The massive NSA scoop of Verizon records (and others probably) is well timed – for us

  • UPDATE: Seems this program has been going on for years through two administrations and the authorization is renewed, almost automatically, every 90 days. Some nat’l security reporters point out that this has been reported on before and is the result of the big FISA public debate of a decade ago, but it disappeared from the public conversation. (We really need to do better than this.)

Not all things are the same: not all whistle blowers are honorable, but the tradition of revealing secret government activity to the press . . . that will always be the essential ingredient if the press is to fulfill its most important mission. Our press is charged to:

Speak truth to power

Connor Friedersdorf makes that point today:

The Unknown Patriot Who Exposed the Government’s Verizon Spy Program

In praise of whistle-blowers whose risky disclosures of official wrongdoing make the nation stronger rather than weaker . . .  “The order was marked TOP SECRET//SI//NOFORN, referring to  communications-related intelligence information that may not be released to noncitizens. That would make it among the most closely held secrets  in the federal government”
This leaker is no doubt fully aware he/she has committed a crime but got the priorities exactly right. So to some unknown person – well done.

45 responses to “The massive NSA scoop of Verizon records (and others probably) is well timed – for us

  1. I think Glenn Greenwald just permanently exiled himself from US territory.


  2. I had no doubt there was more…..
    Hey Moe?

    Congress , The Courts and the President have all Ok’d the Patriot act…..


    And yea …The leaker is now going to be a hunted person….
    I STILL think this stuff needs to be brought down to something manageable….


    • james, I think your point about all branches of gov’t being aboard is right on – and very scary. This damn national security thing has been going on since well before Patriot Act – the NSA is so big no one even knows how many employees they have. I’m putting up a post soon about it and its growth.


  3. And if this guy thinks the media speaking the truth , and NOT trying to make money…He’s fooling himself….

    Media does some bad stuff just like the government….
    The NY Post is getting sued for convicting two guys that the Govt didn’t….

    Let’s get real here….

    The President IS gonna have some more headaches on this….
    Just so peopel know …Sen Feinstein (D-Ca) is defending the PRISM program and the NSA and FBI….


  4. I don’t believe most people here have anything, anything at all to be concerned with. The rest of us?


    • It’s not about politics Alan, not about left or right. On this one, I think we can all be on the same side. Obamacare isn’t what’s ‘dangerous’ to us. This kind of stuff is what’s dangerous. And if this is what it takes to ‘prevent terrorist attacks’? Well, perhaps it’s too high a price to pay.


  5. Me neither Scott…..
    But I think the media IS trippin….
    They ARE learning that the Government can do just about WTF they want to do…..
    Us little people KNEW that ALL along……


  6. I have always made the assumption that anything I do–blogs, online activity, phone calls–was probably being tracked by a computer program somewhere. I don’t like it and it does worry me–especially since most of what I say tends to be political–but I’m also not going to remain quiet, that’s not why I’m here.


    • I think I’ve always assumed that my info was being swept into something too . . . so why does this feel different? It probably isn’t. A mystery but there it is. It’s wrong. It’s too much and as I said to james above, it’s too high aprice to pay for ‘national security’.


  7. The data in question is known as Pen Register Data and has no constitutional protection. Nor does it, as of Smith v. Maryland in the late ’70s, enjoy any statutory protection as it legally lacks the expectation of privacy.

    As no truly confidential data is being mined, this is a non-issue…but one the media is going to use to sell a few ad spots and attempt to use as evidence that they still “speak truth to power.”


    • It may be legal jonolan – in fact, as you say, it is legal. But it’s not acceptable. I do believe that they’re not getting/using the actual data right now (is it even possible?) but they’re storing all this metadata and can use it as a tool later on. The media – at least the eteevvee variety – are fools. This iisn’t a new story; it’s only new tools.


      • Moe, why is it unacceptable for the govt – yes, I’m saying this – to have access to data that has long been held to public in nature?

        It is, however, of only minor usefulness to them except in the wake of an attack in order to track accomplices. The shear amount of data makes the project somewhat ridiculous. The heuristics involved have got to be unwieldy.

        BTW Moe, this is what I do these days for a living on a smaller scale. I set up and maintain corporations’ and govt agencies’ data security programs and data loss prevention programs.


        • You’re right about the nature of the data (not to mention the fact that its vastness almost renders it useless) and that a clear case can be made about precedent. The problem here is how broad it is, that they retain it and that technology isn’t done with offering tools to use – or abuse – it.

