back to article Forget Snowden: What have we learned about the NSA?

It has now been a month since Edward Snowden outed himself as the NSA whistleblower who has exposed much about the level of government and corporate surveillance in our society. The revelations aren't stopping, and neither should the debate, but it's getting sidelined by distractions of character not content. Snowden is …

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  1. Titus Technophobe

    Old News ......

    Do intelligence agencies spy on people? Is the same sort of rhetorical question as 'Do bears use the woods'?

    If you don't want to be a part of their 'eye spy' I would suggest you don't put stuff online.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Old News ......

      What is it with you COINTELPRO guys and your roman names?

      'titus' 'sparacus' etc. over and over again the same misdirections and the same theme to your screen names, and the same old 'it's old news' (item 8. Dismiss the charges as old news)

      http://cryptome.org/2012/07/gent-forum-spies.htm

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Old News ......

        "What is it with you COINTELPRO guys and your roman names?"

        No. Titus has been around since at least the end of the UK National ID Card scheme (scrapping of which was part of why the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats were voted in).

        I smell govt con-tractor loosing a fat piece of work and wanting to get back on the "security" gravy train.

        You don't need a conspiracy when you've got greed and self interest.

        1. g e
          Coat

          Re: Old News ......

          IIIIIIII'M ASPARAGUS !!

          I'M ASPARAGUS AND SO'S MY WIFE!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Old News ......

          Yes that's Titus, or Tit for short

          1. Titus Technophobe
            Happy

            Re: Old News ...... @John Smith

            I have never (to the best of knowledge) done any work on the National ID schemes.

            My comments are written on the basis of my anecdotal experience. To date I have used (probably quite extensively) various communication networks including the Internet. During that time I am lead to believe that numerous intelligence agencies may well have intercepted and analysed the traffic information … and absolutely nothing has ever happened.

            I find it humorous that people like the EFF need to protest the interception of the Internet by the NSA. Reasons being:

            that's what intelligence agencies do?

            the backbone of the Internet was created for the Military anyway what did you expect?

            if the NSA don't spy then I have no doubt GCHQ, the DGSE, SVR, MSS etc will feel so ashamed and stop immediately laugh themselves sill before carrying on ......

            oh yes and if the EFF get their way they will protest such that NSA stop spying on Americans after that nobody cares......

            In the sort of Utopian world you Internet warriors live in this either may or may not be important, but in the real world nothing Ed Snowden has said surprises me in the least

      2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        gent forum spies

        "What is it with you COINTELPRO guys and your roman names?"

        "'titus' 'sparacus' etc. over and over again the same misdirections and the same theme to your screen names, and the same old 'it's old news' (item 8. Dismiss the charges as old news)"

        Oh, my dear Hieronymus. That is a dangerous path you are walking.

        Spies can rarely be caught with such a bullet list - it gives too much false positives to be useful. If anything, it provides a good noise cover for the actual spies.

        Actually, that was a huge understatement. Pretty much every forum-dweller violates a few points on that list. So we are all agents of...COINTELPRO. Grr. What was wrong with the old-fashioned three-letter acronyms?

        Anyway. We're all agents.

        Yes, yes. Me and you, and world + dog.

        WE ARE ALL ASPARAGUS !!

        And on the serious note - obsessively hunting for enemies is never a good thing. Don't. Just don't.

        Societies, which become too obsessed with witchhunts, will collapse eventually.

        Individuals, who are hellbent on fighting with monsters, either lose their souls and become monsters themselves, or in a better case, become ridiculous like don Quixote.

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Old News ...... @Titus

      What else would you consider it prudent to stop doing in order to avoid over-reaching security? Don't write anything? Don't read anything? Don't buy fertilizer? Don't drive? .... The trouble with your argument is that, no matter what the "security"* services do, you will say "Well, what do you expect? Just stop doing <whatever it is the snooping bastards have been caught doing>!"

      We agree on one thing - the world is as it is, and this is what is happening. We differ in that I don't just shrug my shoulders and say "Well, what do you expect?". I want to change things so that there is strong protection (even to the point that the occasional bad thing happens) of individual privacy, and a respect for the population. I also expect that the rules of diplomacy are followed, and that foreign leaders, especially those who are supposed to be "friends", are not spied upon (unless they are at risk from an existing target).

      There *is* such a thing as the moral high-ground - it is time we got back to it.

      * I don't actually feel secure by the existence of overreaching spies. It is time we engaged in a national debate about exactly who the security services should be protecting.

      1. Titus Technophobe

        Re: Old News ...... @Titus

        What else would you consider it prudent to stop doing in order to avoid over-reaching security? Don't write anything? Don't read anything? Don't buy fertilizer? Don't drive? ....

        Fahrenheit 451 anybody? I didn't say don't do things just have a view on what you are saying and where.

        We agree on one thing - the world is as it is. We differ in that I don't just shrug my shoulders and say "Well, what do you expect?". I want to change things so that there is strong protection (even to the point that the occasional bad thing happens) of individual privacy, and a respect for the population......

        No I think it would is worth picking your battles with care and where you may be able to make a difference. Worrying about other stuff is just a waste of time. On your other point personally I would trade a degree of privacy to stop at least some of the bad things.

        Impassioned rants on Internet forums may have no effect whatsoever. John Smith 19's on 'Civil Servants Remits' being a prime example. In my world most Civil Servants want to go to work (and keep their job) then go home (as early as possible) and I can't quite see how the manic spy on and arrest everybody fits.

        I also expect that the rules of diplomacy are followed, and that foreign leaders, especially those who are supposed to be "friends", are not spied upon (unless they are at risk from an existing target).

        I tend to think that "nations don't have friends or enemies...nations only have interests?".......

        There *is* such a thing as the moral high-ground - it is time we got back to it.

        But in an imperfect world countries have to do as best they can.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Meh

          Re: Old News ...... @Titus

          "On your other point personally I would trade a degree of privacy to stop at least some of the bad things."

          Why should they ask to take part of what they already have all of? Do you not get why most people find that somewhat annoying?

          "Impassioned rants on Internet forums may have no effect whatsoever."

          That's "will have no effect whatsoever."

          On a personal basis only directly contacting the relevant representative will begin to make a difference. Judging their response and deciding will you support them at the next election. Letters to national or regional newspapers when they write the (rare) articles covering this subject. Practically switching ISPs and service providers to non US suppliers and moving to end to end encryption and not even considering going to "T'Cloud."

          "Civil Servants want to go to work (and keep their job) then go home (as early as possible) and I can't quite see how the manic spy on and arrest everybody fits."

          Funny how you tend to miss the part about senior civil servants out, isn't it?

          I always mean the Oxbridge, fast track PPE graduates (except in the case of the former head of GCHQ who did particle physics) who did or do head up MI5/MI6/GCHQ and whatever SOCA is called now. Not the field agents or desk analysts, the types who decide "policy" and who always somehow get promoted (even when the last project was rubbish). People with no technical background, but a desire to preside over an ever larger fiefdom, ever higher salary and ever larger pension.

          "I tend to think that "nations don't have friends or enemies...nations only have interests?"......."

          True. But really this debate has nothing to do with spying on other governments it's about spying on populations (their own and others) who present no threat to anyone.

          They are being spied on because during some moments of fear (12 and 8 years ago respectively now) weak minded politicians gave into their BS about "Let us do this and we will catch them before another outrage occurs." Despite the fact that problem is effectively impossible to solve.

          But really, it's because they can. The tech exists and they wanted to use it.

          I'll just repeat the rough numbers in the UK. 2000 "Jihadist" suspects (out of a population of c66m) . 57 dead in 7/7/05 (I cannot find a cost figure for the collateral damage, which would be interesting) and £500m/yr to the ISPs to run the visible part of the spying system.

          That's £8.77m a life saved or £250k a suspect to watch. 50-70 is also about the number of deaths from a)Botched DIY in the UK (ROSPA) or farmyard accidents (ROSPA).

          And BTW suspects in the 7/7/05 and Lee Rigby events were already known to the SS before they committed their offenses, which are all criminal and arrestable.

          On a personal note Titus I'm curious why do you bother posting? As a true cynic you seem to feel all of this is "Just what spy agencies do." So no real point in making a fuss. And as a true cynic you don't think anything can or will changes, so just keep your head down because, afters all, you have nothing to hide.

          Or am I missing some part of your motivation?

        2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Old News ...... @Titus

          Thanks for the reasoned reply, Titus. I wish the Reg comments allowed a bit more real exchange of ideas.

          1. Titus Technophobe
            Thumb Up

            Re: Old News ...... @Potsherd

            Yes .... I think we agree on some things, and could argue the toss on the other stuff. I know what you are saying about moral high-ground but think that human nature makes it achieving it impossible.

            1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Old News ...... @Potsherd

              "... I know what you are saying about moral high-ground but think that human nature makes it achieving it impossible. ..."

