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The Banality of Evil: NSA Recruitment Edition
July 3, 2013 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Madiha Tahir, a journalist and PhD candidate, presents a transcript of her interaction with NSA staff who came to recruit at the summer language program where she is studying. "I had intended to go simply to hear how the NSA is recruiting at a moment when it’s facing severe challenges," says Tahir. Recruiters apparently discussed their "fun" after work, doing karaoke, having costume parties, and getting drunk. One of their slides asked the language students at the event "Are you good at manipulating people?" In the Q&A, Tahir and other students held their feet to the fire over surveillance of Germany and other EU countries.
posted by gusandrews (179 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm sorry, I've buried the lede. Here's the NSA recruiter quote which justifies my dancing on the edge of Godwin's Law with that reference to Eichmann and Arendt:
So for us, umm, our business is apolitical. Ok. We do not generate the intelligence requirements. They are levied on us so, if there is a requirement for foreign intelligence concerning this issue or this region or whatever then that is. If you wanna use the word adversary, you ca– we might use the word ‘target.’ That is what we are going after. That is the intelligence target that we are going after because we were given that requirement. Whether that’s adversary in a global war on terrorism sense or adversary in terms of national security interests or whatever – that’s for policymakers, I guess to make that determination.
"We were just following orders."
posted by gusandrews at 10:59 AM on July 3, 2013 [26 favorites]


Not a fun time to be an NSA recruiter.

I think my favorite line from the exchange was this. "NSA_F[emale agent]: I don’t believe the NSA is telling complete lies." That's pretty fun to parse.
posted by el io at 11:01 AM on July 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


Link broken for me.
posted by unSane at 11:04 AM on July 3, 2013


Me too.
posted by Dasein at 11:06 AM on July 3, 2013


The "are you good at manipulating people" question seems to have been a slide at a 2008 CIA recruitment event. That, at least, is the only reference to it I can find in the linked article.

Apart from that the whole thing seems--as does so much of the commentary on the Snowden "revelations"--rather overwrought. Are we really supposed to be shocked, SHOCKED, that the US spies on what is going on in allied countries? Do we suppose for a second that the allied nations' security agencies aren't spying on the US and on each other?

You know, it's funny, just a short while before the Snowden affair there was a thread here on Metafilter about NSA activity. In it, numerous Mefites pronounced their absolute certainty that the NSA routinely records the entire contents of every single phone conversation taking place within the US and between the US and overseas. Not just the metadata, mind you, but an actual sound recording of every single phone conversation. You would think that for those people the Snowden revelations would have been a huge relief--clearly the scope of NSA activities is massively narrower than what they claimed to believe just weeks before, and is under far more meaningful congressional and judicial oversight than they had thought.

But no. Apparently Snowden's revelations are stunning, shocking, unimaginable, something we'd never even considered possible etc. etc. etc. etc. Which leaves me wondering: did no one really believe any of the things they used to say about the NSA before? Was all of that just deliberate exaggeration? Or is all this hyperventilating about what Snowden has "revealed" more than a little put on?
posted by yoink at 11:07 AM on July 3, 2013 [22 favorites]


Cue laffs when the NSA recruiters get upset for being recorded without their knowledge.
posted by threeants at 11:07 AM on July 3, 2013 [31 favorites]


Link broken

That's just what they want you to think!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:07 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why shouldn't I work at the NSA? That's a tough one, but I'll give it a shot.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:08 AM on July 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


It worked for me a second ago, but now, not so. I think if I were an NSA rep appearing at an event like this where PhD students were attending I'd have been anticipating some of this given the days that are in and relied more heavily on the 'but! we keep you safe!' argument than the fun times one. But apparently that's very much not the case. They could really do with better job training but maybe they've blown their entire budget on data centers and there's no cash for that.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:10 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which leaves me wondering: did no one really believe any of the things they used to say about the NSA before?

Well I never said any of them. And while I may be a total idiot, I was surprised by the sheer extent of what Snowden's leaks have shown to be happening. And I certainly didn't think they were more or less reading the email of the whole of Germany; that was a real surprise to me.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:12 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Student B: I’d love to read the opinion of the FISA court that says that this program one of the NSA’s programs was violating the 4th amendment right of massive amounts of Americans, but it’s a big ‘ol secret and only people like you who will not talk with their wives when they get home about what they do all day are able to…[garbled]…protecting us from the ‘terrorist threat’, but let’s let everyone here hear more information about karaoke.
Zing! Apply cold water directly to burn.
posted by mrbill at 11:12 AM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


With link: Why shouldn't I work at the NSA? That's a tough one, but I'll give it a shot.
posted by seemoreglass at 11:13 AM on July 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


One would have hoped that a government agency with nearly omnipotent surveillance powers would be more...competent.
posted by goethean at 11:16 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hope, yes. Expect... not so much.
posted by chaosys at 11:17 AM on July 3, 2013


"The Banality of Evil"? "Godwins law"? Are we still talking about the recent discovery by Americans that their spy agency spies on people? I mean, tough break and all but the offhand Nazi Germany references seem a little overrought.

Wait till you find out about the Cold War!
posted by Artw at 11:17 AM on July 3, 2013 [15 favorites]


You know what? Just work here, okay? Take some time to weigh the pros and cons. Pros: you'll be working for a slightly-above in-flight magazine intelligence agency, for $22,400 a year; cons: me, kicking you 'til there's blood in your stool, then grabbing your wife's boobies while you're tied up with a racquetball shoved in your mouth. Now, balance it out, and think about it..
posted by entropicamericana at 11:17 AM on July 3, 2013


I'm sorry, I've buried the lede. Here's the NSA recruiter quote which justifies my dancing on the edge of Godwin's Law with that reference to Eichmann and Arendt:
So for us, umm, our business is apolitical. Ok. We do not generate the intelligence requirements. They are levied on us so, if there is a requirement for foreign intelligence concerning this issue or this region or whatever then that is. If you wanna use the word adversary, you ca– we might use the word ‘target.’ That is what we are going after. That is the intelligence target that we are going after because we were given that requirement. Whether that’s adversary in a global war on terrorism sense or adversary in terms of national security interests or whatever – that’s for policymakers, I guess to make that determination.
"We were just following orders."


I'm sorry, but there are no persons being gassed to death for being Jewish here. To put the constitutional and legal activities of the NSA on the same level as the Nazis is frankly, insulting to the memory of those who were actually killed by the Nazis.

If a NSA employee is actually asked to engage in activity that is illegal or unconstitutional, they should not engage in that activity and have standing orders to report that information to the NSA Office of Inspector General.

The recording of telephone number data was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1979 in Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735. Unless you can provide evidence that there is some other, non-legal activity that the NSA is engaged in, these Godwin comparisons to the Nazis are without any basis whatsoever.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:19 AM on July 3, 2013 [26 favorites]


Wait till you find out about the Cold War!

The first cold cut is the deepest.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:20 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Getting drunk? In Fort Meade?
The NSA is always recruiting, because nobody from the DC area wants to work in Fort fucking Meade, it's too far and there's nothing there.
posted by smoothvirus at 11:24 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


but let’s let everyone here hear more information about karaoke.

I was left wondering, however, if they do Star Trek parody videos like the IRS. WHY DID THEY NOT GIVE THIS IMPORTANT INFORMATION?
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:25 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, if I'm gonna blow whistles for a living I'd rather drive a train.
posted by planetesimal at 11:25 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or is all this hyperventilating about what Snowden has "revealed" more than a little put on?
For me its not so much surprise but validation of my worry that the intelligence community in this country is growing past the point where it is controllable. Combine the history of character assignations of individuals who speak out with the most-likely sordid past of our politicians (or anyone else for that matter) who do we expect to rein them in? So no - at least for me its not an "act", but genuine concern about the situation.
posted by H. Roark at 11:26 AM on July 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Unless you can provide evidence that there is some other, non-legal activity that the NSA is engaged in, these Godwin comparisons to the Nazis are without any basis whatsoever.

Last I was aware, the things done by the 'Nazis' were legal in their own land by the laws in place at that time.

But do go on to show how a 'non legal status' somehow matters to the actions and comparisons.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:26 AM on July 3, 2013 [22 favorites]


yoink: "You know, it's funny, just a short while before the Snowden affair there was a thread here on Metafilter about NSA activity. In it, numerous Mefites pronounced their absolute certainty that the NSA routinely records the entire contents of every single phone conversation taking place within the US and between the US and overseas. Not just the metadata, mind you, but an actual sound recording of every single phone conversation. You would think that for those people the Snowden revelations would have been a huge relief--clearly the scope of NSA activities is massively narrower than what they claimed to believe just weeks before, and is under far more meaningful congressional and judicial oversight than they had thought.

