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Thursday, August 01, 2013

Snowden's out! Plus: XKeyscore

He has been granted a year in Russia.

I'd like to think that my letter to the Minister of Justice had something to do with this turn of events, but it didn't.

What does it say about what this country has come to, if we have reached the point where an American spy agency employee goes the Russia for asylum -- and he claims potential political persecution if he goes back to the U.S. -- and most Americans approve of his actions?

What does it say about America that the man's father, a gung-ho pro-America type, tells reporters that he's glad his son isn't coming home?
“If he comes back to the United States, he is going to be treated horribly,” Lon Snowden said. “He is going to be thrown into a hole. He is not going to be allowed to speak.”
Meanwhile, the latest Glenn Greenwald piece on the NSA talks about something called XKeyscore, which scoops up everything you do on the internet, including emails.
A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Remember when so many people scoffed at Snowden's claim that he could wiretap anyone, even as he sat at his desk?
US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden's assertion: "He's lying. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do."

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA's "widest reaching" system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet", including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.

Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing "real-time" interception of an individual's internet activity.
Things get particularly hair-raising when we look at the legal justification. FISA? We don't need no stinkin' FISA!
Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisa warrant only if the target of their surveillance is a 'US person', though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets.
Does this mean that if you chat with someone overseas, or your chat is routed through a foreign server, or you visit a foreign website, the NSA gets to log everything? I can't see how anyone's internet activity can stay 100 percent domestic for very long.

But it gets worse...
But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.
Even if the NSA claims that they will not use XKeyscore technology on American citizens without a warrant, we have to take them at their word. Yet the head of the NSA, Keith Alexander, has been caught lying to Congress (although he explained away his lies via the usual slippery rationalizations). So how we can we trust the NSA?

There is no oversight. Congress is obviously clueless -- and the congressfolk themselves are open to blackmail.

Think about it: The NSA would not build a system capable of real time interception of your internet activity unless it was going to do just that.

Incidentally, Keith -- we might as well be on a first-name basis with him, since he knows all of us so well -- spoke to the big hackers conference in Vegas, and braved a great deal of heckling. The following exchange seems straight out of Stephen Colbert...
"Our nation takes stopping terrorism as one of the most important things," he said, standing in short sleeves with a slide on the screen behind him showing a timeline and the number of foiled plots.

"Freedom!" one man shouted from the middle of the standing-room crowd.
View gallery."

"Exactly. And with that, when you think about it, how do we do that? Because we stand for freedom," Alexander said.

"Bulls--t," the heckler said.
Former Hamfast Ruddyneck here.

Maybe our "protectors" had the capacities which Snowden revealed this year as early as 2008--and Obummer was THEIR choice for Preznit from Day One?

Things that make you go "Hmmm..."
Joe said: "So how can we trust NSA?

We can't. Without adequate oversight on these gargantuan agencies, there is no way of trusting what or the manner in which they and/or their outsourced buddies are collecting/vacuuming personal data--phone calls, email, whatever. It's completely at odds in what's suppose to be a democratic country.

Jimmy Carter recently stated an unpleasant and disturbing truth in Germany: the US is no longer a functioning democracy. Anymore than East Germany was. The payoff was an article that came out a couple weeks ago: the Administration encouraging people in the workplace to keep an eye on their colleagues for suspicious behavior. So now we're not only spied on but we're suppose to become spies, too.

Frigging unbelievable!

Someone remarked that Edgar Hoover would be doing cartwheels had he gotten his hands on this capability. Hardly an era to celebrate. If there's one thing we should have learned from our own history? If there's opportunity for power to go berserk and be abused, you can bet it will happen. This is not unlike what has happened in our financial markets. Remove the brakes, disparage oversight and regulation, pretend greed and manipulation never existed and you're likely to have a disaster on your hands.

I'm glad Snowden was offerred asylum, even temporarily. We wouldn't even be having these discussions were it not for his recent revelations. I hope he's safe.

Rep. Johnson: Does the NSA intercept Americans’ cell phone conversations?

Director Alexander: No.

Google searches?


Text messages?

No. orders?


Bank records?

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