Saturday, August 3, 2013

NSA vs. The Guardian: What Principle Matters Most Here

NSA vs. The Guardian (UK) *Glenn Greenwald at Release Button
NSA Today 
NSA's Role: Is Big Brother Out of Control

NSA for Tomorrow: The Expansion in Utah (Seven Times Larger than the Pentagon) 

XKeyScore System (the Snowden ref is my hunch)...



Main Articles Follow this Update (August 3, 2013): This 6-minute segment comes from this MSNBC link and it is based on the top slide showing the Guardian's latest release of another NSA program, called XKeyscore. It basically works this way as described in The Guardian's latest release (July 31, 2013) and in the graph above: 

"Select a Foreigness Factor,” the text on a National Security Agency training slide for a system called XKeyscore (which was made public by the Guardian, in a piece by Glenn Greenwald). That is what it tells its analysts. An arrow points to a drop-down menu with choices like: Foreign govt indicates that the person is located outside the U.S. and the person is a user of storage media seized outside the U.S
Foreignness matters because the NSA is not supposed to spy on Americans. The one selected for the sample search might be the easiest: In direct contact with target overseas, no info to show proposed target in the U.S. In other words, it says: "We found a link between you and someone abroad we’re interested in, and you haven’t shown us that you’re American — so let’s take a look (deeper)." 

A look at what might be looked at deeper, one how asks??? 

XKeyscore according to an NSA presentation that the Guardian posted (thirty-two slides, from 2008) can let an analyst see "nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet. 

Logically at this point you want to ask: What was is the NSA response to this latest??? Their response is part of the slide above, and in more detail from here

NSA's response, which mirrors much of the language it had previously given The Guardian, stresses that the NSA (1) only targets legitimate foreign intelligence targets, (2) is not allowed widespread, unchecked analyst access to the data, and (3) all analysts must go through "appropriate training. 

NSA also contends that its "tools have stringent oversight and compliance mechanisms, and that no analyst can operate freely without audits from above." (God only knows what that means)?? 

So, based on this update, you are free to believe what you choose to believe. It still amounts to "safety vs. privacy." It is once again in full view; but, this time for the entire world to see and measure, and that cannot be good.

Main Posts Start from here (July 29, 2013): THE HEART OF THIS ARTICLE FOR ME: Glenn Greenwald says NSA has trillions of telephone calls and e-mails in their databases that they have collected over the last several years, and low-level people can use them anyway they choose to listen and read.

A second view in that article comes from GOP Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). He casts doubt on Greenwald’s reporting, saying: "I was back out at NSA just last week, spent a couple hours out there with high-level and low-level NSA officials, and what I have been assured of is there is no [such] capability … at NSA, for anyone without a court order to listen to any telephone conversation or to monitor any e-mail."  Chambliss then added that any access that low-level staff had (that Greenwald says they have easily) to such personal information would be accidental.

You decide for yourself about who to believe. We have two vastly different views on this very touchy subject. I am still conflicted - what about you?

Updated (July 28, 2013): After more detailed and careful analysis shown below, I have concluded the following will be my view on this subject; that is until any further good, bad, or ugly information comes forth to change my mind. So, I'm sticking with this new view for now - perhaps you can join it, too:

Background and Notes on the NSA Phone Scandal:  Cameras helped with the Boston Marathon case; the Hotel bombing in Mumbai, India; the bus and subway bombings in Madrid, London, and a few other places ... that is the good and valuable side of surveillance. 

The outrage over personal snooping on us is reason for concern, but could be greatly misunderstood, too. So, what's the balance; the trade off; the benefit of having no "eyes" on the bad, or potentially bad, guys vs. complete privacy?

My Motto is Simple: Safety must always be #1. It is primary role of government to keep it’s citizens safe and secure as much as possible and full time as much as possible, too. The how part is a bit trickier. How to keep us safe while not prying into our underwear and bedrooms, etc. That is the hard, key question, isn't it?

President Obama has said about this program: "Nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That’s not what these programs are about."  I tend to trust him on that point.

GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, on MTP (July 28, 2013), explained the same program in very good terms. He is the Chairman of House Congressional Committee on Intelligence. He said NSA stores and examines phone numbers and duration of calls. NSA does NOT keep names, addresses, personal information, or tapes of conversations unless they are actionable and need to be passed to the FBI. I think Rogers did an excellent job of explaining the program.

How it works: When phone numbers match numbers and duration of the calls to known or suspected terrorists, that is: key words and phrases, etc., they get flagged as potentially usable information, which is then passed along to the FBI for further investigation, and any further action by NSA. That is according to the law, rules, and procedures. 


Five key points:

1. The massive amounts of data gathered and screened is equal to the proverbial haystack – they are looking for right needle(s) in that haystack: The phone numbers are the needles.