              Gandhi

              Mandela

              Jesus

              Bloody criminals, each and every one of them.*

              (* Deeply sarcastic. Also relates to one of the many 'The Worst Argument In The World'.)

              1. Titus Technophobe

                Re: Old News ...... @JeffyPoooh

                Nice to see someone else confirming exactly my point all of the below acted largely to achieve the moral high-ground, but -

                Gandhi Independence India ... but left a (civil) war between Pakistan (East and West) and India

                Mandela Independence South Africa - left (is leaving) a society with inordinate problem with crime

                Jesus Founded a religion - how many wars have been fought in the name of God and more specifically a Christian god?

                On balance I would think all of the above achieved strides towards the moral high-ground i.e. on balance left things better than they were, but all those achievements were compromised by human nature working against them, and this is still happening.

                My point being before you 'bust up' the existing order of things have a think about all of the consequences of your actions.

                1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                  Thumb Up

                  Re: Titus Technophobe Re: Old News ...... @JeffyPoooh

                  ".....Gandhi Independence India ... but left a (civil) war between Pakistan (East and West) and India...." Bit unfair on Ghandi when the real culprit for the India-Pakistan split was his buddie Nehru.

                  ".....Mandela Independence South Africa - left (is leaving) a society with inordinate problem with crime...." You might also point out Mandela's involvement along with the ANC with opression in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

                2. Uffish

                  Re: "before you 'bust up' the existing order"

                  OK, I've thought about it, and I think it would marginally improve matters - when can we start? And, before you ask, no I don't have a cure for cancer either but I support those looking for one using real, targeted, and results based science.

    3. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Old News ......

      "If you don't want to be a part of their 'eye spy' I would suggest you don't put stuff online."

      Its getting to the point that not having a Facebook presence is akin to not having a landline in the last century. Go ahead. Try to apply for a job/loan or even write a check (cheque) without one and you'd get the stink-eye. If your behaviour doesn't comply with the societal norm, you might as well move to a cabin in Montana (Google Ted Kaczynski).

      Besides, you might not put your life on line, but your banker, grocer, pharmacist does. And you can't drive in town without your license plates going into a database somewhere. So, good luck with your off the grid life.

      1. Titus Technophobe

        Re: Old News ...... @Paul

        Its getting to the point that not having a Facebook presence is .....

        Not quite sure how true this is in the UK. I have written checks and got jobs recently with out reference to my Facebook. The thought that you have to validate yourself through Facebook, which has been suggested in the UK, seems utterly insane.

        On the point of not putting stuff on-line Facebook would be top of my list. Personally I do have a vanilla Facebook account with the obligatory, cat pictures, and so on. I would be very wary of much more on this one, never mind NSA, the security on Facebook makes it possible for damn near anybody to see details.

        Besides the whole of Facebook is basically created to allow advertisers to spy.

        Besides, you might not put your life on line, but your banker, grocer, pharmacist

        And in the mass collected by NSA why are they going to be looking at my information?

        So, good luck with your off the grid life.

        OK

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Follow the money indeed

    "So forget about Snowden as a character and "Follow the money," as Deep Throat put it. Anything else is a distraction."

    Lovely idea.

    Now try making it happen.

    The money still controls the media, by and large, and the media largely controls the discussion.

    At least Snowden's revelations have brought this news out into the open, but the analysis that should be following it up isn't likely to happen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'The money still controls the media'.. and for those who need proof...

      Reg staff, please fix your filters, THIS IS BLOOMBERG.... Why are you auto-blocking it?????

      "These 6 Corporations Control 90% Of The Media In America"

      http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Follow the money indeed

      A lot of that money is probably drug money and the "war on drugs" most likely only exists to cut the cost and boost the profits of drug lords, government middlemen, and all their groupies in the financial sector, not the lie that it is to protect people; the HSBC fine for laundering drug money was mere pocket change to them given the profits it made them. This has apparently been happening since WW2, and should be all over US big media, because residents saw the product leakage near to major US drug distribution routes, when they ramped it up more recently. Where do you think a lot of the US Black Projects funding comes from?

      See Solari.com and the article on why the US budget is such a can of worms to reduce; see just how corrupt and meshed with dodgy corporations the US Government is; this is way worse than mere incompetence; I think a lot of people will WTF! when they see the extent and implications of this!

      I bet that the UK state is also up to other more tangible no good than leeching all our data; it's agents may even be helping with the drugs trade too.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did William Hague know about PRISM spying?

    Did William Hague know about the PRISM program? Did he know about Skype backdoors?

    Did he know Microsoft's Outlook's encryption had been backdoored?

    How much knowledge did he have, how involved in these crimes was he?

    See what I did there? I called it a crime, it's time we started talking about the 99% of RIPA that makes it a crime to spy on Brits, because that's the part that applies here.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Anonymous Cowpatbrain Re: Did William Hague know about PRISM spying?

      ".....it's time we started talking about the 99% of RIPA that makes it a crime to spy on Brits, because that's the part that applies here." <Sigh> Why can't the sheeple even do the basic groundwork before bleating? As has been pointed out in these forums before, GCHQ and parties working with GCHQ are specifically excluded from RIPA in Section 8 of the Act. Try more reading, less bleating, thanks.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: Anonymous Cowpatbrain Did William Hague know about PRISM spying?

        Your rock. Back under it. Nothing for you to fawn over here, Doormatt.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: hspasm Re: Anonymous Cowpatbrain Did William Hague know about PRISM spying?

          I see research was also beyond you. Once again, another post from the sheeple with zero argument or anything other than their very obvious inability to think for themselves.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Gimp

    Civil servants can't be trusted to stay in their remit and will always try to widen their remit.

    Endgame. Spy on everyone all the time forever.

    Whatever way you look at it it's wrong.

    Treats everyone as a criminal. IE No presumption of innocence.

    Hugely expensive. AFAIK this has never been subjected to any kind of cost/benefit analysis. The UK govt wants to spend >£500m/yr to maybe prevent another 7/7 event which killed fewer people than are killed on British farmyard accidents. Does "Terrorism" sound more like an excuse than a reason?

    In the US you are looking at secret warrants issued by a secret court whose and if (as a company) you argue with them you are not even allowed to say that you are arguing with them.

    There's a reason people call that Kafkesque.

    All countries have telecomms monitoring methods that can monitor specific calls/websites/computers and laws that allow them to be used provided there is some evidence. Any society that does not want to be a police state had better use them.

    Once you have data collection without warrant for everyone why not have have detention without trial for everyone.

    Let's strip the "terrorist," and the other classic "paedophile" and "organised crime" BS from this.

    The civil servants behind this want to do it because they ca and it will give them considerable power. and they can trade their stuff with their opposite numbers. You spy on my nationals, I spy on yours. We're only spying on foreigners.

    It is grossly disproportionate to the crime it allegedly counters. It is a fetish without reason. A compulsion.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Civil servants can't be trusted to stay in their remit

      John, you've got Seething SubEditor Syndrome. Perfectly valid content spoiled by a misleading headline.

      In this particular case, if you'd said "First Division Association civil servants can't be trusted" your title would have been closer. But almost nobody would have understood it, and with 20,000 members in the FDA the coverage would still have been far too broad.

      There are lots of perfectly decent people out there. Some of them are civil serpents. Please don't tar them all with the same brush.

      Thanking you,

      Charles K Pendleton

      c/o Downing Street

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Civil servants can't be trusted to stay in their remit

        "In this particular case, if you'd said "First Division Association civil servants can't be trusted" your title would have been closer. But almost nobody would have understood it, "

        True.

        In hindsight I should have included the word senior in heading. And of course I've no idea if Intelligence and Security Service senior managers are members of the First Division Association.

        "There are lots of perfectly decent people out there. Some of them are civil serpents."

        No doubt. And if I few more in this situation were of that type we would not be having this discussion

    2. dephormation.org.uk

      Re: Civil servants can't be trusted to stay in their remit and will always try to widen their remit.

      "It is grossly disproportionate to the crime it allegedly counters"

      Approximately the same number of people are killed in the UK after falling out of trees.

      On average 5x as many people die every year in UK police custody (~30) as die from acts of terrorism (6).

      Meanwhile, 100,000 people die from the effects of smoking every year. Around 2,000 die in road traffic accidents. And 800 from murder. To offer a few popular preventable terminal scenarios.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Civil servants can't be trusted to stay in their remit and will always try to widen their remit.

      The people killed on 7/7 were, presumably, the tip of the iceberg of those who WOULD HAVE BEEN killed if we HADN'T spent 500m on intelligence. The security services can't win - either they spend too much to save a few people and trample on our privacy in doing so, or they are incompetent fools who should have prevented 4 airliners being used as guided missiles, when the most cost-effective and arguably most productive way of finding such monsters before they hatch is to use information collected by commercial organisations that the bad guys use for their evil.

