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back to article Brit spymasters: Cheers, Snowden. Terrorists are overhauling their comms

Terrorists in Afghanistan and the Middle East are discussing changing their communication systems as a result of Edward Snowden's revelations, the boss of GCHQ said on Thursday. Sir Iain Lobban, director of the UK's eavesdropping nerve center, made the claims during a meeting in London with MPs and lords on Parliament's …

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Pretty much as expected then

Can you say "lip service"?

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Re: Pretty much as expected then

Not without it being intercepted, no.

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Re: Pretty much as expected then

I wasn't even aware that it was the job of GCHQ to catch paedophiles, I thought that was up to the Police?

Anyone got a copy of their remit that says this? (Other than some shite the Home Secretary spouts off)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pretty much as expected then

Also their job to watch some amateur porn. i.e., via webcams. Nah, just kidding, I don't want them watching me.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmmm

I'm looking at upgrading my email crypto and moving to an offshore provider in a country with severe privacy laws. Does that make me a terrorist?

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, of course it does.

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Anonymous Coward

Are you a voting american from one of the red states who goes to church every sunday and has a wife with 2.4 children? If not then you might be a terrorist.

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2.4 children?

How do you get 2.4 children? How do you get half a child?

Oh, I see! King Solomon and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre! The red states! I see, perfectly!

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Re: 2.4 children?

How do you get 2.4 children? How do you get half a child?

Reminds me of an amusing incident.

An incredibly intelligent friend of mine (who used to be a programmer on mainframes for the banking sector) is currently out of work. The job centre sent him on a basic maths course. Now, I should mention that this friend has a very dry sense of humour, is very quick witted, and gets bored very easily... Not a good combination in this instance.

Not far into this course, they were doing fractions. One sum came out at 13.5. The tutor explained that you needed to use your common sense in applying the results.

"For example, you couldn't have half a child," she said.

My friend's immediate response: "Tell that to Jamie Bulger's parents."

Unsurprisingly, he was asked to leave the training facility and never return.

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No it makes you a paranoid fool

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I moved to a German hosted internet provider a few years back, I like their rules (and trust they will follow them).

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Trollface

No, but it's not really likely to work either. You would need a self created, or at least very new, crypto method because the NSA et al have backdoors into any of the existing ones.

You could always email in code where the receiver knows the code and can understand the message. Or use a dead, or nearly dead, language. The American Dad episode where the criminal was using Tolkien's elvish and the CIA couldn't decode it springs to mind. Navajoes worked in the past as well.

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> Everyone is overhauling their comms

There you are. No charge.

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Childcatcher

"battle sexual exploitation of children"

Oh God Snowden, What Have You Done ? The Children ! Think Of The Children !

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Anonymous Coward

The impertinence of these people.

I have no words.

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Re: The impertinence of these people.

"the impertinence - of these people I know no... - words" anonymous

Adding authors name - makes obviously false thought - almost a Haiku.

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Field Agent Communications

"Field agents are in constant communication, he said."

As a field agent in GCHQ or NSA, I'd be leery of sending anything via email.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Field Agent Communications

they use the 'Gabriel' technologies, an obfuscated form of SIP/RTP (SIP session initiation protocol by Professor Henning Schulzrinne ), that spreads the data packets across thousands of virtual IP addresses - invented by SAIC (In-Q-Tel/VirnetX) mentioned in the proceedings of the US National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee “Research and Development (R&D) Exchange Workshop September 28 - September 29, 2000 Tulsa, Oklahoma.” if you can find your copy! (hint: filename contains "nstac_rdexchange")

A recent CISCO court-case mentioning netEraser style technologies is here http://www.investorvillage.com/uploads/81835/files/181-1120211.pdf (they wished to use some SIP features - but for some reason this obfuscated SIP etc seems locked down by patents and not licensable?) The court pdf includes CISCO demanding "all documents related to VirnetX, NetEraser, Net Cloaker"..."all communications concerning SAIC relationship with ANX, In-Q-Tel, Central Intelligence Agency"...

What's not exactly clear from the Snowden documents is does PRISM/BULLRUN actually full-take 'Gabriel/netEraser' protocols - or is this the one and only family of really protected channels? ...... I'd bet that NSA/GCHQ still record even friendly spooks

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Mushroom

Cretins!

