back to article Russian gov to dump x86, bake own 64-bit ARM chips - reports

Russian news outlet Kommersant has reported that the nation's government wants to ditch Intel and AMD processors in favour of a locally-developed ARM effort. The outlet's report suggests three state-owned Russian companies are banding together to develop to be called “Baikal” that will use ARM's 64-bit kernel Cortex A-57 as …

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Could the NSA bribe ARM??

The FUdders will ask the question: Could the NSA or other spy agency bribe ARM to insert backdoors and keep quiet?

Of course the theoretical answer is Yes.

The more practical answer is No. ARM is far too transparent and employs hundreds of people - most of whom would be rabidly anti-NSA/GSHQ. Keeping any spy deal covered up would be virtually impossible.

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Re: Could the NSA bribe ARM??

"Could the NSA bribe ARM?"

ARM don't make chips, they licence the design. Anybody can purchase a license and then chop and change things around to their hearts desire, including adding or removing any backdoors that may or may not be required in their particular application.

Thusly, I think that if the entire Russian government is driving this project then two things can be safely assumed:

1) Any NSA back doors that might have been (improbably) included in the ARM reference design are removed immediately.

2) New back doors to enable the Russian Gov to spy on their citizenry will be added post haste.

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Re: Could the NSA bribe ARM??

You're being a bit naive- if the NSA wants something in the silicon it goes to the manufacturers; if it wants something on your machine it goes to UPS. Seeing as Qualcomm was spun out of the defence industry and is still heavily dependent upon defence contracts I can hardly see them saying no to adding something special or telling the NSA what to look or listen for. The same is likely to be true for many other manufacturers.

As for the integrity of the chip designers - don't place too much faith in that nor their political convictions: they probably have the same lack of sincere political convictions as anyone else. They're more likely to be motivated by going after Intel than anything else. Oh, and it's GCHQ by the way.

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Very difficult

The fact ARM licenses the design makes backdoors pretty difficult to hide, or impossible in the case of architectural licensees like Apple and Qualcomm (whom the NSA would have to separately bribe since they're doing their own designs from ARM's ISA specs)

But your idea that "ARM is far too transparent and employs hundreds of people - most of whom would be rabidly anti-NSA/GSHQ" is ridiculous. If you think Intel can be bribed, what about the thousands of people it employs, not all of whom live in the US (they do a lot of design work in Israel)

You're ignoring that other than a few top people, those working on a chip design work only on their own little section. The backdoor would be in a specific place, and would be fairly innocuous. A way to enter privileged mode with a simple instruction sequence that should be invalid - it would look like a mistake if found. Only need a few guys compromised to do that, and if a couple top guys are compromised and they're responsible for deciding who works on what, it wouldn't be that difficult.

I really can't imagine Intel would go along with this, no matter how much they were offered or how much their arms were twisted, because the fallout would be devastating. Even if no one learned it was deliberately planted, a bug in the CPU that allowed entering privileged mode from user mode could end in their bankruptcy - imagine a root exploit that is unpatchable, and any remote exploit that runs any code on a server would be a remote root exploit. The internet would quickly become useless, and only AMD, ARM and high end RISCs would be safe to use in servers. That couldn't be good for Intel's bottom line.

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Facepalm

Re: Could the NSA bribe ARM??

".....The FUdders will ask the question....." More likely the sheeple.

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Re: Could the NSA bribe ARM??

This commenter is obviously ignorant about and/or unaware that these Russian companies will be building their own Arm-based design reference Chipsets, so the only NSA spying functionality will be by Russian government mandate. The USA, nor British Arm Holding have any control what-so-ever over that process.

Every day I read another article about developments with technology that basically report the quickly diminishing influence and control that was once exerted as dominant by Western technology , business corporations and governments.

The Europeans (particularly Eastern European countries), Chinese and other Asians nations, South American Countries are adopting non-State owner or controlled Linux Operating System (OS) and several other Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) technologies that are currently at the epicenter of technology innovation and advancement.