      If this was done without legal and governmental oversight then we would have a big problem. If it's controlled by the appropriate authorities, then that's how government and intelligence is supposed to work.

      And spying on foreigners? Every government with the money and means to do it, does it. It's what their peoples expect, and for all the holier-than-thou protesters, the people wouldn't like it much if their government didn't do it, and they lost out economically or militarily to those who do, which is everyone else.

      It makes good stories and ranting headlines, but we all need to grow up a bit and understand the world we live in..

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Civil servants can't be trusted to stay in their remit and will always try to widen their remit.

        I *do* understand the world we live in. There aren't enough "terrorists" to make any difference to the majority of us.

        You cite the London incident - there is absolutely no evidence that random data-gathering made any difference whatsoever. There are so few potential bombers that, without specific intelligence, the wholesale hoovering of data will make no difference (or only if extremely lucky) at all.

        Placing the whole population under scrutiny is a crime against the people. The state is acting in a way that says "we do not trust you", and, despite what you say, it is not lawful to spy without due cause. The alternative is to accept that everyone is a suspect merely for being alive. That is wrong, and someone needs to be held to account for it.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Civil servants can't be trusted to stay in their remit and will always try to widen their remit.

        Does the data slurp (alone) yield actionable intelligence that can be used to abort terrorist attacks? There have been claims to that effect, but those I have seen do not even approach plausibility.

        Does the data slurp appear on its face to violate the fourth amendment of the US Constitution? Almost certainly: The requirements for probable cause and a clear description of what is to be seized appear to have been ignored as a matter of routine.

        Have the data slurp results been misused to oppress? I have not seen reports that they have, but that is irrelevant. Whether or not they have been, they certainly could be at a future time.

        All three indicate that the questioned activities need serious modification or perhaps terminated.

        Was this activity generally known or assumed to be underway

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Tom Dial Re: Civil servants can't be trusted to stay in their remit......

          So, basically a whole post based on your biased assumptions.

          "Does the data slurp (alone) yield actionable intelligence that can be used to abort terrorist attacks?...." Apart from the fact they are highly unlikely to release details on either ongoing operations, where have you been looking? I seriously doubt if it's anywhere other than those either happy to blindly bleat on about how terrible the NSA are, or those like Greenwald with a monetary reason to keep pushing it.

          ".....Does the data slurp appear on its face to violate the fourth amendment of the US Constitution? Almost certainly....." If it did then useful idiots like the ACLU would already be pushing the lawfare boat out. The truth is the rolling warrants make it legal.

          ".....Have the data slurp results been misused to oppress? I have not seen reports that they have, but that is irrelevant. Whether or not they have been, they certainly could be at a future time......" Which is just a really stupid leap of the type used by the gun-control lobby - "you have a gun, you MIGHT use it to murder someone, therefore we must ban all guns". It is really amusing to hear this "well they could oppress us" angle as it is coming from exactly the same people that bleat on about how criminals should be treated as innocent until proven guilty. Somehow that only applies to their "heroes" like Assange or Snowden, never to the authorities. It's as stupid as me saying that Tom MIGHT murder someone, therefore it is perfectly right to lock him up for life. Or like saying a policeman MIGHT take a bribe so best we get rid of ALL policemen - I'm sure the criminals would like that idea, but the majority of the population might think twice. Maybe even Tom.

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            @Matt Bryant

            <assorted stuff too long to quote>

            Let me see if I've got you straight.

            There is good "Big Government" which keeps you safe from "terrorists" by spying on you, everyone you know and in fact anybody they can 24/7/365. The last organized terrorist incident in the US was 13 years ago. That killed <3000 people. How many bombs has the US failed to prevent killing civilians in Iraq? Rather more I suspect. But they don't count, do they Matt?

            And there is bad "Big Government" that (for example) tries to require background checks for anyone buying guns or reduce the capacity of magazines for ammunition. The last mass shooting happened a few moths ago. In a speech President Obama stated there had been 33 mass shootings in the US 1983-2013

            Unlike organized terrorist attacks they show no signs of going away.

            Do you never see the contradictions in your PoV? Or to paraphrase Upton Sinclair your paycheck depends on you not seeing the contradiction?

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              FAIL

              Re: John Smith 19 Re: @Matt Bryant

              ".....How many bombs has the US failed to prevent killing civilians in Iraq?...." Oh Johnnie, you're so determined to hate you just can't think straight! So your best argument against eavesdropping in Europe and the US is that it doesn't prevent bombings in Iraq? That's beyond lame, it even recognizes the fact that something must be stopping a large number of bombings in the US and Europe and eavesdropping is probably part of that something. And even a cretin like you would know that the security infrastructure in Iraq has been handed back to the Iraqis. Please note the difference - Allied control, including plenty of signint= less bombings; Iraqi control without Allied singint = more. Maybe that's because the Allies stopped sharing as much intel with the Iraqis since they got so cosy with Iran, or maybe it's because the local bombers just got more aware of hiding coms after being so soundly thrashed by the Allies over the years. Either way, your insistence that NSA and GCHQ "failed" because of violence in Iraq outside Allied control is laughable, it just shows how desperate you have become to avoid admitting the facts. Truly an epic and comic fail!

              1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
                Facepalm

                Re: John Smith 19 @Matt Bryant

                <long dense paragraph>

                I wondered if you'd pick up on that. My actual point was that that's a real shooting war where real people are dying but why bother spying on them?

                " And even a cretin like you would know that the security infrastructure in Iraq has been handed back to the Iraqis. "

                Careful boy if you keep up that frothing I'll think you've got rabies. You're already approaching Swivel Eyed Loon status.

                That fact you whine on about this item suggests you can't handle the contradiction in your world view very well.

                What this surveillance allegedly stops isn't really happening and real causes of US deaths are simply ignored. But one fits you're view of a dangerous world outside your basement and the other does not.

                I suspect that better driver training for Americans visiting foreign countries, background checks before all legal gun sales and limiting magazine sizes on all firearms will save more lives than this multi $Bn programme has or ever will.

                Remember Mattie once you've got wholesale data collection why not have wholesale detention? As Richleau is alleged to have observed "Give me 6 lines from an honest man and I'll find something to hang him." Due process is such an inconvenient business, eh Mattie?

                Does that sound like "freedom" in the "land of the free?"

      3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Civil servants can't be trusted to stay in their remit and will always try to widen their remit.

        You should review some material on the problem of false positives when using overly broad searches for very rare items. It's an inherent problem, and they're obviously way past this point.

        You'd think that the NSA etc. would have stumbled across the applicable 'More or Less' podcast / radio show on Radio 4, what with them monitoring "everything". I guess that Monitoring .NE. Comprehending.

      4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Holmes

        AC@13:37

        "he people killed on 7/7 were, presumably, the tip of the iceberg of those who WOULD HAVE BEEN killed if we HADN'T spent 500m on intelligence."

        First off Mr AC, the draft "Data Communications Bill" has not been implemented yet, so in theory no one has spent that (notional) £500m/yr

        And why should anyone presume anything?

        "Plotters plan atrocity "Bigger than 7/7" Scream headlines .

        No s**t Sherlock. Whoever heard of some bunch of idiots terrorist suspects sitting round talking and saying "We should try to do something maybe 1/2 as big as 7/7" and his mate replying "That's a bit ambitious, but I reckon 20% is possible."

        b***ocks. So far no one has What I want to see is the list of arrests and convictions brought about solely by uncontrolled monitoring by the SS.

        Because my instinct is that most if not all of those arrests were already in the process due to suspicious purchases, viewing of monitored websites or people in their community reporting them to the Police.

  5. Buzzword

    How are they using the data?

    Like many, I wasn't that surprised by the revelations that US spooks had access to Gmail, Facebook, Amazon, etc. What I'd really like to know is how they are using that data. Is it just the anti-terrorist branch that has access, or is it the IRS, the child support agency (if they have one), and every local police officer? Are the NSA passing on industrial secrets to big companies?

    Also, is information gleaned in this way admissible in court? Can the NSA point to your PDF e-book of "How to Make Bombs and Injure People" and use that as evidence that you're a terrorist?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How are they using the data?

      "What I'd really like to know is how they are using that data"

      Any way they like. That's the beauty of not officially having it - there's no rules. They can simply search for selfies or they can pass interesting info on to companies that they are planning to ask for non-exec posts with, or they can use it to blackmail people they know personally. There's no rules, so the only limit is their personal sense of honour and decency, both of which are filtered out by the recruitment process.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: How are they using the data?

      Do they pass it on to companies vital to the US national interest ?

      Do they assist other federal departments ?

      Is there scope creep so that the Arkansas office of fishing licenses eventually get access ?

      Do large ursine mammals defecate in a the siviculture ?