But no. Apparently Snowden's revelations are stunning, shocking, unimaginable, something we'd never even considered possible etc. etc. etc. etc. Which leaves me wondering: did no one really believe any of the things they used to say about the NSA before? Was all of that just deliberate exaggeration? Or is all this hyperventilating about what Snowden has "revealed" more than a little put on?
"

Isn't the simplest explanation just that it was different groups of people saying the one thing or the other?
posted by invitapriore at 11:28 AM on July 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


If a NSA employee is actually asked to engage in activity that is illegal or unconstitutional

What if it's completely legal and constitutional, but also completely unethical and immoral? They should just what, keep their head down, do their job, and vote Democrat?
posted by mstokes650 at 11:28 AM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is a classic Godwin derail and should be deleted, but are you having a hard time seeing the difference in magnitude between the evils of recording people's phone calls and violating their privacy and killing millions of innocent humans?
posted by Aizkolari at 11:28 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


No way, if you can't characterize Metafilter as a single hivemind, the Nazis have won.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:28 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


The next leak from Snowden will show how the NSA has always had a backdoor to TCP/IP. It's in the nanobits.
posted by planetesimal at 11:29 AM on July 3, 2013


Apart from that the whole thing seems--as does so much of the commentary on the Snowden "revelations"--rather overwrought. Are we really supposed to be shocked, SHOCKED, that the US spies on what is going on in allied countries? Do we suppose for a second that the allied nations' security agencies aren't spying on the US and on each other?

I help organize the Hackers On Planet Earth conference, at which we've have speakers since at least 2006 talking about the extent of US surveillance (and I mean speakers who work in computer security and for government agencies, not just tinfoil-hat speakers). None of my peers from that conference are surprised, but that doesn't mean they've stopped talking about it and RTing important points over the past few weeks.

I forget who it was -- but I think it was Eben Moglen, who runs the Software Freedom Law Center and who wrote the GPL -- who remarked at the last HOPE that it's only his American peers who are surprised by surveillance. Most people he talks to in other countries assume government surveillance is a given.

guys I'm really sorry I invoked Godwin's Law here. Would just saying "banality of evil" have flown under the radar?
posted by gusandrews at 11:29 AM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Ironmouth, well said. I think, however, the comparison was not so much to (current) results as to current methods. Said methods could very conceivably lead to similar results in the future. For example, in large part the Nazis was so effective in Holland because of the Dutch's obsessive record keeping of personal affiliations such as religion.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:32 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


The last thing I want to point out –once again– their defense seems to be that it’s legal. What is legal is not just.

From the original article.

But given the issues of standing and Marbury V Madison statements of 'it is legal' is more of the banality of evil made by a class of people given a licence by the State which results in them being beholden to the State to make a living in their chosen field and thus suspect with what they say.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:34 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


If a NSA employee is actually asked to engage in activity that is illegal or unconstitutional

What if it's completely legal and constitutional, but also completely unethical and immoral? They should just what, keep their head down, do their job, and vote Democrat?


If a person believes they are doing something unethical in a job, they should quit that job. Although I cannot see how the use of a pen register is either unethical or immoral. Is it ethical to use a pen register to catch a person using the telephone to harass a woman? Is it ethical to use a pen register to stop a terrorist attack?
posted by Ironmouth at 11:36 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is kind of a shitty thing to do though. I mean, these NSA recruiters probably don't know much about what the students are talking about, and are moderately paid bureaucrats doing a routine and mostly dull job.

Why aren't we seeing Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T, and Skype recruiters getting this 3rd degree? Oh that's right, because students are willing to be their lapdogs in hopes of getting stock options and free lunch service...
posted by FJT at 11:38 AM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Free lunch service? What decade do you think this is?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:39 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are three other threads open for discussing the legality/morality of the NSA spying apparatus. Can't we talk instead about how badly these people, who are representing a billion+ dollar agency, are at their job and in talking like in a remotely convincing manner? Does no one give rhetorical training anymore?

Why aren't we seeing Google, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T, and Skype recruiters getting this 3rd degree? Oh that's right, because students are willing to be their lapdogs in hopes of getting stock options and free lunch service...

How do you know these particular students are yearning to be their lapdogs? I didn't see that in the article.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:40 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


The "are you good at manipulating people" question seems to have been a slide at a 2008 CIA recruitment event. That, at least, is the only reference to it I can find in the linked article.

Yeah, that leapt out at me as well. I mean, unless things have changed drastically in recent years, NSA is pretty much a passive listening agency rather than a proactive in the field go-get-'em crew like the CIA. Not exactly Alpha types.

What if it's completely legal and constitutional, but also completely unethical and immoral? They should just what, keep their head down, do their job, and vote Democrat?

Hate to sound glib, but given the nature of what they do, why would you work there in the first place unless you were okay with the job description? Transfer or quit. (Trivia point - the NSA was created under Democrats. And our executive is currently Democratic, so....)
posted by IndigoJones at 11:41 AM on July 3, 2013


Ironmouth: Alan Grayson (A lawyer who may have practiced law longer than you have) doesn't appear to agree with your legal analysis of the applicability of Smith vs Maryland. In that case it was a single individual targeted, not *everybody*. I believe the phrase he used to describe that ruling as a justification for getting everyone's metadata was 'an unconstitutional farce'.
posted by el io at 11:43 AM on July 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


One thing that annoys me is that the people who wind up being recruited for jobs like this aren't on the same side as me. I wouldn't qualify for the job, even though I've never been arrested, I am a Liberal. Not thinking that anyone who participates in this type of activity is politically or philosophically aligned...
posted by Chuffy at 11:44 AM on July 3, 2013


Unless you can provide evidence that there is some other, non-legal activity that the NSA is engaged in...

Leaving aside the Godwinning, which is a side issue, this statement enunciates the core problem: the immorality of legal orders, and what to do about that.

The problem with "legal" orders being the only allowable morality is the creeping of the goalposts, in 1) what's allowable legally with new laws, and 2) with technology moving faster that law can comprehend or regulate it, and 3) with the public understanding (1) and (2) to react and make loss of privacy an issue.

It is facile to argue that public reaction and pressure on lawmakers is the proper counter to "legal" public abuse of trust or holes in the law. If these programs are secret, how should the public become aware of them? How do elected officials avoid "regulatory capture" by the security infrastructure and remain independent? How does the judiciary?

Until those questions can answered in a principled way, the Snowdens and Mannings will continue to be considered heroes---not only have they quit their "immoral" jobs, they've tried to tell people what their "immoral" jobs were and prove the morality of their choice by leaking proof.

Whistle-blowing is an essential part of building the public consensus for change, because the security infrastructure has lost sight of the balancing act it must do. When the political and judicial processes have been shown to be suborned against the public interest, arguing that "legal" processes should be followed is arguing for immorality.
posted by bonehead at 11:45 AM on July 3, 2013 [25 favorites]


Apart from that the whole thing seems--as does so much of the commentary on the Snowden "revelations"--rather overwrought. Are we really supposed to be shocked, SHOCKED, that the US spies on what is going on in allied countries? Do we suppose for a second that the allied nations' security agencies aren't spying on the US and on each other?

Okay, so remove the shock, and keep the assumption that other allied nations are doing this exact same thing to us, and there are still totally worthwhile discussions to be had: does that justify us doing it, or is there a higher principle and should it override the desire to match them tactic-for-tactic even if it's legal to do so? And if our allies are doing that, why was it okay for "fight fire with fire" to be off to the races before "shine a light on the nations using those tactics and shame them publicly" even got out of bed? It's not as if we didn't have the leverage to do that. We did do that with China but hypocrisy undermines the point - if you want to lead, lead by example. And there's still the discussion of degrees, of the finer points, of checks and balances, and of the rapid growth of intelligence infrastructure. There's so much more there than talking about how we talk about it.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:46 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


How do you know these particular students are yearning to be their lapdogs? I didn't see that in the article.

I said students in general, not these particular students. I mean, there's no march on Google for the Restore the Fourth event tomorrow...
posted by FJT at 11:47 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stasi is a much more accurate comparison than Nazi.
posted by ook at 11:47 AM on July 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Is it ethical to use a pen register to stop a terrorist attack?

Now when one says "terrorist attack" are you referring to the FBI Arrests 4 Activists as “Terrorists” for Chalking Slogans, Leafleting and Protesting terrorists attacking or the trial of Jeff Olson or the arrest of other terrorists in Pennsylvania?

Just wondering exactly what the word "terrorist" means as sidewalk chalk sure seems like something the "legal system" and the "law" has decided is "terrorism" due to demonstrated actions of "the long arm of the law".
posted by rough ashlar at 11:49 AM on July 3, 2013 [15 favorites]


Maybe I was just trying to appeal to the belief, which I figure is maybe more common among MeFites than elsewhere, that "just following orders" is rarely an ethical way to live one's life, in any context.
posted by gusandrews at 11:50 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does no one give rhetorical training anymore?

