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back to article NSA alleges 'BIOS plot to destroy PCs'

Senior National Security Agency (NSA) officials have told US news magazine program “60 Minutes” that a foreign nation tried to infect computers with a BIOS-based virus that would have enabled them to be remotely destroyed. NSA Director General Keith Alexander and Information Assurance Director Debora Plunkett both appeared on …

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NSA: not OK.

I'm not a US person and as such you can eat a sack of

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Sadly Trevor

While the NSA *cough** claims to be listening to *cough** 30 "US Persons", in all likely hood there is a good chance you might be on that list. Can't recall but if memory serves you might have, at one time, in the distant past, mentions crApple in a post and that would automatically flag you as a person of interest. Seriously, you *MIGHT* have (choose one) said/thought/heard someone else say/been within a mile of someone whos used a Fleshlight on an iDevice, something negative about them. And we all know that anyone who might have done any of those things, by having certain views about an American company, that could be considered a threat to the USA.

Dont worry though, they only check the metadata so its all fine. *cough**

*is it dry in here or just me?

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Re: Sadly Trevor

Don't worry, Trevor probably will be among the ones the NSA has very detailed data on. If he's really like the character he plays in his articles he probably made just about every mistake you can make to play into the hands of secret services. Even the ones which are easy to avoid.

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Just like here in the UK they like to feed the public a few snippets and tell them in very vague terms how much they have done to prevent disaster.

For instance, did you know that the security services have prevented hundreds if not thousands of terrorist attacks in the last couple of years and this is only down to the fact that they can spy on everyone and retain all the data they want.

Of course, as we are only 'little people' we could never hope to verify the truth in these claims. If they say this is true it must be.

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Re: Sadly Trevor

You want a budget of *how much* to track 60 people?

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Life imitates the Simpsons

"the security services have prevented hundreds if not thousands of terrorist attacks in the last couple of years and this is only down to the fact that they can spy on everyone and retain all the data they want."

That's nothing. I have a rock here that keeps away tigers!

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Re: Sadly Trevor

“Less than 60 people globally who are considered U.S. Persons"

Once you're one of them, you're no longer considered a US Person, simple.

The US has admitted killing - under Obama, not the moronic Bush Jr - four US citizens via drone strikes. At least two of those were extra-judicial killings, more usually known as murders. And while it may not have happened yet, the US Justice Department believes the US President has the legal authority to order a targeted strike against an American citizen located within the United States.

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extra judicial killings

Technically they are known as assassinations rather than murder as they are typically perpetrated by someone other than the person that wanted them dead.

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Happy

@Trevor_Pott Re "I'm not a US person...."

Neither am I, although I have to admit that even if it were MI5 saying this I would not believe them either. As far as I am concerned I would not accept that fisherman's tale from the Almighty Himself without independent evidence let alone any country's intelligence service. What they are saying is that we are (excuse me, it's very hard to type and cry with laughter at one and the same time) just going to have to trust them (Oh God my sides are splitting).

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Re: Sadly Trevor

And while it may not have happened yet, the US Justice Department believes the US President has the legal authority to order a targeted strike against an American citizen located within the United States.

I don't think they care about whether he has the legal authority or not. I think they're just confident that Americans will never take up their guns to do anything about it if he did, so they feel free to advise him he can do whatever the hell he likes, cause no one can/is going to stop him.

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Re: Sadly Trevor

Personally I believe every word they say on this one.

The US are only spying on a minimal amount of US citizens. However, their sock puppets in the UK are probably doing the dirty work for them.

Plausible deniability innit, reciprocity in management speak.

When the Brits say they are only spying on 2 men, 1 woman and a cat that lives in a mosque we can assume that our American friends are dealing with all the rest of you / us.

T'would be nice to know how many Brits, Aussies, Canucks and Kiwis the Yanks are spying on.

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Re: Sadly Trevor

If the Justice Department doesn't know what the President is (or is not) allowed to do... how the hell would anyone else know?

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Re: extra judicial killings

murder is murder regardless of how much money the perp has

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@ Trevor_Pott

Ah, your usual eloquence and insight.

