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back to article NSA admits slurping thousands of domestic emails with no terror connection

The analysts at the NSA spent years gathering tens of thousands of emails between US citizens in violation of the US constitution, as a component of a single (discontinued) data slurping program, the agency has revealed. These emails were from people with no direct connection to terrorism, according to a secret opinion from the …

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George W. Bush is evil!

Oh, wait...

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Meh

Re: George W. Bush is evil!

Yes but I don't see the liberal minded Obama trying to change things?

It's all about power.

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Anonymous Coward

If

Everyone in the world wrote to everyone in their address book pretending to be a terrorist cell planning an attack on a traffic sign, bean, orange, wheel etc..... Something innocuous so as not to have your door kicked in, the NSA computer would overload and disappear down a black hole. Not only that but the data capture would be so huge it would take a1000 years before they can get through it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Something innocuous so as not to have your door kicked in"

Nothing is too innocuous that they won't decide to kick your door in for the fun of it - it's called using intimidation and terror as a weapon, and it now appears to be government policy.

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Zaphod Beeblebrox

Douglas Adams commented that the purpose of the Galactic President was not to wield power, rather to deflect attention away from those who did. Obama does this very well. He is (or was, until recently) a great face for America — for those inside America proof that the American Dream was still viable and for those outside America proof that America was no longer the rapid country run by the likes of Reagan, Bush and Cheney.

It seems to me that Obama is, to all intents and purposes, powerless. He can choose to swim with the current that the various agencies and departments have decided upon (as his predecessors did) or he can choose to swim against it.

Given how much success he has had with Obamacare, I don't see what chance he would have to undo the work done by his predecessors. He is little more than a pretty face.

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typo

I meant rabid, btw, not rapid. I need to better proofread my postings.

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Big Brother

Re: George W. Bush is evil!

I started to write a long " i agree " reply. Turns out that i'm so disgusted i stopped in my tracks.

Obama is a hell of a disappointment , i agree ..

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Black Helicopters

Re: "Something innocuous so as not to have your door kicked in"

There are lots of extrajudicial ways the government could get back at you for you pseudo-terrorist spam. Think getting placed on no fly lists, or being excluded from/getting your company excluded from government procurement lists. These are things they can do without tying up police/intelligence agent time.

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Facepalm

Re: George W. Bush is evil!

"This administration puts forth a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide...I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies the tools they need to take out the terrorists without undermining our constitution and our freedoms. That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens. That means no more national security letters to spy on Americans who are not suspected of committing a crime. No more tracking citizens who do no more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. That is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists"

- Barack Obama, 2007

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One Day.. Sooner than they think

The USA are going to be irrelevant when it comes to world powers. (As is Europe/UK)

Enjoy your last few years!!

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Anonymous Coward

NSA is doing it wrong...

I do not understand why everyone is so upset over the NSA slurping our data. The NSA needs to make all of this data available to the public through a subscription based service, just imagine the possibilities!

You receive a text from the NSA

NSA: Your wife is having a bad day and will complain to you for hours after you get home. Should we send her a text on your behalf saying you have to work late? Yes/No

You: YES! But I do not want to work late, what are my chums up to?

NSA: Bob is going home to celebrate his anniversary (he's a lost cause), Harry is going home to play with Linux (pathetic) and hopefully trim his beard, Mike is broke and will mooch off of you, Gilbert is heading down to <insert pub> with a few lady friends for a drink. Get directions to pub? Yes/No

You: YES! Thanks NSA!

Don't worry ladies, you are not forgotten! The NSA is here to help you in your time of need

Having a bad day and your husband sends you a text that he is working late, never fear the NSA is here!

Wife: I'm having a bad day but my husband is working late, who can I talk to?

NSA: Your husband is down at <insert pub> with his friend Gilbert and a few lady friends. Get directions to pub? Yes/No

Wife: Yes! Also, Where can I dump a body...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: NSA is doing it wrong...

"The NSA needs to make all of this data available to the public through a subscription based service, ..."

They already do. I believe it's called Google and has been in beta testing for a few years now ...

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Re: NSA is doing it wrong...

Subscriptions are so last gen. F2P all the way.

"NSA: Your wife is having a bad day and will complain to you for hours after you get home. Would you like to spend 5 Smurf Berries for us to her a text on your behalf saying you have to work late?"

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Big Brother

Re: NSA is doing it wrong...

The NSA can take this farther and and offer kind a "Dear Abby/confidant" line service

"Your husband is down at the pub with Gilbert again? Just remember that its not about you! We've overheard 53.7% of your friends saying that you can do better, and our intelligence indicates that 93.2% of your girlfriends think you're "so pretty". The only real exception is Shelley, but 63.2% of her acquaintances regularly use the word "bitchy" when describing her."

Thanks NSA! I feel so much better! I know you hear this said about everyone, but I sometimes I really feel that only you really understand me!!