This is probably an even more complete derail, but as far as I can tell nobody really gives much of any kind of training for anything anymore. Definitely not rhetorical training.

(Trivia point - the NSA was created under Democrats. And our executive is currently Democratic, so....)

Apparently I wasn't quite glib enough, but yes, I was somewhat sarcastically putting words in Ironmouth's mouth, based on Ironmouth's usual unfailingly pro-Democratic Party stance and the Democrats' clear failings on this issue. I'm glad to see he at least thinks they should quit the job - or indeed, as these kids seem to be quite set on doing, not take the job in the first place.

I'm also not convinced these kids wouldn't have some harsh words for a Google/Apple/Verizon recruiter. Google/Apple/Verizon/et al seem to be doing at least slightly better jobs of spin control than the NSA is here though.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:53 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


(and yes, also noting I misread that pull-tweet on manipulating people; it was in fact from a CIA recruiting event.)
posted by gusandrews at 11:53 AM on July 3, 2013


Or is all this hyperventilating about what Snowden has "revealed" more than a little put on?

That would make sense, since there are now Snowden "truthers" who say that Snowden is either a government plant or hired by the CIA to discredit the NSA.
posted by FJT at 11:57 AM on July 3, 2013


Good to knwo that people who have concerns abotu the NSA's activities can speak out and the NSA will listen.
posted by ocschwar at 11:58 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe I was just trying to appeal to the belief, which I figure is maybe more common among MeFites than elsewhere, that "just following orders" is rarely an ethical way to live one's life, in any context.

But your pull-quote isn't even talking about individuals who are "just following orders" from their superiors in the chain of command to do things that might be unethical or illegal. It's just describing the division of labor among government agencies: the CIA and the White House set intelligence-gathering objectives, the NSA executes. It's like trying to Godwin IRS bureaucrats for enforcing the tax code.
posted by eugenen at 12:02 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's a cached copy of the article.

I imagine Penn State recruiters are having similarly heated exchanges about child abuse when all they want to do is talk about the faculty to student ratio.
posted by ruthsarian at 12:06 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


IRS bureaucrats for enforcing the tax code.

One man took his own life over the wrongness of the tax code

According to David Cay Johnston, writing in the New York Times, Stack’s beef was legit: the law “made it extremely difficult for information technology professionals to work as self-employed individuals, forcing most to become company employees.”
posted by rough ashlar at 12:11 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mmmaaaannnnn! The NSA has parties and gets drunk a lot? I wish they said that when they tried to recruit me back in high school. Instead it was all "You get to learn computers and not hang out with girls in drama club and also you need to wear a tie and get a ride with Brad who has Wrong Opinions About Magic The Gathering but you get out of school an hour early (but wont get home until 6) so uh how about it?"

By the time Snowden came along (we went to the same schools, I was about 5 years ahead of him) they obviously refined their pitch.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:12 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Maybe I was just trying to appeal to the belief, which I figure is maybe more common among MeFites than elsewhere, that "just following orders" is rarely an ethical way to live one's life, in any context."

A great sentiment. I remember when I had a job that ethical considerations attached to it (ie: people may have died because of the cooperation my company had with governments with documented human rights abuses, and my company's cooperation may have lead to more human rights abuses) no one would even discuss the matter - not even privately. They otherwise seemed like fine, ethical, often churchgoing (of multiple faiths) individuals.

I would imagine that most folks in most jobs that might have ethical considerations similarly avoid discussing, or even thinking about the implications their work (or contribution to an organization that has problematic practices) might have.

A coworker I had did leave the NSA - but it was because they weren't paying her enough to support her family.
posted by el io at 12:14 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


The NSA has parties and gets drunk a lot?

With karaoke, though. Which is its own special hell, so I wouldn't get too excited. And I bet that the only songs on it are Kenny Logins or something of that ilk.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:22 PM on July 3, 2013


Ironmouth: Alan Grayson (A lawyer who may have practiced law longer than you have) doesn't appear to agree with your legal analysis of the applicability of Smith vs Maryland. In that case it was a single individual targeted, not *everybody*. I believe the phrase he used to describe that ruling as a justification for getting everyone's metadata was 'an unconstitutional farce'.

Really? Read the decision. It says there is no privacy interest in phone records. It is as unambiguous as you get. How can something be private as to one person and not private as to another? It is impossible. If you or Mr. Grayson, who was grandstanding on the House floor, have a decision that counters it, I'd like to see it. But one grandstander saying he disagrees isn't enough. If he had an actual cite, to an actual case that applies, I'd love to see it. But nobody has ever, ever provided an actual cite to an actual piece of case law that applies. Not one justice said in a dissent or one justice said publicly. Where is the case? I've seen zero.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:28 PM on July 3, 2013


The idea of "customers" comes out of the Reinventing Government era, and of bringing ideas from the private sector into public service generally. See also: The (annoying) use of "entrepreneurship" in government. This does not just apply to spy agencies.
posted by raysmj at 12:29 PM on July 3, 2013


So this whole thing about their only doing what their "customers" task them to do ... I find that suspicious when there is a clear salesman effect at work.

It's clear from watching his body language that Obama, for example, doesn't understand how Big Data techniques take all the phone metadata from Verizon and deliver useful results - it's just magic that was suggested to him.

In other words, when NSA says, "Just give us X and Y and we'll give you Z," and then the "customer" says "OK, that sounds good", then I don't regard that as simply doing what you're asked to do.
posted by Michael Roberts at 12:29 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The IRS has language about a "customer" experience on their website too. When serving on jury duty in New Orleans a couple of years ago, meanwhile, I was asked to take part in a survey of the jury room "experience" in order to improve the courthouse's "customer service" or some such hilarity. (I suggested better wi-fi.)
posted by raysmj at 12:32 PM on July 3, 2013


Ironmouth, you and I are not permitted to see that case law - and given the secrecy, very few can demonstrate standing anyway. Your argument is shaky not in the narrow legal sense, but in the sense that the tools of law as a mechanism in society have been subverted entirely.
posted by Michael Roberts at 12:32 PM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


But no. Apparently Snowden's revelations are stunning, shocking, unimaginable, something we'd never even considered possible etc. etc. etc. etc. Which leaves me wondering: did no one really believe any of the things they used to say about the NSA before? Was all of that just deliberate exaggeration? Or is all this hyperventilating about what Snowden has "revealed" more than a little put on?

You can go to restaurants regularly, and you can happily eat, even though you believe that servers at many restaurants -- possibly even the ones you're in! -- spit in the food of patrons they don't like...probably because you feel like it wouldn't happen to you, only to people who behaved badly towards the server. Then you find out that at your favorite restaurant, they regularly spit in everyone's food. Everyone. Every time. How would you feel about eating there now?
posted by davejay at 12:35 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah, here is the link to EFF's coverage of the secret 2011 FISA finding of unconstitutionality that Ironmouth wants. Good luck getting a cite, Ironmouth. But please don't pretend it didn't happen.
posted by Michael Roberts at 12:38 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


How can something be private as to one person and not private as to another? It is impossible.

Well, I would consider ones location data to be public to someone following you around (legal without a warrant), but the supreme court surprised everyone recently with their decision on how that was intrusive and required a warrant.

Until courts rule on the matter, I would consider en mass collection of metadata to be an unsettled matter.

(also, I was pointing to his grandstanding on twitter, not his grandstanding in Congress)
posted by el io at 12:44 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


By the time Snowden came along (we went to the same schools, I was about 5 years ahead of him) they obviously refined their pitch.

Well, Snowden actually worked for Booz Allen Hamilton.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:48 PM on July 3, 2013


I'm sorry, but there are no persons being gassed to death for being Jewish here. To put the constitutional and legal activities of the NSA on the same level as the Nazis is frankly, insulting to the memory of those who were actually killed by the Nazis.

As the daughter of an Auschwitz survivor, I can say that people speaking out against repressive governments (and yes, spying on innocent citizen's communications is repressive) is the best honor one can give to those whose lives and/or souls were taken away by the Nazi regime.

The Nazi's did a lot more evil than just kill Jews (although the latter is what is most heinous to my own particular culture) and what I resent is someone using my six million dead relations as a straw-man argument.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 12:58 PM on July 3, 2013 [26 favorites]


Anyone know what happened to the original link? I'll take a look at the cached file.
posted by Repack Rider at 1:08 PM on July 3, 2013


Odd .. the link worked for me a moment ago and not now (and Madiha's questioning of the NSA rep is awesome btw

On Preview - The link goes in and out of service - it appears you have to be persistent and patient
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 1:16 PM on July 3, 2013


There is no inherent invocation of Godwin Law in mocking officials by quoting "we were just following orders" because authorities frequently excuse their crimes with similar statements. How about simply not mentioning Eichmann if you're worried about Godwin's Law?
posted by jeffburdges at 1:18 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I tend th reference 'The Cube' when I want to talk about people who are just doing their jobs who fail to see the consequences of what they are doing.
LEAVEN

You built this thing?