The enemy is not the NSA. The enemy is you, and everyone else who thinks that the progress of civilization is measured in the amount of benefits that government delivers, because of the ever-expanding role of government intervention in the life of society and the lives of its citizens required to deliver those benefits.

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Anonymous Coward

Not a US person ?

Problem easily solved - the NSA seem to be paying GCHQ a few hundred million a year to spy on those they legally can't spy on themselves.

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Re: Life imitates the Simpsons

I got the elephant version.

Works well.

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WTF?

Re: Sadly Trevor

Why hasn't Obama stopped any of this like he promised he would?

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Re: Sadly Trevor

I imagine they just have a very narrow definition of 'listening.' Probably they only consider it listening if a human has personally given the order to target an individual - if they just hoover up communications through automatic means, that isn't really listening.

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@Christian Berger

So you are saying that if an individual doesn't conform to the whims of those in power he deserves neither security nor privacy? Conform or expect to be on a watchlist?

Jesus, what a fucked up worldview you have.

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Re: Sadly Trevor

"You want a budget of *how much* to track 60 people?"

Actually, what they told 60 minutes was that they were only tracking 60 US citizens. They never mentioned how many foreign nationals were on their monitor list. I think the most interesting thing that was stated was that in effect there should be no surprise that they listened to foreign heads of state when those very same states do the very same thing "to us." The only important difference would be that the NSA "saved" money by hiring outside contractors who were - ah - unreliable.

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Re: @Trevor_Pott Re "I'm not a US person...."

Besides, biblical authority has it that God does it too, kind of like Santa Claus when you get down to it. .

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Re: Sadly Trevor

"Why hasn't Obama stopped any of this like he promised he would?"

That is a multiple choice question, probably with more than one correct answer. Anyone who has watched "Yes Minister" knows that elected officials: presidents, prime ministers, etc., come and go, and so do their appointees: heads of the NSA, CIA, FBI, etc. So, regardless of "promises" made by politicians, there are always permanent employees in the background who simply carry on carrying on. So, perhaps he made a "politician's promise," possibly, he made a promise he thought he could keep, possibly .....

Apparently civics are no longer taught in any detail in US schools, or most citizens here would know precisely how limited, constitutionally, presidential authority is. Primarily he signs or vetoes congressional bills - never really uses the veto nearly enough, and he can start a war (but not declare one), which can paint congress into a corner where they either follow along or trigger a political crisis. He can also declare a state of emergency which can suspend many constitutional rights within a "limited" purview related to the putative "emergency" a limited but renewable period and make an end run around congressional authority without having them actually declare war.

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Re: @Christian Berger

You really need to consider your semantics. "Security" and "privacy" simultaneously? Seriously? The entire debacle is due to a quest for "security." Privacy of individuals is simply the first casualty of that quest. There are others:

https://www.gov.uk/find-out-if-i-can-buy-or-carry-a-knife

for instance.

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Re: Sadly Trevor

"You want a budget of *how much* to track 60 people?"

Actually, it was 60 of what the NSA *considers* US people.

That means that pretty much 7 billion are also tracked.

Remember, the NSA is not permitted to act in a law enforcement capacity within the US, nor can it monitor communications of US citizens without a warrant. Everyone else is open under US law and the NSA charter.

What was amusing was the bit about "60 minutes seems to want to play along", as if CBS, Fox or NBC would stray from the GOP party line of everything military is good, godlike and must receive the lions share of federal funding.

While the educational system, elderly, disabled, children and needy get to suck the hind tit.

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Re: Sadly Trevor

"The US has admitted killing - under Obama, not the moronic Bush Jr - four US citizens via drone strikes."

And the US and UK both did the same, via dumb bombs, assassins or snipers during WWII.

Work with the enemy, you are an enemy in wartime.

Apparently, many, many people forget that the US *is still* at war.

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Re: Sadly Trevor

"I think they're just confident that Americans will never take up their guns to do anything about it if he did..."

Let's consider that one for a bit.

So, Americans pick up their guns in outrage over a terrorist being assassinated.