2. Both programs have been subject to congressional and judicial review and approval and renewed and signed into law and in many cases approved by the FISA court.

3. Regarding the leak of the highly classified information about the two programs, leaking highly classified data: TOP SECRET/SI/NOFORN is extremely dangerous 
(the Snowden case).

4. NSA is not and is not allowed to look at people’s names, addresses, call content, or actual conversations. They sift through the so-called “metadata” looking to identify potential leads with respect to people who might engage in terrorism and those with links to terrorists phone numbers and their locations from within the U.S. 

5. Tipping off a sworn enemy about how we monitor them, hunt for them, track them down, or operate against them by leaking information about how we do that is pretty bad for sure – that operational aspect is what concerns so many about the Snowden leaks. 


However, I am still concerned about the massive expansion of NSA as explained below ... this is worrisome for many reasons - see if you agree or not:

This Update from the UK's Daily Mail is my point (July 27, 2013): This story about the NSA expansion in Utah caught my attention and in essence has caused me to reevaluate my view of NSA, this whole unwarranted snooping scandal and everything we have heard and seen to this point. 

I want to make it clear on the most-important point about my thinking on this whole subject, and that is: that National Security and Safety of the public remain #1 and paramount without any exception.

Now, why have I changed my general view. 

Simply stated, I do not believe all this massive expansion, huge expense, more questions about why so much domestic snooping, and increased potential for more Edward Snowden's to pop up are warranted.

The other pictures at the UK link are dramatic and revealing, as it were. It is not a secret per se, but the work to be conducted inside and stored there will be Top Secret/NOFORN/and Maybe "Eyes Only."  That is worrisome to me for the shear increased volume expected. 

My questions: Why so much domestic snooping. Who will see, screen, evaluate, have access to, and disseminate all that data. What happens to data that are not used? These are not unreasonable questions - not in mind, and I worked in the the Intel field a very long time. In short: the president needs to weigh in and start scaling back this program - whatever it is... I hope we have not reached the point of no return. 

Updated (June 21, 2013) from Alternet.org here in part:

President Eisenhower first introduced us and the world to the phrase: "Military-industrial Complex" on January 17, 1961, in his farewell address to the nation. Now thanks to the snooping we have seen and which has been reported and "leaked" about we have the Corporations and their Spooks watching us. Alternet labels them: the "Industrial-Surveillance Complex." That seems very appropriate.

Highlights from that piece: "Whether one views Edward Snowden as a hero or a villain, perhaps we could all agree that if the government is to keep secrets, a 29-year-old private contractor with a soft spot for Ron Paul shouldn't have had access to a treasure trove of its most sensitive information." (That Snowden had access to and leaked to The Guardian and Glenn Greenwald). Of course, that assumes that there still exists a bright line between government and the private sector." 

"But that's become an antiquated notion after two decades of ideologically driven outsourcing of what were once considered core government functions. As a result of that effort, there are now a million potential Edward Snowden's – or, more precisely, 483,263 contractors with top-secret clearances, according to James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence – any of whom could slip out with sensitive data on a thumb drive if they have a personal or ideological axe to grind."

I wonder: Is this the price we are willing to pay to "have a smaller Federal employee workforce" that the GOP advocates? Well, okay, then. This is the line used by the GOP to reduce the role of government  sticks, but apparently they didn't or still don't worry about the repercussions like the Snowden case. It is a lesson learned the hard way, I'd have to say.

Original post starts here: Fear sells and no one sells it better than the Republicans - that is a fact.

Here is a excellent piece on this subject from Alternet.org and most of it is spot on.

Title and sub-title: The Terror Con: How Keeping Americans Terrified is Making Corporations Big Bucks — The name of the game is threat inflation.

It's hard to disagree with the premise of this story:  "For defense contractors, the government officials who write them mega checks, and the hawks in the media who cheer them on, the name of the game is threat inflation..."

I do not for one minute take away from anyone who believes or proposes that the country's safety is paramount to everything else ... if we are not safe, personally and in our possessions, or in our homes, or at work, or on the streets of America, then nothing else matters. But, equally paramount, or even more, is protecting our rights guaranteed by the Constitution. We were to lose those rights or to have them infringed by any percent would mean that nothing else matters. For example having the right of free speech or the right to vote taken away would mean we would have no voice in choosing the kind of government we want, or possessing the right to tell that government that they are wrong ... nothing else would matter.

We we see today and in the Alternet article is what one might call it the antithesis of FDR's famous quip in 1933 in his first inaugural address:

"This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." 

Today: The GOP has Nothing to Sell But Fear Itself

This excellent piece from Rolling Stone illustrates that fact - please check it out.

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