back to article NSA: Inside the FIVE-EYED VAMPIRE SQUID of the INTERNET

One year after The Guardian opened up the trove of top secret American and British documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) sysadmin Edward J Snowden, the world of data security and personal information safety has been turned on its head. Everything about the safety of the internet as a common communication …

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Re: Not that I particularly like being spied on, but...

The ARPANET was intended to provide secure facilities (primarily against physical disruption) for DoD command and control in the event of war, particularly nuclear war. It meshed well with other activity, mostly academic, but some of it commercial in nature, that was going on at about the same time. Claims that it was developed in order to spy on the population at large is hopelessly paranoid nonsense, as is a sizable part of the contemporary material being written about the NSA, Five Eyes, and occasionally others.

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Re: Not that I particularly like being spied on, but...

"Claims that it was developed in order to spy on the population at large is hopelessly paranoid nonsense,"

But ignoring the fact that it has been co-opted as a tool to do so is sheer folly.

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Re: Not that I particularly like being spied on, but...

"[I]gnoring the fact that [the Internet] has been co-opted as a tool to [spy on people] is sheer folly."

As was the case with radio signals in the '50s - '80s (and forward - I think listening facilities at Menwith hill and Martinsburg, WV still are in business); and also with telephone/telegraph before that. The Authorities in all countries have used these facilities sometimes to spy, but none of them was developed for the purpose of doing so and claims to the contrary are rubbish.

I don't have to like some of the uses, and don't; and I don't have to think they are effective in accomplishing some of the stated purposes, and do not. I also do not have to fall mindlessly in line with the current moral panic and believe that communication surveillance is being used for general ill or that it adds materially to the powers that various government agencies already have, and always have had. And absent evidence, I will not.

It is curious that so many, when faced with what they consider gross government misconduct, having lost all trust in the government, still fall back on passage of laws to fence it in. Today is "Reset the Net" day, in which a number of organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Software Foundation are pushing to get people to take care of themselves with things like PGP, Pidgin, TOR, and Cryptocat. It will be interesting to see how many go for that in place of the basically passive and trusting advocacy of laws that may constrain democratic governments but will do little to nothing to protect against either undemocratic regimes or criminals.

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Windows

Arpanet explored FDX-RR telegraph suvivorability

Windows Users need to look closely at what they are doing...

Full Duplex Round Robin telegraph circuits along with message relay protocol allowed messages to actually be delivered with lines failing randomly and continiously...

Data communication providers like IBM finally realized they could never have enough private data circuits to get around an area outage... Same scene for Boeing Data Services and probably the World's Military had similar problems...

Communication Networks were based around: long haul pilot-wire cable facilities (Russian 30 channel analog), Analog coaxial facilities (WECO L1 thru L4), and Microwave Analog or Digital Radio (many proprietary vendors, all incompatable with each other)... there was no method to restore anything beyond a single point of failure...

Darpa decided to fix this...the Arpa net was and is simply a test vehicle...to emulate the old 'We Get Through Regardless' telegraph message protocol... Hint: look at the ARRL message handling system, it works exactly like the Internet does in the failure mode (only for a single Ham Radio text message).

IMHO= it is sad that spying by everyone proceeded secretly along with the development of a working internet... somehow we need to find a middle path thru it to keep our civilization together as we go through the Arrow of Time (simply ignoring Government meddeling and Military excess actually works, ask the Tibet folks, who after being absorbed by China are actually still Tibet folks = forever)...RS.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not that I particularly like being spied on, but...

"[...] and also with telephone/telegraph before that."

In the 17th century the UK Post Office was given a monopoly over public letter posts for one reason only. All letters went through a State office where they could be opened and the contents copied. They were then resealed so that it was not apparent that they had been opened.The archives still contain some of the transcripts.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not that I particularly like being spied on, but...

In the 17th century there were three civil wars, Spanish plotters with a credible threat to take over the country, and Dutch invasions facilitated by a substantial Dutch population in East Anglia and Essex. There was also a lot of piracy, much of it covertly operated by British aristocrats. There was, in fact, a lot of justification for surveillance.