And somehow manage to prevail against B52 bombers, AC130 gunships, AH64 gunships, AH1 gunships, 105mm and 155mm howitzers, 120mm and 81mm mortars, smart bombs, dumb bombs, cluster bombs, nuclear warheads, guided missiles, smart munitions, drones, satellite surveillance, rockets, then we move toward infantry mopping up the mess.

Or more accurately, collecting the body parts and laying them into a mass grave, along with their dinky little AR15's and AK47's.

So much for Mr "I have my guns to fight government tyranny".

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Re: Sadly Trevor

"The US are only spying on a minimal amount of US citizens. However, their sock puppets in the UK are probably doing the dirty work for them."

The probability of that being true approaches unity.

"T'would be nice to know how many Brits, Aussies, Canucks and Kiwis the Yanks are spying on."

Join the military, get a clearance and you can find out.

Of course, then you shan't be permitted to tell anyone.

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Re: extra judicial killings

"murder is murder regardless of how much money the perp has"

So, that means we have to arrest every combat veteran and charge them with murder?

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Re: @ Trevor_Pott

"The enemy is you, and everyone else who thinks that the progress of civilization is measured in the amount of benefits that government delivers, because of the ever-expanding role of government intervention in the life of society and the lives of its citizens required to deliver those benefits."

Erm, is not being under surveillance an ever expanding role of government intervention?

But then, you strike me as a tea party type.

Also known as the type that never met a Constitutional amendment that they did not despise and disparage.

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Re: Sadly Trevor

"Why hasn't Obama stopped any of this like he promised he would?"

Because, like many other ill informed promises he made, he learned the classified version, aka reality of the war and what is incessantly being attempted.

Sorry, but as much as I hate the program, it does work to stop things being blown up.

Note the lack of massive outrage in the US Congress. Note the sparse few comments about holding hearings. Note the sparse few hearings conducted.

Congress has oversight on such programs. Congress has a SCIF in both houses. Committee members have clearance and full access to the data from those programs.

The reason is really simple and relatively innocuous. The programs work, they stop attacks against US citizens and especially US citizens on US soil.

The same is true in the UK and Commonwealth nations.

What is the capability, courtesy of both the war in Afghanistan and the surveillance of Al Qaeda to attack a western target today?

Diaper bomb, shoe bomb, printer bomb. None of which functioned, the latter being intercepted.

Compared to before, with a dozen embassies bombed, the WTC bombed, then aircraft rammed into it.

So, take your choice for reality. Either Al Qaeda all went off and retired or their operational capabilities are significantly eroded and are undermined by multiple methods, this being one of them.

I know as a fact that it is the latter.

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Re: @Christian Berger

"So you are saying that if an individual doesn't conform to the whims of those in power he deserves neither security nor privacy?"

When that individual doesn't conform to the whim of those in power by plotting to kill people, no they do not deserve security or privacy.

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@Marshalltown

I don't fear middle easterners with sand, sticks and more sand. I fear the very real abuses of power by the very fallible humans in positions of power in the countries I actually visit.

"Security" is protection from the overreach of the people in power over you. Privacy is part and parcel of that (but extends to the right to be free from interference and snooping by other proles and companies as well.)

"Terrorists" are just a boogyman. A rock from space could fall on me too. I'm far more likely to get killed by a drunk driver or the toxic (and radioactive) emissions from a dirty coal plant. If the price of freedom (and actual security) is that every now and again we fail to stop a lunatic that we probably wouldn't have been able to stop even in the panopticon...I'll take it.

If an individual is prepared to martyr themselves in order to strike at a target there's not a whole hell of a lot you can do to stop them. Our freedoms are not an acceptable price for the obsession of some with trying.

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@Wzrd1

In the past 235 calendar years the US has been at peace for only 21 of them. Who cares if the US is at war? That doesn't remove from them the requirement to act with honour. After all, they're always at war. If being at war removes the requirement for them to behave we need to, as a planet, cut them the fuck off. Blockade, isolate, cease trading with, you name it.