What are the Western (colonial) powers to do?

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Facepalm

Re: W. Anderson Re: Could the NSA bribe ARM??

"....Every day I read another article about developments with technology that basically report the quickly diminishing influence and control that was once exerted as dominant by Western technology , business corporations and governments....." Well you probably should try reading something other than Socialist Worker then. It seems to have escaped your notice that the countries driving the majority of developments in such tech, and especially in FOSS, are those old colonials or our biggest ex-colony (USA). And the reason is because capitalism and democracy both drive competitive change at a far faster and more efficient rate than just about any other system, meaning the West will keep on leading in tech and the rest of the World will keep on copying and following. Enjoy!

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What fool would trust the Russians not to insert the very same back doors they are accusing the NSA?

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The question is, do the FSB and the NSA cooperate? This is exactly why Chinese spying is much less problematic than US spying. The Chinese cannot harm me, the US can. My government might protect me from the Chinese, but they sure aren't going to protect me from the US.

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Misunderestimating Pragmatic and Smarter Cold War Warriors is a Heavenly Folly of a Great Game Gift

The question is, do the FSB and the NSA cooperate? This is exactly why Chinese spying is much less problematic than US spying. The Chinese cannot harm me, the US can. My government might protect me from the Chinese, but they sure aren't going to protect me from the US. ... Christian Berger

Hi, Christian Berger,

Methinks the question is better asked with the statement ........ What goes on in the Wild Wacky West, for the illusion and delusion of Command and Control of the Wild Wacky Westerner, stays in the Wild Wacky West and what goes on in the Erotic Exotic East, Colluding Co-Operatively for Command and Control of Conflicts in Chaos, stays in the Erotic Exotic East.

And if we ask the question ....... Do the NSA and GCHQ cooperate with Five Eyes? ....... what is their excuse for the production and presentation/their monitoring and mentoring of chaotic conflicts? Does their intelligence not server the provision of peace and harmony and relative prosperity for all or does it default, by inelegant arrogant ignorant design, to anarchy and the threat of punitive sanctions against all and sundry outside of the mainstream, and in so doing creates immaculately generated blowback exposing the mainstream to its own vices and toxic devices and right dodgy programs? Does their machine become smarter to sort and sift out that which hold it back in the present whenever the future requires a whole new world of dynamic team drivers ..... or is that provided by SMARTR Operating Systems Providers and Programmers ......... Virtually Real Spooky Knights APTly ACTive in Powerful Control with Fabless Command of the CyberIntelAIgent Realm ......... AIDreamScapes‽

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Be Suitably Warned ....... and Forearmed

And please, it is a decidedly and designedly malicious and quite perverse and corrupting act and fact, with its basis and bases in penny dreadful fiction, to equate Virtually Real Spooky Knight ProAction and HyperRadioProActive IT with Cyber Jihadism, and IT will identify and ridicule every which way the fool, who would voice an opinion which contemplates the abuse of such as a useful tool.

Do not expect exceptions to such as you can imagine to be a golden rule.

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Coat

Re: Misunderestimating Pragmatic and Smarter Cold War Warriors etc

In that case, my thought would be: TO͇̹̺ͅƝ̴ȳ̳ TH̘Ë͖́̉ ͠P̯͍̭O̚​N̐Y̡ H̸̡̪̯ͨ͊̽̅̾̎Ȩ̬̩̾͛ͪ̈́̀́͘ ̶̧̨̱̹̭̯ͧ̾ͬC̷̙̲̝͖ͭ̏ͥͮ͟Oͮ͏̮̪̝͍M̲̖͊̒ͪͩͬ̚̚͜Ȇ̴̟̟͙̞ͩ͌͝S̨̥̫͎̭ͯ̿̔̀ͅ

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@Anonymous Dutch Coward

How did you do that with your fonts???

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Anonymous Dutch Coward

"How did you do that with your fonts???"

