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back to article 'Arrogant' Snowden putting lives at risk, says NSA's deputy spyboss

Two days after NSA leaker Edward Snowden addressed the latest TED technology jamboree in robot form, the US intelligence agency has also made an appearance – with deputy director Richard Ledgett dialing in by video link. Ledgett said the NSA's core problem was that it was lousy at PR, rather than that it was invading innocent …

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I disagree. Which means I agree.

It's pretty clear, as stated in the article, that staff at the NSA routinely abuse its powers. Furthermore the whole approach seems to be scattergun with the overwhelming majority of it being aimed at people who have done nothing wrong and will do nothing wrong but, regardless, are given no opportunity to defend themselves or even any notification that they've been surveilled.

So given that this was an attempt at PR, I agree that the NSA is lousy as PR.

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Stop

Re: I disagree. Which means I agree. @ThomH

Where is it pretty clear as stated in the article that the NSA routinely abuse their powers?

The main mention of anything more than metadata collection is 12 instances over 10 years of "LOVEINT - spying on people they fancy", and that in a linked article anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I disagree. Which means I agree.

I dunno what's worse, the spying and blatant breach of privacy.

or the fact one guy ran off with the entire playbook and spaffed it all over the news.

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Well, if its half truths and distortions... then the leaks arent revealing what you are doing... ergo you have nothing to worry about.

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Anonymous Coward

Right...

Excuse me if I disagree and say "fuck off, Mr. Ledgett". James Madison would be rolling over in his grave and you know it.

The fucking arrogance of this fuckwit!

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Re: Right...

Ledgett is a sick man.

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Thumb Up

Re: Right...

My list of people who can Fuck Right Off grows daily.

Ledgett is on it.

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Re: Right...

My list of people who can Fuck Right Off grows daily.

So does mine.

I think that has more to do with me being a grumpy, cynical bastard, though.

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Re: Right...

The checks and balances that Madison etc wanted in the constitution are being ridden over roughshod by the intelligence agencies. There are no checks and balances on NSA, CIA etc, they do whatever they bloody want and get the government to rubber-stamp it. If they've been doing something which they realise is highly illegal and are about to get clobbered for it, they destroy the evidence as the CIA did with the torture videotapes. And then lie, obfuscate and do anything int their power legal or not to cover up, up to and including hacking into computers that their oversight committee is using to investigate them. They are waging an all-out war against the checks and balances imposed on them.

Anyone who wants to increase oversight of them is branded a terrorist-helper. And as per teh iron law of bureaucracy, they're run by people whose primary interest is NOT apprehansion of terrorists, security of teh US etc, but the continued existence and growth of funding, budget, power and capabilities of the NSA, CIA etc irrespective of whether they are needed

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Right...

The checks and balances that Madison etc wanted in the constitution are being ridden over roughshod by the intelligence agencies. There are no checks and balances on NSA, CIA etc, they do whatever they bloody want and get the government to rubber-stamp it. If they've been doing something which they realise is highly illegal and are about to get clobbered for it, they destroy the evidence as the CIA did with the torture videotapes. And then lie, obfuscate and do anything int their power legal or not to cover up, up to and including hacking into computers that their oversight committee is using to investigate them. They are waging an all-out war against the checks and balances imposed on them.

The head of the NSA and CIA is named Barack Obama. Why didn't I see his name in your rant?

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Re: Right...

@AC - hmmm, for some reason you seem to be thinking that I'm an Obama fanboi. Truth is I'm not US citizen, I don't think Obama is some sort of saviour, just that for all his faults he's the best of a pretty nasty bunch.

For what it's worth, yes, Obama did promise to clear up Bush's mess when elected but gave his predecessors free pass. However I'm not convinced he could have done more. He tried to close Guantanamo but was blocked by (Republican) Congress who refused funding for an alternative. And he found enough meltdown and all-out obstruction from political opponents even for just continuing some of Bush's policies (like the bailout, part 1 of which started under Bush). If he had indicted Cheney, Rumsfeld and all points down to the mid tiers of CIA for war crimes and torture, the US would have exploded into civil war. I guess vs CIA, he chose not to fight a battle that would have been very costly to both the US and himself personally whetherhe won or lost.

With respect to NSA intercepts, yes, Obama totally chickened out and allowed Patriot act abominations to continue unchecked. One point though, Obama is NOT the boss of NSA and CIA, these respond to Congress and the respective oversight committees. Obama can nominate the heads but these need to be approved by Congress.

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Re: Wouldn't fund an alternative

Why does he need an alternative? It sounds like the proposition here is to build "Gitmo 2.0." How is that any better?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Right...

For what it's worth, yes, Obama did promise to clear up Bush's mess when elected but gave his predecessors free pass

What about the worse mess Obama has created on his own? Didn't Obama promise to end warrantless surveillance? Didn't Obama promise "the most transparent administration in American history"? Isn't Obama head of the Executive Branch? Isn't the NSA and CIA part of the Executive Branch?