  6. Gil Grissum

    It doesn't really matter what you do or don't do online. The US Gov is scanning your snail mail meta-data too. And if you have a house phone, you can count on your telco cooperating with the Gov as well. So if you really thought that "If I'm not doing anything wrong, who cares", you're naive and missing the point. The Gov is using terrorism prevention as an excuse to snoop on everyone's privacy and that's just plain wrong, PERIOD.

  7. alain williams Silver badge

    Secret laws

    I feel very uncomfortable about talk of secret laws. It goes against all sense of what we have been told our country is all about.

    1. Denarius Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Secret laws

      hey, it worked well for Venice. its Star Chamber was so effective. Not. Worked well for Tudors. Right up to when everyone got sick of informers and subsequent panics. Nothing new though. A Roman emperor called informers the curse of Rome. About 1st century or early 2nd. As for secret laws, good enough for IP law negotiations, good enough for the peasants then.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Secret laws

        it worked well for Venice. its Star Chamber was so effective. Not.

        Maybe Venice's Star Chamber would have been more effective if it was in Venice, rather than Westminster.

        The court was so called because it met in a room in the old royal Palace of Westminster that had stars painted on the ceiling*. Far from being ineffective, the objection to the Court of Star Chamber was that it was arbitrary, secret and ruthlessly effective. It was abolished in 1640, after a run of about 200 years.

        *The palace is long gone, but the ceiling, oddly, survives in a house in Cheshire.

    2. Julian Bond
      Headmaster

      Re: Secret laws

      So which country is it that you're claiming is "ours", Tonto?

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Secret laws

      > It goes against all sense of what we have been told our country is all about.

      You country was founded by a bunch of religous nutjobs who wanted to persecute others and execute dangerous radical Quakers.

      It then turned terrorist to overthrow the legitimate government

      It then started a program of genocide against the indigenous population

      It then built it's wealth on slavery

      Exactly what were you told your country was all about ?

    4. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: alain williams Re: Secret laws

      "I feel very uncomfortable about talk of secret laws......" Yes, 'cos RIPA was a complete secret, hidden from the public and never debated in Parliament, right? And GCHQ, you have to have signed the OSA in blood to have heard of them!

      READ MORE, BLEAT LESS!

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: alain williams Secret laws

        BLEAT LESS!

        Good advice. Why don't you just do that?

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: alain williams Secret laws

        ""I feel very uncomfortable about talk of secret laws......" Yes, 'cos RIPA was a complete secret, hidden from the public and never debated in Parliament, right? "

        I think the previous poster was talking about the US situation with FISA and their so-called "court."

        OTOH You pointed out that RIPA has no jurisdiction over the actions of the SS or GCHQ.

        So they are quite literally beyond British law, althouth the fact that most of this information has been collected without any evidence suggests in any other context it would be illegal.

        1. Titus Technophobe
          Stop

          Re: alain williams Secret laws

          For the record and the down votes …….

          RIPA does apply to the British SS and GCHQ, there are exclusions, but there is also a commission established to investigate complaints.

          Further the statement ‘they are quite literally beyond British law’ is totally untrue.

  8. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Cacelling travel documents isn't unusual

    The US security services have done it extrajudicially on a number of occasions to a number of website owners who have "interesting" information they wish to pry open, especially in the immediate wake of 9/11

    Just because you don't need an exit visa doesn't mean that they don't keep a close eye on people of interest in order to prevent them leaving the country.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder

    Just what does the NSA thinks or indeed Snowden actually has?

    He obviously had full access to all files and they could have played this very different by claiming he was a spy and doing a swap with Russia or China as they have done before.

    I also note that it was reported that he has 1000's of documents.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OT - Assange

    with his clowning has ruined and wasted ALL the credit he'd won with the public around the world. That said, not many people can keep their head when put in the limelight - and manipulated - by mass media. So, I blame media for the fact that Manning's message has fizzled, and now, Snowden's will too, probably. But that's off topic too.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: OT - Assange

      Remember when the Met had their special "shoot a Brazilian" away-day?

      And within hours the news was full of stories of how he was wearing a big coat (false), had jumped the barriers (false) had resisted arrest (false) and had an expired student visa (true)

      It's almost as if there was some police operation to feed false information to the media, and a media ready to cooperate in getting the "party line" out.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In my opinion if you need secret laws then something is clearly wrong.

    The only way this will change is by radical upheaval of so called democracy. ALL laws and policy should be subject to a public voting system, (after all this is democracy right?) otherwise you will always be at the whim of a select few. Yes this may result in some extraordinary decisions but hey, that's life.

    The revelations from the NSA, GCHQ, Mossad etc are nothing new - they have been doing this for YEARS. Snowden should be bloody knighted in my opinion, as he has taken a huge personal risk to expose the lies and corruption in our societies neatly covered as "legal" by the very same people who make the law.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely - period.

    One word if you want to stop these people in their tracks :

    encryption, encryption, encryption.

    This used to be just for the paranoid but I even paranoid people are being watched.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      encryption

      clearly won't "stop" them in their tracks, particularly when you have some US organisations "helping" them with decryption of stuff on their systems. Delay/inconvenience possibly.

    2. DB2DBA

      Idealism

      "ALL laws and policy should be subject to a public voting system, (after all this is democracy right?) otherwise you will always be at the whim of a select few."

      It doesn't work that way. Those in power will do whatever it takes to stay in power, and those willing to pay for access to power reap the benefit relative to what they pay. "The best Congress money can buy" as the saying goes.

      Referendum follows the same rules. Look to California for how this works. "The people" with enough money can get their initiatives on the ballot and voted on by the small percentage of the population who registers to vote and then actually does.

      A cynical view, yes, but this is how modern government works.

  12. FuzzyTheBear

    What we learned

    .. is that nothing will change. They will keep torturing people.They will keep spying for the simple reason that the US Citizens have their little bits of comfort and as long as they do, they will not get involved in politics so politics will stay the same.That is the real lesson here.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: What we learned

      In the words of the philosopher:

      "give them Rule Britannia / gassy beer / page 3, three weeks in Espania and sunday striptease"

      It does seem unfair that Americans only get the gassy beer

      1. kventin

        Re: What we learned

        you call that beer?

        In the words of the philosopher:

        is there beer in America?

  13. Annihilator

    Mee-dju

    Thing is, despite all this coming out, who's shouting about it? Guardian is about the only newspaper I'm seeing chasing this, the rest are just ignoring it having swallowed Hague's jaw-dropping "innocent people have nothing to fear" line.

    The world has pretty much accepted that being spied on is the norm and will protect you against terrrr-ism.

    Privacy isn't about secrecy. It's not a secret when someone goes for a dump, doesn't mean you should leave the door open.

  14. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Well, this is the choice:

    Either we live in old East Germany, or else we have straightforward absolute principles of data privacy that all data holders, both government and private business, individually personally swear to respect, on pain of criminal prosecution and severe penalty for breaching them.

    What we tend to get outside the U.S. is rules that apply to private business, but the government and the police are allowed to do whatever they like.

    This matters because if the data is held, it can be misused to breach our civil liberties in more directly painful ways. It also can be leaked or sold to commercial entities that are not our friends.

    Apparently the U.S. really take their Constitution seriously and it does protect the population against government spying. But they allow themselves unlimited spying on non-citizens, and also if they're not sure if you are a citizen or not. Encrypted personal data files? Goodness, those could belong to -anybody-.

    Governments and government departments - and private people and private entities too - just should not be allowed to know some things about me without my consent, and they should believe it.

    1. Titus Technophobe
      Stop

      Re: Well, this is the choice:

      That isn't true the laws regarding Data Privacy apply equally the government. It would seem you can even make a DPA Subject Access Request just the same as any other organisation.

  15. Rol Silver badge

    International Status?

    If the data centres and all communications to them were given international status, then with international agreement they could be protected.

    I would dearly love the cable from my router to not just be my gateway to the rest of the world, but actually be for all intent and purpose the start of internationally protected space.

    As internationally protected space, I could rely on a newly created body to prosecute my or any government for snooping on my data without a valid court issued warrant.

    Indeed the snooping could be carried out by the overseeing body on receipt of the correct paperwork.

    The internet has created a whole world community, surely that status should be recognised and protected from those who would try and carve it up for their own national interests.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: International Status?

      whether a nice idea or not, it's never going to happen. On balance that's probably a good thing.

      The only viable international bodies available, such as the UN (you know, the people who seriously allowed Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive countries on the planet, to sit on it's Human Rights panels) or the ITU (the less said, the better), cannot be taken seriously when it comes to protecting human rights or network privacy - when was the last time you heard a senior ITU official condemning members for filtering Internet content?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not sure what the fuss is about

    The scum that we vote into power every 4 or 5 years (and the word 'scum' can be used to describe all political parties) have 'retention of power' as one of their remits. It should come as no surprise that they will do anything to ensure that this remit is met.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What have we learned?

