back to article US intelligence: Snowden's latest leaks 'road map' for adversaries

The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has issued a response to the latest revelations from Edward Snowden with a warning that the information is "not news," but has nevertheless harmed the agency's ability to keep America and its allies safe. On Thursday ProPublica, The New York Times, and The Guardian …

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  1. Grave

    criminal intelligence activity

    "The stories published yesterday, however, reveal specific and classified details about how we conduct this critical intelligence activity," it said."

    and here i thought it said "criminal intelligence activity". that would be the day lol

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: criminal intelligence activity

      Indeed.

      But as you know with THE PATRIOT act, it's (99.9%) legal.

      US companies, US offices, US servers.

      And there 's always GCHQ for the rest.

      I'm sort of reminded of a bad action thriller where the head bad guy says something like "I said I wouldn't kill you, and I won't. "

      (Gestures to #1 henchmen) "He's going to kill you instead."

      1. Oninoshiko

        Re: Legal under the Patriot Act

        In the US all laws have to be interpreted with the qualifier of "as limited by the constitution and it's amendments."

        The NSA's domestic spying violates the First, Fourth, and Fifth amendments. So no, it's not legal.

        1. Don Jefe
          Unhappy

          Re: Legal under the Patriot Act

          Unfortunately it doesn't work that way and never has. If the Attorney General interprets a tactic, practice or policy to be necessary to fulfill legislation already passed, and, under his assesment of the powers allowed by the Constitution OK's it, it becomes legal until, and if, the Supreme Court says it isn't.

          Congress can so some things to halt such unilateral decisions such as defunding or repealing the underlying legislation or passing specific legislation to stop them but rarely do they manage to pull it off. It's how Presidents from Lincoln through today do end runs around common sense readings of the Constitution.

          It's shitty, cowardly, and not at all the way it was originally designed to work, but that's the way it is. And it's legal...

        2. tom dial Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: Legal under the Patriot Act

          It does not violate the First Amendment. Nothing in what has been revealed establishes or affects free exercise of religion, or abridges the freedom of the press, or prevents peaceable assembly to petition the Government. The fact that some people might self censor out of fear that an NSA analyst will see their activities in no way prevents those activities.

          It does not violate the Fifth Amendment. What the NSA is doing does not result in holding a person for a capital or infamous crime; it could influence a grand jury toward issue of an indictment, but that's at least one remove from the collection and analysis of data. It does not subject an accused to double jeopardy (although other Federal actions arguably do so), and it surely does not compel any degree of self incrimination. Taking private property for public use also seems a nonstarter.

          The weak point seems to be the Fourth Amendment. Things may be a bit less clear, but established law, for about 40 years, has it that telephone metadata such as has been compelled by subpoena from Verizon does not constitute unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. The government could be expected to argue that (a) internet metadata collection is not meaningfully different from telephone billing data. There may be issues with collecting all metadata rather than that of a particular group of named individuals, and there may be issues with probable cause; these issues seem not to have been determined yet by courts. As things stand, the best that can be said is that some people feel strongly that this collection exceeds Fourth Amendment limits.

          As for the collected content (e. g., email bodies), the government doubtless will argue that collecting and storing the content does not constitute searching or seizure, but that search is done only when the stored data is retrieved for examination by an analyst. They might be able to persuade the courts of that, or in the event they cannot, that the efforts described to ensure exclusion of data that does not have at least one endpoint outside the US are adequate (possibly with further tightening).

          1. Oninoshiko

            Re: Legal under the Patriot Act

            Thanks for challenging me on this; I'll admit I was kinda hoping someone would.

            It does not violate the First Amendment. Nothing in what has been revealed establishes or affects free exercise of religion, or abridges the freedom of the press, or prevents peaceable assembly to petition the Government. The fact that some people might self censor out of fear that an NSA analyst will see their activities in no way prevents those activities.

            It does not violate the Fifth Amendment. What the NSA is doing does not result in holding a person for a capital or infamous crime; it could influence a grand jury toward issue of an indictment, but that's at least one remove from the collection and analysis of data. It does not subject an accused to double jeopardy (although other Federal actions arguably do so), and it surely does not compel any degree of self incrimination. Taking private property for public use also seems a nonstarter.

            In National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958) the Supreme Court held that freedom of association is essential to free speech, and therefore came under the fourteenth amendment.

            The Fourteenth Amendment is almost identical to the Fifth Amendment, execept The Fifth covers the federal government and the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth covers states.

            The weak point seems to be the Fourth Amendment. Things may be a bit less clear, but established law, for about 40 years, has it that telephone metadata such as has been compelled by subpoena from Verizon does not constitute unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. The government could be expected to argue that (a) internet metadata collection is not meaningfully different from telephone billing data. There may be issues with collecting all metadata rather than that of a particular group of named individuals, and there may be issues with probable cause; these issues seem not to have been determined yet by courts. As things stand, the best that can be said is that some people feel strongly that this collection exceeds Fourth Amendment limits.

            As for the collected content (e. g., email bodies), the government doubtless will argue that collecting and storing the content does not constitute searching or seizure, but that search is done only when the stored data is retrieved for examination by an analyst. They might be able to persuade the courts of that, or in the event they cannot, that the efforts described to ensure exclusion of data that does not have at least one endpoint outside the US are adequate (possibly with further tightening).

            Katz v. United States (1967) established the rule that the fourth amendment protections is extended if the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy recognized by society.

            Smith v. Maryland (1979) said that pen registers where ok because Smith voluntarily disclosed the numbers he was calling to the phone company, and therefor had no reasonable expectation of privacy.

            Which is more relevant is debatable, and considering the conflicting rulings the 1st/5th combo is probably more powerful.

        3. deadlockvictim Silver badge

          Re: Legal under the Patriot Act

          Irrelevant.

          In the States only the Second Amendment [1] is important. Everything else is just a roadmap for Commies

          (or to use more up-to-date jargon) Terrorists.

          [1] Absolutely necessary because the British might invade again. Remember 1814!

      2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: criminal intelligence activity

        Or if you're in a county (NZ) that never really introduced loopy do-anything-for-national-security bills, when the courts rule that you can't legally collect and use evidence, you get a law passed that retroactively makes it all OK. Why follow the law, when it can be re-written when needed.

        The three cases are the Dotcom spying, police use of surveillance cameras without a court order, and the cops misleading a court.

        You can read plenty about Dotcom's case, and GCHQ managing to miss his legal status (or not care, since pleasing the USA trumps pretty much anything), the ability of governments to seize your business and personal assets without actually convicting you of anything, then dragging out the following stages. Why convict someone, when you can just bankrupt them? Good ol' USA justice.

        The police need a court order to use video surveillance on private property. A member of the public can, in a public place, record anything they can see. The police concluded that if their surveillance camera is on public property then they do not need a court order. Never bothered to check with the courts. When challenged on this (in a trial for terrorism and insurrection no less) it turns out that, no, police still have to get a court order if they want to use it for evidence. A law change was rushed through as it turned out 3-400 cases rested upon video evidence that was not actually legal evidence. This was framed as "keeping bad guys in jail" rather than "we've been using illegally obtained evidence to obtain convictions because we're too lazy to follow the law"

        The third was when it turned out that in order to bolster the reputation of an undercover cop, the undercover was arrested and charged. The cops giving evidence where aware of this, so deceived the court. This is the case that actually irked Justice more than anything else, since the other where (delibrate perhaps) mus-interpretations or mistakes on certain points, sworn police officers lying to the court is a huge breech of trust.

        When the police or state agencies (spy, military etc) get caught up in doing what they feel is right over what is legal, then an important line is crossed. When those agencies get caught, and the moral code >> legal code is now the official line, then we're one step closer to totalitarianism. No questioning the system, the system is always right, exposing the wrongs that are done to our citizens is helping the enemy, we have always been at war with eastasia etc

    2. LarsG

      Control is power.

      The world has sleep walked into this sh*t but now we are starting to wake up.

      1. Gannon (J.) Dick

        Geez Lars

        "Throughout history, nations have used encryption to protect their secrets ..."

        One of the first signs of wakefulness is the argument that 'we have done stupid sh*t that doesn't work "throughout history"' , as if that made it work better, and as if 'the bad guys' were stuck on stupid too.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shannon%27s_Maxim

      2. RobHib

        @LarsG

        "Control is power. / The world has sleep walked into this sh*t but now we are starting to wake up."

        You're right about control and power, and I'd hope you're correct about us starting to wake up. However I'm sceptical, history has shown we've but brief and fleeting memories—you know, 'The War to End All Wars' etc. Such phrases are now rhetoric but that the time they were meant and heartfelt, but a generation or so later all bets were off and it was back to the usual killing business, this time with a vengeance.

        Moreover, we easily lose sight of the damage governments do to their own citizens. And the 20th C. saw a great deal of that, a point I've laboured on about in a post further on.

        .

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "The world has sleep walked into this sh*t but now we are starting to wake up."

        Wake up and do what? Complain to MP's? Protest in the streets?