"Terrorists in Afghanistan"

Right. You mean the guys who blow up germanscoalition troops in their home country? They may not be sane or wholesome but why not let the Afghans take out the trash themselves.Meanwhile I fail to see why local and foreign burghers (some to be burgerized in the future by the business end of ordinance issued from a US factory, I am sure) and their political hierarchy need to be summarily listened to in order to get terrorists in Afghanistan.

And one more thing...

They are financed largely by Saudi Arabia (and Pakistan. Iran, not so much, if at all, even though the media is full of innuendo about this; yes, these are planted "News Articles" pumped out by neocon think-tanks and similar riffraff... "experts say...")

This is the Saudi Arabia that needs to be "reassured" that the US will bomb and main Shia countries on its behalf. The Saudi Arabia that told Putin he better loosen up on Syria otherwise an "accident" might occur during the Winter Olympics. Where Signore Kerry, mostly known for talking loosely and metaphorically falling down stairs, just touched down in Arseforce 1 for a round of "deep reassuring" that causes one to puke in disgust. They also get several billion USD per year in reassuring money transfer (i.e. extra cheap US weapons systems).

DO WE LISTEN TO THEM INSTEAD OF TERRORISTS IN AFGHANISTAN? DO WE???

Yes, we have our priorities right.

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Re: Cretins!

Not exactly true. Iran funds competing terrorist groups (ex Hisbollah, the Mahdi Army in Iraq etc). The problem is that there has been a Sunni vs Shia proxy war using terrorist groups for decades and the west keeps blundering into the middle of it without realizing what the full consequences will be.

Quite frankly, no one involved in the middle east has clean hands

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Re: Cretins!

The majority of the insurgency in Afghanistan is not of Afghanistani origin, they are out of area fighters so your arguement doesn't work.

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Re: Cretins!

Why can't we just get rid of all of the Muslims? They're mostly a bunch of greedy, self-serving, arrogant hypocrites with no regard for modern education and progression, even if it would serve their own countries better.

Oh, yeah, shit, I forgot I'm a Muslim.

Still, the aid to other countries, especially Muslim ones, should be cut, as Imran Khan said, the aid to Pakistan fuels corruption, anyway, some of it probably going to the terrorists.

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No dude, it is all YOUR fault.

If you spooks just kept tabs on The Bad Guys, that would be within the remit of spookery and thus nothing much worth reporting.

Instead, you are looking at everybody in... in...in what? The hope you might catch somebody that wasn't a target downloading some kiddie porn? The hope that you might catch some loner teenager reading a way outdated copy of The Jolly Roger Cookbook? Is that how far intelligence gathering has sunk, that you want to dragnet The World to see if anything interesting turns up?

You guys way overstepped your boundaries. That you apparently don't get this shows what a dickhead you must be.

Or, to put it another way - it is a case of "cause and effect". You made the cause, this is the effect. Happy with the result?

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Re: No dude, it is all YOUR fault.

You pulled the words right out of my arse. Now I don't have to comment. Oh wait... I just did :-)

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Megaphone

Re: No dude, it is all YOUR fault.

Have an upvote for putting it much more succinctly than I would have done.

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Re: No dude, it is all YOUR fault.

It's a total load of crap anyway. Everything that's been reported shows they've been using encrypted flash drives delivered by courier for years

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Re: An oldie, but a goodie

Thanks for that clear and concise share, Frumious Bandersnatch.

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Re: An oldie, but a goodie

On the subject of crossbows - and I realize I'm off topic here but I feel a rant coming on -

This guy is a massive dickwad. He sees crossbows as empowering the peasantry? In fact, they achieved the exact opposite. The crossbow disarmed peasants, put skilled archers out of work and fixed powere even more firmly in the hands of feudal lords.

As the author states, any bellend can be reasonably certain of hitting their target with a crossbow. This means you can round a bunch of brainless thugs and use them rather than pay money for soldiers who've spent years learning how to shoot properly with a longbow. Nice, right? Suddenly the people are free?

Not exactly. Think it through.

Compared to a longbow - which is, when all is said and done, a stick - the crossbow is a fiendishly complicated bit of machinery. You need to make steel arms for it. You need a rolling or winding trrigger. You need a cocking mechanism that can actually bend those steel arms without shattering them or ruining them. You need some seriously hardcore cable to be able to cope with the release strain.