WORTH

Not this part, the exterior. I don't know anything about the numbers or

anything else in here. I was contracted to draw plans for a hollow shell. A cube.


....


QUENTIN

Who hired you?


WORTH

I didn't ask. I never even left my office. I talked on the phone to some

other guys like me. Specialists working on small details. Nobody knew what it was.

Nobody cared.


QUENTIN

Bullshit! You knew from square one. Look at him, he's up to his eyeballs

in this thing.


HOLLOWAY

No Quentin. That's how they stay hidden. You keep everyone separated so

the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. The brain never comes out in

the open.


QUENTIN

Whose brain?


HOLLOWAY

It's all the same machine right. Pentagon. Multinational coorporations.

The police! If you do one little job. You build a widget in Saskatoon. The next thing

you know, it's two miles under the desert, the essential component of a deathmachine.

I was right! All along my whole life I knew it. I told you Quentin. Nobody's ever

call me paranoid again. We gotta get out of here and blow the lid of this thing.


WORTH

Holloway, you don't get it.


HOLLOWAY

Then tell me, please, I need to know.


WORTH

It's maybe hard for you to understand, but there's no conspiracy. Nobody

is in charge. It's a headless blunder operating under the illusion of a masterplan.

Can you grasp that? Big brother is not watching you.


QUENTIN

What kind of fucking explanation is that?


WORTH

It's the best you´re gonna get. I looked and the only explanation I can

come to is that there is nobody up there.


QUENTIN

Somebody had to say yes to this thing.


WORTH

What thing? Only we know what it is.


QUENTIN

We have no idea, what it is.


WORTH

We know more than anybody else. I mean somebody might have known

sometime, before they got fired or voted out or sold it. But if this place ever had a

purpose, then it got miscommunicated or lost in the shuffle. This is an accident, a

forgotten propetual, public, worksproject. Do you think anybody wants to ask

questions? All they want is a clear conscience and a fat paycheck. I mean, I lead on

my desk for months. This was a great job!


QUENTIN

Why put people in it?


WORTH

Because it's here. you have to use it or admit it's pointless.


QUENTIN

But it is pointless!


WORTH

Quentin... That's my point.


HOLLOWAY

What have we come to? It's so much worse than I thought.


WORTH

Not really, just more pathetic.


QUENTIN

You make me sick, Worth!


WORTH

I make me sick too. We´re both part of the system. I drew a box - you

walk a beat. It's like you said Quentin is: Keep your head down, keep it simple, just

look at what's in fron of you! I mean nobody wants to see the big picture. Life's too

complicated. I mean, let's face it. The reason we're here is it's out of control.

posted by empath at 1:39 PM on July 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm so glad the US government is well represented on Metafilter.
posted by spitbull at 1:48 PM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


If a person believes they are doing something unethical in a job, they should quit that job. Although I cannot see how the use of a pen register is either unethical or immoral. Is it ethical to use a pen register to catch a person using the telephone to harass a woman? Is it ethical to use a pen register to stop a terrorist attack?

Was it ethical to use anti-terrorism laws to take down an anti-wall street attorney general?

Maybe. Was it good for America? Much more difficult question.
posted by srboisvert at 1:57 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why aren't we seeing Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T, and Skype recruiters getting this 3rd degree?

Let's assume for a moment that your premise of people not speaking out against other co-conspirators of this is true (it isn't). Let's assume that the telecom companies were not prohibited by Federal law from questioning or speaking out against the NSA demands for data (they were). Then your argument appears to be that, unless I speak out against all possible injustices, I have no right to speak out about any injustice at all and the implication is that I should just keep my mouth shut about it.

Does this truly make sense to you?
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 2:11 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


When Snowden first came public with his information, aside from being wholly unsurprised I applauded his effort. Even if as a bleeding heart liberal I was conflicted about the shadow it would cast on the Obama administration. But with every new press release or statement, he is more and more seeming like a smug douchecanoe who is confident enough in his newfound rockstar status to come off like an insufferable brat who has a picture of some infinitely small amount of NSA activity without the perspective of untold decades and decades of espionage, global intelligence efforts, and political backrooms that led to the creation of the things he so breathlessly tells about and is taunting the US government devil-may-care with his knowledge thinking he is sitting pretty on sovereign soil.
posted by mediocre at 2:19 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the US is right in wanting to send Snowden to prison. I mean, he shouldn't be getting away with spying on so many people...like, millions?

What did he want to do with all that information anyway? I guess the best he could do with it is blackmail famous people like Bill Gates or Hillary Clinton and threaten to reveal all the porn they are watching. Yeah, that's probably why everyone is after him now...
posted by sour cream at 2:27 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think you're ever going to find a whistle-blower who is also a saint. It takes a particular kind of personality who is willing to turn his life inside out, and they are almost always going to be equal parts egoist and idealist.
posted by empath at 2:27 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Was it ethical to use anti-terrorism laws to take down an anti-wall street attorney general?

Wow. Do you have a link about the case?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 2:29 PM on July 3, 2013


empath, excerpting "Cube" at length in a MeFi comment makes you my new hero.
posted by eugenen at 2:35 PM on July 3, 2013


cosmic.osmo: i assume he's referring to Eliot Spitzer.
posted by el io at 2:53 PM on July 3, 2013


I can't remember any sources, but I do recall that one sign of evil is telling half-truths.

No need, then, to point at any particular evil. Nor to define evil, any more than "ocean".

I found this at WP: Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead was quoted as saying: "There are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil".
posted by Twang at 3:01 PM on July 3, 2013


To put the constitutional and legal activities of the NSA on the same level as the Nazis is frankly, insulting to the memory of those who were actually killed by the Nazis.
If you meet a German person who asserts that German people never do bad things, it would be entirely correct to point out Hitler as a counterexample, and a response of "but I'm not Hitler and how dare you make that comparison" would be both a misinterpretation of and irrelevant to the argument.

Replace "German person" with "person who believes in the Nuremberg defense"; the counterexample is still just as valid and the assertion and response are still just as ridiculous.

Or forget the analogy entirely and just look at the logic: someone who explains "((p ⇒ q) && !q) ⇒ !((p ⇒ r) && p)" is simply not asserting "q ⇔ r".
posted by roystgnr at 3:05 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those playing the "it's all legal" card do not understand the power of the technology being used.

Snowden's description (echoed by NSA cryptographer William Binney) of the security apparatus as providing for a "turnkey dictatorship" is the issue: once in place, all it takes is a mere policy change, which, of course, will be done in secret. This is also something Chris Hedges points out frequently: in the name of "national security", we have now established the infrastructure for a police state.

Given that, whether or not the US government is currently playing nice with the system is irrelevant.
posted by mondo dentro at 3:13 PM on July 3, 2013 [13 favorites]



Ironmouth, you and I are not permitted to see that case law - and given the secrecy, very few can demonstrate standing anyway. Your argument is shaky not in the narrow legal sense, but in the sense that the tools of law as a mechanism in society have been subverted entirely.


Smith v Maryland is not a secret decision. Read it. I linked to it above.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:21 PM on July 3, 2013


Those playing the "it's all legal" card do not understand the power of the technology being used.

So wait, its secret tech or it isn't? Along with the baseless claim above that Obama doesn't know about the program (which is terribly secret so how would you know), these are specious claims. How do you even know? And the courts don't know either? Please. The arguments get more disengenous as you go along.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:24 PM on July 3, 2013


Let's assume that the telecom companies were not prohibited by Federal law from questioning or speaking out against the NSA demands for data (they were).

Just because something is legal doesn't mean it's not morally wrong. In fact, multi-billion dollar companies with CEOs that can afford their own army of lawyers should have much less to fear than a NSA contract employee.

Then your argument appears to be that, unless I speak out against all possible injustices, I have no right to speak out about any injustice at all and the implication is that I should just keep my mouth shut about it.

I wasn't making that argument. Speaking out against the government is great, I agree, but that's not the only thing that should be done. The actual the argument I was making is that the best way to prevent this from happening is to go after the source. If the companies are prohibited or severely inhibited from collecting this sort of data in the first place, then the NSA or any other government agency has nothing draw from. Or else the alternative is to just to trust that the government will just do the right thing.
posted by FJT at 3:32 PM on July 3, 2013


So wait, its secret tech or it isn't? Along with the baseless claim above that Obama doesn't know about the program (which is terribly secret so how would you know), these are specious claims. How do you even know?

Pure nonsense. The tech is data mining, and it's general capabilities are well known. I can know what encryption is without knowing the details of the specific techniques used by the NSA. I can know what drone technology is and understand its implications without knowing all of the secret details of a Reaper. If you'd like a cute and instructive tutorial about how to use metadata to identify a political dissident, check out Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere.