        The UK government (and I'm sure the US will too), simply ignore the protestations of its citizens.

        UK government has said extremely little, other than to say " We don't comment on intelligence matters".

        The stone walling is proving to be highly effective.

        From the book written by Tomlinson, there is virtually no accountability to anyone, save the prime minister over these SIS organisations. And the British PM is very actively supporting the SIS's.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: criminal intelligence activity

      ", and today, terrorists, cybercriminals, human traffickers and others also use code to hide their activities," the agency said on its recently launched Tumblr page."

      When this spying on US citizens was first exposed, our government told us that this information was being used to stop terrorists and was authorized by the so called Patriot Act. From the sound of this, it has evolved into a gigantic fishing expedition designed to catch almost anyone (US citizens included) breaking any law. They tried using a chicken shit copyright the Initials NSA or anything connected to agency to stop criticism from their agency up to the point citizens should not be allowed to mention the name of this agency. I sounds like the former Soviet leadership has taken over America and the NSA (KGB in Russian) is operating at full speed.

  2. raving angry loony

    A guide to Hypocrisy

    If "spy on everyone, including our citizens and citizens of friendly countries" is what they mean by "keep America and its allies safe" then they should pay more attention to historical figures.

    “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

    ― Benjamin Franklin

    The USA has shown itself to yet again be the great hypocrite, condemning nations like China for their spying on their own citizens, when in fact they were doing the same if not worse to their own. Especially when the same governments that condemned the practice are letting those who outright lied get away with it. The fact they they provably did the spying is what's damaged them, not the whistleblowing. Of course, they'll never admit that.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: A guide to Hypocrisy

      But remember Benjamin Franklin was a subversive supporter of terrorists - and worse than that a potential free thinking individualist

    2. RobHib

      @raving angry loony - Re: A guide to Hypocrisy

      Raving angry loony you may be, but 'tis good to see you in keeping with earlier namesakes.

      Remember in King Lear it was the fool who told the truth, not his doddering old master. The parallel's remarkable (or perhaps more commonplace than sense let's us think it is).

  3. Doug Bostrom

    NSA please look in the mirror

    Nothing more pathetic than seeing somebody who can't keep a secret blaming somebody else for their own failings.

    Secrecy begins and ends in the hands of the secret.

    1. RobHib

      @Doug Bostrom - Re: NSA please look in the mirror

      "Secrecy begins and ends in the hands of the secret."

      ...only if not overruled by a greater imperative.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: @Doug Bostrom - NSA please look in the mirror

        Or overruled with a warrant or National Security Letter... Whether or not those truly qualify as a greater imperative is yet to be seen.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    NSA - National Socialist Agency

    IBM didn't see anything wrong with selling card machines to the Nazis. Now we know that the were used to send people to their deaths much more efficiently using machine data processing techniques.

    What next from the NSA ?

    Will they be telling us the we are at war with Oceana or you suddenly find yourself alone in a room with a man called O'Brien ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Re: NSA - National Socialist Agency

      To the down voters, consider this:

      Both the NSA and GCHQ programs were named after civil war conflicts in the US and UK:

      Bullrun (US) Edgehill (UK)

      1. Doug Bostrom

        Re: NSA - National Socialist Agency

        They both need to be working from a larger dictionary.

      2. Don Jefe

        Re: NSA - National Socialist Agency

        Do you know what the Battles of Bull Run were named after?

        1. Tikimon Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Bull Run origin

          The Battles of Bull Run were named after the watercourse that crossed the area. For some reason, in that part of Virgina they liked to call a creek a "run". It's equivalent to "Bull Creek". You see them everywhere in northern Virginia, I used to live beside Four Mile Run, which had nothing to do with jogging.

          1. Don Jefe
            Happy

            Re: Bull Run origin

            I know :) I was trying to point out to the Admiral of Questionable Logic up there the folly in trying to find correlations between the names of something that's named after something else that's named after something else.

            I was over near Four Mile Run last week! Glebe is my primary escape route towards home when I'm leaving Reagan.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NSA - National Socialist Agency

      "IBM didn't see anything wrong with selling card machines to the Nazis", not this old chestnut again. May I remind you that the US were not at war with Germany at the time, so dealing with the German state was not forbidden. Also that considering how well the Nazis hid the death camps, it's highly unlikely that the invoice for the equipment would have said anything like "computing tabulating and recording equipment for extermination of Jews, Gays and Gypsies."

      Were it ever proven otherwise, IBM staff would have been put on trial for assisting war crimes.

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: NSA - National Socialist Agency

        Don't be stupid. The death camps weren't obvious, but the (legal) theft of property, mass exodus, rounding up and carting off of large numbers of peoples was. For example, the New York Times, in 1939 after the invasion of Poland, that 3 million jews had been rounded up, and where likely to be exterminated. IBMs memo of the same indicated that this "event" would need to speed up delivery of alphabetic sorting machines.

        None of the Nuremburg trials was for genocide. The crime that people where hung for was "waging a war of aggression". The first conviction of anyone ever for genocide by the Hague was in the 1990's.

        The majority of the people who worked in the camps, who organised the mass murder, where not ever put on trial. So the concept that IBM (or Ford, Kodak, Chase Bank, Standard Oil etc) would be prosecuted is a bit odd. Standard Oil (now BP, Chevron and a couple of others) made the fuel for the luftwaffe. No lead for the petrol, no planes bombing the UK. Even had a big stockpile shifted from London, to help fuel planes to bomb London.

        War is a crime. A profitable crime, so it continues. Empires have, are and will be built on it. Well, the plundering part of it.

  5. Nate Amsden Silver badge

    they are only doing their job

    And Snowden is doing his duty.

    keep it up, can't say I'm too shocked at any of the revelations(doesn't stop it from being depressing though), but it is nice to finally have some solid confirmation, especially for the less technical folks who thought people that believed this was happening were just crazy..

    Not that I really have much of anything to hide from the NSA - but it makes me feel a teeny bit better about having hosted all my own services (email/web/etc) for the past 16 years, on my own physical equipment (well there was a period of about a year when I was in a vmware cloud).

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: they are only doing their job

      "... it is nice to finally have some solid confirmation, especially for the less technical folks who thought people that believed this was happening were just crazy."

      My thoughts exactly, except it was not just the "less technical folks" on here who were trying to make us look like tin-foil-hatters (you know who you are, guys). Remember every time someone came on to say "Why would anyone want to look at you boring stuff?", or "Do you realise how big a system would be required to do this?"?

      Sadly, not one of those people, who post here regularly, have said "Ooops, you were right! Sorry!!". They just come on and tell us that it was to be expected, why should we worry, and versions of "nothing to hide, nothing to fear.

      1. Matt 21

        Re: they are only doing their job

        While I'm not surprised by the NSA and GCHQ being able to decrypt SSL I have to admit I was taken-a-back by the sheer scale of how much they look at. I really didn't think they had the power to process that much data without impacting the performance of internet traffic in a way which would be obvious to everyone.

        I'm pretty sure I poo-pooed those who said otherwise, so, sorry, you were right!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: they are only doing their job

          "While I'm not surprised by the NSA and GCHQ being able to decrypt SSL I have to admit I was taken-a-back by the sheer scale of how much they look at. I really didn't think they had the power to process that much data without impacting the performance of internet traffic in a way which would be obvious to everyone."

          What? You're using a site like The Register, where most people are technically qualified/minded, and you think the power to decrypt data would impact on the performance of the internet?

          What ARE you thinking? That the internet data is routed FIRST through GCHQ or NSA systems, is decrypted and then routed to the publicly accessible internet? Do you think that's what the network topology is?

          Far more likely, well, it has to be like this, the communication streams are copied, the original data stream passes down the fibre uninterrupted, without any delay and no-one notices or even is remotely aware that the data stream has been copied and routed to the intelligence agencies.

          I

      2. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: they are only doing their job

        Don't Panic, Mr Potsherd, Matt Bryant will be along shortly to explain why he was right all along, why we are stupid, wrong and uninformed, and why Everything Will Be Alright (Trust and Obey) If We Believe in Big Brother (tm).

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So which is it?

    If it's not news, how does it help our enemies?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So which is it?

      It's helping the goverment's enemies ... That would be we, the people .. in case you were unsure.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Nicho

        "It's helping the goverment's enemies ... That would be we, the people .. in case you were unsure."

        For those who feel ready, try reading Albert Jay Nock's classic "Our Enemy, the State".

        http://www.amazon.com/Our-Enemy-State-Including-Doing/dp/0914156012/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378561103&sr=1-2&keywords=our+enemy+the+state

        Amazon's prices are a bit high, but the Mises Institute will sell you a copy for a mere $13.

        http://mises.org/document/4685/Our-Enemy-the-State

        Nock wasn't an out-and-out anarchist, nor did he think we would be better off without any government at all. Rather, he contrasts "government" (whose only task is to ensure that justice is done, and which is a necessity) with "the state" (whose only function is to transfer money from some people to other people, in return for nothing).