Why is Obama using the U.S. Constitution like toilet paper?

Obama is NOT the boss of NSA and CIA

Obama is the boss of the NSA and the CIA.

Did you flunk U.S. history in high school?

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@James Micallef

So we have another ignorant Obama supporter.

From the NSA's FAQ's on their website.

The Director, NSA/Chief, CSS, is GEN Keith B. Alexander, United States Army. The Director is appointed by the Secretary of Defense and approved by the President of the United States. The Director, NSA/Chief, CSS, is always a commissioned military officer with at least a rank of three stars. He also serves as the Commander, U.S. Cyber Command, in a dual assignment.

I didn't waste my time looking up CIA for you. I doubt you want facts any way.

Yes Congress has oversight committees for various agencies, but they don't run any of them.

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Mine is bigger than yours

... and was ready and waitng by the time this all came to light.

But it is OK their collection of my posts and the rest of it is only a PR joke.

Plus some people don't have internet tubes "and thus we can't get at them" he said.

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He is just a do nothing liberal

The actual terrrrrrst that caused all this was a chimpanzee from Texas. He set up the torture chambers in Guantanamo because the Iraqis they were torturing in makeshift freight container prisons were so objectionable that the inmates all objected at once and killed two completely innocent CIA researchers.

Poor little things. Ahhhh.

Now the research can be conducted in safety of all concerned. And at the leisure of everyone on the list. Those not on the list can be completly sure they are not on the list. Trust me, I'm a doctor -of news bulletins.

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I agree with all of the above

See title

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Happy

yawn

Yawn?

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Anonymous Coward

Dear Richard Ledgett,

Fuck off!

Yours etc, XX*

* I was going to use my handle but thought that I'd make the NSA work just a little bit harder.

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Trollface

Re: Dear Richard Ledgett,

Don't worry - they know exactly who you are and already have all your files.

Including your nude selfies.

Even the NSA needs to have someone to laugh at.

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The founding fathers!

Why is this such a trope in public discourse in the US?

Now granted I'm only following it from the sidelines, but it seems that somehow the argument that "it's what the founding fathers intended" or it's opposite is supposed to have weight.

And it might have weight if it wasn't used willy nilly all the bloody time! The argument is usually nothing more than "I think that Thomas Jefferson would agree with me".

So to Mr. NSA - if you truly believe that there is no trouble in how the checks and balances are applied, then why are many of these things apparently news to the committee meant to provide those checks and balances?

Oh and one last thing, this article was riddled with half-finished sentences and repeated phrases. Someone - not me - should proof read it.

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Re: The founding fathers!

It's more absurd than you'd think: admittedly obliquely, answering a popular British press criticism of the revolution, Jefferson wrote:

"And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? ... God forbid we should ever be 20. years without such a rebellion. ... What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."

Which obviously doesn't mean that the founding fathers considered intended the American constitution (and, indeed, the Constitution) to be a flexible thing but probably does mean that Americans need the largely unrestricted right to bear arms.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The founding fathers!

I've always liked Franklins often seemingly ambivalent view of the constitution and its likelihood of success. But in particular this speech, taken down apparently by James Madison:

"In these Sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its Faults, if they are such; because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well administered; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years, and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other."

I doubt very much he'd have been patting the NSA on the back were he around today.

http://www.pbs.org/benfranklin/pop_finalspeech.html

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Re: The founding fathers!

Because they assume that slave driving, tax shy, treaty breaking land thieves are the fount of all wisdom and can not possibly be wrong.

Also, since all of them are dead, it is safe to call upon them without contradiction.

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@ThornH

""And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? ... God forbid we should ever be 20. years without such a rebellion. ... What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.""

Actually that sounds somewhat like Chairman Mao's idea of a "continuous" revolution.

Which really is Communist.

Mine's the one with that little Red book in the side pocket.

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Re: The founding fathers!

I'm more for the right to arm bears, then we might see some action.

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Half truths because much of what Mr Snowden has released is up to five years out-of-date.

The other half - what has happened since 2008 - may be even more disturbing.

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Big Brother

"Ledgett said the NSA's core problem was that it was lousy at PR, rather than that it was invading innocent people's privacy"

It would appear that Ledgett is (one of) the NSA's core problems.

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It's funny because * it's ** true.

*everyone knows

**not

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"This ignores the fact that, as a contractor, he had no whistleblower protection under the law, not to mention was aware of what happened to other NSA staff who complained – such as William Binney, who was arrested at gunpoint in his shower and spent five years in legal limbo."

Ah yes, use fear to show others not to come forward when they see wrongs constantly being made.

"Ledgett said that the documents Snowden was responsible for leaking were full of "half-truths and distortions.""