    I would suggest that we've learnt some important lessons.

    1) We need an internet which isn't under the control of Americans.

    2) We need a new protocol for intersystem communications (again one which Americans don't control)

    2a) Which supports all packets being encrypted (end to end) in flight.

    2b) Which supports user control over the routing path (so it doesn't pass through countries we don't want to capture it).

    3) Ignore American concerns about Chinese equipment manufacturers putting backdoors into their equipment.

    3a) It's safe to assume they are doing it, and will continue to, because they're compelled to law.

    3b) American has no grounds at all to complaing about themm doing it as they are compelling manufacturers and providers to do exactly the same.

    4) Ignore American comments about human rights abuses by anyone.

    4a) Having proven they couldn't give any kind of flying fuck about anyones human rights, America has lost any right to comment on anyone else abuses.

    That'll do for now.

    1. Titus Technophobe

      But ......

      Who is going to pay for all this stuff? Remember the Internet you use now was originally created by the defense establishments for the Military .... you all seem a bit shocked that they then monitor the traffic.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      '1) We need an internet which isn't under the control of Americans.'

      ...or the British or the Australians or any of the other '5 Eyes' ... "They [GCHQ] are worse than the U.S..."

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempora

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      "We need an internet which isn't under the control of Americans"

      That should not be all that difficult. It's the Internet - all we need to do is create country nodes and manage continental communications independently.

      The USA has no responsibility for the work we do not do ourselves. The Internet is open, it was built that way and nothing can change that. Therefor, to keep NSA away from our comms, we just have to pay the price to keep our comms away from american shores.

      I don't like the NSA listening in, but in this particular case, it's our fault for sending them the traffic in the first place.

  18. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Economic espionage

    One likely major aim of the whole NSA spying program is to obtain as much economic advantage as possible for selected US companies. (Example one - NSA learns about research in a non-US company - passes it on to US company that then patents it before the company that did the research. Example two - NSA finds out the bid prices for a major contract from non-US companies and passes them on to a US company that can then undercut the non-US companies.) With cloud computing this becomes even easier - many company secrets are stored on systems that the NSA have backdoor access to.

  19. Daniel B.
    Facepalm

    DEFCON

    The DEFCON "ban" on Feds (they'll probably still go, but this time they won't be as welcome as on previous events) is particularly damning. Last year, the NSA Director actually went to DEFCON gave a keynote, something that was seen as positive by both the NSA and DEFCON organizers and attendees. It meant that finally the top spooks were seeing hackers as an asset instead of "pesky problems", which used to be the situation for past administrations.

    But current revelations have made the very people that could really help the NSA uncomfortable. So while the "ban" on Feds doesn't mean they aren't going, it is a relevant message from the hacking community.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: DEFCON

      This could have the biggest effect:

      The FEDS are going to go to DEFCON this year, they are going to be sitting outside photographing everyone

      Next year they are going to "suggest" that anyone who goes to DEFCON is a terrorist.

      Major companies are going to stop sending their people to an event associated with terrorist criminals

      Then anyone who has been to DEFCON is not going to get approval to work for the government / defense contractor / bank.

      So in a few years we are going to be protecting our vital infrastructure from criminal gangs / foreign intelligence agencies with civil servant programmers who have no idea about hacking.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: DEFCON

        "The FEDS are going to go to DEFCON this year, they are going to be sitting outside photographing everyone"

        You forgot listening by over riding peoples mobiles phones.

  20. dephormation.org.uk
    Boffin

    Trust

    Trust is the big issue.

    When you collapse trust in Governments, law, and telecommunications... the consequences that follow are frightening but inevitable.

  21. davemiles

    Petition calling for a public inquiry on GCHQ's Tempora

    If you're shocked as I am by the scale and implications of GCHQ's Tempora programme then please sign this petition calling for a public inquiry.

    http://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/tempora

    Shorter links to share:

    bit.ly/stoptempora

    tiny.cc/tempora

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Petition calling for a public inquiry on GCHQ's Tempora

      By submitting information you are agreeing to 38 Degrees keeping you informed about campaigns

      You'd get a lot more signatures without this. I was about to sign until I read it.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought it's pretty evident by now Snowden is a patsy but the REALLY interesting thing is he confirmed aliens - as in ET phone home - living on Earth and this has largely been ignored by the media and the 'conspiracy' sites that have picked up on it have totally misunderstood what was said.

    1. Hollerith 1

      No.

      Just no.

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      @AC

      If what you say is true, how about giving us silly folk that haven't spotted this some real information?

      I bet you can/will not.

  23. captain veg

    Decided

    > "Our society needs to decided where it draws the line between privacy and politics, and it needs to do so in a calm and measured way."

    I don't remember anyone asking, but I was already decided for total privacy, thanks all the same.

    -A.

  24. Ged T
    Unhappy

    We've learned...

    that the U.S. National Security Agency appears to be legally allowed to operate off-shore!

  25. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    The truly frightening thing about this is the NSA is probably using the same "intelligence" Amazon, Google et al use to "enhance" my "browsing experience" by showing me targeted advertisements.

    I used to try and block this, but there are things about the browser architecture I found I don't know and somewhere in that grey area the "information" on my "lifestyle choices" was being trafficked anyway. Now I simply spend some time each session zooming around looking at stuff I have no Intrinsic interest in just so the targeting "intelligence" gets well and truly knotted.

    If the biggest E-Store in the world doesn't get that data isn't information then what chance do I have communicating that to the NSA who are attempting to "analyze" millions of communications a day?

    I use quoticles there because we all know that such analyzing is almost always done by a regex cascade and we also should know by now just how thoroughly those are typically tested before being deployed.

    I've been flagged here for sending racist e-mails and for indulging in pornochat all because the wuckfit in charge of our mali server never tested his "clever regex stuff" for obvious false positives (the word "propertyid" in an embedded mapquest app sent to me by a multinational corporation which I forwarded got me the racist red card and having the audacity to reply to a vendor that the picture clause of the field he needed to access in his Cobol program was PIC XXX got me dunned for sexting). It is left as a nightmare for the reader to postulate the possible consequences of false positives picked up by the NSA.

    The call for insular internets is the end game in the 1984/Guardians/V for Vendetta scenario from where I sit. Unless some sort of bitcoin-like mechanism can be worked out for administering the whole shebang *someone* has to have authority and They're All Bent As A Nine Bob Note.

    To quote Lloyd Bridges: Looks like I picked the wrong day to give up drinking.

    Have a good weekend, everyone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      The truly frightening thing about this is the NSA is probably using the same "intelligence" Amazon, Google et al use to "enhance" my "browsing experience" by showing me targeted advertisements.

      Or, to put it another way, Google, Amazon et al are doing exactly the same thing as the NSA, and it hasn't mattered enough to their users for them to have stopped using any of those services. Which really shows that no-one much gives a damn about what the NSA does.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Bah!

        "Or, to put it another way, Google, Amazon et al are doing exactly the same thing as the NSA, and it hasn't mattered enough to their users for them to have stopped using any of those services. Which really shows that no-one much gives a damn about what the NSA does."

        No. It means they are less concerned.

        That would change if Google or Amazon had the power to order an armed team to break into your house anywhere in the world and shoot you in the head.

        Peoples attitude would change pretty quickly if they did.

    2. keithpeter
      Windows

      Re: Bah!

      "Now I simply spend some time each session zooming around looking at stuff I have no Intrinsic interest in just so the targeting "intelligence" gets well and truly knotted."

      Sounds like an app opportunity there. Sort of like a screensaver. Running random (safe search) Google queries.

      Of course, you could go the whole way and manufacture an alter ego. As usual, the novelists got there first.

      As the cost of computer power and connectivity drop, why not just have a swarm of identities that are randomly interchanged with other mobile phone users while you are not actually using your phone? Sort of like foil strips used as chaff to defeat radar.

      Could be interesting when computer devices that use very little power become available.

  26. Irony Deficient

    “De Speigel”?

    It’s Der Spiegel (“The Mirror”).

    “Diplomatic limb” is also missing its final o.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speaking of 'Follow the money'.... Who still thinks Govt Spying is benign?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/503224.stm

    "Journalist Duncan Campbell has spent much of his life investigating Echelon. In a report commissioned by the European Parliament he produced evidence that the NSA snooped on phone calls from a French firm bidding for a contract in Brazil. They passed the information on to an American competitor, which won the contract. There's no safeguards, no remedies, " he said, "There's nowhere you can go to say that they've been snooping on your international communications. Its a totally lawless world."

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It would be interesting to hear what George Galloway says about snooping. He seems to have suggested that if someone is in your bed then that's consenting, which would suggest Assange was innocent.

    It is pretty stupid of the west to keep going on about oppressive regimes when ours aren't much better.

  29. John F***ing Stepp

    My opinion from the US

    The level of spying seems to be much less than I expected and I wish that it had remained secret.