          But mostly, the difficulty I’m having is the secrecy (we always knew about wiretapping etc) and the decades long growth of our national security state. I . The best example – beyond the Patriot Act – of the legal basis for this is that it’s like a letter – the outside of the envelope is public since it’s seen by so many people even before it gets to you,, but the contents are protected and private.

          But the post office doesn’t have much power over me. Ultimately what’s wrong here is that 12 years after 9/11, we’re living in a state of fear of terrorism as if that were the most important thing. We missed 9/11. We missed Boston. We missed the barracks in Lebanon. We missed the Cole. I could go on and on . . . we had a lot of intelligence on the 9/11 hijackers and didn’t know what to do with it.

          We just do a crappy job on intelligence and making it bigger and badder is probably not going to change that.


          • Let me add . . . we missed the breakup of the Soviet Union too.


          • I don’t really know how secret these things really were. I’ve known about them, though not all the details, for some years – both the phone and digital data components that feed ADVISE and TALON. They weren’t publicly announced but I don’t think they were particularly secret past the 1st year or so.

            I point of fact, and this goes a long way towards making the idea foolish, the ISPs are handing over the raw data because the govt’s systems that were installed on the backbone couldn’t cope with the load. 😆


            • And do you remember after 9/11 the scandal about how utterly outdated the FBI computers and networks were? The 9/11 commission named that as one of the things that contributed to the intelligence failure.

              so now that NSA gets to spend trillions (I betcha), I wonder if FBI got to upgrade their systems. Do you know anything about that?


              • A few billion, Moe, not trillions, and yes the FBI got to do some upgrades as well, though much of that was in conjunction with the DHS and are shared systems. I don’t have any specifics on the FBI though since I work with them in a “soft” capacity – profiling, forensics, and threat assessment – whereas I did more hands-on tech work with the NSA and know their systems a bit better, though even that knowledge is not a bit dated.


                • I’d like to see the FBI well equipped . . . their mission of gettin’ the criminals is something they’re good at and acheive with some regularity.


  8. jonolan…..

    I STILL feel that there is simply TOO much of this……


    • That could well be so. I sadly know for a fact that there’s too much of this for it to be properly analyzed and used to any real effect except forensically.

      😆 Carnivore died from overeating and that sucked for my bank account.


  9. One hopes that the NSA has better ethics than the IRS. They don’t have to know what you said to hurt you, just who you talked to. If you are a whistle blower you are toast.


  10. Hey everone! Look on the bright side. Think of all the new opportunities for “Big Brutha” jokes. Late Night TV is going to be fun. 😆


  11. Snowden and Bradley Manning seem to have more than a little in common. The differences in how the media covers them in the coming months will be worth noting. Now that Manning’s Court Marshal has begun, the comparisons can start.


    • the most striking similarity I think is how much access these two fairly low level people had. Manning was just a Pfc and look what he could get to.


  12. Things are gonna get REALLY interesting folks…..

    Update….NSA leaker has disappeared….


  13. One crucial statement from Snowden’s interview:

    “Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector, anywhere. Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of the sensor networks and the authorities that analyst is empowered with. Not all analysts have the ability to target everything. But I sitting at my desk certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a Federal judge to even the President if I had a personal e-mail.

    There are thousands of these analysts; does anyone seriously doubt that some of them will abuse the system? Does anyone seriously doubt they’ll never decide to do a little digging on their own, maybe see what their spouses are up to while the analyst is at work, or target their business partners, or maybe the obnoxious neighbor across the street with the barking dog? The notion that these programs will be used only to target terrorists is ludicrous; sooner or later, these programs will be abused.


  14. No ojmo……

    But I doubt this guy could do ALL the things he says he did without help….
    At the very least some of the stuff he claims to be able to do HAS to be compartmentalized….

    One would think we’re getting the tip of the Iceberg here…
    The Guardian says there’s more coming…..

    Wikileaks now has a second coming it appears…..

    Oh, and I agree….
    As long as there are humans involed in ANYTHING…There WILL be abuse…


  15. NSA spying: bad for privacy, bad for the prison-industrial complex. (LA Times)


  16. More info on this national security state which has been growing like a monster for decades – two stunning books:

    Top Secret America by Dana Priest and William Arkin;

    The Shadow Factory by James Bamford


  17. Bamford’s been writing about this stuff since the 1980’s…..

    One must understand that 9/11 changed the whole thing….
    and technology changes every six months…
    This isn’t going away….
    And most American’s know that and don’t really care…..

    He, he, he….
    They’re busy blabing their life on facebook anyways….


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