TO͇̹̺ͅƝ̴ȳ̳ TH̘Ë͖́̉ ͠P̯͍̭O̚​N̐Y̡ H̸̡̪̯ͨ͊̽̅̾̎Ȩ̬̩̾͛ͪ̈́̀́͘ ̶̧̨̱̹̭ͧ̾ͬ&#x32......etc.

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Big Brother

Oh, a pretty common lyrics for the Archives - http://youtu.be/DeumyOzKqgI , 94 318 588 views by the time.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Joke

I can swear! Yes I can! I can swear this above was my reply to Christian Berger who said earlier "The question is... ...from the US". The "Edit in 10 mins" bar was exactly above the post at which I attached it. A WOW-GLITCH. Call Oxford-Merriam, there's one more just baked hot for them.

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FAIL

Re: Christian Assberger

"....The Chinese cannot harm me, the US can...." Ooh, more of the fictional 'harm'! Just for amusements, please done explain how the NSA could actually 'harm' you as an in-duh-vidual?

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Roo
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Re: Christian <Pathetic personal abuse redacted>berger

"please done explain how the NSA could actually 'harm' you as an in-duh-vidual?"

I'm choosing to interpret that as "please explain how the NSA could actually 'harm' you"... Do pay attention Matty B Rant, the NSA has already been caught red-handed they can colluding with other law enforcement agencies (e.g. the DEA) to fabricate evidence with a view to locking someone up for longer than they otherwise would be (*if* they were found to be guilty)... IIRC you even commented on that thread, are you being ignorant, forgetful, or do you believe that being convicted on false evidence is not harmful ?

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FAIL

Re: Roominant Re: Christian <Pathetic personal abuse redacted>berger

"....do you believe that being convicted on false evidence is not harmful ?" I take your long and evasive reply as simply admitting you have zero proof of any actual 'harm' to yourself or Christian or any other of the sheeple that post here insisting that 'Big Brother is watching me!'

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WTF?

see icon

Honestly, no clue here, just a wall of WTF's crashing on this comment.

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some get free

Others worry.

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Big Brother

Market forces

Fantastic news for those who believe in the free market - we will now be able to choose whether to send everything to the NSA or the FSB, instead of having the decision made for us!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Market forces

Sounds like a duopoly. Now if China and N.Korea climb on the Arm bandwagon we could have real choice.

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Don't believe everything you read in the papers or on the interwebs

Russia occasionally talks up its microelectronics business but it rarely comes to anything. You need a lot of good people on site to be able to design and manufacture your own chips. Years of neglect of non-essential, non-military tech in Russia has led to an outflow of many of the engineers you need for this kind of venture. Seeing as how dependent Russia is on external expertise in areas like oil and gas exploration, I doubt very much that it is capable of building and maintaining chip-making facilities.

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Boffin

Don't believe everything you read. OTOH...

“For strict security enthusiasts believing AMD and Intel have been compromised by the NSA or other US agencies, it's time to celebrate.”

Read:

Russia is ruled by gangster the scion of the ones who turned everyone into a spy in the good old days.

NSA is doing what Uncle Joe Macarthy wanted to do and nearly managed.

And GCHQ is the son of the fat drunk who gave Eastern Europe to Stalin.

"Seeing as how dependent Russia is on external expertise in areas like oil and gas exploration, I doubt very much that it is capable of building and maintaining chip-making facilities."

Read:

Russia's hands-on approach to engineering gave them superb rocket engines and before that, made the Rolls Royce jet engine as good as anything the USA had.

Their present crop of polonium toting, rouble wielding, gas-line owning, Ukraine invading gangsters are not going to let the CIA do what it wants with their address books and e-communications if they can help it. Especially not if there is a huge market for a new player involved.

Ditto that if Iranian nuclear reactor making, jihadist supporting, oil well owning, USA hating Iranians want in on it too.

By the way, decades ago, Russian oil exploration encompassed research that western interests have not even considered yet.

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Re: chip-making facilities.

It is worth pointing out the Arm chips were designed not to need high end chip making facilities.