        1. RobHib

          @Ton Welsh - Re: @Nicho

          Right, but you should point out there's a legit freebie copy here (also at Mises):

          http://mises.org/books/Our_Enemy_The_State_Nock.pdf

          If that doesn't work then Google the many other copies out there.

          Mind you, I've had the hard-copy book copy for years, it came from Laissez Faire Books if I recall correctly.

          (Isn't it funny how popular Albert Jay Nock's Our Enemy the State has become in the past few years. I wonder what that tells us, eh?)

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: So which is it?

      It gives our enemies nearly limitless fodder for solid fucking gold comedy. There is nothing that (self)important people hate more than being made fools of.

    3. g e

      Re: So which is it?

      Because they say so. They're the NSA after all, they know this stuff and wouldn't bullshit you.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So which is it?

      Of course it can be two polar opposites at the same time. Your weakness and failings in this area suggest you should be sent off to Room 101 for a short course in doublethink before you endanger all of our security. Guards!!!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So which is it?

      our enemies

      A.K.A People who might want to question the ROI and the general efficiency of the entire spook-complex!

    6. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: So which is it? @AC OP

      "If it's not news, how does it help our enemies?"

      I actually thought that disconnect would be the first comment on here. It sticks out like a sore thumb, because it really does show who these clowns think the enemy actually is - us!

  7. stuff and nonesense

    While the Soviet Bloc was crumbling

    the BBC went into the newly free East Germany, comments were made about surveillance cameras on every street corner being the sign of a totalitarian regime.

    23 years later walk through London.. (I lost count of the cameras I saw) .. you will see many cameras watching pedestrians, traffic cameras with automatic (car) number plate recognition.. cameras to trap speeding motorists, policemen with cameras on their shoulders (claimed to be for the protection of the police - evidence in case they get assaulted..

    Since then the number of methods available for surveillance has increased, each is exploited.

    There is no problem with properly targeted monitoring. It is a necessary evil. Blanket monitoring of a population is simply wrong, expensive and not needed.

    The cracking of internet ciphers was/is to be expected, the use of the ability to read encrypted traffic should be restricted by a specific court warrant, be tied to a case and never be generally used.

    1. RobHib
      Stop

      @stuff and nonesense - Re: While the Soviet Bloc was crumbling

      It's stuff and perhaps nonesense, but not nonsense.

      Would you or anyone please tell me why (a) the British establishment has taken to surveillance like ducks to water, and (b) why the British public puts up with it? It's truly perplexing—perhaps Britain is the best example of an actual authoritarian state that we're not supposed to know about.

      Are the British all secret voyeurs or such and they've a secret love affair with surveillance/cameras? Or do the British feel deprived because they've missed out on too many episodes of Candid Camera and now that cameras are a dime—err sorry, sixpence—a dozen, they're making up for lost time?

      And why with Britain's remarkable history—of Agincourt, Trafalgar, Waterloo, WWII defiance and all that stuff—haven't the British citizenry actually declared war on all that surveillance nonsense?

      Then perhaps it's been a great PR con-job all along and the country is actually packed to the gunnels with loads of complacent wimps whose only joy left is the occasional and lucky Ashes win against Australia.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @stuff and nonesense - While the Soviet Bloc was crumbling

        They're all drugged up on X-Factor and similar TV crap to notice or care...

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: @stuff and nonesense - While the Soviet Bloc was crumbling @RobHib

        "And why with Britain's remarkable history—of Agincourt, Trafalgar, Waterloo, WWII defiance and all that stuff—haven't the British citizenry actually declared war on all that surveillance nonsense?"

        Those were all fights against "the other"; Johnny Foreigner, you know. There has only been one genuine revolution in the entire history of the country - the English Revolution - but even that went back to "business as usual" after a short while. We have had a tendency to send the kind of people brave enough to stand by non-officially approved principles abroad over the years. We have no idea how to rebel effectively, and will tut at anyone that does.

      3. thenim

        Re: @stuff and nonesense - While the Soviet Bloc was crumbling

        Primarily because, if anyone were to stand up and voice concern, they'd be immediately labelled a terrorist paedophile!

        So, it's either

        1. thenim

          Re: @stuff and nonesense - While the Soviet Bloc was crumbling

          oops, premature posting...

          <continued>

          ... be shafted or be shafted, eitherways we the population are shafted...

          </continued>

  8. Chris G Silver badge

    It's Incredible

    The amount of surveillance and spying that our governments carry out against us in the name of our protection...THAT WE KNOW ABOUT.

    1. Beau
      Facepalm

      Re: It's Incredible

      Not so incredible, just rather sad, have those Yanks actually forgotten?

      "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

      Benjamin Franklin

      1. Gagol
        Facepalm

        Re: It's Incredible

        I dont get it, the giy invented lightning, big deal!

  9. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    "He did his job and all he got was pneumonia on a watchtower at Auschwitz"

    "Our intelligence community would not be doing its job if we did not try to counter that"

    Who gave you that job?

    Who defined that job? Did you define that job yourself?

    What is it for?

    Where is the job description?

    Does your paymaster know about you doing this job for him?

    Does he approve of being the object of this job?

    Is the job worth anything or is it just an ego trip and funride that yields nothing? Evidence says so.

    Do you think your job is ethically a bit problematic? If not, why not?

    Who pays for your job? Is it future generations? If so, are they okay with that?

    Do you truthfully report to your supervisor (not the coloured decider cretin , i mean the "representatives")? If not, why not?

    Is your supervisor in full control of his mental faculties? If not, why do you assume you are doing your job correctly?

    Do you think your job is putting the nation on a path of hegemonistic ideological control? If not, why not?

    Does your head rest uneasily?

    What is conscience?

    etc. etc.

  10. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    FAIL

    Benefits to the public debate outwieghed by the costs.

    Considering that we can't have a public debate without knowing about these programs, I would have to disagree with the esteemed Director of National Intelligence on this one.

  11. btrower

    OK. I guess somebody really messed up.

    From the sounds of it, someone responsible for *legal* secrets necessary to protect lives went and mixed them all up with illegal ones so that the whistle-blower had to choose between revealing a sweeping and dangerous violation of the law and protecting the few legitimate secrets.

    Who is really responsible for endangering the legitimate activities of the NSA? I would say the ones that compromised the agency by breaking the law and I am not talking about Snowden here.

    If there are any patriots left in the current U.S. administration they should be working to clean up this mess and bring the administration back within the confines of the law. Thus far, I see people already on the edge of treason doing cynical damage control so they can go back to secretly violating the law.

    BTW -- I am Canadian, so even *IF* they get themselves back under control, I still have to straighten out my own government to make sure that neither government is reading my mail.

    In recent years the entire apparatus of the State seems incapable of ever punishing the actual wrong-doers. How on earth did we have the Wall Street melt-down and not a single person went to jail? The law has entirely broken down.

  12. John Deeb

    " adversaries"

    "the road map they give to our adversaries"

    But for NSA everyone is nowadays an "adversary" or might be at some point. In their systematic thinking there's no real distinction possible any more . Everyone being potentially a target so any avoidance of detection is potentially an adversary tactic...

  13. Yes Me Silver badge
    Alert

    Backdoors

    "NSA and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have placed backdoors in popular encryption standards "

    That is *not* what Bruce says. He says they have placed backdoors in *implementations* of the standards - in other words, they've got at the code.

    That's why open source implementations of cryptography are the way to go; you can look for the backdoor yourself (assuming you have the right skills). What we have learned this week, which we really knew already, is that you can't trust an implementation of cryptography that's sold to you in a black box.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Backdoors

      No, I think he was saying they've weakened the standards themselves through their influence over the standardization process. Even if perfectly implemented, the resulting ciphers have weaknesses that the NSA can exploit.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Backdoors @AC

        "No, I think he was saying they've weakened the standards themselves through their influence over the standardization process. Even if perfectly implemented, the resulting ciphers have weaknesses that the NSA can exploit."

        That is my interpretation of what he says, too. The standards are broken from the point of view of the user, so it doesn't matter whether it is black-box or otherwise.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Backdoors

        this weakening of the standards might have something to do with the NSA/FBI/EU+world+dog non-organisation called ILETS who's job it was (and *is*) to push 'Lawful Interception APIs' onto telecoms providers/producers/nations. The part of ILETS that did this was/is allegedly the STC "Standards Technical Committee"

        Duncan Campbell even claimed here http://www.heise.de/tp/artikel/6/6398/1.html

        By planting its requirements on bodies like the ITU and ISO, the police and security agencies involved (ILETS/STC) have effectively acted as an international treaty organisation.

        But they were blind to any interests other than their own narrow world-view. "In the name of law and order, the US is now pursuing an international accord that urges stronger surveillance capabilities in nations with appalling human-rights records" says Susan Landau, co-author of Privacy on the Line.

