The U.S. government has been looking and often gathering and collecting data on almost every phone call, website visited, and credit card transaction we make. In case you want to get caught up one this issue which hit the news world hard yesterday, this article on the National Security Agency (NSA) program called Prism is a good quick start. Here's a juicy quote of a quote from the article:

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who know about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.

While it's hard to feel happy about this, could it be necessary to prevent another 9/11? If it did prevent something like a nuclear device being detonated in Chicago killing a million people, would it be worth it? Does this revelation give the bad guys notice that they need a new way to stay in touch?

Obviously, a government needs some secrecy, but how much is too much?

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The top secret NSA and FBI documents cited in the Washington Post are totally clear in describing; 

(1) NSA analysts (human beings) access emails, chats, electronic files, etc, 
(2) that they use "foreignness" not "warrants" to do so, 
(3) the acceptable standard to determine "foreignness" is 51% accurate, and 
(4) they blow it (look at American content without warrants) so often they have to write quarterly reports and issue training materials to reassure worried human beings not to lose any sleep over what they've done.

What part of that isn't totally clear?

So, you believe something simply because you read it in the Washington Post?

I will wait for some verification that the "top secret documents" are actually legitimate top secret documents. I'm not sure yet that the Washington Post isn't just taking his word for it. 

Do they have "Top Secret" stamped on them? You can buy a stamp for a few bucks. 

You seem a little unskeptical, GM. Remember: extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. We don't yet know what's truth, what's half truth, and what's totally false.

Certainly, there's some truth, which I've already granted, and which I base on the fact that the government would like to extradite him, but we don't yet know what's what.

If it can be demonstrated with certainty that constitutional rights are being violated, I'm totally with you.

if in fighting terrorism we use only the tools no one can abuse, what are we left with?

Freedom, privacy, constitutional rights? We're not arguing that there's a trade-off of rights vs security, right? It's about where we draw the line.

I flip the stop-think-cliche "freedom isn't free": the cost of freedom is sticking to your principles and setting a good example for all to see and appreciate. There are still larger, healthier ventures to invest in to improve quality of life. We could be saving thousands more lives a day and quality of life, if our priorities weren't base on spectacular events more than our daily, mundane suffering that's not on the front page.

If only people weren't people.

Perhaps the government needs some (some) secrecy, but we also need it, I had an spouse that made a big deal about everything I did. I got tired of playing secret agent with her about harmless stuff. I got tired of watching my back all the time. I don't relish the idea of having to be constantly watching my back from bureaucrats and other sammies  looking for witch hunts.

Well, the difference (one of them) is that the spouse uses the information (or the suspicion that there is information) to f*ck with you, whereas you're unlikely to ever hear from the government, unless of course you're doing something that's a threat to national security, or you know someone who is.

What i am trying so hard to understand is just how this leak  is so damaging to national security . Any terrorist or criminal with half a brain already knew about this.This has been a topic of great interest in the hacking scene for years already and there have been published books, programs and a ton of articles which  have claimed this for ages. Even senators have come out saying that if we knew how the government was interpreting the patriot act to monitor us we would be greatly shocked. The only people who are surprised about this are the general public, who considered all the previous info to be a conspiracy theory.

Anything that is embarassing to the government is "damaging to national security".  Anyone that leaks anything that is indicitive of illegal acts by the government, is "aiding the enemy".  It's all in the branding.

All I can tell you is what I've heard which is the WHAT the government was doing was well known in the relevant circles BUT the HOW it was being done was not, and that that is the sensitive part because it puts the bad guys halfway to getting around it. 

Halfway? have you ever heard of tor? It is simple to use and as long as you follow some simple precautions  it is  safe and  will protect your privacy online. Which probably goes to explain why jacob appelbaum has been harrased by the US government every time he has used an airport.

Prism is just an expansion.  Echelon scooped and stored communications for decades, and Carnivore has been collecting financial data for over a decade.  Each new incarnation just broadens how much data is collected, and makes filtering and storage more sophisticated.

Any 'bad guy' with any degree of competence knows that the government has everything wired, so the best way to communicate is face to face, or by courier.  Any group with the sophistication to pull of the tired rogue-nuke scenario would be advanced enough to be communicating at a minimum through encrypted flash drives between stripped, stand alone laptops.

One significant problem with collecting the vast volumes that are now getting sucked into the intelligence vacuum, is that there is too much data to analyze within an actionable time frame.  Unless a person is already flagged as a potential threat, and their communications are a priority, chances are very high that their data will just get stored until after the act, and then will be used for the ever present Monday morning quarterback session.

I don't see it going away.  If Prism gets too much press, they'll cop to a shadow of what it does, and make a public show of shutting it down while they simply rename it and shift a few department heads.

This is an interesting video from a year  ago with a NSA head directly lying to congress .

Congressman Peter King calls for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to be extradited from Hong Kong. I just sent him a twitter begging a difference of opinion on the matter.


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