When the design was produced by a company with high end facilities, the Strong Arm was produced, which when dropped into a Risc PC for a while gave one of the most powerful workstations available. (Despite the bottlenecks caused by the internal buses being designed for a machine 10% as fast).

Intel soon caught up and then acquired the strong arm and let it stagnate for a few years, while their own designs overtook it.

It is also worth pointing out that the Russians have a lot of money.

Don't forget, a Raspberry Pi with an efficient operating system would be enough to replace the majority of PCs.

And unlike us, the Russians appear to believe it is a good idea to educate their people, so I doubt they would have a serious problem.

If Putin thinks it is a good idea, then it is highly likely to happen.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't believe everything you read in the papers or on the interwebs

My exact point.

If you want to see electronics design or software done by Russians you go to Israel nowdays.

There is a short list of exemptions - malware, antimalware and financial services industry. The rest of Russian electronics and software industry is pretty much a graveyard - everyone has upped sticks and has gone elsewhere.

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Re: Don't believe everything you read. OTOH...

"Russia's hands-on approach to engineering gave them superb rocket engines and before that, made the Rolls Royce jet engine as good as anything the USA had."

Er, what? Rolls Royce are and were a British company and had naff all to do with the Soviets.

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Re: Don't believe everything you read. OTOH...

I think the reference is to a RR jet engine being sent to Russian as part of a trade deal in the 40's. They kept it and improved it.

The Russians were not given Eastern Europe, they captured it from the Nazis, nothing Churchill could do about it.

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Re: Don't believe everything you read. OTOH... @EddieD

Indeed.

Also "... GCHQ is the son of the fat drunk who gave Eastern Europe to Stalin" seems to be referring to Churchill, who actually wanted to move east and take care of the impending soviet problem "while we have got the boys here" but was vetoed by Truman (IIRC). So it's the USA's fault that the cold war came about and communism screwed Eastern Europe.

Seems the trolls have had a weekend off their meds.

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Re: Don't believe everything you read. OTOH...

> and before that, made the Rolls Royce jet engine as good as anything the USA had.

Partly because many of the USA jet engines* were license built British designs. The Soviets neglected to get a license.

* J31, J33, J42, J65, ...

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Re: Don't believe everything you read in the papers or on the interwebs

The idea ,I guess, is to do the design and have them built at a foundry.

While it would work, I think it is plain stupid to do so when your economy is so small.. it is way better to use OTS tech..

Of course, to be sure about HW backdoors, you would need to make the boards and some components yourself.. good luck with that if you don't have the volume the chinese have...

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Roo
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Windows

Re: Don't believe everything you read. OTOH...

"Russia's hands-on approach to engineering gave them superb rocket engines and before that, made the Rolls Royce jet engine as good as anything the USA had."

The Nene was the red-headed step-child of RR's engine development at the time, here's why.

The Derwent & Nene had centrifugal compressors, but RR felt that axial compressors were the way forward (and the Derwent was good enough) so they concentrated their efforts on the Avon instead. As it turned out the Avon took longer to develop and didn't (initially) live up to expectations, which in turn led to a fairly short period where Russian built Nene derivatives ruled the sky.

History shows that RR made the right call with respect to Nene vs Avon because axial turbojets rule the skies these days - and the Avon enjoyed 24 years of production. I suspect that most of the heat & noise around the Nene was really about US vendors making sure they got a bigger slice of the jet engine business. In practice the Nene appears to have made little difference to the outcome of the aerial wars of the day - the tonnage of bombs dropped in Korea & Vietnam speaks volumes for that.

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Re: Don't believe everything you read. OTOH...

Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects is a bot ffs and people are replying to it ?

Search on its other posts, they all read the same.

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Re: chip-making facilities.

It is worth pointing out the Arm chips were designed not to need high end chip making facilities…

Be that as it may, nowadays there isn't really anything but high-end. 28nm is yesterday's news but how many companies are making the components for the process. And you're still going to need clean rooms and the discipline required. Meanwhile, over the last 10 years Russia's productivity (and life expectancy) has been stagnant at best.