Personally, I don't think it's the tech that's the big secret here, anyway. It's the policy and legal framework used to justify it.
posted by mondo dentro at 3:37 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


: "Smith v Maryland is not a secret decision. Read it. I linked to it above."

A single pen register is vastly different from intercepting phone call audio and email traffic in bulk without a warrant.
posted by mullingitover at 3:41 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


A single pen register is vastly different intercepting phone call audio email traffic in bulk without a warrant.

And for the non-lawyers who want to play along there is a legal maxim "A thing similar is not exactly the same". In this discussion who's been ignoring that maxim?
posted by rough ashlar at 3:44 PM on July 3, 2013


...Those playing the "it's all legal" card do not understand the power of the technology being used.

Single Point of Failure

This is the thing that bothers me, and that I feel gets too little coverage. Before Snowden I generally assumed (as did many of my fellow paranoids) that we were being monitored, indexed, profiled, targeted, and more. But I'd hoped that there was rhyme and reason to the data collection - I don't trust the bastards, but I kinda hoped they had a specific goal and that it wasn't just a blanket 'scoop up all the info you can' because that's just a bad idea, and as it turns out, I should've been more cynical.

It's not that the actual data collection is illegal - I feel it is, as it violates both the letter and the spirit of the 4th amendment. It's not that the data collection is illegal and hidden (indicating that it was known to be illegal, or at the very least problematic). It's that, under the colors of 'we need to protect the country' we've just compiled the biggest set of soft-target data that's ever been compiled on Americans.

We've been hacked in the past. We'll be hacked in the future. This information will be passed to people that shouldn't have it, which is to say, anyone. To mangle a quote from 'The Way of the Gun' - this database isn't data, it's a motive with a universal adapter. Everyone will want this data, in whole or part: enemy states, non-state actors, allies, multinational corporations, domestic businesses, politicians corrupt and pure, everyone. In trying to safeguard 'national security', they've just created the single biggest threat to their own people.

We've been Westmorelanded.
posted by eclectist at 3:52 PM on July 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's not that the actual data collection is illegal - I feel it is, as it violates both the letter and the spirit of the 4th amendment.

So what is the plan to get from 'hurf durf its all legal - see Smith VS whatever' to 'yup that sure was illegal'?
posted by rough ashlar at 4:03 PM on July 3, 2013


What if the people running our secret programs are idiots?

...I have wondered since this whole thing began why nobody in the agency has lost his job or why Booz Allen has not been stripped of its agency contracts. Did nobody think that hiring hackers to hack might result in being hacked themselves? Is it even possible to truly guard against this? ...


NSA mathematicians

When I was a promising young mathematician in college, I met someone from the NSA who tried to recruit me to work for the spooks in the summer. Actually, “met someone” is misleading- he located me after I had won a prize...
posted by yertledaturtle at 4:06 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Apparently Snowden's revelations are stunning, shocking, unimaginable, something we'd never even considered possible etc. etc. etc. etc. Which leaves me wondering: did no one really believe any of the things they used to say about the NSA before? Was all of that just deliberate exaggeration?

Anyone who has read all of James Bamford's books is completely unsurprised.
posted by thewalrus at 4:08 PM on July 3, 2013


I've always wondered what the relation the 4th amendment has to electronic "property."

Looking back to 1791, the 4th Amendment was clearly to prevent persons from physically entering your house and disrupting your peace, privacy, and property by being physically present and physically rummaging through your stuff.

How does this relate to electronic data? The NSA isn't going into your house and stealing your hard drives. They're collecting data that leaves your house that has to do with your internet and telephone activity. Is it as simple as applying the 4th amendment to these "private activities" which nevertheless seem to experience substantial leave (in the form of electronic data through the internet and telephone infrastructure) from your actual house?

I understand the court has ruled the other way in cases such as United States v. Warshak, but I still wonder about such a ruling as a fun thought problem.
posted by SollosQ at 4:11 PM on July 3, 2013


Free lunch service? What decade do you think this is?

Google most certainly provides that. And their lunches are excellent. I would definitely spy on people for a free lunch at that level of quality, in case anyone here is recruiting. Just thinking about it gets me hungry and intensely curious.
posted by Edgewise at 4:18 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


They're collecting data that leaves your house that has to do with your internet and telephone activity. Is it as simple as applying the 4th amendment to these "private activities" which nevertheless seem to experience substantial leave (in the form of electronic data through the internet and telephone infrastructure) from your actual house?

The communication doesn't need to originate from your home. Check Katz vs. United States. I think another interesting problem is the NSA's wholesale seizure of domestic communications in terms of the 4th. Also the "minimization procedures" they make up to determine whether a person involved in communication is 51% likely to be a foreign target. There's a lot of interesting legal questions here that never would have come to light if Snowden hadn't done what he did.

And I'm glad to see that people are calling the NSA out for their actions during recruitment sessions.
posted by ryoshu at 4:26 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


NSA mathematicians

See, maybe I'm just nitpicking, but it's red flags like the following that make me question either how clueless this person or how much they are "aggrandizing" the situation (or even being untruthful): I’d need to submit information about all my roommates for the past 10 years, which was uber creepy.

I forget the form I had to fill out for the military, but it was a basic form that every enlisted man fills out if he's going for a position that will require any form of clearance. In any case, I remember filling out the information about roommates for the past 10 years. Except, this probably isn't worded fairly. The question asks you where you have lived in the past 10 years and people there (roommates, neighbors, etc.) who can speak towards you actually living there and potentially to you not being some hard drug-toking murderer who had someone made it this far into the process of seeking a government clearance and had completely lied about your past history.
posted by SollosQ at 4:30 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyone who has read all of James Bamford's books is completely unsurprised.

As someone who was involved in a thing briefly mentioned in Bamford's Shadow Factory, I find it very hard to take his books seriously. Both our organization and our specific project were described in terms that are so ludicrously science-fictional, that to make these assertions seriously breaches all bounds of credibility and becomes outright embarrassing.
posted by Nomyte at 4:30 PM on July 3, 2013


They're collecting data that leaves your house that has to do with your internet and telephone activity.

If they did that with physical mail, that would be ridiculous. It wouldn't be illegal (but probably unworkable) to record every person's outgoing mail (even if there was a legal requirement to put your return address on your letters, which I do not believe there isn't), so I wouldn't have so much of a problem with the listing of outgoing calls you make or emails you send or IMs you send to or Skype calls you make... but I would (and do) have a problem with other people reviewing the contents without exceptional levels of legal scrutiny of the processes. I believe we can apply the law in a similar manner - you can record the destinations of the outgoing, but not look inside without a proper warrant.

The NSA is reviewing the internals of the emails and IMs; that's the crossed line. IMHO.
posted by mephron at 4:33 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


If they did that with physical mail, that would be ridiculous.

Yes, yes it would.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:36 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, to be honest, after someone here tossed the 'banality of evil' line on me for working IT for a bank, and staying there after the economy crashed in 2008, I tend to see that line and assume that whoever it is needs three or four martinis and a massage to calm themselves the hell down.

edit: excuse me for reading top to bottom and not getting to the story just before this one, dammit.
posted by mephron at 4:39 PM on July 3, 2013


>> Is it as simple as applying the 4th amendment to these "private activities" which nevertheless seem to experience substantial leave... from your actual house?

> The communication doesn't need to originate from your home. Check Katz

arstechnica -- "The crooks who created modern wiretapping law" covers the history of wiretapping & warrants going back before Katz to Olmstead where chief justice Taft "was fine with warrantless wiretaps... because the wires left the home, and the Fourth Amendment applied only to homes and people."

The dissent in the lower court argued "The government had obtained no warrants for the wiretaps used in the case, he protested, as it surely would for a writ to read postal mail," so there was already precedent for 4th amendment protection outside the home, but it didn't help Olmstead.
posted by morganw at 4:46 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


What exactly is the story here? This has happened every time the NSA or CIA has held a job fair or sent one of their spokes people to any kind of public event since at least the Vietnam era (though NSA only has held public career day things recently).
posted by humanfont at 4:57 PM on July 3, 2013


What exactly is the story here? This has happened every time the NSA or CIA has held a job fair or sent one of their spokes people to any kind of public event since at least the Vietnam era

Great Scott, you have a point! Let's also please stop talking about racism, poverty, inequality, injustice and corruption as well since those things have been going on for a long time too.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 5:05 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


edit: excuse me for reading top to bottom and not getting to the story just before this one, dammit.
posted by mephron at 4:39 PM on July 3 [+] [!]


Its so rare in this 'debate' about privacy for someone to have their expectations lowered so quickly by new facts. As you may become the Blue poster-poster for some variant of 'I thought it couldn't get worse, then BAM! worse' this is your chance to frame how you'll be remembered in the moment of history.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:16 PM on July 3, 2013


What exactly is the story here? This has happened every time the NSA or CIA has held a job fair or sent one of their spokes people to any kind of public event since at least the Vietnam era (though NSA only has held public career day things recently).