Whether or not that is the case now is arguable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not that I particularly like being spied on, but...

A technical solution to stop government snooping isn't going to do any good. We have seen how ruthlessly determined they are to acquire your data. Anything new shows up and they'll just crack it. And guess how they'll pay for the effort of cracking it? With your tax money.

' I had in mind something a little more radical... '

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Trollface

Came for Matt Bryant butthurt . . .

. . . leaving disappointed.

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Roo
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Windows

Re: Came for Matt Bryant butthurt . . .

I think Matt is genuinely trying to reintegrate with wider society, but I fear that he may be struggling to construct a post without the word "sheeple" and/or personal insults.

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Anonymous Coward

Is the net progressing or regressing?....

Posted this before so sorry for the repeat, but after reading Duncan's article I feel even more disdain for our tech future...

I started out using the net @ uni for a comp-sci degree in the early 90's. It held so much promise. Around the mid to late 90's it started to become over-commercialised, but it still had promise. However, now it just isn't fun anymore: E-Snowden NSA privacy revelations, Heartbleed, the Adobe cloud fiasco, The 'Target' hack, eBay / Paypal weekly meltdowns, Google's stated goal of ads on the internet of everything ....

I used to be the go-to guy for family friends for tech matters, but I can't be anymore. How can I assure them of anything when even the CEO of Symantec-Norton admits that their own AV / Malware / Phishing products are a sham! I can't even offer advice regarding financial hacking or data privacy, or government spying, because the attack vectors are beyond me...

I have a home based business. I used to diligently roll out updates and patches and even made assumptions that made me sleep better at night. But who has the time anymore?! I now leave most of my office machines permanently unplugged and off-the-net (and use a USB sparingly by air only when necessary).

For the machines that are still 'live', I dedicate one to design, another to financial / accounting, and anther to (risky) browsing, and isolate all onto different networks... All the while I'm thinking how is this f'ing progress?!!!! In addition I no longer have an active financial presence online, because I don't think the banks / retailers etc, are doing enough to protect consumers, much to the chagrin of pollyannic customer service departments.

But I used to love the internet and I lament the fact there's so many sheeple using it, thereby fuelling the rise in hacks and scams in this spy-on-ourselves culture... I cannot help but ask, why have an electronic presence that only makes you a mark in the eyes of the five eyes? Why have eBay / Paypal account when you're just a mark to a hacker with ultra-fast broadband in a small town in Romania you've never heard of?... Same goes for Google+, FB, Yahoo and MS mail etc...

When the net isn't about privacy violations, scamming, account hacking and data breaches, its saturated by the latest celebrity vampire leveraging it for all its worth... Driven on by a fickle global-media praying at the altar of the new shinny Twitter, Facebook, Google: 'God'...

So am I the only one retrenching from the net?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is the net progressing or regressing?....

Nope, I no longer connect anything to the internet.

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Re: Is the net progressing or regressing?....

Too late, these days if you suddenly stopped all your inline comms it's bound to raise a flag faster than you can say 'oh no, don't shoot, I was only being sarcastic!'

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DJ

Absolutely. I think...

The picture in this story, purportedly showing the NSA repacking a bit of Cisco kit, or kit being shipped in a Cisco box, or a box designed to look like an actual Cisco box, is very convincing.

I now firmly believe Cisco uses brown cardboard boxes to ship some of its products.

Beyond that, I wouldn't want that to be the only evidence in a case against anyone, even a creepy out-of-control government agency. Then again...

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Big Brother

But

during the cold war , we (Nato) were cheerfully hacking into russian comm cables and leaching off data by the bucket load until it was given away by a traitor or the russians found the splice themselves.

Or the russians during WW2 invited the western allies to conferences , then systematically bugged every room in the building...

So its nothing new

Its just a lot harder sifting through all that internet traffic now looking for that one e.mail containing the words 'nuclear', 'bomb', 'london', 'tommorrow' and 'jihad'............ eeeekk men at the doorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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Unhappy

Re: But

"during the cold war , we (Nato) were cheerfully hacking into russian comm cables and leaching off data by the bucket load until it was given away by a traitor or the russians found the splice themselves."

