back to article Use Tor or 'extremist' Tails Linux? Congrats, you're on an NSA list

Alleged leaked documents about the NSA's XKeyscore snooping software appear to show the paranoid agency is targeting Tor and Tails users, Linux Journal readers – and anyone else interested in online privacy. At the heart of the claims is this sample configuration file for the XKeyscore system. The top-secret documents were …

  1. gerdesj Silver badge

    "... a level of surveillance that makes the old East German Stasi look like a bunch of amateurs"

    Unfortunately for their credibility, they don't appear to lock down their internal stuff sufficiently well. I would imagine they are conducting quite a thorough review of internal security.

    If their own contractors can become whistle blowers with huge documentation drops, the Lord only knows what their real enemies can be getting up to. We can only hope the baddies will find it distinctly harder to muck about with our 5 eyes from now on.

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Well the Stasi didn't have contractors. However people knew/suspected quite a bit. I mean back then it was all manual, so you could see the people following you around.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The Stasi

        The Stasi DID have contractors. Need a coffin, call Boris. Need access to a particular buildings maintenance areas, call Dieter. Need a specific car, call Ernst.

        Please learn your history before making authoritative declarations.

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: The Stasi

          They only had three? Ah, good old fashioned E German efficiency!

          1. Grease Monkey

            Re: The Stasi

            I thought everything was state owned and controlled in the old DDR. As such there was only one entity - the state - as such it could not have any sub contractors.

      2. FuzzyTheBear
        Coat

        Now they dont need to.

        They have the tools to make physical surveillance quite unnecessary, they cover all our means of communications , except perhaps carrier pigeons .. and even then , i'm not so sure they're not undercover agents ^^ . Still , freedom liberty and free speech are at stake and frankly can we not react to living under constant surveillance. The earth feels like an open air prison. Yet noone revolts strongly thinking a bit of security is worth abandoning what's left of our privacy and freedom . Pathetic. I need a strong one. Mine's the one with " I love the freedom, fsck the NSA " on the back.

    2. NoneSuch Silver badge

      You're also on the list if you read this article.

      Delete your cache now and put on a tin-foil helmet as soon as possible!

      1. Montreal Sean

        Anyone purchasing tin-foil is also on the list.

        Nothing must block the brain scanners.

      2. MrRtd

        "Delete your cache now and put on a tin-foil helmet as soon as possible!" - My God, I thought it was only a tin-foil hat that was needed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          so I'm on the list?

          we had an 'online privacy' day where I downloaded a then current version of TAILS, (hence being fingerprinted/analysed to bits by FVEY - which I didn't know at the time) I then copied it & handed out hundreds of burned TAILS on CD-R to privacy interested visitors amongst the 18,000 open-day visitors that we had. Hmmm, sorry FVEY, you weren't top of the threat model at the time - we were just trying to get people out of the Google-Bubble/home-banking-trojan paradigm - mild apologies if I massively increased your targets!

          I sincerely hopes no-one else downloads TAILS, even if they don't need it today, and passes on the CD-R or liveBoot USB now that we know its "extremist" to try and bank safely.

          so don't BONK here to become another extremist! [some of the 26 IPs behind TAILS are very close to Boeing, in Seattle, but some are in .ru]

        2. FlatSpot
          Thumb Up

          "Delete your cache now and put on a tin-foil helmet as soon as possible!" - My God, I thought it was only a tin-foil hat that was needed.

          It's where the male brain is right??

      3. yossarianuk

        I know an OS that will save us all !

        http://tinfoilhat.shmoo.com/

        - Networking is removed as 'that's how they get to you'...

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

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Visited the Tor, Tails or a Linux mag website? You're on the NSA's 'EXTREMIST' list"

      Grow a beard and wear a puffy jacket, expect to be shot.....

    4. g e

      So if LJ relocated to, say, Germany

      The NSA would lose a lot of intel from being outside much of the traffic (assuming LJ is USA-hosted currently)?

      As much as they're ever outside of anything, of course.

  2. James O'Shea

    they're a spy agency

    It may well be that the NSA are paying close attention to (some/most/all) Germans in Germany, but isn't that kind of thing, well, their _job_? Expecting them to _not_ be paying attention is, well, reminiscent of a certain Australian prime minister telling parliament that the Soviets weren't running a spy ring in Australia because he had been assured by the Soviet foreign minister that they'd never do that.

    I _expect_ them to be:

    1 keeping an eye on _all_ communications going into and out of the United States

    2 _all_ communications anywhere outside of the United States

    3 _all_ communications anywhere inside of the United States which they can get away with monitoring

    That boils down to, well, all communications, period, except where they physically can't do it or where it might be politically inexpedient to get caught trying... and I suspect that they'll damn well try everything they can and see what they can get away with.

    They're a spy agency. Spying is what they do. They seem to be quite good at it, and they certainly have had plenty of practice. If the German courts start yapping about it, the NSA will ignore them. Hell, if _American_ courts start yapping at them, the NSA will, at most, throw some scapegoat off the sled and carry on as before.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: they're a spy agency

      They're not good at it. We're discussing it for one thing. The leaks were trivially performed by someone who should never have been party to that kind of information. Even on a military level, leaks of sensitive material are incredibly easy things to do (the hope is that the punishment that Manning et al receive is enough to put you off doing them).

      In fact, I'd say this shows just how bad they are - personally, I believe the techniques they are using at INCREDIBLY bad at collecting anything useful. The signal-to-noise ratio is just far too low and they've had to resort to basically listening to every packet in order to get anywhere. And, to be honest, we just don't hear of that many cases which end with "And the plan was foiled by the NSA/GCHQ". In fact, we don't. You could argue that's secrecy, but I don't think it's all that common at all.

      And, at the end of the day, nobody is above the law. You want to spy, you spy legally. The people you are spying on will consider it illegal while you are on their soil, of course. If the law does not apply to spies, we could just say that and have done with it. But the fact is that it applies to them the same as everyone else. Some countries have forgotten this recently, but even in the MIDST OF WAR it can be illegal to treat an enemy inhumanely. That's how stupid it is to claim that a spy is above the law. If a spy gets caught breaking a foreign law in a foreign country, yeah, hard cheese, that's your job that we've given you permission to do (but that permission does not extend to overriding the target country's permission, obviously). But if a spy is caught breaking the law left, right and centre on it's own soil when EVERY statement it makes says that it's complying with the relevant laws, that can be taken - ironically, by just the extremists it's looks to contain - as a descent into anarchy.

      Personally, spying in the last 50 years or so is nothing more than amateur hour after being left behind - brains-wise - by the rest of the developed world. There was a time and place where intellectuals dedicated their lives to forwarding their nation's cause and were at the cutting-edge of science (and inventing new sciences along the way). Those days have passed, and we have kids with McDonald's chef certificates using encryption that those agencies can't beat (yet, again ironically, invented for just that kind of purpose).

      Spying en masse, on your citizens and allies, illegally, and then claiming it's legal, is a recipe for disaster. All this "acres of supercomputers" nonsense that gets spouted? I can only think that if that's considered a viable intelligence source nowadays, you might as well pack up the invisible ink and laser watches now. I honestly JUDGE the modern GCHQ for becoming nothing more than government-funded, consultant-advised, facebook-watchers.