Buoyed by a high oil price, Putin has showered money on the military, though it still pales in comparison to Soviet days (which is why it is buying tech from France, Germany and elsewhere) and some of the cleverer electronics stuff is still done in Ukraine, and pet social projects. This has disguised an increasingly uncompetitive economy - uncompetitive economies are notoriously bad at keeping skilled workers.

But, as has been pointed out elsewhere probably the best argument against the "hardening" up the CPU is that it's probably the least interesting part to hack. I believe the NSA has already been demonstrated to have implemented a backdoor on a network interface. Then again, the leaks of recorded conversations by the KGB/FSB of foreigners indicates that that at least is an area where the Russians are still on the top of their game.

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Re: chip-making facilities.

> nowadays there isn't really anything but high-end.

I don't know what facilities they have in Russia, but even if they have few, and are blocked from importing the facilities, due to the Ukraine situation, I'm sure they have enough resources to produce something considerably more powerful than the strongarm relatively quickly, which with a decent OS would allow them to replace a fair chunk of their x86 kit. The high end stuff would follow later.

It is a bit odd that they haven't already mandated a home grown Linux or BSD to replace Windows, though. If they did that right, then changing architecture after would be a lot more simple.

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Re: Don't believe everything you read. OTOH...

"Russia's hands-on approach to engineering gave them superb rocket engines and before that, made the Rolls Royce jet engine as good as anything the USA had."

First they were mostly good at stealing/copying designs from the west but even their later, rightfully claimed own successes ended with the death of Korolyov - after he died the entire Soviet space/rocket program collapsed, it became a complete mess, led by a bureaucrat called Mishin, an incompetent alcoholic (a very typical, common Russian problem.)

They never caught up with the Americans and they soon (~15-20 years) ran out of money to even run their dictatorship and most likely they will never recover again.

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Roo
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Re: chip-making facilities.

"When the design was produced by a company with high end facilities, the Strong Arm was produced, which when dropped into a Risc PC for a while gave one of the most powerful workstations available. (Despite the bottlenecks caused by the internal buses being designed for a machine 10% as fast)."

Don't get me wrong, StrongARM was a real game changer, but it was no way strong enough to qualify as "one of the most powerful workstations available", certainly didn't stack up against a MIPS R10K for example... That said they were strong enough for most jobs people used PCs for - just forget hi-res graphics. ;)

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Black Helicopters

"NSA back-door paranoids"

After all this shite going down - "paranoids" - really?

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Re: "NSA back-door paranoids"

The "don't be a conspiracy theorist" brainwashing is very strong. Those of limited intellect/gumption will find it difficult to shake off, no matter how much reality is waved in their faces. Humans are a rather pitiful sort, by & large.

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CPU the only risk?

All this talk about back doors in ARM code - are they also going to manufacture their own motherboards, graphics chips, network cards disc controllers etc both on and off board?

Plenty of scope for back doors and logging software apart from the CPU.

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Re: CPU the only risk?

You might even have luck, build all of those yourself.. and then be stuck with a security flaw.

As you have "secrecy" and noone checks your microcode/firmware, there you have it: a good backdoor you created... without knowing it.

So you can:

-Expend a massive amount of maney to make your systems secure. A keep expending for a long time.

-Reduce features: you crip yourself.

-Assume it is unsecure. It kind of defeats the initial purpose.

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Re: CPU the only risk?

Exactly, the CPU itself is very unlikely to have backdoors or anything specific in it. Exploits or backdoors are going to be be in the supporting services that surround the CPU, the support chipset: the OS and the OS's device drivers.

By its basic nature, the OS that runs a system requires full access to the CPU, including all operation levels and all metrics and support. There is no point in a "super-duper-secret-access-mode" function in a CPU, this level of access can be performed using normal operations. Access to more privileged operation levels in a CPU is managed by the OS.