    Because while secret it was constrained by being secret; the Feds would not deploy a nuke on a parking violation offender. Now, of course, if I telephone my lawyer and enter into a conspiracy to avoid a parking ticket the NSA can feel free to drop any and all collected information in the inbox of the local Stazi.

    Of course over where you all live it is 1984 all over again and I feel for you.

  30. moiety

    This secret law shit has to stop

    If it's secret then it isn't a law...it's at best a rule for a boy's club (with the first rule probably being "No gurlƨ aloud").

    Now I appreciate what the spooks are (claiming to be) trying to do; and I realise that there's a need for operational security (you can't let the Bad Guys know your methods or they'll just find loopholes); but surveilling everybody with our own fucking money is just not on.

    Anyone else remember -I think it was 1999 or thereabouts- when every government in the world -seemingly overnight- legislated themselves the right to read their citizen's private email? That fucked me right off then and it still does today.

    You know; in my more paranoid moments, it occurs to me that all this might be some sort of terrorist-creation program (like the war in Afghanistan...carpet bombing civilian's houses isn't exactly going to endear you to people). If you righteously piss off enough people, some of them are going to kick up; thus justifying the spook's budget.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: This secret law shit has to stop

      " it occurs to me that all this might be some sort of terrorist-creation program "

      While it all certainly helps the bit one in this area is your charming holiday home in Cuba.

      A study of the 38 year period of the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland found that "internment without trial" as the British called it, was a highly effective recruiting tool for both sides of the conflict.

      To any country that claims to abide by the "Rule of Law" this is an offense.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What we've learned...

    ...is that the populace is a bunch of naive fools who think monitoring communications to save their arses from crime and terrorism is some kind of bad thing. It's just amazing how removed from reality most people are.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: What we've learned...

      No. What we've learned is that there are some in the population who have bought the whole "the world is a REEEEEEAAAALLLYY dangerous place" story, and will excuse the State anything in the pursuit of perpetrators.

      I'd rather have the small risk of something bad happening. Let's face it, the sort of crime most of us* will ever come across is not the sort that this kind of intelligence will ever pick up - petty vandalism, picked pockets, burglary, minor offences against the person. By all means, if the police have a suspicion that there is a conspiracy to commit a major crime, then they should do their jobs as they always have - work out who is likely to be involved, persuade a judge to give a warrant for proportionate intelligence gathering, and then, in the event of an arrest, gather sufficient evidence to persuade a jury that the suspects actually did it. That is the rule of law. Treating everyone as a suspect simply for being alive is wrong.

      * and the overwhelming majority of us will never experience any of these anyway

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great article !!!!!!! Well done!!!!

    I found this to be well written and on point. Too many of the general population are easyly distracted and do not see the REAL significance of recent changes in our national governments motives.

    You would be hard pressed to find this level of journalism within the US IMO.

    I think what we need to do as citizens...is stear away from overreaching governments and get back to regional rule. VPN like connections will become more common for those who are not turning a blind eye to the fact that our own governments are now spying on us...in addition to spying on other nations.

    Best wishes,

  33. mhenriday
    Boffin

    Two comments, Iain :

    «... Assange gives every impression of being a vainglorious martyr with very dodgy attitudes towards women and an overinflated sense of self importance.» Just the impression those affected by the leaks wish you to have, Iain - they are to be congratulated on the efficacy of their work, given that a normally perceptive person like yourself seems to be taking it at face value - and moreover, chooses to talk about «the silver-haired Aussie» rather than about what we have learned from the efforts of WikiLeaks....

    «After Snowden fled to Hong Kong he told the Chinese authorities about the efforts of the NSA to hack not just Middle Kingdom military servers, but also civilian networks such as mobile providers. There was a listening station not too far from his hotel room he said.» Fail, Iain - Mr Snowden didn't «tell «the Chinese authorities» ; he released this information to a journalist who published it in a newspaper. Quite a different kettle of fish....

    Admittedly, it's difficult to avoid be ensnared in the traps that organisations like the NSA and the GCHQ and their PR experts - also known, rather inaccurately, as journalists leave for us - that is why it's so important to pay attention to the details....

    Henri

  34. Blain Hamon
    Meh

    For those of us who are yanks,

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/publicly-address-world-and-terminate-prism-program/WV0kjWbq

    Sure, this will probably do nothing but let them know to keep spying on you, but enh, they probably already know anyways.

  35. User McUser
    Meh

    Misleading Article Title

    For an article titled "Forget Snowden: What have we learned about the NSA?" there sure was a whole lot of text talking about his activities and statements. The word "Snowden" appears 22 times in the article, but "NSA" only 14 times.

    Still enjoyed the article, I'm just saying...

  36. Colin Bain

    What's REALLY scary

    I went to a local tourist attraction and was asked my postcode & last name. I was stunned when the assistant then identified my first name!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's REALLY scary

      "asked my postcode & last name. I was stunned when the assistant then identified my first name!"

      Electoral register? There is an "edited" version and you can choose to have your details left off the edited version (which is, iirc, the one that is typically used commercially). Can't remember who is officialy entitled to the unexpurgated version.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: What's REALLY scary

        "Can't remember who is officialy entitled to the unexpurgated version."

        In the UK I think that includes credit reference agencies.

        But I'm sure none of them (or their staff) would misuse such information.

        Yeah right.

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: What's REALLY scary

      "I went to a local tourist attraction and was asked my postcode & last name. I was stunned when the assistant then identified my first name!"

      http://www.192.com/"

  37. nuked
    Mushroom

    "T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless appear not to be affected due to partial foreign ownership."

    You mean, the NSA didn't need a court order...

  38. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    Glenn Greenwald on Security and Liberty

    Glen Greenwald: The latest effort to distract attention from the NSA revelations is more absurd than most

    The oft-repeated claim that Snowden's intent is to harm the US is completely negated by the reality that he has all sorts of documents that could quickly and seriously harm the US if disclosed, yet he has published none of those. When he gave us the documents he provided, he repeatedly insisted that we exercise rigorous journalistic judgment in deciding which documents should be published in the public interest and which ones should be concealed on the ground that the harm of publication outweighs the public value. If his intent were to harm the US, he could have sold all the documents he had for a great deal of money, or indiscriminately published them, or passed them to a foreign adversary. He did none of that.

    He carefully vetted every document he gave us, and then on top of that, asked that we only publish those which ought to be disclosed and would not cause gratuitous harm: the same analytical judgment that all media outlets and whistleblowers make all the time. The overwhelming majority of his disclosures were to blow the whistle on US government deceit and radical, hidden domestic surveillance.

    My point in this interview was clear, one I've repeated over and over: had he wanted to harm the US government, he easily could have, but hasn't, as evidenced by the fact that - as I said - he has all sorts of documents that could inflict serious harm to the US government's programs. That demonstrates how irrational is the claim that his intent is to harm the US. His intent is to shine a light on these programs so they can be democratically debated. That's why none of the disclosures we've published can be remotely described as harming US national security: all they've harmed are the reputation and credibility of US officials who did these things and then lied about them.

    For those who say that they wish there was more attention paid to the substance of the NSA stories than Snowden: here is the list of the NSA revelations we've published over the last month. Feel free to focus on them any time.

  39. This Side Up
    Headmaster

    Do the math

    "In 1948 the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a child born in that year would be 65 today"

    No, about half of those still alive would be 65; the rest would be 64.

  40. Bruce Ordway

    "If you aren't doing anything wrong.....now"

    What about people who can be connected with questionable activities. Or they become the target of an investigation...... someday in the future?

    Heaven help us then. The government has mountains of historical data on file right now.

    I'm pretty sure I don't have anything to hide but.... I wouldn't want someone rummaging around in my history.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: "If you aren't doing anything wrong.....now"

      "I'm pretty sure I don't have anything to hide but.... I wouldn't want someone rummaging around in my history."

      Never heart the one (allegedly attributed to Cardinal Richleau about "Give me 6 lines written by an honest man and I can find something to hang him" ?

      The geniuses who think this s**t up never think about what happens if the government changes and they are on the watch list instead.

      Surveillance systems are neutral. Once installed who you chase is simply a question of policy

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: John Smith 19 Re: "If you aren't doing anything wrong.....now"

        ".....Once installed who you chase is simply a question of policy." And FINALLY, Johnnie Thicko gets something right, even if he doesn't realize the connotations of what he said. It all depends on policy. What Johnnie Thicko has failed to show is that there is any policy that affects him or anyone other than criminals and terrorists. IIRC, simply being a paranoid, tinfoil-wearing sheeple is not illegal in the UK or US. If Johnnie Thicko or any of the other sheeple wishes to contend otherwise then please let them post details of the laws targeting them. And even if it was in some way, in democratic countries like the US and UK, if you don't like the policy or law, you can nag your local politician to get it changed or threaten to vote in new politicians. The problem for Johnnie and the other sheeple is that the vast majority of the electorate simply aren't as paranoid as the sheeple are. So whilst the media thrash out the sensationalist headlines and the sheeple bleat in frenzy, the collective reaction of the majority is just to shrug and go on with their lives.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Happy

          Re: John Smith 19 "If you aren't doing anything wrong.....now"

          "What Johnnie Thicko has failed to show is that there is any policy that affects him or anyone other than criminals and terrorists."