      And I'm almost certainly on some list somewhere. I've education background in cryptography, I can code, I've run TrueCrypt and Tor, I use Linux, and I'm pedantic about the security of systems. I'd be disappointed if I wasn't. But I'd be a million times more disappointed if any of those are even considered a factor without some actual real suspicion based on something other than my website/OS preference first.

      Spying's gone seriously downhill. It's now just a "Google him" exercise with a "private Google" that the NSA/GCHQ are trying to build for themselves.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Lee D(unce) Re: they're a spy agency

        ".....we just don't hear of that many cases which end with "And the plan was foiled by the NSA/GCHQ". In fact, we don't. You could argue that's secrecy, but I don't think it's all that common at all....." If only you'd bothered to read the previous El Reg article on XKeyScore (it's even linked in the article!) you would have seen that the following statement was included in the leaked, internal info: ".....NSA training manuals state that 300 terrorists have been captured using intelligence from XKeyscore before 2008....." Now, could it be they kept the successes secret for a reason, like IT WORKED BEST WHEN THE ENEMY DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT IT!

        "....And, at the end of the day, nobody is above the law. You want to spy, you spy legally....." Under US law it is all legal.

        ".....I'm almost certainly on some list somewhere..... I'd be disappointed if I wasn't...." Don't worry, that kind of wanting to justify your paranoia is common amongst the tinfoil-attired. It really would be terrible if you realised you are of zero interest to anyone.

        1. Graham Marsden
          Boffin

          @Matt Bryant - Re: Lee D(unce) they're a spy agency

          > "NSA training manuals state that 300 terrorists have been captured using intelligence from XKeyscore before 2008"

          And, of course, we all believe them, don't we, boys and girls? (After all, they wouldn't say "well, actually we haven't caught anyone, but that won't stop us trying!" would they?)

          (Who are these terrorists? If they're terrorists and have been captured, surely they've been charged and convicted in a court of law so we can *know* that they're terrorists? If they haven't been charged and convicted, then wouldn't that just make them "alleged terrorists"? Or is a suspicion of them being terrorists enough to call that a success...?)

          > Under US law it is all legal.

          Oh, well *that's* alright then! Nothing to see, move along...

          > It really would be terrible if you realised you are of zero interest to anyone.

          Umm, did I mis-read this bit from the article: "the extent of the paranoid agency's targeting of Tor users, Linux Journal readers and and anyone else interested in online privacy"? Why would they be targeting these people if they were "of zero interest"?

          1. Schultz

            Who are these terrorists?

            Well, we now know you are an extremist if you use TOR. So I would assume you become a terrorist if you ever sent an encrypted email, live in a suspicious country, or posted an anonymous comment in this forum.

            The US spying bureaucracy redefines the language as they see fit (if they can't change the law, they just re-interpret the meaning of it). Can not collect data on US citizens? Let's create some statistical measure of 'foreigner' to make everybody a potential foreigner. Let's not 'collect' data but instead store and automatically trawl it. I didn't see their interpretation of 'data' in the press yet, but I am sure it's obfuscatingly creative.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Re: they're a spy agency

        "You want to spy, you spy legally."

        You cannot mean this to be taken seriously. Depending on the point of view, NSA's activities are either legal (under US law, and subject to future determinations about legality and about the constitutionality of the enabling laws) or illegal (under the laws of the countries in which the targets are located). That is equally true, with obvious adjustments, for the comparable spying done by intelligence agencies of other nations.

        1. Guus Leeuw

          Re: they're a spy agency

          Dear Tom,

          I'd rather think that the point made was along the lines of: If they are allowed to spy on us, then we should be allowed to spy on them. And that is obviously not the case (see posts about unlawful combatants).

          Equally getting US spies in front of, say, a German judge will proof impossible, as normally lawful combatants (include the Big Chief Himself) are considered above any law by Themselves.

          And that is why, I guess, everybody is up in arms about the whole US... Two rules: one for us (US) one for you...

          Regards,

          Guus

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: they're a spy agency

      I _expect_ them to be

      You know, this is the Internet. You can still freely google the history of the 20th century. May be an eye opener.

    3. Emperor Zarg

      Re: they're a spy agency

      Aren't spies considered to be unlawful combatants, at least under the US interpretation of the Geneva Convention?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: they're a spy agency

        Not if it's a _US_ spy. Then it's a LAWFUL combatant (read: one on OUR side). As for the 4th Amendment, they'll just say that in a world where the slightest innocuous codeword can trigger an existential threat, all bets are off and all searches are reasonable. Otherwise, the US, if not the entire world, is DOOMED. If the government cannot defend itself, what good is government at all?

        1. Schultz
          Happy

          "If the government cannot defend itself, what good is government at all?"

          ...and I thought that the government should protect its citizens. Must have misread that whole democracy thing.

    4. Kanhef

      Re: they're a spy agency

      I'm not trying to defend the NSA here, but as far as targets go, this one isn't unreasonable. People who are looking into ways to hide their online communication are more likely than the average netizen to be doing something of interest. They might be terrorists or other spies, they might be Chinese pro-democracy activists or Iranian counter-revolutionaries; in any case, the NSA wants to know what they're up to. Of course, there are also plenty of people doing nothing of interest who happen to be conspiracy theorists or just don't like being spied upon, but I don't know of an easy way to tell the difference short of spying on them more.

      I don't like the overbroad dragnet espionage, but at least there were some attempts to focus on valid targets. If it had emerged that they were scrutinizing visitors to dailykitten.com, that would raise serious questions about their competence.

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: they're a spy agency

        The way the spy game is supposed to be played is:

        Step one: Find leads

        Step two: Follow up leads to see if they merit interest.

        Step three: Actively pursue hot leads.

        Step four: Use intel gained in step three to thwart espionage and sabotage against country.

        The way the NSA plays it

        Step one: Throw out as wide a net as possible, collect and store all possible information, regardless of relevance.

        Step four: Badger Congress for even more funding to gather and collate even more information.

        Step five: Look like incompetent idiots everytime you're caught with your pants down because you have no steps two, three, or a working four.

        Step six: use outcome of Step five as ammo for Step four.

        1. Lapun Mankimasta

          Re: they're a spy agency

          > The way the NSA plays it

          they're a bunch of misfits that need medication.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: they're a spy agency

        No, if there's anything that shows that they're as arbitrary as the inquisition, this is it.

        Visit a particular magazine's website to find out how to use a command line as pretty much was the only way to use most computers up till 20-or-so years ago? Get labelled as 'extremist'.

        This is also the perfect example of mission creep in action. Extrapolate from here and imagine what will be considered extremist in another 20 years.

      3. teebie

        Re: they're a spy agency

        "People who are looking into ways to hide their online communication are more likely than the average netizen to be doing something of interest."

        And yet still the overwhelming majority of them aren't interested in committing acts of terrorism

        Increasing the amount of noise you collect doesn't help you refine the signal.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: they're a spy agency

        Do you lock the door of your house? Pull your curtains at night? What do you do in there that you feel the need to hide?

        Does this mark you as a legitimate target for security services?

  3. malle-herbert
    Coat

    "and anyone else interested in online privacy"

    So reading this article automatically puts you on the list ?

    1. karlp

      Re: "and anyone else interested in online privacy"

      The truly ironic part is that due to all the security focused interest and the associated sites and activism around it, if I was a 3 letter analyst, i would probably be much more skeptical of those who weren't on the list.