The story is that Snowden 's leak has actually changed some things because people actually spoke up about how working for the NSA is basically ++ungood instead of just calculating their career prospects or feeling depressed.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:17 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


the intelligence community in this country is growing past the point where it is controllable.

As the Church Committee demonstrated in the 1970s, the intelligence community has never been controllable. It's the nature of intelligence communities. And no one who understands the technology involved is surprised by this either, and arguably, much as corporations have a duty to maximize shareholder profit, intelligence agencies have a duty to maximize their gathering of intelligence.

If you don't want shit like Prism and Echelon and whatnot happening, don't have an NSA, or a CIA, or a CSIS/CSE, or SIS, or KGB or Stasi or Savak or any group in charge secretly knowing and perhaps manipulating the circumstances.

I would be happy with this outcome--disbanding the intelligence agencies altogether, in favour of something like beefed up journalism, perhaps blindly funded by the government, because I think there's probably a cost benefit analysis that demonstrates that the massive secret security apparatus is almost never worth it. You either thrown money down a black, black hole and never know if its well spent, or you create a power locus in government that becomes its own entrenched interest. The National Enquirer seems better at figuring out what's happening in the lives of significant players more than the NSA does--if its own staffing is any indication.

I'm so glad the US government is well represented on Metafilter.

Thanks for threadshitting.
posted by fatbird at 6:21 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you don't want shit like Prism and Echelon and whatnot happening, don't have an NSA, or a CIA, or a CSIS/CSE, or SIS, or KGB or Stasi or Savak or any group in charge secretly knowing and perhaps manipulating the circumstances.

I'm going to suggest that you are possibly unaware of many basic functions of the NSA, like securing the communications related to the White House, say, or those related to nuclear weapons, that you'd probably not do without.
posted by newdaddy at 8:29 PM on July 3, 2013


I'm aware that the NSA carries out other tasks. I suspect those could be spun off as needed. An agency whose sole mission was "secure governmental communications" would be much smaller, much cheaper, much less prone to abuse of their very limited powers, and could operate much more transparently than the NSA currently does. Given what we already know about secure communications in the digital age, I'm not sure they'd require any secrecy in their charter at all.

In fact, you could make it a litmus test when evaluating departments on whether or not to kill them: Do your operations or your budget require secrecy? If so, the door is that way.
posted by fatbird at 9:29 PM on July 3, 2013


The need for secrecy in foreign affairs is mentioned, as far as American history goes, in the Federalist Papers, already (it's one of the reasons suggested for having one executive). I would not begin to object to shrinking the intelligence sector, and consolidating agencies, etc., but to say we never need secrecy or that intelligence agencies are completely useless as a rule goes beyond naive and into the realm of the idiotic.
posted by raysmj at 10:34 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying we never need secrecy, I'm saying that my suspicion is that we don't need secret agencies because, on the balance, they're not worth it. What we get from secret agencies isn't worth the surrender of civil liberties, or the monetary costs, or the distorting effect on government of having lavishly funded departments that, by their nature, are impossible to effectively oversee.

Organizations public and private routinely have secrets. It's the jump to secret organizations that inevitably leads to programs like Prism and Echelon--that those same organizations then fail to keep secret. Explain to me again what the benefit of their continued operations is?
posted by fatbird at 10:45 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's fairly accepted history that the precursor organizations to the NSA, and their British and Polish counterparts, were successful in cracking Axis encryption systems, such as Enigma and Purple, and in doing so significantly shortened WWII, thus saving many lives. The history of Bletchely (sp?) Park, in GB, is connected. Incidentally some of the very early work on electric computers was done in support of this work.

I'm not here to offer you a history lesson but this history is readily accessible. If your understanding of the intelligence community's function comes from only very recent news or say Hollywood (Good Will Hunting, Sneakers, Enemy of the State) you don't have the full context.
posted by newdaddy at 1:20 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


or the distorting effect on government of having lavishly funded departments that, by their nature, are impossible to effectively oversee.

They also have a massive distorting effect on policy, as politicians have remarked, because even the clear will of the people can be easily trumped by the quite-reasonable-sounding "Those people aren't in possession of the classified facts, you need to listen to us instead" - where "us" is overwhelmingly burdened by a set of ideological values and interpretive blinkers that are far from a fair or representative cross-section of the views of The People, and are institutionally reinforced within a bubble culture that is isolated due to it being illegal to talk about that stuff to anyone outside the echo chamber.

Even the security clearance tests drastically filters the demographics of who gets to play in the shadow government, and that's before the 20 years of being semi-isolated and submersed in the company culture.
posted by anonymisc at 1:20 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just to connect the dots - the wartime Allied encryption and cryptanalytic community simply would not have been successful or been able to function without a veil of secrecy. That's the only way they can work. If Hitler could have been convinced that the Enigmas had been cracked, and that in effect the Allies were reading his correspondence to his generals, he would have ceased to use Enigma, and the whole effort of breaking the code would have been for naught.
posted by newdaddy at 1:35 AM on July 4, 2013


If your understanding of the intelligence community's function comes from only very recent news or say Hollywood (Good Will Hunting, Sneakers, Enemy of the State) you don't have the full context.

It is fairly widely regarded that WW2 marks the Golden Age of the intelligence community being undeniably more productive than destructive. But not long before and after those glory days, (J. Edgar Hoover, Joseph McCathy eras etc.) spying and secrecy had more prominence as tools of the police-state-style abuses.

WW2 is a historical aberration, not the norm, and the value of secret intelligence should be judged on it's wider track record, rather than it's one greatest success. The "very recent news" is closer to the full historic context than the days of Axis and Allies. Spying was always considered a filthy business.
posted by anonymisc at 1:39 AM on July 4, 2013


(I suspect that part of the reason WW2 is such a historical aberration is that it was the one moment in history when the use and importance of cryptography was world-changingly high while the understanding and maths and technology underpinning cryptography was still low. If so, it seems unlikely that that perfect storm will repeat any time this side of civilization).
posted by anonymisc at 1:52 AM on July 4, 2013


Spying was always considered a filthy business.

Disagree. The history of NSA, from WWII through Korea, Vietnam, and particularly throughout the entire Cold War, is one of service to the nation. Plenty of earnest, talented and hardworking people have spent their entire careers toiling anonymously in this enterprise.

But if you were to fire every last person in Fort Meade on Monday, on Tuesday you would discover that secrecy and intelligence were still essential functions of any competent State.
posted by newdaddy at 1:59 AM on July 4, 2013


through Korea, Vietnam, and particularly throughout the entire Cold War, is one of service to the nation.

You may think that, but if you said the words "spying" and "vietnam era" to a random selection of people, I suspect you'd run an awfully high risk of finding more people thinking you were referring to domestic political suppression and abuses than to glorious services to king and country.
posted by anonymisc at 2:25 AM on July 4, 2013


Weren't the various intelligence agencies wrong about many events to do with the Korean and Vietnam wars?
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:56 AM on July 4, 2013


I definitely want to work for the NSA. I want access, man. I want to spy on all of you and insert clandestine and subliminal ideas into all of your heads. I'm not content to simply hear what you're doing; I want to make sure you do what I want.

You'll all be my meat puppets in no time. I can't wait for my interview.

The NSA isn't trying hard ENOUGH. I want 21st Century America to resemble a cross between a Twilight Zone episode and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

DOORBELL sound.

"Who is it?"
"No one you know."
"Oh, right - pizza's here!"

OH GOD NO - I WAS JUST PLAYING AROUND ON THE NET, I DIDN'T MEAN ANYTHING DON'T TAZE ME BRO! (You actually BROUGHT PIZZA?) AH AAAAAAAAAAAH!
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:20 AM on July 4, 2013


Weren't the various intelligence agencies wrong about many events to do with the Korean and Vietnam wars?

Totally, yes. Both wars saw the CIA essentially paying liars and double agents huge sums of money for virtually no pay off. Hundreds of trained agents were sent to their deaths in Korea and China and because the CIA did not learn from their mistakes, the same happened with every covert agent sent to North Vietnam with most being turned and then bringing additional agents and equipments straight into the arms of Hanoi.
posted by longbaugh at 4:35 AM on July 4, 2013


Totally, yes. Both wars saw the CIA essentially paying liars and double agents huge sums of money for virtually no pay off...

But both this OP and my prior comment were specifically about the NSA.
posted by newdaddy at 5:20 AM on July 4, 2013


newdaddy - ' The history of NSA, from WWII through Korea, Vietnam, and particularly throughout the entire Cold War, is one of service to the nation.'

That is dependent on how you define nation. From the point of view of the military industrial complex there is probably an argument that this is the case, but from the point of view of other parties maybe not so much.
posted by asok at 5:48 AM on July 4, 2013


Weren't the various intelligence agencies wrong about many events to do with the Korean and Vietnam wars?