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Black Helicopters

Re: NSA is doing it wrong...

@Marketing Hack

You know, the odd thing is that I could swear I've read SF stories along those lines in the past few years.

Of course, unlike the Cleve Cartmill affair, the magazines these days wouldn't be able to tell us if one of the TLAs had come a'knocking.

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Re: NSA is doing it wrong...

"And now a word from our sponsors. We at the NSA prefer Microsoft Windows because it's so easily hackable."

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Pint

sooo...

Now we have a confession of tens of thousands of constitution-breaching federal offences and outright lying to the President / Congress / International partners.

Where's the announcement of mass layoffs and access-all-areas oversight by an outside agency? Or a fine?

Even an admission of guilt and formal apology would be an improvement.

At least buy me an apology pint? Come on, you know where I live and the drinks I like!

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Re: sooo...

But it was only a few 1000 out of millions (which we also collect) , and we didn't launch a drone at any of the people (yet) and it's an abandoned program (to be replaced by a bigger one) - so nothing to worry about and aren't we good for reporting it.

Mistakes were made (although not by identifiable people) and improvements will be made (which we can't tell you about)

= Standard govt excuse template for everything from late buses to genocide

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Big Brother

Re: sooo...

At least 'Lessons' have not 'been learned'.

FFS.

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Anonymous Coward

As they should

The NSA most definitely should continue monitoring all internet activity be it e-mail or any other form of communication. Unless someone has developed a means to know what communications is from terrorists and what is from law abiding citizens, then the NSA has no choice but to monitor all communication and they should.

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FAIL

Re: As they should

Weak troll attempt, asshole

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Holmes

Re: As they should

Nah. It's Mr. Terrorist trying to build his cover as Mr. Model Citizen.

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Looks good with the mask icon

Apparently they're not allowed to spy on Americans, but they do, and they pretend to be ashamed of that, but they're not.

They have enough data on you to predict whether you'll vote and which way. The mere existence of the database is an immediate threat to free American democracy, and American democracy has enough enemies already without the government spending your taxes to create another one.

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Re: As they should

Almost correct. In the days of WW2 and the Cold War once a circuit was identified then it was exploited for its traffic analysis and content for code breaking. The targets were pretty much geographically known, an embassy, a battle unit etc. Traffic was mainly morse, rtty, and voice

Now it is more difficult, there is a multitude of protocols, in a multitude of locations. To catch the target initially is like separating wheat from chaff, and then the bad wheat from the good wheat, its difficult, so it is easier to automate the process, ie scan everything.

Once a target is identified, then any non bad hits should be taken out of the equation where possible, they become a distraction like noise.

Ensuring this is done is not perfect.

I am sure that the people doing this are not really interested in the noise of mundane chatter, they are focussed on the job of getting the bad guys,

however as for the politicians who thrive on gossip and spin I am not so sure.

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Re: As they should

Despite what you think, the right honourable anonymous commentator was right, ladies and gentlemen.

The biggest threat facing humanity is not overpopulation, epidemics, natural disasters, rogue asteroids or global warmongering. It is terrorism.

As one of the key components of the international terrorist infrastructure, the NSA and other security agencies worldwide collect as much information as possible on their enemies, the people potential terrorists, and provide fear, unease and disinformation to them in return.

Occasionally there is an attack, and that makes the peoplepotential terrorists miserable because they feel that they are truly caught in a vice and they no longer feel safe.

That is the goal of terrorism. And that's what the NSA and all these other agencies worldwide are aiming at. To keep the peoplepotential terrorists from straying out of line and endangering the foundations of 'society'.

It's a tough job, and we should therefore continue helping them wherever possible by providing them with all our thoughts in written form using Facebook, Twitter, SMS, IM and all other tools designed to overcome the temporary lack of direct telepathic eavesdropping tools.

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Translation...

"We used to accidentally spy a little teensy bit more than we were supposed to, but the system of oversight marvelously kicked in to take care of that problem. So, now we're back to spying on all the stuff that we should be spying on, so don't worry your purdy lil' head about it."

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EFF or CYA?

Kind of makes you wonder if the DNI figured Snowden had a copy of the court order and OK'd the FOIA request. The request had been under review for a year but suddenly was released which is fairly odd: FOIA requests do not have to be honored if the information could put people or Amerian interests at risk.

The EFF is claiming credit but The Clapper and Gen. Alexander are intimating that the document was released as part of Obama's demand for greater transparency of domestic surveillance anti-terrorism programs. Somehow I doubt the veracity of the Governments claims that they've suddenly discovered the Constitution and are now upholding it just as I doubt they gave in to the EFF.

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Unhappy

Re: EFF or CYA?

"The EFF is claiming credit but The Clapper and Gen. Alexander are intimating that the document was released as part of Obama's demand for greater transparency of domestic surveillance anti-terrorism programs. Somehow I doubt the veracity of the Governments claims that they've suddenly discovered the Constitution and are now upholding it just as I doubt they gave in to the EFF."