      Karl P

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: "and anyone else interested in online privacy"

        So do you think the NSA has learned of the Streisand effect yet?

        Of course one could always post ads like:

        To protect yourself from identity crime online - CLICK HERE

        Keep your identity safe when going online at net cafes - CLICK HERE

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "and anyone else interested in online privacy"

          They have. They don't care. They'd rather have 10 million false positives than one false negative, as it's THAT'S the one that'll destroy civilization as we know it.

          1. Anonymous Brave Guy
            FAIL

            Re: "and anyone else interested in online privacy"

            They may not care, but their data sorting and categorization sucks, especially if they cannot thwart any recent terrorist plots. I am wondering how many NSA/GCHQ astroturfers are voting posts like mine down because it goes against their agenda. Thought so.

          2. John Tserkezis

            Re: "and anyone else interested in online privacy"

            "They have. They don't care. They'd rather have 10 million false positives than one false negative, as it's THAT'S the one that'll destroy civilization as we know it."

            Oops, sorry, that was me. I used tor to buy some tin foil from my local online grocery store. I'm making a special top-secret hat you understand.

          3. DocJames
            Stop

            Re: "and anyone else interested in online privacy"

            AC: "They have. They don't care. They'd rather have 10 million false positives than one false negative, as it's THAT'S the one that'll destroy civilization as we know it."

            The problem is that they have no resources to investigate all their false positives, so the true positives are buried. As has been said several times already, signal to noise ratio is important.

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: DocJames Re: "and anyone else interested in online privacy"

              "....so the true positives are buried...." Apart from the 300 cases detected by these tools, as mentioned in the slides Snowjob leaked?

              1. DocJames

                Re: DocJames "and anyone else interested in online privacy"

                Matt replied! To me! I've made it as an ElReg poster.

                I'm not sure I trust their information. I'm unconvinced that they are true positives. Humans as a group are famed for their ability to fool themselves - I wouldn't be surprised if they've miscounted (although noone will ever know, as it's all too secret to even talk about, except to claim it's misinformation).

                I'm not sure why I'm telling you people are good at believing untrue things.

                1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                  Happy

                  Re: DocJames "and anyone else interested in online privacy"

                  ".....I'm not sure why I'm telling you people are good at believing untrue things." It's because you subconsciously know your rejection of the 300 figure is because you want to believe it is not true, not because you can empirically prove it is true. Call it intellectual guilt at the possibility you may be proving your own statement.

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: "and anyone else interested in online privacy"

          I wonder how many people visited the Tails, Tor, or Truecrypt homepages when their respective big news stories broke recently. Does that label them as extremists?

          (What about posting something with those three keywords or just reading a page with them?)

      2. Cipher

        Re: "and anyone else interested in online privacy"

        karlp:

        Exactly!

        A properly implemented OTP defeats the spies utterly. The spies know this, the terrorists know this. Which makes me wonder why terrorism is even mentioned, hell, they couldn't/didn't stop the Boston Marathon bombers even with some advance knowledge...

        The answer is ubiquitous encryption. GPG parties, massive use of Tails to browse, etc..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "and anyone else interested in online privacy"

      You have been on the list for a long time in the first place.

      So unless you are ready to ask the question: "Are you running Threadstone now?" and back it up by asking it with proper style you might as well order your coffin too.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you're not on the NSA's list...

    Well, what contribution to mankind have you made? ;-)

    Dave

    P.S. ("Hi guys/gals!") I always include a friendly greeting to the spooks who may be reading my posts.

  5. Esme

    Right - I'm contacting my MP and MEP. Might not do much good, but I'm not at all happy that this American criminal gang (as in - they have broken US, UK and European laws), the NSA, are snooping on UK nationals, nor that GCHQ appear to be in bed with them. I'd urge all European citizens reading this to do the same.

    1. Peter Simpson 1
      Happy

      I'm contacting my MP and MEP....American criminal gang...

      Right - you're on the list!

      // "When the President does it, that means it is not illegal."

      -- Richard M. Nixon, TV interview with David Frost, May 20, 1977

      1. Zimmer
        Joke

        Your name, too, will go on the list..

        'What iz your name, boy?'

        'Don't tell him, Pike !!'

        1. wolfetone Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Your name, too, will go on the list..

          I've good mind, after writing to my MP, MEP, and Dennis Skinner, to go and download Tor. Ha! They can get fucked if they think they can see what I'm up to!!!

          Oh....... shit.

      2. Cipher

        Peter Simpson 1

        // "When the President does it, that means it is not illegal."

        -- Richard M. Nixon, TV interview with David Frost, May 20, 1977

        Obama is the president Nixon wanted to be...

      3. Esme

        I'm on the list? Really?! 8-}

        oh, dear me, what SHALL I do?! If it is the case that the NSA thinks all Linux users are suitable targets, then if they are any good at what they do, they will know that I've been using Linux for years, am not a terrorist, and thus I have nothing to worry about from them - except for the fact that they're a pack of foreigners spying on me, which I object to, and they happen to be doing so illegally which makes them criminals - so why not see if we can give them some grief over it? If the NSA don't know much about me, then they're incompetent, and again, I have nothing to worry about. Of course, they might get annoyed at my calling them a bunch of foreign criminals, but if they then start playing nasty, well.. - more ammo for those that remain, eh?

        The thing is, if everyone stays quiet when evil is done, then evil doesn't get punished. Only if enough complain about it is there any chance of anything being done about it. And in my book, pervasive spying of the general populace by any governments agencies is an evil. Therefore, I will make my concerns known to my MP and MEP. If If no-one else does, doubtless nothing will happen. If large numbers do, perhaps something will be done - and perhaps not. All one can do is act according to one's conscience in an effort to try to improve things, no?

    2. James O'Shea

      "Right - I'm contacting my MP and MEP."

      Lot's of luck with that. I _know_ that the NSA doesn't care what _American_ politicians, you know, the ones who write the checks to run the thing, think. I suspect that the yapping of furriners simply will not register... except to tell them who to have a close look at next.

      1. Peter Simpson 1
        Black Helicopters

        ...the NSA doesn't care what _American_ politicians...

        That's because they know whatever happens, *they* have jobs -- important ones, like defending the free world against the forces of evil, and stuff like that.

        Unlike the poiliticians, who drift in and out of the government at the whim of the voters -- along with their investigations and reforms.

        1. Captain DaFt

          "Unlike the politicians, who drift in and out of the government at the whim of the voters -- along with their investigations and reforms."

          Oh, if only! Presidents come and go, likewise Governors, but Federal and State Congress critters usually go on and on for decades, because the voters don't know who they are, and just vote red or blue.

          Saddest part? Most Congress critters regularly swap party affiliation according to which is least on the shit-list, so when the voters "Vote out that @$#^ arsehole!", they're actually re-electing him!

      2. william 10

        Mr Hague is no better. Over a year ago he came out using weasel words in an effort to say that GCHQ where not spying on UK citizen.

    3. Vic

      > Right - I'm contacting my MP and MEP

      I spent Wednesday evening in a pub sat next to my (likely) next MP. She kinda impressed me with her superpowers of "listening" and "comprehension".

      Then I looked her up on the web and found that she's been caught out telling porkies on her website on a number of occasions. Plus ca change... :-(

      Vic.

  6. channel extended
    Big Brother

    How important am I?