          Do nothing and nothing happens, proving that nothing can happen, eh Mattie?

          Feel free to keep up the abuse Mattie. Just remember that exercising your rights has consequences.

          Now run along and calm down dear. That is basically you're attitude to this subject isn't it?

          1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

            Re: John Smith 19 "If you aren't doing anything wrong.....now"

            Don't feed the troll, his only arguments rely on simple minded ad hominem attacks. There is no point attempting a sensible, reasoned debate with one who lacks manners or reason, even when he's a well-spoken shill.

            And yes, I know my criticism may be construed as an ad hominem itself; got to love the irony eh?

          2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Johnnie Thicko Re: John Smith 19 "If you aren't doing anything wrong.....now"

            "....Do nothing and nothing happens, proving that nothing can happen, eh Mattie?...." As expected, when directly challenged to show how this affects him or any of the other sheeple, Johnnie ducks the issue. This is my surprised face, honest!

            ".....Feel free to keep up the abuse Mattie....." What, you thought you were going to get praise for such moronic ranting? Sorry, I really have a hard time in seeing why you think anyone would do anything other than poke fun at your bleating. If anything, you should thank me for showing you how wrong you are before you really make an idiot of yourself (well, it may be a bit late for that).

            "....Just remember that exercising your rights has consequences....." What, are you going to cry and think I'll feel bad if you do?

            ".....Now run along and calm down dear. That is basically you're attitude to this subject isn't it?" Pretty much. Once again, show me the harm done unto you, show me the crime committed, but until then you're just wasting bandwidth.

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Happy

              Re: Johnnie Thicko John Smith 19 "If you aren't doing anything wrong.....now"

              " Pretty much. Once again, show me the harm done unto you, show me the crime committed,"

              Do you like living in France, Mattie, because the US legal system has effectively turned into the French one.

              And BTW you're starting to crawl up the list from "occasionally worth listening to" through troll to full blown ar**hole I can ignore completely.

              At which point I can just stick you on my ignore list, knowing I'm missing nothing worth reading.

              The amount of signal in your noise is falling.

              1. Titus Technophobe
                Thumb Down

                @John Smith

                Whilst personally I think that Mr Bryant’s responses to your comments may have been overly robust and directly critical. He has also both responded to your discussion, and challenged you to prove statements that you have alleged in your comments.

                All of the comments you have made contain many unsubstantiated statements which I personally believe to be untrue. Your failure to respond really does show up your lies.

                1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
                  Unhappy

                  @Titus

                  "All of the comments you have made contain many unsubstantiated statements which I personally believe to be untrue."

                  No. Just too few hours in the day to deal with his BS.

                  "Your failure to respond really does show up your lies"

                  And this I find particularly irritating. I don't lie, but I've seen plenty of your comments that show a quite infantile trust in governments. You're the sort of person who talks about "The Nanny State," but in mattes of surveillance you don't think "Nanny" will ever do harm.

                  It's like hearing a toned down echo of Mattie which moves in lock step.

                  Again Titus, why do you bother to post? We've heard your cynicism. It's easy to articulate. Do you need to tell us about it over and over again?

                  1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                    Happy

                    Re: Johnnie Thicko Re: @Titus

                    "....No. Just too few hours in the day to deal with his BS......" It seems that others have plenty of time to post verifiable facts, but then I suppose it isn't quite as much of a challenge for them as it is for you.

                    Latest bit of hypocrisy from the Dickileaks camp - one of their "legal advisers" sent to aid Snowden in shooting himself in both feet is none other than Baltasar Garzon, head of St Jules' legal team. Garzon was a Spanish judge, right up until he was fired in 2012 for illegal wiretapping of the lawyers of those he was investigating. Now that's ironic!

                    1. Titus Technophobe
                      Stop

                      @John Smith

                      Repeated statements that you have made that I consider to be untrue are:

                      1. That with an increasing amount of surveillance an increasing number of people will be detained

                      2. All (Senior - you added this afterwards) Civil Servants are obsessed with spying on everybody, assuming everybody is guilty, and detaining people without trial

                      3. Direct statements that GCHQ are beyond British Law and oversight

                      A quick Google search shows that the third statement is untrue. My own experience suggests that your first two statements are at best an exaggeration and at worst total falsehoods. Perhaps you would like to provide some credible evidence that this is happening?

              2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: Johnnie Thicko Re: Johnnie Thicko John Smith 19 "If you aren't doing anything..."

                "Do you like living in France...." If I did, why wouldn't I? After all, home to la Revolution, it's a socialist paradise, isn't it? Apart from the massive overspending and being Germany's beeyatch, that is. But teh wine is cheap, so I suppose I could attempt to inculcate a muzzy, befuddled outlook similar to your own.

                "....because the US legal system has effectively turned into the French one....." That's just funny. For a start, the Fwench legal system still allows trial without jury for non-felony cases (or crimes likely to lead to less than 15 years in le clinque), whereas the US system uses trial by jury throughout. Do you actually know anything about the Fwench legal system or was that throw-away comment as shallowly researched as the rest of your bleatings?

                "....And BTW you're starting to crawl up the list from "occasionally worth listening to" through troll to full blown ar**hole I can ignore completely....." It's a staple amongst sheeple (and other cultists) that they reject those that "blaspheme" against their cherished views, gradually ignoring those that might help them see reality, until all they ingest is The Truth as spoonfed to them by their herders. It helps them to deny the arguments rather than trying to reconcile their idiotic views with reality, denial being so much easier. In truth, it is with a certain wryness I have to admit I consider it mildly upsetting that I haven't actually managed to top your list yet. But I am not surprised that you would give up trying to counter ideals so challenging to your limited comprehension. Enjoy!

  41. The Alpha Klutz

    Can Americans get any dumber? It appears not.

    If you want to pass a law to take away their freedoms all you have to do is call it the PATRIOT act. How ironic.

    Wouldn't happen here. There's plenty of goons trying to get the snooping laws in over here and they always fail. I think it's because the name is a lot shittier: IMP, no one here is dumb enough to vote for it. But in our country because we're free, if the government wants to do something and we're not voting, they'll just take away our right to vote, do it anyway, and promise that we can vote to remove the bad thing in the future (maybe). that's the British way of oppressing people.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Can Americans get any dumber? It appears not.

      "If you want to pass a law to take away their freedoms all you have to do is call it the PATRIOT act. How ironic."

      You know Americans. Want to do something really despicable just tell them it's your patriotic duty to support it.

      Don't forget THE PATRIOT act is all part of the backcronym.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It's all legal under..."

    Seems to be the point at which the majority of the public think "well not much to do/worry about there then" and switch off, whereas it should be the point we all get really, really pissed and start breaking things. I'm pretty sure carting people off to Abu Ghraib on a whim and connecting them to the mains intermittently was quite legal in Iraq, as indeed was arresting people in the UK outside party conferences for wearing T-shirts with anti-government slogans, or reciting the names of dead soldiers at the cenotaph.

    "Legal" merely means there is a law permitting something; not that it is justified, proportional or properly democratically accountable in implementation. Using it as a justification suggests you're a bit short of worthwhile arguments.

    1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

      Re: "It's all legal under..."

      This is often the "patriots" argument, and, if you look back over certain posts in this very thread (and many others by the same shills), you will see it used quite liberally throughout; the concept that what is legal is the same as what is right, just or moral.

      Legal is not necessarily an indication of Right.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Bernard M. Orwell Re: "It's all legal under..."

        "....the concept that what is legal is the same as what is right, just or moral....." Actually, it is. You see, in democratic countries, the laws are created by democratically elected politicians who answer to the wishes of the people. They enact the majority's will, what the majority perceive as right, moral and necessary (hence the war on drugs as the majority view the drug-trade as immoral). Old laws that do not reflect the change in the stance of the moral majority get changed (e.g., emancipation, homosexuality). So, for you to declare that it is "immoral" merely shows your conceit in thinking that you represent the moral majority. Please get over yourself.

        ".....Legal is not necessarily an indication of Right." And yes it is. By the same token as above, what the moral majority decide is legal then makes it right in a deomcracy. At the time when homosexuality was criminalised in the UK, the majority thought laws against homosexuality were moral and right, only that perception changed with time until the majority view was that discriminating against homosexuals is immoral and wrong and led to changes in the law. On the other hand, paedophilia is still viewed as immoral and wrong, and I'm sure even you would not contend that it could be "moral and right" just because society declares it illegal. You may choose to disagree as is your right in a democratic nation, but until you presuade the majority to vote the same way as politicians that share your convictions, and get those politicians to change the laws, the laws decide right and wrong. Enjoy!