What a crossbow actually is, is "seriously fucking expensive".

And any cretin can use one. But only the nobles can afford one.

So you get rid of your skilled retainers, hire a bunch of thugs, issue them with crossbows for the duration of any time spent in missile combat and then collect them all up again afterwards. Nobody else has one. Nobody else can afford one. You can easily make them illegal in your demesne and have your thugs with your crossbows kill anyone who bought their own.

Or anyone who has a longbow because hey, outnumbered!

The crossbow was not an instrument of anyone's freedom but an iron boot on the neck of the peasantry.

I am unwilling to read this pdf any further because Chuck Hammill is clearly an idiot.

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Re: An oldie, but a goodie

> Compared to a longbow - which is, when all is said and done, a stick

No, there's engineering in a decent bow. It has to be flexible enough that a human can draw it but give the arrow serious acceleration. It also has to twang back to it's previous shape evenly so the arrow goes straight.

> And any cretin can use one (a crossbow)

What a crossbow does is automate the drawing and release. It doesn't negate the skill needed to get the arrow to go where you want it to. It's also slower to "reload" than a longbow. Miss with your crossbow shot and the archer you were trying to hit will put 3 arrows in your arse before you can reload..

> I am unwilling to read this pdf any further because Chuck Hammill is clearly an idiot.

I'm inclined to agree there.

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Re: An oldie, but a goodie

"The crossbow disarmed peasants, put skilled archers out of work and fixed powere even more firmly in the hands of feudal lords."

That's a bit of a simplistic over-reach tainted by modern mythology surrounding both weapon systems. I don't disagree that the author is an ass with a stupid view of history, but not strictly for the reasons you outline.

Firstly, the crossbow didn't kill off the longbow in the medieval period in Britain *at all* (there wasn't anything to kill off elsewhere, so I'm assuming we must be talking about Britain). The 100 year war came to the end and reduced the need for quite such a large dedicated corps of Yeoman, but they carried on in use as the primary ranged weapon of armies in Britain until gunpower took over, as evidenced by the findings on the Mary Rose and plenty of sources. So the author was flat-wrong there.

"As the author states, any bellend can be reasonably certain of hitting their target with a crossbow. This means you can round a bunch of brainless thugs and use them rather than pay money for soldiers who've spent years learning how to shoot properly with a longbow. Nice, right? Suddenly the people are free?"

The author is mistaken and playing to longbow vs. crossbow mythology. Crossbows are not magically immune to windage or trajectory or flight-time. Genoa was famous for its crossbowmen for a reason: It's a skilled job, still. So much so that it was worth paying guys to protect crossbowmen and even sometimes do the loading for them. Don't think that shooting with a crossbow is any less skilful than using a bow. Remember also that the longbow was the machine-gun of the era, used for firing indirectly at tight formations, not for robin-hood style antics as portrayed in film. Archers shot at flat targets on the ground, not nicely upright ones at close range, like we see today. Hitting a dense formation is not hard.

The reason why Yeoman were valuable isn't because of some uber-level of hand-eye coordination: It was physical strength and grunt-power. Firing a powerful longbow requires powerful shoulders. THAT'S where the training comes in: You need strong and practised men to bend a bow. Crossbows were an easier weapon system to use because you didn't need to be as strong to load them, and you could still load them while hungry and suffering from dysentery. You can pick up a crossbow and use it, but it takes skill to hit anything, especially given the kick they give.

“Compared to a longbow - which is, when all is said and done, a stick”

Not really. It required skill to make. It required specific materials to make, which were a major import to the UK. We purchased an awful lot of bowstaves from the continent to fill the need, and they also wear out and break pretty quickly so yeomen needed to carry spars on campaign. Then there’s the materiel: Arrows. Again, not just sticks. And the rate of fire of the bow (machine-gun, remember), required that a bow-equipped army needed to be supported with a staggering amount of ammunition. We made bows and arrows on an industrial scale, and with a great deal of effort.

“What a crossbow actually is, is "seriously fucking expensive".”