    If they have a ranking system maybe I can move up in rank by hitting the reload button a lot?

    Enough points and then I get to be Wizard, cleric, or admin. ;)

  7. TheColinous

    That terminal obsession says it all.

    apt-get or yum. It's a secret code.

    And who writes 'dir' as 'll' anyway?

    I always knew us Linux users were a suspicious lot.

    1. Suricou Raven Silver badge

      Huh... I never knew about ll. I've always used ls -l. You just saved me three keystrokes every time I want a detail directory listing.

      1. TheColinous

        Yeah, it's more useful with 'll' than 'ls -l'.

        'll' gives you the hidden files as well.

        1. Kanhef

          'll' isn't actually its own command; it's usually implemented as an alias (to 'ls -la' or similar) in your .fooshrc file. What exactly it does, and if it's present by default at all, depends on your distro.

          1. Schultz

            Gee, the world has moved on

            When we were kids fighting Unix, we had to define that (la/ll) alias ourselves.

        2. Guus Leeuw

          ll vs ls -l

          Dear Kiddies,

          do not dispair...

          There are no hidden files in Linux, or Unix. ;) There are such files that start with a dot, but they are not hidden, they are simply not shown when one runs 'ls'.

          In most Linux installation there's this alias:

          ll='ls -l' (sometimes / oftentimes followed by --color=auto)

          In good (IMHO) installations you also have the alias 'l.' to show you those .* files only ;)

          if you want it all just put alias la='ls -la' in your shell profile and away you go...

          seriously, just running 'alias' at the prompt may indeed give you a number of life savers / keystroke savers that you weren't quite aware about...

          Regards,

          Guus

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ll vs ls -l

            Curious, my ll alias doesn't default to including -h in the options. I'll go fix that now.

          2. Lobrau

            Re: ll vs ls -l

            Well, I may be on an NSA list but at least I can get more work done now before they come and get me.

            Ta muchly, real timesaver!

        3. teebie

          "'ll' gives you the hidden files as well."

          Goddamnit, don't teach us linux commands. Now we are all on a list for "receiving training in terrorism"

    2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Let alone the exchange of perl one-liners, clearly that mismash of symbols must be a secret code, could $_ be code for 'the attack'.

      If I was exchanging semi secret stuff in the clear, I'd use brainfuck just to mess with them

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Amateurs use steganography to hide secrets. Professionals use Perl.

      2. Vic

        If I was exchanging semi secret stuff in the clear, I'd use brainfuck just to mess with them

        It would be more effective obfuscation to use Intercal. But the revolution might be somewhat delayed while you got it working...

        Vic.

        1. Captain DaFt

          "If I was exchanging semi secret stuff in the clear, I'd use brainfuck just to mess with them"

          Actually trying to use brainfuck to do anything useful is the one sure way to get off any watch list, since you'll be a harmless looney.

          It's called 'Brainfuck' for a reason, y'know.

      3. Lapun Mankimasta

        > If I was exchanging semi secret stuff in the clear, I'd use brainfuck just to mess with them

        Always include something from Monty Python in the sig: then randomly misspell. Let them go slowly mad trying to work it out.

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Terminate with extremist prejudice.

    Disgusting. Beyond redemption, a cancer for any attempt to return to a semblance of a liberal society. Only deep cleaning will ever put us on the tracks of sanity again.

    Frankly, the fact that only Snowden ragequit out of that festering bureaucratic freakshow of self-justifying career mummies says it all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Terminate with extremist prejudice.

      I doubt you could even fix this by nuking from orbit. Seems to be endemic to the entire human race. When the chips are down, it's #1 who's #1. And in a world where anything can be an existential threat, paranoia is the norm.

    2. Guus Leeuw

      Re: Terminate with extremist prejudice.

      Well sure, but consider what else we would have done with all them babyboomers??? Those kiddies deserved a job, no?

  9. Tom Maddox Silver badge
    Trollface

    'Linux Journal, which the code calls an "extremist forum"' . . .

    Sounds about right to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yup. Plus how do you prove that nothing wrong is happening to your data, if not by monitoring every single transaction? An open source software increases the risk of discovery of the whole operation. Or how do you provide all the information your political masters and their investors demand of you in the time of international crisis, if not by spying on everyone abroad? On the other hand the free software simply irritates the hell out of the sponsors who come from big software business, but you can use just the tax authorities to deal with the threat of losing them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It only looks extremist if you haven't enountered Mumsnet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        mumsnet was very useful

        as an internal piece of research we found whole wodges of "Who Do You Think You Are" type histories about many FVEY Spooks, partners, offspring, etc on Mumsnet. We're not publishing it! - it's on a USB memory stick in...which drawer was it now? maybe the boss left it on the train?

        Mumsnet is just another example of poor opsec & soft leakage

        https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=mumsnet+harrogate

        Greetings to floor -7, under the hospital, under the field, under the sheep

  10. adnim Silver badge
    Unhappy

    It seems to be that

    anyone who doesn't consume, conform and obey is an extremist.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It seems to be that

      Oh crap, OH CRAP!

      You not only figured it out, you published it openly!

      Oh well, we'll miss you around here.

  11. Grease Monkey

    "These include Linux Journal, which the code calls an "extremist forum," "

    Well of course you're an extremist if you run Linux. If you support Linux or any other open source or free software then you are not doing your bit to support US corporates. As eny fule know failure to support US corporations by throwing money at them is exactly the same as being a communist islamist jihadist fundamentalist.

    And who knows maybe those last four words together will put me on some NSA blacklist. And El Reg with me if you're not already there.

    1. Michael Dunn

      @ Grease Monkey

      Don´t forget, also, that you _MUST NOT_ silence the ads on TV, nor FF over them on recordings!

    2. Lapun Mankimasta

      > Well of course you're an extremist if you run Linux.

      Queen Elizabeth is mortal

      All frogs are mortal

      therefore

      Queen Elizabeth is a frog

  12. BobChip
    Linux

    And if I actually USE Linux..........

    So, if by registering an interest in Linux I am defined as an extremist, just what sort of rating do I get by actually USING IT as my primary OS? Oh, I can hear a helicopter approaching right now - I wonder if its a black one..........

    And just to make matters worse I'm a Register reader as well......

    Anyone got a spare tin hat........

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: And if I actually USE Linux..........

      One of the problems with Linux is it's probably a hell of a lot harder to insert spyware, if you're any sort of a halfway decent admin.

      If you look at the Windows processes list, you have no idea what half that shit is. They could probably run xkeyscore.exe and I sure as hell wouldn't find it.

      However, on my Linux box I know what every single process in pstree is doing and why it is there. I also know what's going on in the network activity bar of xosview and the netstat listing. Anything reporting back to NSA HQ would have to be pretty subtle.

      1. MacroRodent Silver badge

        Re: And if I actually USE Linux..........

        "on my Linux box I know what every single process in pstree is doing and why it is there."

        Ever heard of Linux rootkits? The first thing they do is ensure their processes don't show up in ps.

        I suspect that if the NSA is really after you, it does not help very much if you use Linux.

      2. charlie-charlie-tango-alpha
        Black Helicopters

        Re: And if I actually USE Linux..........

        "One of the problems with Linux is it's probably a hell of a lot harder to insert spyware, if you're any sort of a halfway decent admin."