        1. Dan Paul
          Devil

          Re: Bernard M. Orwell "It's all legal under..."

          Mr. Bryant, Unfortunately, you are dead wrong about "Legal being the same as what it is Right" and extraordinarily naive about the process of electing politicians.

          Politicians are not actaully elected, they are appointed to their candidacy by the rich people and organizations that support them. Of that small pool of people, we get several who can perhaps be elected but the main selection of candidates has never been performed by "The People".

          The average person cannot ever be elected because the process takes too much money. Then we get the ridiculous platinum spoon type candidates we have seen recently that have no idea what the people are about but sure know how to take care of their political and business cronies. "Elections" do not happen by the power of the voter but by the power of the gerrymandering political machine and the electoral college.

          Our elected representatives no longer represent the will of the people, they ONLY represent the will of those who put them in power. The laws are then decided by the plutocracy/aristocracy and enacted by the puppet regime without any involvement or review of the "People".

          This is how we got the NY Safe Act here in NY State (Bloomberg et al) and conversely the recent changes in abortion laws in Texas and Virginia.

          "The People" have been replaced by "The Corporations" and are now our owners, until such time as we are able to take the country back from the plutocracy.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Bernard M. Orwell "It's all legal under..."

            ".....they are appointed to their candidacy by the rich people and organizations that support them...." LOL, sorry to interupt your hatred of The Rich, but how do you explain the decade-plus of NuLabour in the UK, funded by our unions, supposedly representing "the workers"?

            ".....The average person cannot ever be elected...." I get quite sick of this constant whine that "poor" people or women or "blacks" can't get into Parliament (never heard of Diane Abbot?). FFS, we have a black POTUS, isn't it about time you stopped whining and realised there are no practical barriers except those you erect to keep yourselves down. Grow a backbone and get involved if you really want to change something, but sitting and whining accomplishes NOTHING. Major, epic fail driven by victimhood mentality.

            1. Dan Paul
              Devil

              Re: Bernard M. Orwell "It's all legal under..."

              No victimhood, only a statement of political fact. No hatred of the rich, only those who seem to want to rule the world by stepping on the necks of avrage people.

              No average person without "connections" has been elected to the Presidency of the US since shortly after it's inception. Show me one that did not have the backing of powerful interests beyond the scope of an average man. Once you get in then they call in the favors so you lose all honest men in the first round anyway.

              And how could you ever think you could use "Nu Labour" as any example? Don't you know what union leaders get paid (both above and below the table)?? Britain and the US are hardly any different there, unions are as crooked as the day is long.

              And who actually runs the US Labor Unions? Clue, they didn't kill Jimmie Hoffa because they were nice guys. Are you kidding me "representation" of "the workers"?? What are you taking? DeludeAll?

              And exactly how does a black President say anything about what political machine chose him and got him elected? Could have thought of any number of people that would have been a better choice but the Democrats played the race card and will play the gender card in the next election.

              Obama is a dirty Chicago politician and frankly no longer has any credibility and was bought and paid for years ago.

              Backbone has nothing to do with it. A corrupt system cannot be easily fixed and our system is as corrupt as it can get without being "obvious".

              FACT:

              THERE ARE NO AVERAGE PEOPLE THAT CAN BE ELECTED TO PRESIDENCY.

              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                Happy

                Re: Dan Paul Re: Bernard M. Orwell "It's all legal under..."

                "......No average person without "connections" has been elected to the Presidency of the US.... Show me one that did not have the backing of powerful interests beyond the scope of an average man...." Jimmy Carter the peanut farmer and only POTUS to ever have lived in subsidised public housing. Oops, did that blow another big hole in your arguments? Try again.

                1. Dan Paul
                  Devil

                  Re: Dan Paul Bernard M. Orwell "It's all legal under..."

                  You mean how he oversold himself to everyone to get their support and then couldn't make the promises happen? That he used his political offices as Senator and Governor to become a candidate and then the President and pissed off quite a few people in the meantime? That guy? You really need to get a better handle on the word "average".

                  1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                    Happy

                    Re: Dan Paul Re: Dan Paul Bernard M. Orwell "It's all legal under..."

                    "You mean how he oversold himself to everyone to get their support and then couldn't make the promises happen?....." The point was not whether he was a good POTUS or even a good politician, the point was that he came from quite humble background and quite connection-free, which you insisted had never happened. Nice attempt to avoid admitting you were wrong, but still nil points!

        2. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

          Re: Bernard M. Orwell "It's all legal under..."

          laws are created by lobbyists, not by elected representatives. Lobbyists represent capital enterprise mostly, not social groupings.

          Law is not created with the good of the people in mind, only the good of profit and capital gain. If you believe that law is still just in that light then you probably also believe that profit is the single measure of good.

          I believe elsewise.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Bernie Bore-well Re: Bernard M. Orwell "It's all legal under..."

              "....Do you really, truly believe that? That shows a level of naivety I didn't expect from you, Bryant....." yet you are unable to prove otherwise. Indeed, if the voters had no say, why do the political parties keep throwing so much cash and time at elections if it was all a foregone conclusion? Fail!

              "....Oh, and by the way, accusing people, even indirectly, of supporting/being paedophiles and/or terrorists, .....It also prompts a formal complaint to the Moderators....." I think it just shows another example of your lack of reading comprehension - please do show where I accused anyone of being a terrorist or paedo, even indirectly? I assume the moderators simply laughed as much as I did at your stupidity.

              Once again, I note you have posted a completely argument-free post, full of bleating and shrieking and righteous fury, and yet without a single fact to back up your paranoid outlook. FAIL!

              Enjoy!

              1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

                Re: Bernie Bore-well Bernard M. Orwell "It's all legal under..."

                There is clearly no point in engaging with you. What a waste of space you are.

                1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                  Happy

                  Re: Boring Bernie Re: Bernie Bore-well Bernard M. Orwell "It's all legal under..."

                  "There is clearly no point in engaging with you....." What is clear is that you cannot engage with anyone that does not merely parrot the same load of male bovine manure as you have been spoonfed.

                  "......What a waste of space you are." Yeah, still no room for any form of diversity in the flock, I see. So funny to see you retreating at speed, makes me wonder how you can ride your moral hobbyhorse so fast with your tail between your legs. I would suggest you try learning the art of debating, it will help you with future encounters with those with views unacceptable amongst the sheeple. You may have to develop the ability for independent thought first, though.

                  I see that Baltasar Garzon is not officially a member of Snowden's legal team, which raises the interesting point of legal protection should the US pursue charges of aiding and abetting Snowden in a criminal act under the Espionage Act. I'm sure the US authorities would love to limit St Jules' lawyer ability to travel.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: AC Re: "It's all legal under..."

      ".....whereas it should be the point we all get really, really pissed and start breaking things......" So you are advocating actually breaking the law - "breaking things" - as a means of changing the authorities behaviour? That may work in Egypt, it is very unlikely to work in the US or UK, despite whatever anarchist fantasy you've been jacking off to.

      ".....Using it as a justification suggests you're a bit short of worthwhile arguments." Except it was the argument-free sheeple that were stating it was "illegal" without any form of corroboration or legal argument to back up that claim. Thanks for pointing out their desperation.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Meh

        Re: AC "It's all legal under..."

        "Except it was the argument-free sheeple that were stating it was "illegal" without any form of corroboration or legal argument to back up that claim. "

        You use the word "sheeple" a lot Mattie.

        I don't think you know what it means. If you did you'd only have to look in the mirror to see one.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Johnnie Thicko Re: AC "It's all legal under..."

          "....You use the word "sheeple" a lot Mattie. I don't think you know what it means...." Well, if we take a possible definition of someone that mindlessly repeats "hip'n'trendy" socio-political views but - when challenged on them - cannot provide any form of meaningful argument, preferring to argue over the definition of the term "sheeple", then I would have to suggest you are the perfect example. Enjoy!

  43. Roo
    FAIL

    "we're going to have to deal with the issue of how far we are willing to let government agencies monitor our online life and under what circumstances."

    That is a rather pointless issue to address, more importantly we should be asking "how can we enforce our wishes in this area", because quite clearly voting isn't working and it won't work either because the folks who instigate and run this stuff have just demonstrated that they are beyond the law, and therefore unaccountable by definition.

    As Eadon might have put it : EPIC ACCOUNTABILITY FAIL.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An investigation would be good but...

    What can we really expect from US.gov?

    It's pretty clear that Clapper perjured himself in his testimony.

    And Congress, supine as usual, won't hold him accountable.

    Pretty sad state of affairs.

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