Except these were actual opponents. The tapping of the Russian lines (in East Germany IIRC) was for military telephone lines, not just some random Russian telephone callers.

Which is exactly the target of this surveillance.

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Anonymous Coward

Question to folks doing the shopping

How likely is it that you buy Cisco gear in the near future?

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Re: Question to folks doing the shopping

|Question to folks doing the shopping

|How likely is it that you buy Cisco gear in the near future?

Do You think Huawei is any better, The entire Telenor backbone (Norways largest telco) is now Huawei.

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Anonymous Coward

Nope. It simply depends

… upon whom you prefer to be spied on by. There is an interesting passage in Greenwald's book about this.

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The Huge Elephant in the Room ...... which isn't going away ever anytime soon.

It is always the corrupt and inequitable systems which have the major self-destructive admin problem, as they cannot freely trade the truth because it would destroy them, and they be also forced to deliver ever more implausible and easily unravelled economies of truth, which be really just sugar coated lies and damning untruths to try miserably and ultimately unsuccessfully to further mislead the masses away from the information and intelligence they be seeking, which is itself really only the truth of their imposed virtual reality with the control of paper wealth and politically inept media messaging. One does wonder what the BBC think they be doing with their programs which paint such dreary sub-prime pictures? Do they not have a creative director worthy of the title? And quite obviously not is the truthful answer to that question, and that's no lie.

Sharers of the truth have the whole wide wacky world of the internet and ITs world wide webs on their side providing reinforcing support for that which they be selflessly peddling/pimping/pumping/supplying and need not to arrange secret meetings and confidential conferences and security summits to discuss how they are going to try and retain and maintain corrupted and collapsing command and control which extraordinarily renders them and their support staff as leading targets for especial attention.

Food for Thought and Thoughts for the D Day Zeroday ........ "When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get rich more easily by graft than by work, and your laws no longer protect you against them, but protect them against you, you may know that your society is doomed." - Ayn Rand

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Re: The Huge Elephant in the Room ...... which isn't going away ever anytime soon.

Thanks for the quote, I also found these gems..

The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

It only stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master.

Ayn Rand

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Re: The Huge Elephant in the Room ...... which isn't going away ever anytime soon.

FFS amanfrommars is a bot, and you are replying to it ?

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Who cares about commercial crypto ?

When this all depends upon previously amateur stuff like OpenSSL where they found gaping holes due to the guy who maintains it having to do something else for a living ? Actually that was the case until last month, when organisations realised they were sufficiently dependent upon it that they started paying to have it maintained. http://opensslfoundation.com/freesupport.html

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Unhappy

Intel Inside

Spying on you 24/7.

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It's not so much the monitoring (lets be honest we're all aware it has been going on since at least the end of WW2); it's that there doesn't seem to be much value for money from it.

Maybe to justify the investment it would be good to see some results, rather than this project cost X million; and has produced... nothing. Although there is the question on how much suppression of information helped the US backed terrorist organization (ie IRA), and what the UK received in return.

Ok these are civil servants mandarins, so they can do what they want, but come on. I'm tired of reading about 'how to stop people from UK/Canada travelling to join an extremist group' more needs to be done. If with all their resources 5 eyes can not stop this then why are we paying for their incompetence?

If there is going to be monitoring to this extent please can they at least be competent at it. Is it too much to ask??

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The governments of all the Five Eyes countries for the most part respect individual liberty, and will not be able, or even seriously attempt to prevent potential jihad participants from travelling to join extremist groups elsewhere. They are likely to be much more interested in keeping track of those travellers, especially those who return after a period. Even then, though, it is not necessarily effective, as indicated by the FBI investigation of Russian warnings about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of those believed to have committed the Boston Marathon bombing. While this has nothing to do with SIGINT agencies, it is suggestive of the diffidence of federal agencies in following up on nebulous information.

I'm not clear what lucki bstard meant by "US backe terrorist organization (ie IRA)". My recollection is that a number of US citizens and US residents of Irish origin were believed involved in raising funds an obtaining weapons for the IRA, and that some of them were arrested and charged with various crimes. It is not clear that this properly called US backing.