I don't know any specifics in those cases, but I do know the CIA and their SAD were highly commended on their planning and opening to the Afghan War in particular. They saved a lot of lives by ensuring a very smooth operation.

They have also done much specific work elsewhere in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as completely disrupting al-Qaeda by identifying, finding, and eliminating top level members.

I think it's important to realize that we need to see the bigger picture by looking at individual cases. Otherwise, we get this really abstract and often politicized picture. Intelligence analysis is concrete work driven by empirical data.

I mean, the intelligence agencies perform a very basic function for the government. They collect and analyze and provide reports to government officials on what and how other governments are doing. This is important when other countries either aren't keeping these particular records themselves, or other countries aren't releasing their records.

Agencies such as the CIA were important because they early on as they provided contrasting advice to state officials from what they were receiving from their military advisers. The CIA had reason to believe that warmer relations with the Communist powers would be more beneficial given information they had on the economy and intentions of the Soviet Union that they had acquired through understanding how the different personalities in the Communist Party leadership clashed, what trends there were, and just raw, concrete, economic analysis.

For instance, take this excerpt from an unclassified CIA memo:
"whereas non-agricultural output is expected to be 170 to 260 percent greater than in 1953, agricultural output is expected to be only 60 to 80 percent greater than in 1953. The limits of this range are set by making assumptions as to the largest and smallest probable growth in consumption and in agricultural production. Two methods are used in projecting gross national product in this report..."

When you realize that the intelligence agencies are all about collecting and analyzing data in this concrete manner, it becomes much easier to understand that, "plenty of earnest, talented and hardworking people have spent their entire careers toiling anonymously in this enterprise... of service to the nation." You may disagree with the ends that are trying to be met. But this is a complicated world. What your average day-to-day intelligence analyst is trying to do is give the most accurate information he can to elected officials so that they can make informed decisions.
posted by SollosQ at 5:55 AM on July 4, 2013


Okay - not liking the CIA's ineptitude ? The NSA deliberately withheld SIGINT intercepts information that led directly to open hostilities in Vietnam.
posted by longbaugh at 6:09 AM on July 4, 2013


Links relating to the comment above are here (official NSA.gov site) and on MetaFilter here.
posted by longbaugh at 6:32 AM on July 4, 2013


I think the Gulf of Tonkin incident is a big stain on the NSA's record, I can't disagree there.
posted by newdaddy at 7:01 AM on July 4, 2013


What is the NSA's track record in finding WMDs in Iraq?
posted by ryoshu at 7:23 AM on July 4, 2013


It's also worth observing that the glorious intelligence organs of the Allies in WWII were largely spun up from much smaller entities under the urgent necessity of wartime--not existing organizations who shifted focus or just kept on keepin' on. And I agree about WWII being a unique time in history when cryptography was coming into wide use and yet still very exploitable.

The flip side of "get rid of them" is to accept that they're necessary and worthwhile and that the price of having them is Echelon and Prism and the Gulf of Tonkin and the CIA couriering drugs into LA in the 80s. I think there's a reasonable argument to be made there. What puts me on the other side of the argument is that it seems impossible to confidently assert that they're worth it when 1) publicly it seems like we get nothing but the litany of their failures, and 2) if you know enough to argue the benefits you're almost certainly captured by the system that produced them.
posted by fatbird at 7:26 AM on July 4, 2013


I want to spy on all of you and insert clandestine and subliminal ideas into all of your heads.

Ah, then the place you really want to work is Madison Avenue.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:07 AM on July 4, 2013


newdaddy and others are making the mother of all straw-man arguments.

No shit, guys: secrecy and intelligence is essential to the functioning of any government. But in a democratic constitutional republic, you know what else is essential? Transparency, the rule of law applied equally to all citizens, and adequate control by the citizens to ensure that the "service to the nation" is not just service to a small ruling clique. There's a big difference between being a patriot in a democratic republic, and a minion of plutocrats. Hint: minions just do what they're told, and don't ask questions.

Call the civil libertarians here naive? You are unbelievably naive about the destructive role that corrupt influence has played in undermining our ability to trust the way these vital services are being used. Well, either you're naive, or you're firmly ensconced in some "defense" outfit, raking in the big bucks at taxpayer expense.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:26 AM on July 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Under President Hoover, Sec if State Henry Stinson was the last major American leader to curtail our signals intelligence and code breaking efforts when he famously withdrew funding for the black chamber stating that gentlemen do not read each other's mail. This did not prove to be a great decision given the events that followed.
posted by humanfont at 10:49 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, then the place you really want to work is Madison Avenue.

Or 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:37 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, Humanfont, can we stick you in the column with Newdaddy that you're willing to pay the price in order to have the benefits of these intelligence agencies?
posted by fatbird at 12:08 PM on July 4, 2013


FISA Court Judges Aren't Happy That The Public Is Upset Secret Court Issuing Secret Rulings Allowing NSA To Spy On Them
posted by homunculus at 12:26 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


They're collecting data that leaves your house that has to do with your internet and telephone activity.

If they did that with physical mail, that would be ridiculous.


They are totally doing that with physical mail: US Postal Service logs all snail mail for law enforcement
The US Postal Service records the outside of every piece of snail mail processed in the country, allowing employees to retroactively track correspondence at the request of law enforcement and national security agents, according to a published report.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 12:26 PM on July 4, 2013


I'm good at being manipulated.
posted by telstar at 1:00 PM on July 4, 2013


It's like trying to Godwin IRS bureaucrats for enforcing the tax code.

Part 2

TIGTA: IRS Does Not Comply With the Law in 30% of Seizures of Taxpayers' Property
posted by rough ashlar at 1:04 PM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


You are unbelievably naive about the destructive role that corrupt influence has played in undermining our ability to trust the way these vital services are being used.

Wasn't there a gent who said "Trust but verify"? A few of the elected reps in Congress* that what they knew (verify) they could not tell the Citizens, said the Citizens would be upset and they seem to lack the power to effect change.

So supporters of 'da government' - please do lay out your plan to fix this.

*It would seem for the vast amount of citizens that Congress is of the rapey carnal kind.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:19 PM on July 4, 2013


Is there any sense in which a populace can give informed consent to the continued existence of a strong security apparatus?
posted by fatbird at 1:44 PM on July 4, 2013


Is there any sense in which a populace can give informed consent to the continued existence of a strong security apparatus?

It's about the competing interests and needs of the country being kept in some sort of balance. Logically speaking, it's clear that secrecy and transparency are contradictory. But logic is not the issue. There's really no way around it: if you want to maintain a constitutional democratic society in a world that requires governments to have a robust security apparatus, there must be a way for the people to give informed consent. One needs to decide what one means by "informed", of course, and there's a lot of room for debate. But I don't see how secret courts with secret legal doctrines, the withholding of information from elected representatives who, even when informed, are gagged from speaking about what they know... For me, these don't even come close to what's required.
posted by mondo dentro at 2:10 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


existence of a strong security apparatus?

Define strong.

Is strength the ability to take what you want (volume), is strength outcomes, or some other metric?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:12 PM on July 4, 2013


So, Humanfont, can we stick you in the column

You shall not stick me in the column.
posted by humanfont at 3:45 PM on July 4, 2013


Define strong.

The ability to operate free of consequences originating in government or the people, by way of oversight? I've heard of no negative consequences for the NSA for having Echelon, Prism, et al. I've heard of no negative consequences for the CIA for operating "black" sites around the world, torturing people to death in them, and then destroying evidence of their operations to prevent oversight entities from doing anything about it. While these actions had partial support in the executive and the legislative, and among the people, it's still proven almost impossible for anyone to do anything more than whine on the Internet about it.
posted by fatbird at 5:43 PM on July 4, 2013


You shall not stick me in the column.

It sticks itself in the column or it gets the hose again.

Seriously, what was your point then? That good intelligence, well acted upon, can make a difference? No one's disputing that. What we're questioning is whether it's possible to have intelligence organizations that provide good intelligence at a fiscal, social and moral cost with which we can live. I'm seriously doubting that the price we're paying is worth it, and part of that is simply that there seem to be precious few successes, and many gross and expensive failures. Besides obvious scandals like Iran Contra , you have things like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hansen and the Cambridge Five and Jonathan Pollard and a variety of lower level double agents that thoroughly destroyed any pretence of effective secrecy in Western Intelligence. You have the failure to prevent 9/11 despite ample data available to do so; the failure to predict the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany; the failure to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union. You have apparent successes like the overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953 leading the Iranian Revolution in 1979; or the arming of the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan turning into Taliban rule.

And the basic problem seems insoluble: You have an organization will all the flaws and limitations of any large government organization, with the added superpower of using the cloak of National Security to demand money with one hand while evading effective oversight with the other. "You don't hear about the successes because, being successful, they're secret" is one of the most bullshit dodges I've ever heard.

