[Noisebridge-discuss] NSA snooping on all calls, internet, fax and other data *inside* the USA

Nate Lawson nate at root.org
Sun Jan 25 00:06:46 PST 2009


Jacob Appelbaum wrote:
> I'm fairly interested in surveillance and for quite sometime, I felt
> like the Bush administration was lying to us about the scope of the
> spying. While I had suspected that the NSA listened to everything, I
> hadn't even remotely considered that the day after Bush left office an
> NSA analyst would speak out.
> 
> Amazingly, this is just what has happened:
> http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2009/01/nsa-whistleblow.html
> 
> If this Ex-NSA analyst is telling the truth, the magnitude of this leak
> is not just unbelievable, it's astounding. Imagine the data warehousing
> required, the network for transferring data, the computer power required
> and the access to various communication facilities around the nation and
> the world. This kind of crime cannot happen without massive amounts of
> collaboration at the very highest and lowest of levels. It doesn't sound
> like AT&T was the odd duck out here.
> 
> To really drive this home, every phone call and everything you've ever
> done in the USA was recorded and filtered by the NSA. If you wrote an
> email, if you read your email, if you visited cnn.com. If you made a 2
> minute phone call to say that you'd be at Noisebridge shortly, that
> flagged your call for recording and further analysis because...
> "Terrorists make short calls." Everything. Always.
> 
> How's that for a chilling effect on your next phone call or email?

While I disagree with the NSA program, I think you're exaggerating the
Wired article. It doesn't follow that everything you've done was
recorded, only things that met the search criteria.

The two salient quotes are:
"The National Security Agency had access to all Americans'
communications," he said. "Faxes, phone calls and their computer
communications. ... They monitored all communications."

And:
"Tice said the NSA analyzed metadata to determine which communication
would be collected. Offering a hypothetical example, he said if the
agency determined that terrorists communicate in brief, two-minute phone
calls, the NSA might program its systems to record all such calls,
invading the privacy of anyone prone to telephonic succinctness."

I don't think there's anything new here. The NSA has tap equipment on
telco switches and the Internet peering points. What Tice is saying is
that if someone came up with target criteria, the equipment would log
everything that met that criteria, even innocent data. He uses the
hypothetical example of "2 minute phone calls", but it could also just
as easily be keywords like "Crystal Palace".

The NSA pursued this kind of capability with radio transmissions in the
old Echelon system in the 1970s. The access to AT&T's switches to
install something that sounded just like the Internet version of Echelon
was what Mark Klein spoke about 2006. So there's nothing new in what
Tice is saying, he's just confirming that an Echelon-style "grep"
approach pulls in innocent traffic.

http://www.nsawatch.org/echelonfaq.html
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/homefront/interviews/klein.html

Related, but not directly, I like how Honest Argument lets you lay out
points:
http://honestargument.com/arg/8

-- 
Nate


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