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Anonymous Coward

It seems that in the eyes of many reg readers, it is not OK for governments to access their personal information and communications. However, it seems that most people are fine with Google intercepting, reading, storing and otherwise using their customers personal communications for their own commercial ends. In fact, many reg readers go out and buy devices powered by Google software, which massively enhances Googles ability to spy on them.

Perhaps the NSA should just launch a phone operating system and try to persuade people that it is 'Open Source' and that it is 'mainly Linux'. Once they have done this, reg readers would apparently be massively supportive.

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I am very much not OK with all of that.

I try to avoid using Google where I can and I don't have a FB account. I use cash where possible and I don't even have a supermarket loyalty card.

But the sad thing is, these companies probably still have a pretty comprehensive profile of me.

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At first thought your argument seems persuasive, but as (I believe it was) Edward Snowden said: Google have the power to advertise to you, the State has the power to put you in prison, and potentially execute you.

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What's particularly annoying is that none of this Internet stuff actually helps real, actual, physical security. More likely, the information is fed directly to American companies to try and shaft the very partners that gave them the information in the first place.

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Isn't the Register concerned about a "response" from GCHQ for revealing all of this in an article posted on the web? How did this article make it onto the web without the GCHQ and NSA not knowing about it beforehand and preventing it? More to the point, how did Edward Snowden manage to sneak multiple laptops and this information out of NSA facilities? And further, How can the NSA not be aware of his exact whereabouts, with the wide reach of this "Vampire Squid?

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The only mitigation I can think of is to use the same techniques the military has been using for more than half a century: Encrypt everything and blast out random garbage 24/7 on all transmitters.

The register should start by making this site https enabled and we need internet browsing bots that randomly connect to sites. Email obfuscation is already done quite well by spammers, we just need to modify it a bit.

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Nym

Here's my interesting comment:

Ever wonder why so few people who have worked for the NSA have opened up...and why so many children with high clearances forced on them come back from the war hopelessly screwed up and unable to talk about it, even years later?

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Give me Freedom over Tyranny

You don't defend freedom by creating tyranny.

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I don't know why anyone is worried. It's not as if our secret service would ever covertly plot to overthrow our elected government.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Wilson_conspiracy_theories#The_1968_plot

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Getting Right Down to the Nub and Hub of the Matter and Current Madnesses

The Secret Intelligence and Security Services would be failing King/Queen and country catastrophically if they weren't presently, and have not been for some considerable time, monitoring and collecting all communications and activities of Parliamentarians, whether they be in government office or in the cynical and contrived Opposition, although there is a certain arrogance and ignorance in the honourable member ranks, which as we all know, as they have proven themselves to be so, are far from being honest and honourable at all, in their thinking that they should be somehow except and immune from covert and even clandestine oversight. ......... http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/may/04/greens-legal-challenge-gchq-surveillance

Good grief ........ who is it that starts unwinnable wars and benefits personally financially from such idiocy?

One wonders what Intelligence is waiting for if they know what stupidity is in the offing?

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Americans

I suspect the view that the NSA is in the wrong here is from a distinct but vocal minority, the rest don't care or actively support.

I spoke to my former US boss last year around the time the Snowden leaks came out. His view was fully supportive of the NSA as the ROW is full of "bad guys" and he expected the US "good guys" to do whatever it takes.

All of the brouhaha is really unnecessary:-

1. Governments need to protect their interests

2. To achieve this they spy on each other and as they don't trust the public they spy on them.

3. They will use their authority to oblige the tech companies to make it easier to do #2.

4. Voting only changes who sits in the posh seats in national Parliaments; #1 stays the same.

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Re: Americans

Doing "whatever it takes" is the definition of what a "bad guy" does.

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WTF?

This will continue so long as the ...

British public don't give a damn. The action by the nerdish-looking wimp of a cabinet secretary in destroying The Guardian's computer equipment (albeit it fit for the junk yard) is the sort of action we associate with China and Russia - except they would have no doubt shot them, too - NOT in the UK.