They can't be allowed to act with impunity just because they can't seem to learn to leave others alone.

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@Wzrd1

If you honestly believe - or worse, would encourage - that your military would turn B52 bombers, AC130 gunships, AH64 gunships, AH1 gunships, 105mm and 155mm howitzers, 120mm and 81mm mortars on their own civilian population and choose to do nothing about it then you're a fucking sociopath.

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@Wzrd1 Re: @Christian Berger

The comment was directed at me, personally. Where have I been plotting to kill people? I was told that I, personally, should be on one of those lists for non-conformance. Why?

You're the pro NSA scaremonger. Explain to me why I deserve to be monitored, tracked, and have my rights removed?

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Hit them where it hurts.

Good way to annoy the NSA and GCHQ, evil fucks that they are:

Refuse to hire ex-NSA/GCHQ people into private industry. Let the grunts know that working for the NSA/GCHQ is a one-way street. You are forever after tainted and no one will ever trust you again.

That should stick a spike into their University recruiting pipeline. Those government pensions not looking so guaranteed now eh ?

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Re: Sadly Trevor

You mean not suppose to. The NSA ignored that and gave info about Americans in America to the DEA. They then told the DEA to lie about how they got the info.

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Re: @Wzrd1

"If being at war removes the requirement for them to behave we need to, as a planet, cut them the fuck off. Blockade, isolate, cease trading with, you name it"

You should start by getting your fellow Canucks to stop coming into the US to buy a full shopping cart of milk, 50+ gallons of fuel per trip, etc.

"In the past 235 calendar years the US has been at peace for only 21 of them."

If you look closely, you will see that the US tried very hard to stay out of WWI and WWII and only started poking it's nose into everyone's business after it was the lone superpower and found it had the power to prevent WWIII.

I'm not quite sure why you hate America so much when the Canadian government plays the good cop to the USA's bad cop. The two countries may seem opposite of one another but they are on the same team.

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Re: Sadly Trevor

BillG, for the same reason JohnE Hoover was able to stay in power for 40 years.

They have the pictures.

And this isn't necessarily of Obama himself doing anything all that bad. They have pictures on everyone and everybody, close to him and politically connected. And the "pictures" nowadays aren't just photos, it's stuff t they're hoovering up from phone calls and emails.

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Re: Sadly Trevor

Simple really.

You spy for me, I spy for you.

That way, Agency A and Agency B can say quite categorically and truthfully that they are not intercepting the communications of their own citizens. If Agency A happens to have intercepted communications of the citizens of the country of Agency B and happens to hand it over to Agency B as part of their cooperation agreement, does the original interception come under the jurisdiction of country B? And visa-versa.

There's no longer 2 certainties in Life.

Death, taxes and being spied upon.

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@Hit Snooze

You're delusional. Canada is subjugated by the US. The US isn't "on our team" in any way. Were we on the same team as the US they would treat us as equals, not serfs. They do not.

Fro the record, I lobby my government strongly to distance ourselves from the US, politically, economically and militarily. I don't view the US as remotely trustworthy and I sure as hell don't view them as a Canadian ally.

Even if our government is complicit in selling the rights and freedoms of Canadians off to the US for a pat on the head, there's a fair amount of cultural difference between the two nations; far more than I am going ot get into here. Suffice ti to say that I would cheerfully accept a much lower standard of living if it meant that my country would cut ties with the USA.

After all, unlike you, I'm fully capable of understanding that the only "team" the US is on is the one where the very elite of the elite in the US win and everyone else loses. Though i can understand how you could be blind to it if you're raised amongst enough nationalism and propaganda.

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Re: Sadly Trevor

@Ian 55: "Once you're one of them, you're no longer considered a US Person, simple."

Once you're one of them, you're considered an unperson, doubleplussimple.

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Big Brother

The US *is still* at war.

With whom exactly? For what objective? By what measures will we be able to judge that the war has been won, or lost? Or will we always be at war with Eastasia?

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Re: Sadly Trevor (reality check)

"That means that pretty much 7 billion are also tracked."