The means the NSA were the ones producing half-truths and distortions. How do we know that is still not the case?

"The capabilities [of the NSA] are applied in very discreet, measured, controlled ways," the deputy director said."

Change discreet to secret (as in secret courts), measured must mean all information, controlled means long-term storage.

"“We don’t sit there and grind out metadata profiles of average people. If you’re not connected to one of those intelligence targets, you’re not of interest to us,” Ledgett insisted."

Intelligence target is probably a synonym for everyone. You don't need call data for everyone now do you?

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" '... If you’re not connected to one of those intelligence targets, you’re not of interest to us,' Ledgett insisted."

He may be correct, but missed out the word, "yet". Half-truth and distortion is a habit with these bastards.

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Facepalm

Excellent PR

"He claimed the agency only slurped the communications of targeted individuals"

And vice versa, if your comms are slurped, it means you're a target. Let's hope that the actual scale of slurping never becomes public... oh, bugger.

"and said that the vast majority of people who weren't on the target list had nothing to fear from his spies."

Whereas the remaining minority who weren't on the target list...

Oh dear. What a way to dig themselves out of the hole. They must be half way to China by now.

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Re: Excellent PR

And don't you know, EVERYONE is a target until proven innocent. That's the way NSA works. Collect it all, let "insert program name here" sort it out later.

I'll say it again. I have no problem with the CIA/NSA etc, doing data collection, but only where a warrant was issued. You can't tell me that in the 21st century, you can't email a judge and in 5 minutes have a warrant.

And really, no juicy pics from any of that surveillance, what's the world coming to ?? /jk

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To be fair, is there any point any more of covering what the NSA say about this? They are never going to say they were wrong, not ever, no matter what they have been caught doing now or in the future. They will always say its not true, its half true or that what they do is required. That after all, is their job. They are not going to say yes, sorry, we are all doing a bad job here, fire us. It makes no sense to listen to the accused defend themselves when they are still hiding the evidence required to prosecute them.

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Yes, there is *every* point in covering what they say, for exactly the reasons you point out.

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Won't believe him

Until he explains what Angela Merkel and the Brazilian state oil company have to do with terrorism, drug smuggling and child abuse, and why Clapper lied in public to congress then I imagine most people aren't going to swallow his bullshit, and will view Snowden as a (rather brave) whistleblower.

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Less 'PR', more truth please.

I agree that they are not explaining themselves to the public well enough.

The problem, however, is that every official statement or response (like this) is almost entirely composed of vague or intentionally un-defined terms. There is too much PR, not enough honesty.

So, only people who are "connected" to "intelligence targets" are of interest to the NSA?

That nice but offers no comfort whatsoever until you define what criteria constitutes an 'intelligence target' and who is 'connected' to that target. Likewise every other statement.

Spying is conducted in a "measured" fashion? Great - 100% is a measure.

You "are not" tapping world leaders' phones? Superb. But were you?

You "have not" spread malware to a million PCs at once. Couldn't be happier, but could you?

As always with politicians and 'public servants'*, ask them a direct question and they'll answer a different one.

* - I use the term so very, very loosely . . .

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Less 'PR', more truth please.

"So, only people who are "connected" to "intelligence targets" are of interest to the NSA?"

...and no matter who they start out watching, they always end up back at Kevin Bacon!

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Bollocks

"Ledgett said that the documents Snowden was responsible for leaking were full of "half-truths and distortions." As a result, the intelligence-gathering facilities of the US had been damaged."

What a load of absolute bollocks, so the US's ability to gather intelligence - which is actually compromising encryption standards, vandalising fiber cables, conducting government-sponsored cyber terrorism for which normal people would go to prison, tapping friendly mobile phones, and so, depressingly, on - is damaged because some documents got out which are full of what he calls half-truths? Terrorists are apparently barking up the wrong tree here, they just need to bang out some ropey Powerpoint docs to take down the US.

"He claimed the agency only slurped the communications of targeted individuals, and said that the vast majority of people who weren't on the target list had nothing to fear from his spies."

Yes, well that's bollocks too, but if we're being charitable it cuts both ways - honest, country-serving security agencies operating within the law have nothing to fear from disclosures by whistleblowers.

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Anonymous Coward

There's an arrogance to the US too...

The complete disregard for what the rest of the world wants. But they love talking down to us with fairytales of American lives saved! How much longer can the NSA defend itself this way until the rest of us in the outlands question whether the US is worth saving...

I lived there for two decades. I lost friends including my brother to random gun violence. I know this is more about Military Industrial Complex spending than protecting innocent lives. You should see how little is spent making the streets safer in major US cities. But when you're a millionaire congress bought and paid for, you don't have to take a bus very often.

Yes, the NSA Stasi is a runaway train. And with the US elite behaving more like a totalitarian regime every day, who can say the wealth gap won't eventually reach that of North Korea... Americans should study Squanderville versus Thriftville!