        Ummm - no actually it isn't. Where did you get your distro? How do you update it? Which repos do you use? Are you /certain/ that last update was completely free of any /deliberate/ trojan? Are you /certain/ that last update didn't contain any remotely exploitable vulnerability?

        "If you look at the Windows processes list, you have no idea what half that shit is. They could probably run xkeyscore.exe and I sure as hell wouldn't find it."

        Thay just says that you are not a windows admin. It does not mean that no-one else understands the windows process listing. But see the argument above. The same applies (but worse because the software is proprietary.)

        "However, on my Linux box I know what every single process in pstree is doing and why it is there. I also know what's going on in the network activity bar of xosview and the netstat listing. Anything reporting back to NSA HQ would have to be pretty subtle."

        No you don't. You just think you do. And even if you did, your pstree could be tojaned and not show processes it wanted to hide. So could netstat, or wireshark. That cupsd may not be just listening for print commands you know.

        The point is, unless you have an external monitor (say a /known/ /provably/ clean network monitor running on a /known/ /provably/ clean OS) sitting on the wire between you and your ISP you have no guarantee whatosever that what is going in or out of you nice safe secure linux box is all it should be.

        And even if you have, you could still be stuffed unless you /really/ understand network protocols in depth (Ever hear of DNS being used as a wrapper for file exfiltration? Or long time based UDP to call home?)

        Don't be complacent. The only secure computer is one not switched on, not connected to anything and buried in a lead lined box in concrete.

        And even then I'd worry in case it was exhumed and disk forensics run on it......

      3. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: And if I actually USE Linux..........

        "One of the problems with Linux is it's probably a hell of a lot harder to insert spyware, if you're any sort of a halfway decent admin."

        Completely disagree.

        You can't compare a competent and experienced linux admin setting up their box with a heavily customised configuration, with the typical windows user who went with the defaults.

        I heavily customised my windows install and am at least passingly familiar with what runs and what doesn't. If your linux box is more secure, its likely that you're simply more competent than I am, rather than which OS we've installed.

        I've managed to get through decades with no trojans, worms, viruses, or malware installed on my windows boxes. However, I bet if I setup a linux distro, you'd be in, out, and shaking it all about before I could say "hokey cokey".

        1. Vic

          Re: And if I actually USE Linux..........

          However, I bet if I setup a linux distro, you'd be in, out, and shaking it all about before I could say "hokey cokey".

          Actually, no.

          The defaults for *most*[1] distros is to set up for secure operation, and let the admin punch holes in it as he sees fit. As long as you don't take stupid advice from idiots on fora[2], it remains pretty secure.

          Windows, although perfectly securable these days, comes with many of the defaults set to "insecure" to make sure that users don't get confronted with any sort of "access denied" errors. That's a shame.

          Vic.

          [1] Not all. There have been moves to make Linux "friendlier". This invariably makes it a steaming pile of security nightmare in return for a very minor increase in (temporary) user satisfaction.

          [2] The most common one is to chmod everything in sight to 777. This makes it writable by everyone - so the immediate errors go away. And it makes your server *trivial* to take over. I've had customers pay me big money to secure their boxes, then *insist* that I 777 everything because they read it from a starnger on a website. I need written instruction to do that...

          1. Lapun Mankimasta

            Re: And if I actually USE Linux..........

            Should set up a honeytrap in a vm box on a super-secure Linux. Then set up the honeytrap with 777 - though if you're particularly diabolical, you could set up a vm box with a halfway secure OS, then have it point to "the real goodies", and then get them arriving at a vm box that automatically chroots them, and then changes permissions to 444, and logs them onto an 0900 number.

            There's more than one way to skin a cat, and this is guaranteed to produce some heartwarming yowls.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stasi etc.

    the comparison is as useful as comparing, say, a Eurofighter with an M-109. If Stasi were in business today, they'd use the best means _currently_ available, i.e. something similar to what the NSA are using.

  14. king of foo

    assumption: mother of all foo cups.

    Wouldn't the real people the NSA want be well versed in spycraft:

    MAC spoofing|proxies|2nd hand hardware bought in cash|public\cracked wifi|cloned sim with an all you can eat data tariff|etc.

    But yes, they are likely well versed in gnu/Linux.

    This also reminds me of when I went on holiday as a teenager with my family and my best mate came round to feed and walk the dog when we were away... and rack up a bill for several hundred £s of porn on our dial up. Dirty sod! :) Should you trust the people around you with your NSA/GCHQ web browsing profile??? Obligatory Rolf Harris reference...

  15. Mitoo Bobsworth
    Go

    Everyone, use Tor.

    EVERYONE!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Everyone, use Tor.

      Don't you know the NSA have already compromised (or just flat out own) most of the endpoints, meaning they can sniff a large chunk of TOR traffic in the clear?

      There's no way to hide Internet traffic properly without making it hopelessly inefficient like Freenet. The means by which Internet traffic is routed efficiently ALSO makes it traceable. It's like finding a car with a Google Navigation printout on the dashboard.

      1. Mitoo Bobsworth

        Re: Everyone, use Tor.

        Dude, it was a light hearted jab at the NSA - remove your tin hat temporarily & at least & have a giggle at their expense.

    2. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Everyone, use Tor.

      This is the great thing about Cameron's porn filter. It will enormously increase the number of Brits who use TOR.

  16. rseeker
    Big Brother

    coming round for a chat

    FTA: "– which led to a Ministry of Defence advisor coming round our London office for a chat"

    Is that documented? I mean, was there an article that says what happened with that visit?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: coming round for a chat

      "Is that documented?"

      I believe we tweeted about it - but yes, a friendly top-level chap from the DA-Notice committee (part of the MoD) came around for a chat in the wake of Duncan Campbell's GCHQ coverage. It was to share advice, rather than impose rules or guidelines.

      C.

      1. Woza
        Joke

        Re: coming round for a chat

        "Share advice" - as in "Nice news site you have there, let me advise you about what will happen if you try that again?"

      2. rseeker

        Re: coming round for a chat

        Very good, thank you. That explains why I missed it even though I follow you by RSS: not a twitterer.

  17. Jonski
    Holmes

    Enemy of the State

    It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

    1. Alex in Tokyo

      Re: Enemy of the State

      Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get me.

      1. Guus Leeuw
        Joke

        Re: Enemy of the State

        So then explain the move to Tokyo... You couldn't be further from GCHQ if you wanted... That seems *very* suspicious...

  18. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  19. Frank N. Stein

    Where was the NSA when those two brothers were bombing Boston during the marathon? Why is it that they can scrutinize the serial number off a penny from a Satellite but couldn't prevent Edward Snowden from sneaking out with how many laptops and thousands of documents? Are they throwing the big "digital net" out over everyone because they can't really accomplish finding the real threats?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Boston Bombers weren't big enough (their real concern is existential threats--nukes over South Dakota and the like), and Snowden was an insider so knew how the game was played (it's a matter of you have to trust SOMEONE, but then that someone betrays you).

    2. teebie

      "Where was the NSA when those two brothers were bombing Boston during the marathon?"

      On Reddit posting "Hey guys, does anyone think america should be destroyed? Let me know! ;)" in the hope of getting easy leads.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whither the mission creep?

    "...the United States does not collect signals intelligence for the purpose of suppressing or burdening criticism or dissent, or for disadvantaging persons based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion."