NSA has in the neighborhood of 35,000 employees. It is not credible that each of them (managers to secretaries and machine repairpersons) tracks an average of 200,000 people in any sense that even remotely approaches meaningful. Not by at least two orders of magnitude.

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Re: @ Trevor_Pott

"The enemy is you, and everyone else who thinks that the progress of civilization is measured in the amount of benefits that government delivers,"

Did this make sense in your head before you typed it? Did you think that complaining about the NSA is about wanting MORE government intervention? Do you think that government intervention is only good when it does harm? Or are you a hopeless idealist who thinks that a state of having no government would be anything other than hell on earth? Basically, WTF are you talking about?

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@tom dial

Feeding my metadata into the machine so that I can be mistakenly Jean Charles de Menezesed based on some trial-less "guilt by association" cranked out by an algorithm is being fucking tracked.

Too tinfoil hat for you? Too bad. The burden of proof is on your government now, not those who just want to be left alone.

Or will I be targeted for tax audits because of my political group? Have my e-mails raided because I'm a journalist? Be thrown in gitmo because I work with whistleblowers?

Computer says no. Your life, thus, goes bye-bye. And you're okay with this?!?

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Re: @Marshalltown

While I agree there is substantial reason for concern, and wish there were a reasonable way tthat the confident claims of terrorist attack prevention could be verified, it is true that most terror attacks in the recent past have been in Africa and the Middle East, not in Europe and the Americas. Moreover, those attacks were not made with sand and sticks but with machine guns and high explosives.

Whether the probability of some kind of terrorist attack is significant certainly is worth discussion, and so is whether the surveillance being done in the name of reducing it is cost effective. So also is the size of the risk associated with NSA (and CSEC, GCHQ, ASD, and GCSB, among others) surveillance activities. I think we agree on the first two, but probably not on the third.

A tyrannical regime certainly would engage in such data collection and probably more, but it is logically incorrect to conclude that the existence of these programs implies that the responsible government is a tyranny. In the US I see more reason for concern about moral panics such as the war on drugs and the abuse of normal prosecutorial authority exemplified by the Aaron Swartz, Jammie Thomas, and Amish Beard Cutter cases.

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Re: @Trevor_Potts

You have heard of the Five Eyes, which is one of I can only assume projects where the two governments work together? You do know that the US/Canada border is the longest undefended border in the world? You do not get that type of trust unless you are working very closely with one another.

The US and Canadian governments are in a scratch my back and I'll scratch yours relationship. You might hear about how the US is keeping you down while, in the room in the back, they are in fact sharing who knows what and passing money back and forth. Openly, some politicians might bad mouth the US/Canada but the people with the real power are shaking hands and having drinks with their US/Canadian counterparts.

After all, unlike you, I'm fully capable of understanding that the only "team" EVERY GOVERNMENT is on is the one where the very elite of the elite in <INSERT COUNTRY> win and everyone else loses. Though i can understand how you could be blind to it if you're raised amongst enough nationalism and propaganda.

FTFY

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Re: Sadly Trevor

The reports that I saw were unclear about whether the targets in these cases were "US Persons". Those targets, however were smuggling illegal drugs into the country, not out or within. Accordingly it is possible or even likely that the intercepts were proper and the attempt at secrecy was aimed at protecting intelligence sources and methods.

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@tom dial

"Cost effective" is not a consideration. Our freedoms are not for sale at any price, certainly not as protection against boogymen. Regardless of how large their sticks.

And frankly, yes, I do view the US as a tyranny. As an example: 95% of her people support mandatory background checks on guns. That cannot make it through government. The same amount support restrictions on automatic firearms. *crickets*

The US government murders civilians without trial - their own, as well as civilians. It uses the IRS against political opponents, attacks the freedom of the press, suppresses dissent with violence and imprisons people in perpetuity without trial.

That you have patriotism wrapped up in that nation doesn't change the fact that their so-called "democracy" is a sham, the republic is broken and they are treating both their own citizens and their allies with contempt and outright hostility.

The people with sand and more sand aren't the ones we need to be worried about. The ones in charge of the US government are.

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