        By taking Hong Kong into their club, they have shared their advanced ideas on surveillance with the butchers of Tienanmen Square. By seeking the ITU's imprimatur on building surveillance into new communications systems, they have handed the vile butchers of the Kosovans and the Kurds the future tools to seek out and murder their opponents. The new IUR will be welcome news in Thailand and Singapore, and everywhere where enemies of liberty thrive.

        Even if you are a conservative European or US politician, this can only be a source of shame. ILETS has thrown the vital principles of the European Convention and the US Constitution into the dustbin

        and he worked all this out around 14 years ago!!

  14. Captain DaFt

    Americans safe from... What?

    I'm only slightly more at risk from terrorist attack than I am from getting hit in the head with an anvil, Warner Brothers style.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Americans safe from... What?

      It's always been that way hasn't it? Modern terrorism in the West has always been a statistical anomaly; from the worst of the IRA or Basque separatists right through to the modern jihadi you stand a better chance of dying from a bicycle accident or a rare brain eating bacteria from the jungle.

      Terrorism is a stupid, negative sum, way of waging conflict. It is only effective when people give in to irrational emotions and fears. Governments and 'anti-terror' specialists can dress up and play Captain Hindsight all they want but there's fuck all they can realistically do to stop terrorism. Only the stupid or setup terrorists ever get caught beforehand, the rest are identified by DNA and the contents of their fireproof wallets.

      If we are scared and surrender our liberties to the crazies in government, the terrorists will blow themselves up because they are winning. If we fight back they will still blow themselves up and we are helping to make more by killing their comrades and angering them. If we calmly assess the realities of the situation, sip our beers and do nothing beyond the basic safety precautions we've been doing since the 1950's the terrorists will still blow themselves up. Only one of those three scenarios is basically stress free, involves beer and is completely immune to the terror part of terrorism. That's the one I choose.

      1. Rol Silver badge

        Re: Americans safe from... What?

        The ability to break the Nazi cypher during WWII was a huge secret, for obvious reasons, and keeping that secret meant avoidable deaths were not always avoided.

        I wonder how far down that path the NSA has travelled, how many intercepts of common criminality have been ignored to allay any suspicion of their all seeing all knowing surveillance, how many people could still be alive today if the NSA had acted on the information, but chose secrecy over humanity?

        In a time of war it is understandable that some sacrifices are made for the greater good, but during peacetime there is no justification for withholding vital evidence of serious criminality.

        Why hasn't every paedophile who uses the internet for their twisted pleasure been arrested?

        Come on, it's no longer a secret now, so lets use your resources for some greater good and fill the prisons to bursting with all the low life we'd prefer to be off the streets.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Americans safe from... What?

          And once "we" are done, *let's* dismantle the ...

          Oops!

        2. Suricou Raven

          Re: Americans safe from... What?

          Probably quite a few, but the leaks also show the use of 'parallel construction' in high-profile cases to allow law enforcement to deny the NSA's involvement. As far as the accused knows, the police just had an amazing strike of luck or an anonymous tip-off.

          1. tom dial Silver badge

            Re: Americans safe from... What?

            Those who were caught will be prosecuted for their acts, and if they have a good enough lawyer may be able to argue their way out based on inadmissibility of some evidence. That does seem a stretch, though, since the intercepted data is likely to have been to a non-US person and therefore much less a Fourth Amendment issue. The obvious reason for NSA to insist on parallel construction is to attempt to keep the data collection secret. Now that's no longer an issue, it conceivably could change.

        3. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: Americans safe from... What?

          "Why hasn't every paedophile who uses the internet for their twisted pleasure been arrested?"

          Maybe because they really are not spying on their own citizens. They say they aren't, and Snowden and his promoters say they are. Is there any reason to believe either group over the other?

          Wherever the truth lies, pretty much everyone agrees that NSA should not be "spying" on US residents and GCHQ should not be "spying" on those in the UK. Yet you seem to take the position that since they are presumed to have the capability, they should use it for what you consider good purposes. Paedos now, a huge majority would agree on that, and in the US, there is evidence that there may have been hints given to DEA based on NSA data collection, although the legality of that is somewhat arguable and conceivably could abort some prosecutions.

          Despite the clamor about spying on citizens there is not really much evidence of it. The real problem lies in the temptation to use the technical capabilities that NSA (and GCHQ) have developed for an ever expanding "public good". Because the technology is not going to go away, there is a need to ensure that there are appropriate controls on its use.

        4. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Americans safe from... What? @RoI 03:07 Saturday

          "Come on, it's no longer a secret now, so lets use your resources for some greater good and fill the prisons to bursting with all the low life we'd prefer to be off the streets."

          No, please, no! That would make it all much worse. It really would be the State against the people, because function-creep would once again take over, and there would be calls for anyone suspected of having done anything naughty due to these illegal and immoral intercepts being tried. Leaving aside the fact that the court system couldn't cope, the ultimate end would be that politicians would be able to say "Look how many people we have prosecuted! We are tough on crime!!". It would become impossible for any future government to dismantle the system, and we would be stuck with it forever.

          Quite simply, I don't want to live in a zero-tolerance society in which any crime is detected and punished. Do you?

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Americans safe from... What?

        "Terrorism is a stupid, negative sum, way of waging conflict. It is only effective when people give in to irrational emotions and fears. Governments and 'anti-terror' specialists can dress up and play Captain Hindsight all they want but there's fuck all they can realistically do to stop terrorism. Only the stupid or setup terrorists ever get caught beforehand, the rest are identified by DNA and the contents of their fireproof wallets."

        America is a bit of an outlier here as it's not anything much above random nutters with barely worded agenda in 4 decades

        European countries OTOH have had serious domestic terrorist threats which have mounted sustained (and organized) terror campaigns.

        Ironic that the country with the least actual experience of terror (sorry but 2 events on 1 day in 13 years is not sustained) should be the most paranoid.

        Of course that's if you think that's who the NSA and the government think are the real threat.

        And not of course just the excuse for this pervasive surveillance which was quite handy at the time and the real threat is (as always) the people themselves.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Americans safe from... What?

          "European countries OTOH have had serious domestic terrorist threats which have mounted sustained (and organized) terror campaigns."

          Well said. I was pleased to see someone had beaten me to it.

          Don's been doing fine on the subject (for a Merkin anyway) but fell well below his usual standards when he referred to terrorists blowing themselves up as though that was the only game in town.

          There's been plenty of "terrorism" outside the USA where only the victims, not the murderers, have been blown up (or gassed, or whatever). Some of that terrorism has been funded one way or another by the USA or its citizens.

          Please be more careful next time Don. People know where you live.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Americans safe from... What?

            "Some of that terrorism has been funded one way or another by the USA or its citizens."

            I'd criticise that generalisation, if I didn't remember being in Boston in the very early 90s and being asked in a bar to make a donation to help terrorists

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Americans safe from... What?

              there's not just the fervent 'merkin support for the provos - recent complicated Turkish trials of their state-within-a-state and a very fuzzy trail lead back to US sponsored[0]anti-communist false-flag stay-behind operations in quite a few european nations[1]….

              ….Unless the former Italian PM Andreotti[2] was wrong about the deadly NATO/Gladio bombing of the Bologna Railway Station on August 2nd 1980?

              [0] http://www.amazon.com/Honorable-Men-My-Life-CIA/dp/0671228757/ William Colby memoir

              [1] Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and UK

              [2] « Gladio fu necessaria durante i giorni della Guerra Fredda, ma in vista del collasso del Blocco Orientale , l'Italia avrebbe suggerito alla NATO che l'organizzazione non era più necessaria. » (1990)

              quick Stay-Behind overview here http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/jan/14/sporchitrucchi

          2. Don Jefe

            Re: Americans safe from... What?

            I wasn't trying to belittle those injured or impacted by terrorism, not in any way, I apologize if I came across that way.

            I realize every single one of the following numbers is a human life and I hate that, I really do. But the numbers are small, an anomaly considering the sizes of the populations involved and deaths by domestic accidents and 'traditional' acts of violence. Far to small to justify the amount of fear among the general populace or the enormous resources dedicated to stopping them, which haven't worked very well at all.

            From 1969 - 1997 around 2000 total people, between all sides, including civilians, were killed by events directly related to the IRA and over 10,000 were imprisoned.

            Since 1968 Basque Separatists are held responsible for ~900 deaths with about 700 ETA members imprisoned.

            Since 1970 about 10,000 have been killed globally by Islamic terrorists. Of those ~3,000 were killed in the 9/11 events, the rest are spread globally over a 40 year period including those in traditional mid-East hotspots. An unknown number have been imprisoned and several large scale military conflicts initiated over them as well as the sequestration of liberties and freedoms in Europe and the US.

            I realize there are other, non-headline events but the totals are still small: ~14,000 non-military, over a 40 year period, and our responses have been totally disproportionate. For just the 10 years of 2001 - 2011 about $5.4 Trillion has been spent by the US alone in the 'War on Terror' and our government has become so paranoid about not being able to stop future events they've taken to spying on their own citizens and their allies and still can't stop terror attacks. In London you can't scratch your ass without having it videoed, people are scared of garbage bins, completely innocent people have been killed by the police and traveling there is such a pain it isn't worth it. In Australia and New Zealand they're making inroads to catch up with England.