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Re: There's an arrogance to the US too...

I'm a US citizen, born here, and horrified by what my country has become. Yes, on the whole, Americans are smug, having been fed that "greatest free democracy in the world" line for at least since WWII. Yes, most are totally ignorant of world views, courtesy of our miserable "news"outlets. And the average cit has NO INTEREST in changing that, and in fact is proud of it. I have served as an election judge for a few years, and the level of interest and knowledge of even our own civics is nearly nil. If you ever want to get an idea of how far from informed the populace is, tune in to any Fox News, motto "fair and balanced", broadcast, and listen to the modern Goebbels and Himmler big lie. Please let me know, Reg community, how things go in your home countries, I'm shopping for where to go retire, somewhere that the gov isn't in my bedroom, the healthcare isn't for the rich only, and people can discuss issues and disagree politely without drawing weapons.

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Re: There's an arrogance to the US too...

Well, I'm still working on getting my wife to agree to return to the Czech Republic. Their government couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery (ironic, given the central role of beer in the country), so intelligence gathering is unlikely. Their press have few scruples, and are always trying to trip up governmental bodies. Their healthcare system is universal, though still about twenty years adrift of UK standards in terms of medical paternalism. The population are still so aware of how power can be abused they don't even allow police to have unmarked cars (unless that has changed in the last few years). Arguments about politics are common, but rarely (I've never seen it happen in over ten years) get beyond "Oh, fuck off!" Oh, and really good beer all over the place at reasonable prices!

Trouble is, whilst she would not want the country she grew up in until 1989 to come back, the new one isn't my wife's "home". I doubt we will ever live there.

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Checks and balances?!?!?!?!? We don't need no steenkin' checks and balances!

"The bigwig said that the US President James Madison, one of the key writers of the US Constitution, would be "would be proud" that the checks and balances enunciated by America's fourth president still worked in today's digital age."

Um, well, no. If they were working as intended, normal governance processes would have stuck a stake in the plan to do mass surveillance before it got off the ground. The NSA has been deliberately evasive, obtuse, obstructionist and lied about what it's been doing . . . to the committees that were (supposed to) provide oversight.

The NSA truly does have a bad PR problem, and Ledgett just adds to it . . .

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Anonymous Coward

Richard Ledgett

Dear sir,,do you think your life is at risk?

In the very few words you have spoken I think you have done more harm to the NSA than Mr. Snowden. I also think the NSA is,, as you say "NOT VERY GOOD AT PR."

& just curious,,, why were the head of state of so many countries "targeted"? ,,, Are they presumed to be terrorists?

Sorry I'm not impressed with you spy games,,BUT!!!!!! damn impressed with your capabilities.

As we all know power corrupts so,, no one can/should be trusted with all those capabilities.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Richard Ledgett

As we all know power corrupts so,, no one can/should be trusted with all those capabilities.

But what happens if it's shown that, at the same time, that same power becomes necessary to maintain the sovereignty of a country? IOW, it's shown to be a necessary evil?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Richard Ledgett

That depends how you define sovereignty. As far as I am aware there isn't any credible threat to US sovereignty that could potentially be foiled by spying on Merkel, normal US citizens or hell even European citizens.

I mean Osama bin Laden wasn't a credible threat to US sovereignty, though he (or his allies) could be a threat to US lives, but if that's what we're talking about then there are plenty of threats to US sovereignty interred in prisons inside the US - why are they not taking action against this massive threat?

But surely US sovereignty means that the US is allowed to do most of whatever it might feel like doing inside its borders (barring any genocides or such things). This might be where the argument stems from? But there is a difference between sovereignty and sovereign. So it's really only if the sovereign of the US agrees that mass surveillance is a great idea, that it would be a threat to the sovereignty if that surveillance was diminished. Problem is the sovereign of the US is supposed to be the US people, which leads to the fun little fact that we seem to have a sovereign spying on 'himself' without knowing it...

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Why does the NSA continue to lie?

I don't know why they bother to say stuff like "[T]he agency only slurped the communications of targeted individuals." It's clear that's untrue -- it's clear they record everything, and then (theoretically) only listen to stuff that they're interested in.

The real information that Snowden exposed is that those things that you knew were theoretically possible to do, but didn't seem worth doing, they *are* doing. Whether it's recording everything, or putting in sufficient backdoors to break any standard encryption algorithm, they're doing it.

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Black Helicopters

"discreet, measured, controlled ways"

I see…

"Is it secret?"

"Check!"

"Is it big?"

"Check!"

"Do we have control?"

"Check!"

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Don't Forget Boss Hogg

What this ignoramus fails to consider is that the local yokel Boss Hoggs of the world can tap into the NSA's database with the thinnest of reasons.

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