That is correct. They were not a peasant weapon. Even though Europe was nicely deforesting itself in order to make steel on an industrial scale, the crossbow was expensive, and most certainly NOT a peasant weapon, in the same way that mail was not peasant armour. (If you want ‘seriously expensive’ kit, consider how long it takes to make a mail shirt without access to spools of wire and having to rivet every single ling!)

“So you get rid of your skilled retainers, hire a bunch of thugs, issue them with crossbows for the duration of any time spent in missile combat and then collect them all up again afterwards.”

Except they didn’t do that. Again, your view of crossbows is tainted by modern, incorrect views.

“Or anyone who has a longbow because hey, outnumbered!”

If the Hundred Years War taught us nothing else, it’s that longbowmen don’t give a sh!t about being horribly outnumbered!

“The crossbow was not an instrument of anyone's freedom but an iron boot on the neck of the peasantry.”

It wasn’t anything like that. The Feudal system was the iron boot. The Church and Serfdom were iron boots. The crossbow did nothing at all to repress peasants. If you wanted to repress peasants, you just rode up and burned everything: It worked for William in Yorkshire, just as it worked on the French in the Hundred Years. You don’t need a crossbow.

Mind you, workers wages actually rocketed in late-medieval times due to the plague and lack of skilled workers. Far from it being a time of increased repression, workers suddenly had a power that they never had before.

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@Psyx

As a reenactment archer - heavy war bow, 210lb - I can assure you that I can teach anyone to be reasonably competent with a crossbow in under ten minutes.

The longbow? Not so much. You do need strength but much more technique. And actually putting an arrow where you want it to be is not trivial. One of the questions I'm most frequently asked is "how do you aim?"

The answer is that I don't. I don't even think about it. I nock, draw, loose, the arrow goes where I wanted it to go. That stuff is learned over years.

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Re: An oldie, but a goodie

Yes to this analysis, as an old crossbow shooter - think sniper rifle vs infantry assault rifle, crossbows were banned because they targetted knights/officers but the people using them were professionals, not peasantry. They were expensive to make, complex to maintain, slow to load but powerful and accurate.

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Re: @Psyx

"As a reenactment archer - heavy war bow, 210lb - I can assure you that I can teach anyone to be reasonably competent with a crossbow in under ten minutes."

That's a proper big-a$$ bow. :)

Reasonably competent != someone you'd want on a battlefield in your retinue, though. That's a level of bare capability which would totally disintegrate into zero capability under battle-stress due to lack of muscle memory and drilling. They're not 'a crossbowman' so much as a liability grasping a very expensive and effectively useless weapon.

Additionally, we're not discussing a comparison between a reasonably competent crossbowman training in an afternoon and a skilled archer, but two equally skilled marksman. You can't be as skilled a marksman with a crossbow as a trained archer in an afternoon of training, despite what our modern mythology teaches us. I stand by my comment that crossbowmen were skilled and practised and not idiots with magically self-targeting weapons. Yes: The bowman requires more training and more muscle than the crossbowmen, but crossbowmen are much maligned as regards their skills in a completely fictitious manner, as the external source cited demonstrates.

I still dispute completely the concept of just rounding up some idiots and giving them crossbows, and that this strategy (or anything else prior to pike and shot, really) outmoded the longbow. The longbow was a great weapon, but the crossbow wasn't as bad as armchair historians think it is. It held its own against gunpowder weapons for quite a while and was good enough for most of Europe.

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Big Brother

Nothing to see here...move along.

They pulled out the ' crowd pleasers'

Pedophile, Terrorist.

Terrorist, pedophile.

Pedophile Terrorist...Terrorist Pedophile...etc.

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Re: Nothing to see here...move along.

What do you think they are looking for?

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Anonymous Coward

actually...

more people are overhauling their comms and using VPNs and other proxy / encrypted services by default because of all the site blocks we're seeing lately.. that's going to be drowning out other similar traffic in noise too, if that porn filter goes ahead I'd expect to see even more people using them.

oh and of course even if they want to blame snowden they should remember who created the problem in the first place.. who was doing all the spying, and why your perfectly average british citizen is also now wanting to see improved encryption / anonymity services etc.

yes, investments in this kind of technology probably helps the terrorists too, but maybe they should have thought about that first.

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Re: actually...