As a non-American I seem to recall that part of Tricky Dickie's list of stuff that finally got him the door was using the CIA to conduct domestic surveillance on (by modern yardsticks) a trivial number of victims.

So on that basis I think shrub should be facing charges and Obama impeachment for letting it continue.

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Re: EFF or CYA?

Remember the good old days when the president told the CIA/FBI/NSA what to do

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How about 20 million quaries a month

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130819/02153624228/nsa-reveals-that-it-does-20-million-database-queries-per-month.shtml#comments

That is about 7 every sec

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Re: How about 20 million quaries a month

What would be the coefficient we need to multiply this number by to get the real value?

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Re: How about 20 million quaries a month

Remember these are high security government systems.

So each query is "select * from ..." and the resulting data is put on a thumb drive, copied to a laptop to be analysed in Excel and then left in a cab

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While any given revelation about the NSA's programmes is worrying enough on its own, it's the combination that shows the real problem.

This is the chain that has been revealed to have happened:

1. NSA captures data involving non-USA people in an attempt to find terrorists (apparently)

2. In the process, NSA captures data from USA people demonstrably not involved in terrorist activities.

3. NSA finds evidence of some a drug-related activity.

4. NSA alerts the DEA

5. DEA uses that evidence to target and arrest someone

6. DEA fabricates claims and evidence to hide NSA involvement

To summarise, an American citizen has been arrested under false pretences (random stops, etc...) based on information that was illegally collected, then rather than being disposed of, was searched (manually or automatically) for activities outside the remit of the collection programme and then passed onto another, unconnected agency who then lied about the whole affair.

Or, to summarise the summary, evidence gathered in violation of the fourth amendment has been used as the basis of an arrest.

According to the released reports, that process has happened numerous times. And that's just what we know about one such 'information sharing programme'. What other illegally obtained data is shared and with whom?

This is the big issue.

I think a lot of 'normal' people accept that surveillance of some kind is warranted, even if the concept is unpleasant. (I get it, not everyone does – no need to go crazy.)

From that, most people would agree that from time-to-time it is almost inevitable that even the most well-meaning programmes will capture some data pertaining to ordinary citizens, simply as a by-product of a more targeted collection.

Accepting that, there is an expectation that such data should be disposed of immediately and purged entirely from the system.

Unfortunately, but perhaps predictably, at every step the NSA and the American Federal Government has greatly overreached the boundaries that might be deemed reasonable by the proverbial man on the tram/omnibus.

In other words, I think people are prepared to allow the Government limited scope to break the rules in order for things to function efficiently, so long as such problems are searched out rigorously, identified quickly and remedied completely. It appears that none of these things have happened but instead quite the opposite, with such ‘breeches’ occurring regularly and exploited routinely.

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Smokescreen?

Why do I have a feeling that the primary reason for declassifying this was to provide "proof" that the secret FISA court was not a rubber stamp one, for future "public debate"?

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And Manning got how many years?

Is there such a thing as reverse-irony? That would make the US.gov a !iron.

(My apologies, Spyder.)

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Big Brother

Upon review legality subject to change...

At the time of writing, everything we do is legal.

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Unhappy

Legal

As opposed to the rest of the population, where they can always find something illegal if they want to

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"our people have to take courses and pass exams to use this data".

So...They can't read or need to be trained in basic comprehension? What is the training and exams?

I liked the end of the article where it is made clear that regardless of the laws passed by the American Government (The People) they are going to continue to break them and scoop info on normal Americans, and no statement to the effect that any inadvertant inadmissable evidence uncovered will be discarded and not misused as Dan1980 suggests.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "our people have to take courses and pass exams to use this data".

It's worse than that. Snowden was not an NSA employee; he was a subcontractor. Do you really think that he was the only one who may have had unauthorized access to the NSA programs and data?

If I were in charge of the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) I'd be looking at every employee of Booz Allen Hamilton and all of their relatives for unexplained financial transactions. It wouldn't be information on you and your neighbor's daughter that I'd want, it would be information on future plans from Fortune 500 CFOs. Insider information that couldn't be traced back to me? Priceless...

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So does this mean someone at the NSA is going to be sentenced to 33 years in prison as well?

No?

Thought not.

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"The court found that this data gathering violated the Fourth Amendment of the constitution"

"the FISC application was not authorized, this will prove of little reassurance, as the verdict concludes that the government had not been truthful with the secret court."

The above, in plain English: the US government has been violating the US constitution, spying on US citizens, and lying to the court established to protect the people from being spied on. When we consider this, and "Free Speech Zones," certain of those in government there don't seem to like the constitution. I would imagine that's because "We the People" could cast them out of power. Considering news like this, US citizens should indeed exercise their rights before those rights are no more.

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Paranoid?

I don't think I'm paranoid anymore.

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Obama

"Nobody is reading your emails (....anymore)."

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