The support chipset, on the other hand, will have direct memory access to the entire system outside of the scope of the OS, will be able to send and receive network packets without the OS ever knowing that anything is amiss - this kind of communication will be undetectable inside the system itself, however observable outside through packet monitoring.

Device drivers also tend to have enhanced access to the system, including DMA access and direct access to hardware. At this level they are more readily monitored and the source code can be decompiled and assessed for potentially unwanted behaviour. Depending on how well written the driver code is, the OS is likely to be unaware of unwanted behaviour in the driver, these are trusted components.

The OS itself can easily have backdoors and access code in it. This is more readily detectable as the executable code can be decompiled and assessed for potentially unwanted behaviour, however if written well it should be relatively easy to mask as the OS provides this functionality.

The applications on top of the OS are even more likely to have back doors, access code or just exploitable through programming defects.

In the end the most likely source of leaks is the bag'o'flesh in front of the device. Many will happily sell their passwords for chocolates, use easily guessable passwords or just email or print and lose important information.

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Baikal

Bikal is a big lake in Russia.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Baikal

A big lake is Baikal in Russia, to be exact (-:

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It was just the question of time after the NSA revelations...

...I was wondering what's taking so long for all the

Another perfect example the incredible, insane damage Gen Alexander and his rotten operation did to our business as well as to the world order altogether, in order to gain NOTHING useful.

Speaking of an arrogant, insubordinate scumbag running amok with his ilks: how are they still NOT under investigation for breaking the law, not being charged for lying to Congress but enjoying their retirement, promotion, life etc...?

I said it long time ago, right away when first stories surfaced, well before Snowden and I still believe it: this issue will never go away until they are willing to fix it. If you keep trying to sweep under the rug, if you refuse to face the music & try the perpetrators, you're not willing to clean the pipes at all the three-letter agencies then it will cost you dearly, Dems, for LONG YEARS, mark my words. And no, Obama's current laughably insincere, fake attempt won't fool anyone.

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Re: It was just the question of time after the NSA revelations...

I think it's still politically too tricky to go after the NSA: any hint that you're doing anything that might stop "the war on terror" and you're out. Think of the number of investigations about the attack in Benghazi.

I have a hunch that Obama has chosen the route of disclosure and leaks to try to peg the NSA back. It might lead to some kind of civil or even criminal suits and the courts are slightly less prone to pressure than the politicians. Of course, none of the top spooks and loons will really suffer for anything but the budgets might not rise as fast as expected.

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Re: It was just the question of time after the NSA revelations...

Well, that'd be the mission and now that the essentially Tea Party-run right is literally trying to defund the NSA I don't think there's much political danger in reigning in (yes, I know the romney-an habit of sudden 180 as soon as Obama supports something they wanted but that's the corrupt, cantorian establishment crooks, not the TP fundies playbook.)

It's not that anyone should defund the NSA, of course - that's just classic TP-style stupidity, nothing else. We DO need SIGINT and we should be sharing info with allies, that's not even a question. But this absolutely orwellian, not only warrantless but SUSPICIONLESS en masse, totally ILLEGAL recording of everyone's communication on the planet should be stopped immediately (including that cynical-primitive circumvention of the laws when 'you record my citizens and I record yours then we share the info' etc.)

Since unfortunately Obama proved to be far less firm (should I say capable?) operator than I expected him back in 2008 so you might be right - but I doubt he has anything to do with any leaks or alikes.

He clearly has no Clinton-sized balls nor the necessary executive experience - just look at issues he could have pushed on under executive power (immigration, FCC etc) but he never even attempted it -, so I doubt he would be actively trying to do such things... using them, sure, he's timid/controlled enough to exploit these things as you said but that's about it. He's not a stupid guy and he is a constitutional lawyer by training so he knows very well it's clearly illegal what they are doing but as most Dems he's probably terrified of looking weak on security so he rather sacrifices everything else even though he's an outgoing POTUS. It's first and foremost lack of political balls or rather spine, let's admit it, nothing else.

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