Where is the accountability when a piece of a*sewipe like this man can threaten reasonable newspaper coverage? There are few fora where Heywood can be questioned and held accountable for his illegal actions.

With an election coming soon, the opportunity to remove Cameron, and Heywood, looms. Neither of these people either deserve the office they hold, neither are they fit for the job.

Let's hope that some of the Arabic emirates tell the UK and the USA to take their toys and leave.

As for cable failures, Malaysia/Singapore/VietNam links to the USA went down just before Christmas last and ever since we have been suffering from intermittent outages. Could be a fishing boat at the depth the break occurred, and likewise it wouldn't be an anchor.

Where is the Jimmy Carter these days?

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Re: This will continue so long as the ...

The problem though is that Labour is even more authoritarian than the Tories.

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Only 1 OS is safe !

http://tinfoilhat.shmoo.com/ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinfoil_Hat_Linux)

- no networking (as thats how 'they' get to you)

- Even reading the screen over the user's shoulder is very hard when Tinfoil Hat is switched to paranoid mode, which sets the screen to a very low contrast.

- Power usage and other side channel attacks — Under the Paranoid options, a copy of GPG runs in the background generating keys and encrypting random documents. This makes it harder to determine when real encryption is taking place.

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Black Helicopters

This is why we should fight against it.

Want an example of why we should be worried about snooping on the internet ?

Take a load of this morning headline :

Thai junta tracks internet posting to capture protest leader

gulfnews.com - ‎1 hour ago‎

Bangkok: Thai security forces have tracked down and detained a prominent activist who helped organise protests against last month's military coup from comments he posted on the internet, officials said on Friday.

That's why. Dissidents , freedom of expression and political freedoms are in the balance.

I don't make up that stuff. That's part of the power they have in their hands. Imagine what damage these capabilities can do to our own way of life . One day ,they will. Just a matter of when and who.

.

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Yawn.

Before all the sheeple join Duncan in hysterical shrieking, maybe they should stop for a moment and consider the actual physical evidence.

Firstly, let's look at the claim that vendors are deliberately sending or letting the NSA send out tampered kit 'everywhere'. Duncan, Greenwald and the rest of the shepherds like to claim this is widespread and a threat to us all. Really? If so then we must all be getting duff kit, right? Or at least a large proportion, maybe? So where are any examples of the supposedly 'mass-deployed' kit? Can Greenie (or Duncan) provide a single example of a CISCO router with such an 'extra' loaded? No. But they want to insist it is a widespread threat to everyone's privacy? I do have no doubt that the spies do use specially hacked kit to gain access to foreign secrets on a very limited basis (network printers with hard-drives in Iran spring to mind), but that would have to be a very limited deployment, otherwise some geek messing around in his spare time would have found an example of it by now. So, it would seem that much-hyped 'threat' is actually just that, hype.

Secondly, there is the concentration on the data being gathered, not what actually happens to the data. It is easy for the shepherds to state 'all the coms down a tapped submarine cable were gathered and stored', it generates the right level of paranoia without actually looking at the reality of what happens to the data. The vast majority never even gets watched/read/heard by human beings, being swept for metadata by computers. It is not stored 'forever' but is regularly flushed to make room for new data. This was admitted in Snowjob's own 'revelations' on TEMPORA. Metadata and keywords are used because the whole sifting job is about targeting for further analysis - no-one, not even China, has enough resources to actually sit and read/watch/hear every single communication on the Internet. If China could then they wouldn't need the Great Firewall, they'd simply let everyone talk on the Web, sift out and then arrest all the dissenters. Instead, they had to build a clumsy and incomplete barrier.

Which brings us to the third point - desire being passed off as reality. Duncan even is forced to admit in his article that a lot of what him and the shepherds like to imply is a threat to everyone's privacy now is nothing more than goals that NSA and co aspire to. It is also an aspiration to end World hunger or send people to the next galaxy, we even have some of the technology to do so, but that does not mean those aspirations are going to become realities today. But such qualification doesn't sell copy, advertising space or books, does it?