    Arguably bollocks, but even with benefit of the doubt saying they don't do so now, even a casual reading of history suggests they will get there before too long. As some wise soul put it on this forum "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Look for 'extremism', whatever that is, and shorn of the context, intent or background to a comment or action, you'll surely find what you're after eventually, if you look from just the right angle.

    This article on its own should really be enough for the powers that be to give serious thought to what they're created, but of course it won't. We'll just stumble along into some sort of horrendous police state because we had the tools and no-one could really be arsed to work out where it was going, and should any try, they'll doubtless be the first to 'fit the profile'.

    We're off to hell in a fucking handbasket.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Whither the mission creep?

      Well, the NSA and its predecessor agencies have been doing pretty much what they are doing now, and sometimes more intrusively*, for at about 75 years. Its Five Eyes associates, and signals intelligence agencies of other democratic nations such as France, Germany, Sweden, Israel, and others probably have been doing much the same for about the same period. Mission creep, if there were any, should be apparent by now.

      * SHAMROCK and MINARET, for example.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Whither the mission creep?

        @tom dial

        "...for at about 75 years."

        Except that mass surveillance on the scale and depth of intrusiveness that is now being conducted was not even close to being available for the vast majority of the time. The chances of having your life routinely touched by spying agencies on a daily basis would have been a fantasy for the truly paranoid, rather than a fact of life for most. Even CCTV on a large scale is only really 20 years old or so, let alone mass comms monitoring. That looks like mission creep to me.

        I think thats a big difference that makes me personally extremely uncomfortable, and the fact that its supposedly machines not people doing the watching makes no odds; it still feels like someone rifling through your underwear drawer.

        1. Guus Leeuw

          Re: Whither the mission creep?

          Uhm? You're not European by any chance? Have no (grand)parents who lived the world wars?

          SS patroling the streets? Ever heard of Jewish people being picked up, even though they were well hidden, because some dumbfuck neighbor told some nitwit police guy about the abnormal amount of food the 4 people household next door bought every week? CCTV is harmless! Stasimen/KGBguys following you around the streets? Doing your house up after DDR and Germany re-united only to find about 3 kilometers of tapping wire in your walls??? Mafia guys sitting in your restaurant by the boat load drinking tapwater because you didn't pay protection money?

          Dude... Seriously... The tools are different, I'll give you that, but the scope is not creeping at all.

      2. Guus Leeuw

        Re: Whither the mission creep?

        Make that 81 and you'd be right... Especially regarding Germany... :D

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whither the mission creep?

      Not a handbasket. A bullet train. And everyone else is just screaming in excitement.

      "So this is how liberty dies--with thunderous applause."

    3. Lapun Mankimasta

      Re: Whither the mission creep?

      "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

      A real load of fun when it comes to human biology ... "I was hammering down all the ... extrusions, Doctor."

  21. southpacificpom
    WTF?

    TOR - check

    Tails - check

    Linux Journal - check

    I must be on the NSA wanted list.

    I also use OpenBSD - guess I'm on the NSA terrorist list too...

  22. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Linux

    "United States does not collect signals intelligence for...burdening criticism or dissent"

    Except that by placing everyone who reads a publication or inquires about a website offering info and sales of lawful products on a surveillance list, you are burdening free speech by associating them with anti-state activity. Is anyone who visits the EFF or ACLU or EPIC website also placed on this list? Are you creating a situation where employers or family might pressure someone to stop using these products/websites/publications because it brings too much notoriety in official circles? Well, then you are burdening free speech. (Mind you, I always knew that Linux Journal readers were malcontents up to no good!)

    Tux (alias: Tuxama Bin Laden)--How is the poor guy going to survive the tropical climate at Guantanamo Bay?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    security and privacy

    If Linux puts you on the list then expressing an interest in OpenBSD must move you further up the list, like ten or a hundred fold.

    Instead of being flagged, as only a potential terrorist, you must be flagged as a potential extremist with a specialization in guerrilla warfare.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: security and privacy

      They are only tracking which countries have WMD's (Workstation of Mass Destruction) - it is all to keep you safe. Basically they are saying that they "own" Windows already, it is the pesky others that need God given American protection - World Police™.

      In some future episode of the Simpsons™ I expect to hear a line something like this "Smithers, let loose the dogs of non-collateral-peace and release the eagle drones of freedom."

      OK, I'm off to get my 0xc0ffee, my brain is still offline, and yes it is truly fearful to see when it is online.

  24. Just Because I'm Paranoid
    Devil

    The Inevitable Conclusion

    Someone, anyone, please convince me that this isn't the inevitable conclusion:

    If you are a member of the military you are already on the watch list.

    If you work for a defense related company you are already on the watch list.

    Apparently if you use Linux, or Tor, or read Linux Journal, or read this ... you are already on the watch list.

    If the AI marks you as a potential future trouble maker, expect that eventually you will be quietly sidelined. You won't be fired, you will be made irrelevant. (You just won't get that promotion ... ever.)

    Eventually the AI will get good enough to pick children likely to become trouble makers. These children will discover higher hurdles in their education and future jobs. Again they will be steered into "safe", "low risk", low paying jobs. These people will be steered away from others of their kind to ensure they don't collaborate in their "trouble making".

    If you are a "trouble maker" your children will automatically be marked as "trouble makers".

    Eventually the AI will get good enough to pick which children will make charismatic, "right thinking", leaders. These children will find help and encouragement in their education and jobs. They will be steered into positions of power.

    Currently there is the computing equivalent of a desktop PC dedicated to watching each person on the watch list. The watching is extensive but not complete. As time goes on, more and more activities, "transactions", "feeds", become available on each watched person.

    In 10 to 20 years, the computing equivalent of one of today's super computers will be used to watch each targeted person, and instead of a list of a couple of million, (with a couple of tens of thousands of high value targets,) each person in the country will be watched.

    If you are 5Is, how do you get around the laws forbidding watching your own citizens? Get another of the 5Is to put everyone on their target list and feed everything you have to them...

    1. Robin Bradshaw

      Re: The Inevitable Conclusion

      Yeah and eventually google will serve me ads i'm actually interested in and my mobile phone providers coverage map will be accurate.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Inevitable Conclusion

      yes, you've described very accurately one of the possible outcomes of the existent FVEY + partners overcollection 'hobby'

      not only the freezing of the evolution of technology AND society

      (technology has to freeze as new stuff might be used to bypass the 'lawful enforcement' monitoring)

      (society has to freeze as some new liberal government/leader might revoke FVEY powers)

      With the massive interception and surveillance tools now ubiquitously available one can see the world where a young activist Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi could be disconnected after a few blogs or a John Winston Ono Lennon could be banned from travelling or owning a guitar following inappropriate tweets. A youthful Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela searching Google for early concepts of “long walks” and “freedom” could easily be identified, profiled and gently neutralised.

      Soft Assassination?

      Are we there yet?

      some of the madder corners of the web claim that we are - with stuff like "Early NATO whistleblower Hans Otto exposed '"kill lists" of leading European politicians that defied investigators' belief, but were subsequently confirmed by police. This is called "soft assassination" Richard Cottrell, author of Gladio, NATO's Dagger at the Heart of Europe: The United States is not prepared to tolerate governments which are unfavorable to the regime."