            I believe that every single life lost throughout the whole sorry mess is a tragedy. I hate loss of life in such a stupid way and I don't 'hate' much. I also know that the chances of someone who reads this being killed today by a drunk driver or a bicycle or being electrocuted are orders of magnitude greater than any of them dying in a terror related event.

            Nearly every action taken to 'win' the War On Terror has only succeeded in increasing the level of fear in those who are supposed to be being protected. No right minded person could possibly believe that increasing fear is the desired outcome of these massive expenditures and use of resources in a campaign that is supposed to eliminate the terror part of terrorism.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Americans safe from... What?

              AC 09:08 here ("Don ... fell well below his usual standards").

              Thanks for the clarification. Good to see that normal service is now resumed (and hadn't really gone away, now you've expanded a little bit).

              "the War On Terror has only succeeded in increasing the level of fear in those who are supposed to be being protected"

              Surely that was always a goal of the program? More fear = bigger budgets & more compliant citizens?

              1. Don Jefe

                Re: Americans safe from... What?

                I think the overall mindset of preventing terrorism started out as a genuine desire to protect the masses from the actions of a few desperate and violently angry groups. As with so many other things in life though, a few people could see nothing but avenues they could use to lift themselves higher and higher even at the expense of their own people.

                Fear of a lack of situational control, a mad hunger for power and sheer greed among a few have allowed the whole mess to spiral nearly out of control. It sucks and they've built up such emotionally founded defenses it is rather impossible to dispute their actions without people accusing one of supporting the terrorists or callous regard for other Humans. The whole thing fucking sucks.

                Again, apologies to any who I offended earlier, that was never my intent.

                1. RobHib

                  Re: Americans safe from... What?

                  "Again, apologies to any who I offended earlier, that was never my intent."

                  Methinks, you're being too accommodating and accepting. Argument based on simplistic interpretation is all too readily used by those who've a paucity of argument.

                  Not only does paucity of argument permeate the blogosphere these days but it also dominates the general discourse as well.

                  1. Don Jefe
                    Happy

                    Re: Americans safe from... What?

                    Me, I never mind apologizing if I accidentally offend people. It just plain isn't nice to offend people. I only like to offend the people I mean to offend :)

                    Besides, it costs me nothing to say I'm sorry. It could cost me a lot to ignore the feelings of others because of a silly thing like misplaced pride (wounded pride and the refusal to apologize being extremely relevant to this entire discussion). I sincerely apologize for any harm, take note of what I did wrong, and can then communicate my point in a way that carries better with my intended audience.

                    I could ram things down people's throats and in times past I have done so. It worked, but it was uphill all the way; and that isn't how I became Don Jefe. I had a lot of help, help from people I didn't beat over the head, people I took the time to try and understand. It makes them feel good, makes me feel not bad, everyone works it out and moves along.

                    If more people manned up, put their pride in their back pocket and tried to communicate as equals then I honestly believe a lot of the situations you mentioned in your earlier post would never have come to pass. A martial response is always there, if required, but chest beating and willy waving never do anyone any good: All disputes are ultimately resolved around a table anyway. I'm lazy by default and would prefer to start things off around the table. Chasing people to prove how right you are is hard work.

            2. RobHib

              @Don Jefe - Re: Americans safe from... What?

              "I realize there are other, non-headline events but the totals are still small: ~14,000 non-military, over a 40 year period, and our responses have been totally disproportionate."

              Absolutely correct.

              Not only is the response totally disproportionate, but also it comes from governments whose predecessors only a short while back in history didn't particularly care about throwing expendable cannon fodder in huge numbers at an enemy. And over the intervening years their successors have also gleaned little about how to deal with threats to society, their responses to terrorism being similarly brainless.

              Nevertheless, by comparison with what past British (and other) governments have done to their own citizens, the number of deaths from and those suffering the consequences of the terrorism of recent years pale in significance. Of course, every death from terrorism is truly significant—in fact an utter tragedy—but look to history to get a reasonable perspective.

              We should not forget that before the Battle of the Somme the British Government of 1916 was prepared to sacrifice great numbers of the Nation's youthful pride-and-joy, and it did indeed sacrifice them: on the first day alone just shy of 60,000 British soldiers were relegated to the casualty list. This battle was not only a tragic folly—a catastrophe of which the then British Government was largely culpable but also it was an exercise in utter futility that ultimately claimed about a million casualties, not to mention questionably leaving the British militarily in a worse off position.

              It's not only in hindsight, but even at the time that 'righteous' warmongering mongrel, Douglas Haig*, with insufficient oversight from Prime Minster Lloyd George et al, allowed this slaughter when other less ruthless options with fewer tragic outcomes were available. Leaving my biases aside, facts speak for themselves: both Haig and George presided over the worst casualty numbers in a single day in the whole of British military history.

              (It seems we forget too quickly: I recall once being at Verdun and being overwhelmed by the scale of the War. After seeing a successive half dozen or so crosses with ages of 21 and below on them I looked up only to see many hundreds of thousands more crosses through an arc of 270°. Seemingly, many have forgotten that the Great War and WWII—at least for many of the infantrymen and others who fought in them—were about freedom, defending a way of life, and to live in peace without being dominated by totalitarian governments. That we've now to fight this war again, albeit politically, but this time, tellingly, from within the borders of our own country is profoundly depressing.)

              "Nearly every action taken to 'win' the War On Terror has only succeeded in increasing the level of fear in those who are supposed to be being protected."

              There's little doubt that what our governments are now doing in response to terrorism is on the road to totalitarianism. Furthermore, they're both manufacturing consent and acceptance for their actions through the propaganda of fear—generating fear in a nation or society has always been an instrument for gaining power and control. Moreover, since 9/11, not only have they done nothing effective to ameliorate the concerns of those who ultimately become terrorists but also they've become impervious to the genuine concerns of their own freedom-loving citizens.

              Tragically, it's easier to spend trillions on surveillance than to tackle the root of the problem, and we citizens are now sufficiently complacent to let governments get away with it. (Frankly, I despair at the general acquiescence of the citizenry. Presumably, the propaganda of fear and the sense that it's all too big and hopeless for an individual to do anything about must be working—and, no doubt, this is just what the power-hungry want and are very glad to hear.)

              'Tis wishful thinking but I'd rub the noses of those responsible for the loss of our freedoms on those crosses until they hurt. Then again, it is unlikely those who are taking advantage of the tragedy that's terrorism would have the wit or sensibility to appreciate why some citizens are prepared to die for democracy and freedom.

              * I've always loved Scotch but I've never knowingly drunk Haig whiskey on principle.

              1. Rol Silver badge

                Re: @Don Jefe - Americans safe from... What?

                You have my vote Robhib, eloquently put and right on target.

                It's a damned shame you're probably not an option on the next ballot paper, right thinking people rarely are.

                1. RobHib

                  @Rol - Re: @Don Jefe - Americans safe from... What?

                  Thanks.

                  I came to the conclusion some years ago that it's no longer practically possible in a democracy to get people of high calibre into high office (i.e.: those who've consistent Judeo-Christian ethics that supposedly our democracies are modeled on together with a modicum of ability for rational/logical argument—those who know how an argument is structured (into subjects and predicates and so on). They also need a degree of self-awareness to the extent they understand when they're behaving in good and bad faith (in the technical rather than in the moral or religious sense as in Sartre's Being and Nothingness where he describes a café waiter playing the role—the waiter knows and understands that in reality he's actually someone else who has to and is expected to act the way a waiter usually does).

                  Today it's difficult, even those who've initially good will and good intentions (and there's many of them) get corrupted with short-term-ism, party politics and election cycles etc. not to mention pragmatism. Essentially, they know they won't get anywhere in the modern political landscape unless they play the role expected of them, so they do. And the compromises they have to make nowadays are vastly greater in number than magnitude than they were 50—100 years ago. Those who can't or won't play the role either don't or are quickly outed (I'd last no time, the nonsense and bullshit would drive me batty). Thus we end up with leaders who've appeared to all come out of the same mould except that in each case the formulation is marginally different—thus politics follows a well-trodden course but not necessarily the right one.

                  I don't have an answer but I do know that it excludes many thousands of talented people who could make a world of difference.

                  1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

                    Re: @Rol - @Don Jefe - Americans safe from... What?@RobHib 02:58 Sunday

                    "Today it's difficult, even those who've initially good will and good intentions (and there's many of them) get corrupted with short-term-ism, party politics and election cycles etc. not to mention pragmatism. Essentially, they know they won't get anywhere in the modern political landscape unless they play the role expected of them, so they do.

                    I don't have an answer but I do know that it excludes many thousands of talented people who could make a world of difference."