Which raises another point - why would the NSA actually want to know all our secrets? Does it really add any value? In a few, very rare cases there might be some gain through blackmailing a specific person, but for everyone? Many of the loudest bleaters like to claim this info could be used to rig elections - how? Please do explain, are the NSA going to try blackmailing all the voters of one party? Or just maybe select politicians? The latter would be very risky, it is just begging for exposure, and definitely not guaranteed, so why would the NSA risk it? And it also comes back to the question of if it is only targeting select politicians, surely that means Joe Average is again of zero interest to the spooks? So, no, everyone's secrets are not being listened to, and if they are inadvertently heard due to a sifting error then they are disregarded as unimportant anyway.

And then we have the snarky description of those that would disagree with the shepherds as 'apologists'. LOL, it's just like the AGW debate - 'if you don't agree with AGW then you must be an apologist in the pay of the oil companies!' Thanks, Dunc, but I think it's more of a case that some of us that were already well-informed can do a little more thinking for themselves.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yawn.

> Which raises another point - why would the NSA actually want to know all our secrets?

There is a growing body of evidence that a lot of the NSAs effort these days are economic (for high commerce) and political.

And don't forget, the US government has form for political witch hunts. Just think what McCarthy could have done with a tool like the Internet and the resources of the NSA behind him.

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FAIL

Re: skelband Re: Yawn.

".....There is a growing body of evidence that a lot of the NSAs effort these days are economic (for high commerce) and political....." And your evidence of this is... Nothing. Even if it were true, it still does not explain how anyone other than a tiny minority of people would be of interest to the NSA and definitely NOT everyone.

".....Just think what McCarthy could have done with a tool like the Internet and the resources of the NSA behind him." Apart from the fact McCarthy had plenty of resources, including mail intercepts and wiretaps from the FBI, insisting that 'it happened once, therefore it MUST happen again' is simply not logical. If you want to state that as a possible reason then please post evidence of any such McCarthy-like behaviour, or admit it is just fantasy.

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Anonymous Coward

Which intelligence agency does Matt Bryant work for again?

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Et tu, Suomi?

I'm shocked that even neutral Finland is listed here. And here I thought Finland would have been an ideal country in which Snowden could seek refuge.

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Snowden deserves recognition for what he has done. It is too easy when you are involved with the secrecy bit to not see beyond the psychotic demand for more and more secrecy, but such secrecy is paranoid and deeply damaging. Having ploughed that furrow many decades ago, I understand the momentum which is generated to the point where everyone's behaviour becomes psychotic. The paranoia of living under cover in mother Russia drove many of my friends to excessive alcohol abuse when back home. Many never came back home because they would have been too unstable to safely debrief, so they stayed there and eventually died there and are buried there. Snowden, God bless him, had a moment of clarity among all the make-believe of intel acquisition and saw the damage which many of us knew was happening. We neither had his access, nor, I suspect, his sheer guts.

If he were a Brit I would ask for him to be given a knighthood for services above and beyond the call of duty. Since he is a yank, I look to Barack to award him the Congressional Medal for services to his country.

I am not joking: I spent most of my working life in this land of shadows and of make believe. Eventually it cost my marriage.

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If only...

If only we spent as much on 'helping' our neighbors with clean water plants, power plants, cheap communication access, we'd be rolling in the riches of cooperation and team work.

Instead, we brew fear, insecurity, and hate. WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.

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FAIL

Re: Dylan Failure Re: If only...

"If only we spent as much on 'helping' our neighbors with clean water plants, power plants, cheap communication access, we'd be rolling in the riches of cooperation and team work....." So your extensive research into that 'idea' missed the fact that the US is the single largest contributor to the UN program's that do exactly that? And also the single largest provider of aid to other countries. And the country that generates the largest amount of private charitable donations to other countries. It seems you would reap a lot better understanding if you actually bothered to do some research.

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Follow the money

I think this whole NSA business is an example of the sort of thing that Dwight Eisenhower was warning about in 1961 when he spoke of the danger posed by the "military-industrial complex". There is too much money flowing to government contractors to allow this to end, not to mention all the NSA paychecks at risk. Remember that Snowden was working for a contractor when he ran off with the goods.

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