about every aspect of what I do, at work, home, at leisure and so on. Most of these changes I find oppressive or restricting in some way, and most are not necessary.

0
0

@Graham Wilson

>>"…In the meantime we can all bitch and bellyache on the Internet about any number of ills of government, the only thing it will achieve is that we'll all feel better after doing so."

So what difference does it make if there is someone in Cheltenham or Quantico with *potential* access to shedloads of emails or phone call data?

Unless we have huge numbers of surplus snoopers, aren't they generally going to concentrate on people who most of the population would think were a threat, rather than on people who don't seem to be any threat to the state or the population at large?

Why is now 'more 1984' than 1984 or 1964 or 1934 was?

>>"Every single new law that's enacted by 'The State' further reduces the citizenry's freedom, ipso facto. It has to be so by simple logic--the more law on the statues the less freedom we citizens have."

That's interesting logic there.

Surely, many laws are actually to do with new developments?

In practice, as time goes on, what people can potentially do increases, so even with an increase in regulation, it's perfectly possible for people to be able to do more now than they could in the past.

Before there were telegraphs, there would be no need for laws on wire fraud.

Before we knew about ozone depletion, there would be no need for regulation of CFCs.

What seems important to me is whether any individual law actually makes sense - that is, if it involves some loss of 'freedom', how do the costs and benefits actually stack up in that individual case.

If the law seems justifiable in itself, then arguing against it on principle because it's a restriction of freedom does seem a bit odd.

>>"No proper system of governance, if working correctly, responsibly or in the best interests of the citizenry, should put a citizen into a position where he unknowingly breaks the law [in the knowledge sense as opposed to accidentally]. Nevertheless, this can and does happen all the time."

And what level of intelligence and knowledge qualifies someone to be a 'citizen'?

Should we not have any endangered species legislation because some slack-jawed yokel might not have heard of it, and could end up shooting protected animals?

No pollution controls because someone might not realise that chemical X is on the list of things that aren't allowed to be poured down the drain?

What fraction of criminal convictions come about due to real (rather than merely claimed) and perfectly understandable ignorance?

>>"- Because we have so much law in place, the normal 'law abiding' citizen rarely ever operates to the extent of the law but well within its boundaries. The reason is obvious: not knowing the boundaries of the law and not wanting to get into trouble, citizens regularly refrain from doing things that they want to but which are actually legal."

I'm trying to work out where all the subtlties of complex law affect me as an individual citizen, restricting me from doing things I would have thought were a good idea even in the absence of laws, but I'm not getting a very long list so far. To the extent I can think of the odd grey area, if anything that's where I probably push up against the line or maybe step over it a little, while having a pretty good idea what the laws are.

What kinds of things are you thinking of, regarding citizens regularly refraining from doing perfectly legal things rather than risk getting into trouble?

Presumably you're thinking of cases where a citizen couldn't easily find out what the law allows, yet also has some kind of awareness that a law exists?

There can be situations where a *false* impression of the law has been generated (like police misapplying terrorism law against photography), but the fault there seems to be fairly solidly with the people misapplying the law, rather than the law itself. That is, people who know the law may be equally as cautious as those who don't, and given correct application, problems would be much reduced.

Also, even absent any laws, if there were general social or even individual moral boundaries, I'd probably spend most of my time operating reasonably well within them, rather than always pushing at them.

>>"People who are under surveillance (or even just the threat of it) behave in a much more timid manner, they will not assert themselves to the extent they would when the 'The State' is not looking (even within the extent of the law)"

There's 'threat' as in real and meaningful, and 'threat' as in 'possibly/potential'.

You reckon people in general are much more reserved and timid now than they were in decades past?

That everyone's so scared of general electronic surveillance that they daren't say anything against The System?

Or do things someone could hold against them? (countless internet porn sites might disagree).

0
0
Bronze badge
Black Helicopters

Spying

"Any suggestions that there are illegal or invasive domestic activities associated with this contracted effort are simply not true"

No, they save those for other contracted efforts. Grammar fail or hidden message? You decide.

0
0
FAIL

Show of hands...

Oh never mind. I know nobody believes a word of whatever prevarication they're handing out these days.

0
0
Black Helicopters

you're all missing the obvious

The denial referred to "this contract" and "PERFECT CITIZEN" by name. The NSA spokesvermin almost certainly did not lie at all. We merely have not yet seen leaked information about the follow-on projects code-named PERFECT BASTARDS and SKYNET OVERLORD.

0
0
Gold badge
Happy

Threat assement of embedded control systems?

I didn't know Raytheon even *did* this.

I would have thought Honeywell a *much* better outfit for this due to their extensive product range in various bits of plant control hardware and software.

And of course someone with quite a lot of penetration detection and prevention experience (complete with lots of the sort of ex US govt employees with rather vague CV's and foreign trips on their passports) like SAIC should also have been in the frame.

The name is *pretty* sinister for what it's meant to be. If it's a code name in principle even *that* information would be classified (so why publish it). It looks like something generated by pulling random entries from different word lists (historically if the first word was "have" it meant a research project to either acquire or improve a capability and "senior" was strategic reconnaissance system. IIRC senior trend was one name for the SR71)

A mystery wrapped in an enigma inside a conundrum.

Guess that's how the NSA like it.

0
0

not to worry

It's only 100 million US.

the NSA can't brew tea for that little money.

This just about covers a quarter of the Raytheon project managers' bill to spend an afternoon reading up on Snort and recommending the NSA make something just like that, only for SCADA commands too, and not just in TCP/IP, and with a neat dashboard.

0
0
Stop

It's simply true

It's true, the NSA's job is not to spy on us. It's job is to provide the tools to spy on us. Seriously! How cynical can people be?

2
0
Gold badge
Happy

@tom 24

"It's job is to provide the tools to spy on us."

I maybe wrong but somehow I feel many Americans are not exactly reassured by such a statement.

Just a wild guess.

0
0
Silver badge

Simple comment

I am a PERFECT CITI<begin intercept>ZEN. I have done nothing wrong<begin forward>. My taxes are fully paid. I have nothing to worry about<priority high>. I am fully cooperative with all authorities<abort: level too high>.

All is well with the world.

1
0
Black Helicopters

They don't need it, it already exists..

They have already about 1.5 million installations worldwide. Ever heard of FON (fon.com)? That's a router *inside* your home network, and you don't really know what it does beyond what FON claims it does. It gets regular software upgrades without any explanation of what's in it..

So, in principle they have some of it in place already..

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.