                    I don't know about the USA (the mantra that a vote for anything but one of the two main parties is a wasted vote seems to run very deep), but in the UK we could make a dent in the existing parties' control of Parliament. If enough people stood as independents over the next three or four elections, we could get enough MPs to make some sort of difference. The fewer "professional" MPs (i.e. people that expect to make their entire career out of being in Parliament), the fewer people who have been indoctrinated into "how things are done". There does remain an issue of how to coordinate such a campaign without it being a "party", but I'm sure people with better skills at this sort of organising could come up with something.

              2. crayon

                Re: @Don Jefe - Americans safe from... What?

                "Seemingly, many have forgotten that the Great War and WWII—at least for many of the infantrymen and others who fought in them—were about freedom, defending a way of life, and to live in peace without being dominated by totalitarian governments."

                How naive. Both WWs were about empire building and defence of empire.

                About freedom, whose freedom? After WW2, countries that had been <sarcasm>liberated</sarcasm> by the japs were promptly recolonised by the colonialists.

                1. tom dial Silver badge

                  Re: @Don Jefe - Americans safe from... What?

                  Do not tell the British who lived through the bombings of London, Coventry, and other places that they were not fighting about freedom and defending a way of life. Or those who fought in the French Resistance, or even the Russians who fought on the outskirts of Moscow.

                  The WW II victors understandably tried to resume their prior colonial roles, but it didn't work out too well on the whole.

                  1. crayon

                    Re: @Don Jefe - Americans safe from... What?

                    @tom dial

                    You don't seem to have read or understood my remark. Fighting for your own freedom and defending your own way of life - which is what the British, French, Soviets etc were doing - is not "noble" and there is nothing to remember or forget and no lessons to be learnt, because "fighting for/defending your own interests" is ... natural. So we're talking about the 2 dominant colonialists, Britain and France, fighting for survival against the 2 wannabe colonialists, Germany and Japan, not fighting for some ideal like freedom and liberty for all mankind. In some cases the colonialists promised their colonies freedom if they helped them in their fight against "tyranny", and in all cases they reneged on their promises. So after WW2 all the colonies were recolonised and any attempts to regain sovereignty or achieve independence were brutally suppressed. So what happened to the freedom if that was one of the lessons of WW2?

                2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

                  Re: @Don Jefe - Americans safe from... What? @crayon 19:16 Sunday

                  Whilst I have some sympathy with your characterisation of the WWI, I think your "revisionist" take on WWII is way off the mark. Either you have been subjected to recent history syllabi, or you have a chip on your shoulder that needs to be declared.

            3. Marco van Beek
              Windows

              Re: Americans safe from... What?

              I am sure there must be a equation that links the amount of money spent today on anti-terrorist operations and the increase in terrorism / freedom fighting in the future. After all, the OSS giving the North Vietnamese a few guns during the Second World War worked out really well for the US. Admittly the main problem there was supporting an oppressive and corrupt regime a few years later. Now that I think about it, that didn't work so well in Iran in the 70's. Or Iraq in the 80's.

              There seems to be a tendency by inteligence agencies to believe that my enemies' enemy is my friend, when they rarely are. I suspect they cal it something fancy like Real Politik, but all they are doing is storing up problems for the future, which, let's face it, is good job security.

              I often wonder if we would be better off as a society to take the money we invest in cameras and tapping equipment and surveillance satellites and used the money to pay 25% of the population to spy on the other 75%, like East Germany use to. We would have 100% employment, and we might actually have real criminals being caught in the act rather than the current trend of more and more of us being criminalised for minor offences like parking and box junctions as we are the easier target for a bit of extra revenue.

              Given a real choice, I would rather not be spied on at all, but since that doesn't seem to be a choice any more, so the option of a few million nosy neighbours might actually be an acceptable alternative.

              Looking more and more like not only was George Orwell right, but he wasn't that far off with the date either.

              Nice of El Reg to have an icon for a typical surveillance operative...

              1. Don Jefe
                Joke

                Re: Americans safe from... What?

                Might I suggest substituting the Windows user icon for a typical surveillance operative icon.

            4. Guus Leeuw

              Re: Americans safe from... What?

              Dear Sir,

              Don Jefe struck a nerve (with me) when the word "fear" came into the discussion.

              You see, "fear" is a very powerful and valuable method of controlling masses. Religion (in the form of churches and congregations etc) is a classic example of Management by Fear. So is Government. Both are there to control roughly 95% of humanity. Both are totalitarian in nature. Both have a limited number of leaders (one each to be exact).

              1) Selling tickets to Heaven

              2) Fearing God

              3) Crusades

              4) Cold War

              5) Commies

              6) China / India

              7) Terrorists

              We (as we are all controlled by a Government nowadays) must all be constantly fearful of something, otherwise the actual fearful people (those within that very Government) do not have a life to live. You see, the most powerful are oftentimes those people that lack a good basis of common sense. Some might actually call them stupid in a common sense way of thinking... I call them deprived of a sensible upbringing... And now you see why this problem will never go away: Religion is here to stay, some Governments water down secondary education to make sure people remain deprived of a sensible upbringing, etc etc...

              Solution? Not on my radar, but the ability to think for oneself by oneself with a view of doing Good(TM) when dealing with others will give us a long shot at actually surviving.

              Now what's Good(TM)? Well, compare all world religions and filter them down to their very core, and what you'll start seeing is that they all share sociological aspects that were important 2 or 3 millenniums ago, and are still important today: Don't hurt thy neighbor, Don't steal, Respect thy Elders, and there's a few more.

              With the best possible regards,

            5. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

              Re: Americans safe from... What?

              ...Nearly every action taken to 'win' the War On Terror has only succeeded in increasing the level of fear in those who are supposed to be being protected. No right minded person could possibly believe that increasing fear is the desired outcome of these massive expenditures and use of resources in a campaign that is supposed to eliminate the terror part of terrorism....

              I believe myself to be of sound mind, though the body is getting on a bit.

              In the 1960s and 1970s it was well understood that responding to terrorism in the way we are doing was playing into the terrorist's hands. Both Che and Mao wrote manuals on terrorism/guerrilla warfare explaining this, and these were well known, even to the Secret and Security Services.

              Since then, the one thing that has changed is that the 'Eastern Bloc Menace' (which justified the jobs of the UK Security Service, and the world-wide reach of the CIA, NSA, GCHQ and SIS) has disappeared. Most of the military structures in society left over from WW1 and WW2 disappeared in the 1950s - they are the only part left in existence. They are now frantic to maintain the justification for their jobs.

              I'm not saying that they would start wars and destabilise countries on their own nowadays, as they used to in the 1960s. For one thing, I don't think they're competent enough to start something from scratch. But they certainly aren't unhappy about a CONTINUOUS 'war on terror', and maintaining a civil war. Do you remember how the speeches on this subject in the 2000s emphasised the belief that this would be a 'long haul'? Who do you think drafted those sentiments?

              1. Don Jefe

                Re: Americans safe from... What?

                You are correct in what you say, what we are experiencing is a direct effect of maintaining a massive martial force. History has proven, time and again, that keeping a conquest scale fighting force in a constant state of readiness requires that all government policy be ultimately linked back to that force.

                From diplomatic relations, alliances, trade, economics and humanitarian efforts to the selection of engagements and defining the enemy. The alpha and omega of all those things must be your standing fighting force. If you fail to satisfy them you risk losing control to them and, if you've done your militarization well, you have no chance of resisting them. You've got the tiger by its tail and it can be advantageous, but you best not let go or slack off in your care for it: An expensive, difficult and ultimately futile effort. One cannot change the nature of the tiger, it will turn on you.

                Up until basically "The Damn Commies" modern armies were largely disbanded and equipment scuttled or sold for salvage after the cessation of hostilities. For many reasons, including expense, the desire to return soldiers to a productive position in society (productive as contributing directly to the output of the country. I'm not knocking soldiers) the need of a country to feel at peace but most crucially having any large armed fighting force within your own borders is really fucking dangerous. Not only do you have to keep them mollified with treasure and toys, you have to use them occasionally. Otherwise they become bored and fat and your investment is diluted because your fighters have become bureaucrats, not warriors.

                Eisenhower famously warned of the military & industrial complex and oft forgotten, he also warned of a intellectual elite as a ruling class. What he didn't warn of was hard work, compassion for our fellow man and just not being a dick; basic GoodTM. Most people know the difference between right and wrong. It generally isn't even a hard sell. If you provide them with an environment where they can be, basically, GoodTM they will do so.

                In such an environment, when the inevitable Bad GuyTM does appear you've got an enormous ready made fighting force that can be mobilized nearly instantaneously and they're got something believe in something worth killing and dying for. You've got massive industrial capacity ready to be repurposed to make war fighting materials because you've had to give all those people something to do when there is no Bad GuyTM that can't be defeated with diplomacy.

                To walk around acting like a badass does not a badass make. The real badasses of the world, the truly powerful motherfucker that you never want to cross is almost always the big quiet guy in the corner who mostly keeps to himself and doesn't go starting trouble. He's also the guy that will put a quick fast stop to any trouble that arises that threatens him, his family or his Good Way Of LifeTM. He's also the guy you can come to for help, advice or friendship.