      Under sovereign national right, the USA can do whatever it wants to protect its society. Currently it is alleged that they are being non-proportional in their use of SIGINT, illegal under international laws. Farr be it from me to suggest my opinion of redressing the balance between security/privacy, but the USA could surely Game a win/win out of this Snowden problem, with balance being an option?

    3. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Just Because I'm Paranoid Re: The Inevitable Conclusion

      ".....If you are a member of the military you are already on the watch list....." In the UK, yes, as you will have signed the acknowledgement for the Official Secrets Act. Do bear in mind that, just like Santa, there is a 'naughty' list and a 'nice' list, the 'nice' list having some advantages when you apply for security-related jobs (a bit like having a good credit-rating). But, depending on who you start mixing with, you can be moved from the 'nice' list to the 'naughty' one. Being on the 'nice' lists means if you do certain activity (such as taking a holiday in Cuba) you may get flagged for further attention. I'm pretty sure it's the same for Yanks.

      "....If you work for a defense related company you are already on the watch list....." In the UK, only if you work in a 'sensitive' area. If your company is in the defence industry and did a security check on you before employing you then you may be on the 'nice' list (or the 'naughty' list if you got rejected for the job due to your background). I have no idea how it works for such US employees but I'd hazard a guess it is the same.

      "....Apparently if you use Linux, or Tor, or read Linux Journal, or read this ... you are already on the watch list....." No. It would simply generate far too large a pool of references. I suspect, given that XKeyScore allegedly offers the ability to filter on whatever you like (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/08/01/xkeyscore_leak_challenged/), there was no filters specifically for TOR or TAILS or any Linux-related activity, it's one of many filters that may have been used to narrow down a search for specific black hats such as the Syrian Electronic Army. Of course, it plays to the TORists' egos to baaaah-lieve they are 'sticking it to The Man', and it is certain the NSA and GCHQ do have a big interest in some of the traffic going through TOR, though probably not the geeks running it. The chances that the TORists have a real search list from the NSA is remote to zero seeing as their claims do not match what we already know about XKeyScore. It doesn't help that certain El Reg columnists seem more interested in using melodramatic headlines rather than a bit of commonsense.

      "....If the AI marks you as a potential future trouble maker, expect that eventually you will be quietly sidelined...." No. Apart form the fact there is no 'AI', XKeyScore is just a search tool, so it needs a human being to make that decision. If such decisions were being made they would require the NSA/GCHQ to be contacting people in companies all over the place, in widely divergent fields, and saying 'don't hire or promote Bob', which would have come to public attention years ago as there is no guarantee the boss of any such company would be pro-NSA/GCHQ. So, sorry, but if you didn't get a job or didn't get a promotion, look in the mirror and stop blaming The Man.

      "....Eventually the AI will get good enough to pick children likely to become trouble makers....." Yes and no. Firstly, still no AI - it's just a search tool. But, if you have family on the 'naughty' list, depending on how 'naughty' they have been you may already have been added to the 'naughty' list as a prospective 'bad person'. This is more likely in 'family-orientated' causes such as Islamism, less likely in socio-political-orientated causes such as the ALF nutters.

      "....These children will discover higher hurdles in their education and future jobs. Again they will be steered into "safe", "low risk", low paying jobs....." That is just more of the conspiracy sheeple fail, see above about how the massive conspiracy would be unable to remain hidden. Your kids may be screwed because they are brought up in a paranoid household/commune with moronic 'values' but that would be your fault, not The Man's. Tell them to look in the mirror as well.

      "....If you are a "trouble maker" your children will automatically be marked as "trouble makers"...." Possibly, depending on your definition of 'trouble maker'. If it is someone that donates to dodgy Islamic charities, frequently visit jihadi websites, visits mosques frequented by known Islamists, regularly mixes with those same Islamists, and has traveled to areas of the World where Islamists operate, it is a pretty safe bet that person and their children will be on a list. If your definition is joined a 'Marxist/Green/whatever' group at college when in your heavy-toking phase, attended some anti-nuke/anti-homophobia/anti-globalist demo whilst stoned, since got smart and moved on, then no. The NSA and GCHQ are looking for people with 'bad' intentions, not morons.

      "....Eventually the AI will get good enough to pick which children will make charismatic, "right thinking", leaders. These children will find help and encouragement in their education and jobs. They will be steered into positions of power....." Yeah, you really need to loosen up the tinfoil. If the people around you are doing better it is because they are trying harder or are just better equipped to succeed in this World. Once again, look in the mirror for the source of your problems and failings.

      "....Currently there is the computing equivalent of a desktop PC dedicated to watching each person on the watch list...." And your proof of this is.... Oh, you don't have any, you just got it off conspiracyloons.com (before you misunderstand the sarcasm and go check for the evidence which you hope will prove your deepest paranoid fantasies are The Truth, that website does not exist).

      If you are on any watch lists, it is more likely to be one run by your local psychiatrist's office.

      1. Lapun Mankimasta

        Re: Just Because I'm Paranoid The Inevitable Conclusion

        You know, surveilling everybody strikes me as a sure sign of paranoid schizophrenia, as defined in all the appropriate medical handbooks used by medical doctors and students. I sure wish The Man would look in the mirror for once, don't you?

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Just Because I'm Paranoid The Inevitable Conclusion

          The Man would just reply, "It ain't paranoia if everybody REALLY IS out to get you." As far as they're concerned, one man can destroy civilization out of nowhere, meaning EVERYONE's a potential existential threat. And it's against instinct to accept existential threats.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Charles 9 Re: Just Because I'm Paranoid The Inevitable Conclusion

            ".....As far as they're concerned, one man can destroy civilization out of nowhere...." <Sigh> Yeah, and your proof of that statement is.... Oh, you don't have any! I'm trying to look surprised, honest.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Inevitable Conclusion

      And all thats before you even get to the whole Buttle/Tuttle thing.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    possibility that El Reg is too?

    I doubt it. TLJ is a little bit more specialised. Don't get above yourselves. Too many wannabees on here.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: possibility that El Reg is too?

      El Reg has made the great firewall of China blocklist!

  26. LucreLout Silver badge
    Trollface

    Well done El Reg

    You owe me a new privacy!!

    Now that I'm on an NSA watch list, it'll comprehensively knacker my plans to move to California and unleash a full blown mid-life crisis on an unending bevy of Californian Girls, should my wife ever have the wisdom to run off with the pool boy that is.

    1. Anonymous Dutch Coward
      Pint

      Re: Well done El Reg

      Yes, I'm sure the NSA watch list... and the pool guy are the only two things preventing that ;)

      1. Martin
        Happy

        Re: Well done El Reg

        ...and the bevy of California girls.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mildly amusing

    "...possibly breaking international law in doing so..."

    As if any part of the US federal government could give a rat's ass for international law. (Except when it suits their own purposes, of course).

    Why would God's Own Country knuckle under to laws made by a bunch o' furriners?

    1. g e

      Re: Mildly amusing

      Yorkshire?????

      OK so that's county...

  28. Zack Mollusc

    Official List of NSA Surveillance Targets:

    Everyone, Everywhere, All the time.

  29. tentimes

    Let's see if this triggers it

    Gary Glitter,

    Dirty Bomb,

    Nuke in 10 minutes,

    IPSEC,

    VPN,

    Banana.

    I hate the USA (NSA spy machine),

    Tiddums,

    I'm a red commie bastard! (Not really but let's see).