"more people are overhauling their comms and using VPNs and other proxy / encrypted services by default because of all the site blocks we're seeing lately"

And the thing is, these are no longer just 'tech savvy' users. I've had so many requests for advice from people who have traditionally put their entire lives up on FarceBook who now want to become a little more anonymous. Some of this is because their pictures have started appearing against endorsements for products they wouldn't use with a gun to their head, but there's a significant undercurrent of 'I don't want the yanks looking over my shoulder' requests

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Anonymous Coward

"UK's enemies rubbing their hands with glee"...

... at the enormous own goal our security services have scored by engaging in the world's biggest fishing expedition and getting caught in (as one ex US VPOTUS put it) "crimes against the constitution".

Anonymous Coward because I suspect it makes no difference.

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Re: "UK's enemies rubbing their hands with glee"...

or indeed, at our getting ourselves so far into debt that we're likely to financially implode with no effort from themselves.

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The publicity must be hurting the spooks

Of course these spook talks are just posturing. The Bad Guys have known for a long time that the spooks are watching them, and the spooks have been admitting it for years. No doubt spooks with something really worth talking about have been using reasonable cryptography for ages.

But where all the publicity really hurts is that now Joe & Jane Sixpack are getting concerned about uncalled-for observation by the the spooks and are starting to use encryption for mundane conversations.

Although the spooks *can* break encryption, that is likely to only come at high computational cost. Munching on an encrypted email is expensive whether it contains terrorist target information or cute kitty pictures.

That surely increases the size of the haystacks that the needles are buried in, which reduces the spooks' ability to be effective.

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Looks like

The NSA needs to open a few more server farms offering special deals to foreign companys

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Unhappy

blah blah blah Snowden blah blah blah.

Yeah we can't track these people because of Snowden giving the game away.

What utter BS.

As we found out OBL could not be found because he did not use electronic media.

I think most of the real terrorists already strongly suspected this.

Still there's always the rest of us.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: blah blah blah Snowden blah blah blah.

As we found out OBL could not be found because he did not use electronic media.

I think most of the real terrorists already strongly suspected this.

Not so sure ..... around start of Afghan campaign US intelligence etc made a big deal over "international PAYG SIMs" being a big security threat as people could buy them for cash so that they couldn't be traced - parts of AQ seemed to have believed this and used phones with this type of SIMs to communicate as a couple of years later a US general gave the game away and rather unwisely told some journalists that they'd found the target of a recent raid because they just monitored all the cell phone traffic and as soon as a SIM from certain brands connected they were pretty sure they'd got a location on an AQ unit. Problem was with that cat out of the bag AQ almost immediately stopped using mobiles and relied on direct person to person contacts only.

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Re: blah blah blah Snowden blah blah blah.

Hmm so their finances are not using electronic bank transfers, it doesn't have to be a straight forward communication there is an entire terrorist network using the internet, you tube social media etc to fuel and fund their campaign.

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Re: blah blah blah Snowden blah blah blah.

Of course their finances use electronic bank transfers.

The difference is that the money tends to route via Governments which breaks the trail nicely.

Saudi Arabia for example, or in the case of the IRA towards the end of the war ... the UK government.

How else do you think they manage to pay for the arms they need? Suitcases full of cash are heavy and too easy to trace.

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if only

If only people would give up every ounce of freedom, they would be safe..

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Stop

Thanks a lot, El Reg.

I'm flashing on 'Q' perusing apps at the iPhone Store.

At long last you have killed Bond and changed Moneypenny from an object of desire to an accurate assessment of my financial position once I pay to have the nightmares treated.

Thanks again.

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Anonymous Coward

Do all the paranoid people on here think we simply shouldn't have intelligence services? Either we have them and they do a job which requires them to make calls about privacy (and perhaps the limits to this are something worthy of debate) or we don't and accept that we don't do this spying thing because it's simply not cricket.

The idea of collecting absolutely no information about potential targets until you're sure that's what they are is patently ridiculous.

AC because I know very well that these comments are not welcome here!

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Anonymous Coward

Do you believe that security is more important than everything else? That the spooks should be able to kill with impunity, break any law they like? Of course not. You expect them to work within a legal framework. You also expect them to limit themselves to their core function. That doesn't include mass surveillance, or trying to silence political and journalistic opponents.

I don't care about them spying on targets, but the entire internet is not a legitimate target.

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