                That guy is a good person to be and he's a good person to be friends with. I say we move towards and environment where "that guy" is the rule rather than the exception.

      3. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Americans safe from... What?

        Terrorism is not either stupid or negative sum. On balance it seems to be working moderately well at the moment to undermine governments in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, not to mention various parts of Northern Africa. But there is no requirement that a terrorist commit suicide - that is only a particular tactic. Guerrilla warfare as in Southeast Asia and South and Central America also had significant terrorist components. Governments often will overreact at terrorist acts and further degrade whatever legitimacy they have.

        When practiced by an oppressive regime (e. g., the USSR and its East European allies through most of the last half of the 20th century) terrorism also can be a very effective way to keep control.

        That said, governments' effectiveness in preventing terrorist acts is doubtful in the extreme, whether with street cameras or communication collection and analysis. In practice, there will be too much noise and too few analysts/too little time to prevent all successful terrorist attacks. Americans would be safer if the War on Drugs were ramped down, a reasonable immigration policy were adopted, and the freed resources were used for ordinary police work, infrastructure maintenance, or other things. It also would help if the US backed off the notion that it can contribute to resolution of every conflict in the world.

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: Americans safe from... What?

          Top Down TerrorTM is always a temporary solution to a broken system, Tom, it never lasts. Eventually people can't be scared anymore, they've nothing to lose. When that inevitably occurs the people who were in charge are either already dead or they are hanged by the neck until dead. After that it is on the people to put a new, better system in place. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

          You are erroneously combining guerrilla warfare with terrorism. They are not the same thing. One is a legitimate tactic the other most certainly is a stupid, negative sum action.

          Your last paragraph is 100% spot on though. Upvote for that! US government policies are making the US and large parts of the planet more dangerous than they need to be. The US is becoming its own worst enemy.

          1. tom dial Silver badge

            Re: Americans safe from... What?

            Didn't mean to suggest totalitarianism as a long term solution. It isn't, and not only because people get numb. And you are correct: in the end, a People is likely to wind up with the type of regime they earn.

            However, systematic killing of government officials and supporters, as practiced by various Southeast and South Asian, and Latin American guerrilla insurgencies over the last half century or more is terrorism just as surely as blowing up a car full of explosives in a crowded market. The fact that it may be somewhat differently targeted does not change that.

            1. Don Jefe
              Alert

              Re: Americans safe from... What?

              I would argue that systematic killing of political leaders is a primitive form of democracy. Assassination is a time honored political and/or freedom fighting tool, used by both the 'best' and the 'worst' of most countries to a greater or lesser degree.

              To be clear I am not advocating assassination! I'm saying that barring a free and open government where you can vote people in and out of power, killing off those who are in your way or repressing you is a long accepted method of changing the dynamics of the situation.

              Full scale war is just another form of assassination, with the ultimate goal of cutting (or hanging) the head off the snake. If your target and his cronies would just stand out in the open there'd be no need for the war in the first place.

              1. tom dial Silver badge

                Re: Americans safe from... What?

                Describing systematic killing as a form of democracy is simply incorrect. Assassination and terror may be used, and sometimes have been, by those seeking a democratic regime, but more often have been used by minorities` aiming to impose other types of regime. Regime changes are rarely peaceful and often follow internal or external war, but they do not often reflect anything that can reasonably be described as the "will of the people".

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'We're only doing our job,'

    Hah! The self-serving, morality free cop out of choice for murderers, charlatans and scumbags for centuries - just saying it is virtually a confession of wrongdoing. Didn't cut much ice at Nuremberg though, did it?

    1. RobHib

      @A.C. - Re: 'We're only doing our job,'

      Yeah, right, that's damn hard with which to disagree.

      (What's surprised me about this topic is the degree of unanimity amongst those posting. Despite many varying approaches, the arguments are clear and often eloquent. It's good to see.)

  16. Schultz

    The US security aparatus has become...

    a monstrous bureaucracy searching for things to do. Fortunately, they'll hand back all the resources and money once they completed their job. They will do that, right? Breaking the law, breaking the communication tools of society and businesses ... that's just part of the job.

  17. Richard Boyce
    Thumb Down

    Security "mistakes"

    Since the public became aware of the weakness in WPA, I've suspected that it was deliberate. From now on, every time I hear about a new weakness in a security system, I'll wonder if someone's arm was being twisted with a legal document from the NSA, and perhaps a bribe to sweeten things. I know of one instance where an trustworthy expert who was designing security software in the US had to give up because it was too dangerous.

    How many of the monthly security patches that Microsoft issues are backdoors that have been discovered? More than ever we need Open Source software and hardware that's been scrutinised by experts in multiple countries. And then we must hope that the good guys find the backdoors before the bad guys do. In many cases, the reverse will happen. This is bad guys of one kind helping bad guys of another kind.

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: Security "mistakes"

      WPA is actually a rather weird system. It has to be, because cards at the time had hardware support for WEP encryption, and part of the WPA goals was to be implimentable by firmware or driver update on existing hardware. So WPA essentially uses WEP for the actual encryption, but changes the WEP key constantly according to a pattern determine by the WPA key - thus defeating the statistical attacks to which WEP is vulnerable.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Any doubts?

    Anyone who had doubts about the damage to U.S. security and that of it's allies, should be able to figure out Snowden's motives by now.

    Didn't that Putin guy say Snowden could stay in Russia as long as he stopped releasing information that was damaging to U.S. security? So much for the promise of another lying Russian leader. Putin is going to be heavily into the Vodka when the U.S. and it's allies bomb Syria's terrorists over the killing of thousands of woman and children with chemicals.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Any doubts?

      You forget to mention "HITLER" and "WORSE THAN SADDAM" and "THE WORLD AGREES THAT" and also "WORSE THAN HITLER".

      OTOH, pluspoints on the "CHILDREN" and the single "WOMAN".

      Did I mention "HITLER"?

    2. Tridac

      Re: Any doubts?

      Until we are absolutely sure who carried out the attack, what can we do ? and even then, why isn't the Arab League dealing with this ?. It's not our conflict and whatever we do, it's going to have bad consequences.

      The first question to ask when trying to analyse any confilct in the middle east is: what is the state of israel's interest in this ?. The second is: Who has the most to lose and who the most to gain ?. Can't answer the first in a sentence, but for the second, it's obvious that the regime has the most to lose, while the rebels have the most to gain by pulling the west into the conflict. I agree that it's quite possible that the regime are responsible. but many military personnel have defected and some most likely with chem weapons experience, so how do we prove who is responsible.

      Anyway, we can be morally selective and wring out hands in anguish as much as we like, but if this were in Africa, it would be a non event other than for a bit of verbal condemnation :-(...

      Chris

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Any doubts?

        I am not too sure it matters who, if anyone, used poison gas in Syria. While poison gas is reprehensible and long contrary to the rules of war, it is not entirely obvious, once a victim is dead, that there are b etter or worse ways to arrive at that point. The US has now about a dozen years of hands on military experience in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, and it can be said reasonably that the results are on the best interpretation equivocal. Further stirring the pot in that area seems a bad idea. We didn't when Saddam gassed the Iranians, and we didn't when the previous Assad gassed the Syrians, and I see no reason to go after the new Assad now. Eventually the Syrians will settle their differences, and they (and their neighbors) can pick up the pieces as necessary. It won't be pretty, but war never is, and it isn't clear that US (or NATO, or even UN) action can do much to prettify it.

        1. Don Jefe
          Happy

          Re: Any doubts?

          Who are you and what have you done with the old Tom?

        2. crayon

          Re: Any doubts?

          "We didn't when Saddam gassed the Iranians, and we didn't when the previous Assad gassed the Syrians, and I see no reason to go after the new Assad now."

          ... especially when nothing was done after the US used chemical weapons in Iraq in 2004, and Israel used them Lebanon in 2006 and again in Gaza in 2008.

          1. tom dial Silver badge

            Re: Any doubts?

            As terrible as they are, I do not think white phosphorus, napalm, or depleted uranium are properly considered chemical weapons. But again, the exact manner of death may not matter much to the victims, and there is great reason to doubt that anyone's intervention in Syria will matter much in the long run - say over a ten year period. Iraq and Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya all suggest that in large parts of the area there are issues that cannot yet be settled politically, and there is not a lot of evidence that US or other foreign intervention is likely to change that.

    3. Red Bren

      Syria's Terrorists.

      "the U.S. and it's allies bomb Syria's terrorists over the killing of thousands of woman and children with chemicals."

      Could you just remind us who Syria's terrorists are again? Are you referring to the Al Quaeda linked Islamic militants with a record of attacking religious minorities, that are attempting to overthrow the internationally recognised government? Or a despotic regime that is happy to massacre its own citizens to cling on to power?

      The situation in Syria is far more nuanced than the warmongers' rhetoric would have us believe. How exactly do you ensure you bomb the "baddies" when they live cheek by jowl with the good guys?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Any doubts?

