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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I live in the uk now also and the camera's are not an issue. They are only really in town centers and problem area's . Places i would expect lots of people  so no real expectation of not being watched. What they are doing with Prism is more like if the UK wanted to put cameras  in peoples houses.

Ande i am not talking about conspiracy here. just simple pragmatism from the fact that serveilence like this can be used for great evil.( Just look what has happened in a number of countries.) and the fact that the whole world is heading for some seriously tough times with overpopulation, polution, global warming and not to mention it seems like we have run out of cheap oil . I dont know about you but i have no clue what is in our near future and so i think such wide spread government serveilence will be a dangerous liability as evidenced by china or iran. Now maybe nothing bad will ever come of this but i feel it is just too attempting to be abused in one way or another.

just to point out. i am not worried about this staying secret forever. i am worried that now it is in the open we will simply accept it because of big bad terrorists. I promise you that in places like china or iran they make no secret of their internet serveilence of the population.

Are you talking about telephone conversations? There isn't enough memory in the world nor ever will be store it on a permanent basis. Perhaps hang onto it for some months. But it looks as if I missed my opportunity to invest in memory manufacturers!

Also, there can be no manageable way to actually process all that data even as it passes by, except for perhaps using voice recognition and pattern recognition to detect some key words or phrases and flagging those conversations to save for a while as possibly significant. Keeping them forever doesn't seem very practical.

I dont think it was to be stored forever . Just the impression i got was that if the metadata software picked out anything suspicious they could then get a court order from fisa and then listen to it.

That actually sounds pretty reasonable.

This is what I have gleaned.

I'm not afraid of terrorism. The government has more impact on my life than any terrorists do. I am afraid of what the government is doing and what it may become. It makes me sad. I have Cassondra's curse. I wish the Bill of Rights were more than a historical document. I wish we lived in an open, transparent society with a functioning representative democracy. Le sigh. 

I've been trying to decide if I should leave America for somewhere (where?) with more liberty and opportunity...or if I would be better off attempting to find a niche within our present system (if possible).  I would rather not be a foreigner in another country when wars begin to flare up over food, water, etc. shortages in the coming decades. I don't want to end up miserably oppressed in my homeland either. In the end, I'm not a fighter; I'm a follower. The occupy movement showed me that.  I just want to live life at a moderately decent standard...I am willing to compromise my ideals for that. I guess we all are--that is why we are where we are, instead of out in the streets raising hell. 

Well it seemslike the whistleblower has come forward and had no intention of hiding

It also seems like there are more documents to come forward in the upcoming days

I wanted to be more impressed.

He talks a lot about what an analysts could do, but not about what the NSA employees did do specifically and illegally that he witnessed. This interview seems bogus, like he wrote the questions himself. A true whistle blower must have evidence, and not run off and talk smack from Hong Kong.

I'm sure he was worried about his safety. Does it seem at all odd to you he selected China? That's not gonna help his cause. Hell, the Chinese probably have all that data already. They make and control most of the worlds telecom equipment. They will be reading this message in 1,2,3,4,5 seconds. Hi Chinese Guy !!

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revel...

The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA's history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he said.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world's most secretive organisations – the NSA.

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."

Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. "I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."

He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. "I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me."

Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. "I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in." He added: "My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."

He has had "a very comfortable life" that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. "I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."

'I am not afraid, because this is the choice I've made'

Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week's series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.

He then advised his NSA supervisor that he needed to be away from work for "a couple of weeks" in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year.

As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. "That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world."

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent", and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.

[read entire story here]

What they are saying on CNN this morning is that while it was possible for him to access the information he says he could, in doing so he went beyond his job description and broke the law in doing so. In other words, he abused the tools made available to him, much like a file clerk who pokes around in files that are available but which have nothing to do with his/her job.

If true, then the government has the argument that they are not abusing the information available to them but that a rogue employee might do so.

It may seem a meager defense, but as I've asked before, if in fighting terrorism we use only the tools no one can abuse, what are we left with?

I don't think we're totally clear on whether a human being gets to read emails, chats, TA, etc., without a warrant, or if the items which are flagged by pattern recognition software are simply warehoused in case they are needed later, by a warrant at that time. 

I say we're not clear because I've seen experts interviewed this morning who say he's lying, he doesn't know what he's talking about, etc.


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