When has any intelligence agency ever been effectively punished for being a bad intelligence agency, or failing to be good enough? The closest one I can think of is Security Service of the RCMP, their internal intelligence arm, which was disbanded after one too many scandals; the consequence of that disbanding was the creation of CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Five years after that transition, who made up 95% of the staff at CSIS? Ex-Security-Service members of the RCMP.
posted by fatbird at 6:07 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


What we're questioning is whether it's possible to have intelligence organizations that provide good intelligence at a fiscal, social and moral cost with which we can live.

I think the cost of the intelligence agencies is pertinent, but has more to do with general government over-spending on security and safety. Defense and the Drug War/prison system already have the cost factor covered pretty well, and the military and law enforcement agencies are also part of the wider intelligence community.

What I don't get is why the focus is only on the intel agencies. I mean, the NSA doesn't have to do any of the heavy lifting anymore, since corporations already have huge chests of data on people. And yeah, companies like Google have done better with the data than the NSA/CIA, but that doesn't really make me feel better than my information is still being collected.
posted by FJT at 11:57 AM on July 5, 2013


The reduction in code breaking and signals intelligence under Herbert Hoover and Henry Stinson out if those same moral instincts had serious consequences for the United States in the 1930s as fascism rose in Italy, Jaoan, Germany and Spain. Subsequent successes in code breaking after considerable investment in WWII proved one of the keys to allied victory. The continued investment in signals intelligence has been a major driver of satalite communications and observation, the Internet and public key cryptography. All these things have made us substantially more free than ever before.
posted by humanfont at 4:08 PM on July 5, 2013


All these things have made us substantially more free than ever before.

Do go on.
posted by unSane at 5:27 PM on July 5, 2013


I'm very happy someone has finally made an argument that can be evaluated in utilitarian terms, because I actually think that's where a defense of the status quo of intelligence agencies is strongest.
posted by fatbird at 5:29 PM on July 5, 2013


newdaddy: Just to connect the dots - the wartime Allied encryption and cryptanalytic community simply would not have been successful or been able to function without a veil of secrecy. That's the only way they can work. If Hitler could have been convinced that the Enigmas had been cracked, and that in effect the Allies were reading his correspondence to his generals, he would have ceased to use Enigma, and the whole effort of breaking the code would have been for naught.
Absolutely NO ONE in any of these threads on Snowden-related topics of late has EVER suggested that the US should not be allowed to keep secrets from governments on the enemy side of a congressionally declared war.

Please rejoin the discussion in progress, where the topic is "Should the US government be allowed to spy without any public controls or checks at all upon all domestic and foreign communications?".
posted by IAmBroom at 10:12 AM on July 6, 2013


There are controls on domestic wiretapping and data collection. The question is are they adaquate and what checks should be out in place to limit their abuse by the corrupt and the powerful. While many express concern about the scope of data collection, this far no one has shown that these wiretaps were used to curtail individual liberty in a way that is inconsistent with our values. Personally in a lot more concerned about stop and frisks, voter intimidation and the use of our nations drug laws to disenfranchise minority voters. Let us also look at Arizona and elsewhere that laws have been written requiring individuals to carry identity papers with and present to police on suspicion of being foreign. These direct daily assaults on our liberty are of much greater impact and subject to significantly less oversight.
posted by humanfont at 11:58 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This gets said a lot on Metafilter, but is always worth repeating: one can be worried about more than one thing at a time.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:47 PM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Besides, I'd also be worried about NSA-level tech filtering down the ranks to the local cops. They won't need to harass you to unlock your smartphone, they'll just have a backdoor to look at your recent history while they stop-and-frisk.
posted by planetesimal at 3:36 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The local police are already searching cell phones during routine stops. The NSA had nothing to do with this.
posted by humanfont at 4:32 PM on July 6, 2013


Ok, but local police don't have backdoors now.
posted by planetesimal at 4:43 PM on July 6, 2013


In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of N.S.A.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:41 AM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


this far no one has shown that these wiretaps were used to curtail individual liberty in a way that is inconsistent with our values.

the routine surveillance of all our communications is itself a curtailment of individual liberty inconsistent with our values.
posted by ook at 9:38 AM on July 8, 2013


NSA Rejecting Every FOIA Request Made by U.S. Citizens
posted by homunculus at 9:51 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Federal Judge Allows EFF's NSA Mass Spying Case to Proceed
posted by homunculus at 9:54 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


NSA Rejecting Every FOIA Request Made by U.S. Citizens

The headline here is broadly overstated; it is rejecting certain types of requests. The rejections are an example of Glomarization, which is itself an example of a cool-sounding word.

Glomar would be a good name for a dog. Or better yet, a cat that never responds to you.
posted by compartment at 11:06 AM on July 9, 2013


In Hitler's Germany, the ratio of State Security Personnel (Gestapo, SS-SD, et. al) to citizens was 1 to roughly 2600.

In Stalin's Soviet Union, that ratio (KGB, NKVD, et .al). was 1 to about 5300.

In Erich Honecker's East Germany (DDR), that ratio (STASI, et. al.) reached a peak of 1 in 63 in the early 1980's.

The USA has perfected the techniques, and the ratio is now 1:1. We all inform on ourselves and each other at all times. We live in the perfect tyranny.

Note that the NSA, per se, does not hold the data: it's all subcontracted out to private companies that don't have those onerous Constitutional laws to bother them.

Oh, and what happens when you, Citizen, do something that annoys one of these companies? Can you say "the perfect blacklist?" I knew you could. For you. And all your friends, and relatives and their contacts as well. Because you never know, do you?
posted by pjern at 4:25 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't Tread Spy on Me
posted by homunculus at 8:21 PM on July 10, 2013


In other news: Federal Judge Authorizes Chevron’s Sweeping Subpoena Of Activists’ Internet Data
posted by homunculus at 1:55 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


DEF CON To Feds: We Need Some Time Apart
posted by homunculus at 12:22 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hang on, maybe all this surveillance has an upside too.
posted by bonehead at 2:55 PM on July 11, 2013


Surprise Visitors Are Unwelcome At The NSA's Unfinished Utah Spy Center (Especially When They Take Photos)

What Happens When You Go Knocking On The NSA’s Door
posted by homunculus at 2:14 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bruce Schneier: Mission Creep: When Everything Is Terrorism. NSA apologists say spying is only used for menaces like "weapons of mass destruction" and "terror." But those terms have been radically redefined.
posted by homunculus at 10:28 AM on July 17, 2013


It's not surveillance
posted by homunculus at 10:34 AM on July 18, 2013


pjern: The USA has perfected the techniques, and the ratio is now 1:1. We all inform on ourselves and each other at all times. We live in the perfect tyranny.
What alarmist bullshit. So, according to you, Germans during WWII didn't inform on each other, nor did Soviet citizens, but now 50% of the American populace has the TSA on speed dial?
posted by IAmBroom at 12:43 PM on July 18, 2013


Without Def Con, the Feds Have a Hacker Recruitment Problem
posted by homunculus at 6:19 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


White House stays silent on renewal of NSA data collection order: Officials decline to comment on whether they will seek to renew order that permits bulk collection of Americans' phone records
posted by homunculus at 12:07 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Secret court lets NSA extend its trawl of Verizon customers' phone records
posted by homunculus at 4:19 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


NSA Phone Snooping Cannot Be Challenged in Court, Feds Say
posted by homunculus at 4:20 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Prometheus Among the Cannibals: A Letter to Edward Snowden, By Rebecca Solnit
posted by homunculus at 1:44 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


“What Is That Box?” — When The NSA Shows Up At Your Internet Company. For nine months, this Utah ISP had a little black box in the corner, courtesy of the NSA. Its owner tells his story.
posted by homunculus at 2:26 PM on July 21, 2013


Court: Chevron Can Seize Americans' Email Data. In an almost unprecedented decision, a federal judge has allowed Chevron to subpoena Americans' private email data—and said the First Amendment doesn't apply.
posted by homunculus at 5:38 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


End warrantless dragnet spying -- DEFUND THE NSA! Act today!
posted by homunculus at 10:28 AM on July 23, 2013


Feds put heat on Web firms for master encryption keys: Whether the FBI and NSA have the legal authority to obtain the master keys that companies use for Web encryption remains an open question, but it hasn't stopped the U.S. government from trying.
posted by homunculus at 2:22 PM on July 24, 2013


Amash Amendment Narrowly Rejected After Heated (And Partly Ridiculous) Debate
posted by homunculus at 5:13 PM on July 24, 2013


What Edward Snowden Has Given Us
posted by homunculus at 2:21 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Privacy and the Threat to the Self
posted by homunculus at 7:52 PM on July 26, 2013


The NSA Has A Little Music Video They'd Prefer You Don't Watch. EVER.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:55 AM on July 27, 2013


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