      "Didn't that Putin guy say Snowden could stay in Russia as long as he stopped releasing information that was damaging to U.S. security? So much for the promise of another lying Russian leader."

      Snowden almost certainly isn't releasing any new information. This is all information already passed to his press contacts who are releasing it in dribs and drabs.

      The cynic in me says they are doing it this way to maintain sales over a long period of time to make the most, financially, of the situation.

      This is accidentally having the effect of maintaining public interest and awareness over a long period and making sure that we get to take it all in instead of an information overload which would probably result in a 5 minute scandal followed by "meh!"

      1. Don Jefe
        Meh

        Re: Any doubts?

        Consider this. If you were walking down the street and saw a fight amongst people you knew casually, had talked to at parties, maybe even sold some stuff to, but didn't hang out with them all the time. You know everyone involved is into some fairly shady stuff but meh, it doesn't really have an impact on you and they all live on the other side of the city. You're only there by happenstance really, you don't go there often.

        Any ideas about the reasons for the fight are only what are passed on to you at parties by people who don't usually have your best interests in mind. They aren't your enemy, but you wouldn't let them date your daughter either.

        You decide, based on what people you don't especially like or trust have told you, to wade into the fight. You're a badass and have reputation for waving your dick around. You can handle this.

        You go in and are surprised that now everyone is against you! You who were only acting in the best interests of the principals you wave around. All your 'real' friends warned you not to get involved but fuck them. They're pussies. But you're still getting your teeth kicked in. The only option left is to try and buy your way out. Pay off some people to turn their backs while you limp back home. You don't even have enough time to pick up all your toys and have to leave them behind.

        It was supposed to be different. It wasn't supposed to turn out like this. You underestimated the situation, got your ass kicked. You'll be at the bar taking up how crazy it was and how it was a mistake. But if you keep making the same mistake, over and over and over, it isn't a series of errors. It's a serious problem that needs professional help otherwise you are going to get yourself and all your friends locked out of all the parties in the future. Or get everyone dead.

        1. Marco van Beek
          Coat

          Re: Any doubts?

          "if you keep making the same mistake over and over and over". It's only madness if you expect a different outcome!

          1. Don Jefe

            Re: Any doubts?

            Madness or an addiction...

        2. RobHib

          @Don Jefe - Re: Any doubts?

          "It was supposed to be different. It wasn't supposed to turn out like this."

          Whistleblowers all have a similar problem, it's their lot. They expose some obvious problem, corrupt practice etc., and you'd expect they'd be lauded for it (as everyone except the perpetrators has an interest in outing corruption). But the facts are different: they're usually ostracised by the organization they're working for, shunned by their colleagues who once agreed with them over the malpractice, and governments/regulators etc. are glacially slow to act—usually citing the excuse that the whistleblower has a grudge or is exaggerating etc. Moreover, whistleblower law in most countries is pathetically weak, as governments only grudgingly enact such legislation when forced to after an embarrassing scandal or crisis etc.

          Even more intriguing, both the organization and those within it who once agreed with the whistleblower often unite and turn on the whistleblower and make his/her life hell until he/she is forced out of the organization. It's as if the organization as a whole combines forces to repel the invader. So effective is this unanimity, and so often it's been observed and studied over the years, that you'd think that all organizations automatically came with an innate, inbuilt protection/survival mechanism.

          Meanwhile, the whistleblower probably can't get another job because he's now 'contaminated' and ends up in a downhill spiral. Others watch the disaster unfolding with fascination and well heed the unwritten warning that, no matter what the circumstances, they must never engage in such a reckless activity.

          This bodes horribly for campaigners and reformers who want to root out corruption and malpractice in corporations, governments, and bureaucracies.

          1. Red Bren
            Coat

            Re: @RobHib - rooting out corruption

            I want less corruption, or more chance to participate in it!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, we're all "adversaries"

    See

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130905/15531224420/nsa-gchq-admit-that-enemy-is-public.shtml

    So what we get now is the blatant fearmongering of those seeing their power over the public in its death throes.

    As we speak, thousands demonstrate in the streets of Berlin for "freedom instead of fear" #fsa13

    https://twitter.com/search?q=%23fsa13&src=typd&mode=realtime

  20. Mephistro Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Dear ODNI :

    "...in our attempts to keep America and our allies safe..."

    On the other hand, your allies' attempts to keep themselves safe from America will experience an all-time peak, thanks to your predatory ways regarding international relations, privacy, human rights, ethics and trust.

    You have stabbed your own industry and diplomacy in the back so hard they'll probably never recover. All those pork barrel projects you're giving to your IT industry so they remain calm while you keep on destroying their base of foreign customers will partially limit the damage, though at a big cost for the American taxpayer.

    At the same time, the disclosure of this poorly kept secret is forcing the rest of the world to improve their IT security, so the cost of spying will soar up endlessly. You'll need to spend many more billions to counter this, worsening the effects described in the above paragraph. I can't see how you can keep your global spying program without killing America's Economy in the process.

    Good job!

  21. RobHib
    Flame

    "Bullrun" - Most disingenuous.

    Re "Bullrun". For such a project, only the most disingenuous would use anything resembling this word.

    At Bull Run, the first battle of Manassas, many were truly fighting for liberty and freedom.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: "Bullrun" - Most disingenuous.

      Yes, but only the CSA refer to the Battle of Manassas.

      1. RobHib

        @theodore - Re: "Bullrun" - Most disingenuous.

        "Yes, but only the CSA refer to the Battle of Manassas.

        Not so if you live outside the US. Here we have a much more balanced and nuanced view of events.

        (Your comment reminds me of the bad reception Buster Keaton's The General received in 1926/27—too many veterans (an estimate of some 30,000 or so) were still alive and the CSA was the 'supported' side. Now, some 86 years later, it's supposedly the tenth most popular move of all time. It's an interesting observation that we're now about 21years further removed from the move than Keaton was from the event he based it on—the 1862 Andrews raid/Great Locomotive Chase.)

  22. Whiznot

    We need someone to keep us safe from the tyrants who claim to be keeping us safe.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. Stratman

    Look on the bright side

    At least one government department is listening to the people.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    terrorists, cybercriminals, human traffickers and others

    presumably the "others" being all the scum of the earth that use encryption, including "you and me". Ah, well.

  25. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Facepalm

    I wonder how many former NSA/GCHQ/etc. employees there are in the private sector now

    And whether they will now be looked on as security threats or a fifth column, especially if they work in the IT security industry.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: I wonder how many former NSA/GCHQ/etc. employees there are in the private sector now

      All of them ...?

  26. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    The Puzzle Palace

    Anyone who thinks that any of Snowden's "leaks" are real news simply hasn't been paying attention. It's been obvious for a while now that various agencies can access anything on the Internet and that SSL and other common encryption methods are transparent to any nation with enough cash to throw at the problem.

    Next prediction (I predict) will be that all of the certificate issuers are whores and you'll all be surprised? Come on folks - SSL is just another Reality TV show.

  27. Glostermeteor

    News vs Confirmation

    The release of the latest leaks are not new 'news', the NSA is correct about that, but that the latest releases do do is confirm that the NSA has been committing the criminal acts that people have suspected them of doing for a very long time. Anyone seen the Enemy of the State film with Will Smith? That film was released 15 years ago and seemed a bit far fetched, now we know thanks to Snowden that mass surveilance by government is true. We have allowed these fascists to take over without a single shot being fired. It is the enemy within we need to combat now. If I tapped undersea communication cables, or broke encrypted communications, I would be put on trial. Time for a few NSA and GCHQ people to be put in the dock me thinks. NSA vs GCHQ vs Gary McKinnon? They are all the same, hackers through and through.

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

  29. The PLA
    Trollface

    Problem, BT?

    Well in light of all of these revelations we can be so glad that BT's 21CN is based on Huawei kit. Being a Chinese company they'd never put back doors or kill switches in for GCHQ or the NSA...

  30. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    here's a clue

    tip: when hiring for someone who oversees your entire computer network, hire a full-time employee rather than a contractor.

  31. Miek
    Linux

    "The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has issued a response to the latest revelations from Edward Snowden with a warning that the information is "not news," but has nevertheless harmed the agency's ability to keep America and its allies safe." -- They break the security of the internet and expect us to give a toss about the whining their stupid fannies are emitting about national security and all that guff ?

  32. Miek
    Black Helicopters

    Western Spring anyone, anyone ?

  33. Eduard Coli

    NSA, ETC

    The NSA is one thing, they are supposed to be doing spy stuff. Its the oversight that is lacking. The shadow courts are not working so to fix it they really need to have FISA answerable to the DOJ. They should have to divulge to all of those involved any information that was obtained and when but not necessarily the method of any material not covered by a warrant. What everyone should be pissed about is that Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter have been PAID to backdoor their users. Their should be fines, their should be firings. The techs involved have to learn that their is a price for selling out their users.

  34. Leschnik88

    I guess RMS was right all along. That crazy son of a bitch

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