    1. Blitheringeejit
      Alert

      Re: Let's see if this triggers it

      O noes - he said "banana"!! Now we're all f*cked...

  30. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    Chack!

    Tor -Check

    Freenet -Check

    mixminion -Check (and mixmaster also, while we're at it)

    various infosec-related searces, several times a week -check

    Good. It would seem that I can save money on backup media: the NSA has several mirrors of all my data already!

  31. ehoffman

    So what...

    So what? Isn't everybody already a potential "terrorist" to the NSA?

    You're on file as soon as you subscribe to an ISP... And you are if you don't because you are then tagged as a suspicious out-of-the-norm person :-)

  32. xyz

    Forgive my ignorance but...

    how is it that if you buy something online, the arm of your government involved, in this case the taxman, determines that your physical location determines the taxes you pay rather than where the servers are, but when you are doing something else online, another arm of your government, in this case the men in black, determines it's where the servers are and not your phyisical location that's the key point. Apart from the fact that governments are lying, greedy bastards can someone please make up their minds which way they want it round please?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Forgive my ignorance but...

      Because the government ALWAYS take the position that's of advantage to them. EVERYONE does that. If the law favors server location, they'll use that; if the law favors client location, so be it. They'll pick the position that's best for them in that particular instance, and the next instance starts the whole thing from scratch. Hypocrisy is expected in law enforcement. Otherwise, Joes can loophole around the law.

  33. g e

    However...

    We do now have a list of good noise-generating terms to put into communications in general.

    I'm buying shares in Western Digital, anticipating the noise increasing NSA storage needs ;o)

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: However...

      Bet you the MIB are becoming just as good at FILTERING the noise. Plus they know the Internet only works efficiently when the routes are open. Otherwise, you end up like Freenet, where things take forever to get done. Efficient or anonymous--pick ONE.

  34. William Higinbotham

    The Register does not make the cut with NSA!

    As I though was said in advertising or maybe it was on line dating, any news is good news.

    Well, The fact that the Linux Journal site was targeted by NSA certainly will get the conspirators emailing each other and on on blogs. My theory - No one is volunteering to work for thge US, so the US Gov has to try to profile the best possible recrut. Despirate for a few good hackers.

    I only know assembly and Basic so I do not have to worry.

    Warning, do not go to the journal's site if you wish not to be on a list!!!

  35. Slrman

    WHo would think?

    It isn't as if any rational person still believes the USA is a free country.

    Think about it.  No-warrant wire taps, indefinite detention of citizens without charges, approval of rendition of prisoners and torture, stop and frisk without probable cause, search and seizure without a warrant, no-knock entry, confiscation and destruction of cameras that might have been used to film police acting illegally, police brutality, police shootings that go without  investigation, managed news, and the civil-rights destroying "Patriot" Act.

    Acts of police behaving illegally, with shootings, Tasers, and unwarranted violence now appear almost daily.  Rarely are these offenses punished.  Most often "an investigation" is claimed, but soon forgotten.

    In addition, the USA, with 5% of the world population, has 25% of all of the prisoners in the world.  That means the USA has the most people in prison of any nation in history.  Even by percentage of residents incarcerated, not just sheer numbers, USA is # 1

    Does any of that sound like a free country?

    As Dwight D. Eisenhower said about communism, "It's like slicing sausage.  First they out off a small slice.  That isn't worth fighting over.  Then they take another small slice that isn't worth fighting over.  Then another and another.  Finally, all you have left is the string and that isn't worth fighting over, either.

    Within 50 years, the USA will split into several mutually antagonistic countries. The world will be a batter place for that.

  36. thomas k.

    It's furners, dammit!

    Why do you furners insist on adding that extra syllable?

    P.S. - And it's 'merkuns.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is a straigh up lie:

    "that the United States does not collect signals intelligence for the purpose of suppressing or burdening criticism or dissent, or for disadvantaging persons based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion."

    Fubar el Haq

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is a straigh up lie:

      It is also the case that if they don't like you and can't find any real dirt they'll just make some shit up to smear you with. Knowing who you know and what you like makes

      it real easy.

      Fubar

  38. Vociferous

    Have you ever mentioned the EFF?

    Congrats, you are on an NSA list.

    Ever downloaded TrueCrypt?

    Congrats, you are on an NSA list.

    Written stuff about bombs or the war on terror?

    Congrats, you are on an NSA list.

    Ever place an international call to someone in the USA?

    Congrats, you are on an NSA list.

    Ever used the internet?

    Congrats you are probably on an NSA list.

    That's the beauty of databases, you can store so much. And then cross reference.

    It will also please you to know that you're almost also on French, Chinese, Iranian, Russian, Swedish, Australian, and Canadian lists. We're all virtually celebrities!

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Vociferously bleats Re: Have you ever mentioned the EFF?

      "Have you ever mentioned the EFF?....." You assume that ALL coms would be swept, which is not the case. You would need to be in a discussion/chat/exchange with someone of interest, and the EFF is not of interest. Certain members, maybe.

      "......Ever downloaded TrueCrypt?....." Again, unlikely as the list is simply too large and ineffective a filter. What is more likely would be ((downloaded TC)+((from a country of interest)OR(via TOR))+(were already listed as an associate/relative of a person of interest))=be flagged for further attention. Just downloading TC alone is unlikely to be enough.

      "......Written stuff about bombs or the war on terror?...." Again not enough alone. If you fitted the profile ((visited sites for jihadis/ALF/<insert known terror groups here>)+(posted info on making specific bombs such as IEDs, NOT on a site like Wikipedia, but on a site where people voiced a desire to use such devices))=definite further surveillance, but more likely from the FBI or local equivalent.

      "......Ever place an international call to someone in the USA?......" Again, no, way too big a filter.

      "......Ever used the internet?....." Puh-lease, loosen up the tinfoil!

      ".....That's the beauty of databases, you can store so much....." Not enough to fulfilling your paranoid listings above.

      ".....,It will also please you to know that you're almost also on French, Chinese, Iranian, Russian, Swedish, Australian, and Canadian lists......" Unlikely, seeing as the NSA can't screen all coms (despite what the sheeple want to baaaah-lieve) and can't store all the stuff they do sweep up, so it is very, very unlikely any other country even has the budget to do half of what the Five Eyes do with their combined budgets.

      "..... We're all virtually celebrities!" Paranoid delusions. Not of grandeur, just of being of interest to anyone.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's a kind of balance: the US is able to snoop on all of our phone calls and web browsing, to spy upon our companies, but isn't able to keep secrets anymore: wikileaks, cablegate, manning, snowden.

    The same technology which allows massive snooping on whole countries also makes it next to impossible to keep anything secret for a long time.

  40. agricola
    Big Brother

    Tit-for-tat...

    "...If something as innocuous as Linux Journal is on the NSA's hit list, it's a distinct possibility that El Reg is too, particularly in light of our recent exclusive report on GCHQ – which led to a Ministry of Defence advisor coming round our London office for a chat..."

    So why don't you SHOW GCHQ that you will not be intimidated by them--and, more importantly, that you consider them nothing more than room-temperature-IQ arseholes, and pond-scum--by PUBLISHING this entire chat you had with this Ministry-of-Defence so-called "ADVISOR"?

    Believe me, we would ALL simply delight in NSA's boot-lickers, the GCHQ, being made fools of.

    The NSA has already taken care of that problem on its end.

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