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NSA's SOMALGET recording every phone call in the Bahamas
May 19, 2014 1:44 PM   Subscribe

The NSA is recording the audio of every phone call in the Bahamas and in another country which the article does not name "in response to specific, credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence." Previously
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles (86 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
A difficulty with these NSA revelations is keeping track of the bigger picture. But I thought it was already established the NSA was intercepting all SMS messages in Iraq at least in the past? So would be odd to only do texts if they have the capability to do phone calls as well.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:52 PM on May 19


No chance it's Cuba?
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:56 PM on May 19


The three collection systems in [COUNTRY NAME REDACTED] are called SCALAWAG, OILYRAG, and LOLLYGAG. The two-letter ISO code for Antigua & Barbuda is AG. Coincidence!?
posted by theodolite at 1:59 PM on May 19 [6 favorites]


I should also note that the authors chose not to disclose another detail -- the cover name of a firm whose systems are involved in implementing SOMALGET:

"The documents don’t name the firm, but rather refer to a cover name that The Intercept has agreed not to publish in response to a specific, credible concern that doing so could lead to violence."
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 2:05 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I figure they've been doing full audio recordings of absolutely every call they could for at least 10 years. (I would be surprised if they didn't have all US calls going back 20 years)

They could at least give us free unlimited voice-mail service for the inconvenience to our liberties.
posted by MikeWarot at 2:05 PM on May 19 [22 favorites]


Bet it's Afghanistan. It's reportedly easier to intercept cell phone service than landlines. In 2012, Afghanistan had an incredibly high ratio of mobile to landlines: 92:1. It's probably higher now. We had access to the country's infrastructure for extended periods for years.
posted by zarq at 2:07 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


Pakistan?
posted by benzenedream at 2:09 PM on May 19


All of the above? Just because Snowden only released info on two countries doesn't mean there isn't much more going on elsewhere.
posted by dilaudid at 2:12 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


There's no reason to think the NSA is confining this particular capability to just two countries. Or at least, won't in the future. Maybe the Bahamas was a pilot program; it's small, nearby, and a lot of money flows through it. Useful and relatively easy. But what would stop NSA from recording all phone calls in, say, Cuba? Or Mexico? Or Germany? Or China?

As for Afghanistan, almost the entire telecommunications infrastructure was built by Americans. That's more true than not in Iraq as well. It'd be crazy to think the NSA wasn't fully entrenched in it.
posted by Nelson at 2:13 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]


Interesting analysis on Hacker News points to Afghanistan, El Salvador, and Ivory Coast as possible word matches.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:14 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


The two-letter ISO code for Antigua & Barbuda is AG. Coincidence!?

You should work for the NSA
posted by stbalbach at 2:15 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


and a lot of money flows through it.

Too bad the IRS isn't privy to the NSA taps involving billionaires and major corporations.
posted by FJT at 2:19 PM on May 19 [12 favorites]


Frontline: United States of Secrets

Part two is on tomorrow night.
posted by homunculus at 2:22 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]


The two-letter ISO code for Antigua & Barbuda is AG. Coincidence!?

This is exactly why rainbow codes are a good idea.
posted by Garm at 2:27 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


In related news, the US is today accusing China of industrial espionage.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 2:54 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


Conversation between Greenwald and others on the redaction here.

"Glenn Greenwald ‏@ggreenwald 2h
@ioerror @johnjcook And @wikileaks also withheld info when they were convinced it could harm innocents - we were very convinced this 1 would"

"WikiLeaks ‏@wikileaks 1h
@johnjcook @ggreenwald @ioerror NYTimes in violation of their agreement with us. Unredacted by us subsequently. https://wikileaks.org/Transcript-Meeting-Assange-Schmidt.html#1737
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 2:55 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Wikileaks pressing an argument for not redacting name of nation here:
https://twitter.com/wikileaks

WikiLeaks ‏@wikileaks 3h
Firstlook's argument for censoring name of entire nation recorded is the same as the argument Obama gave for censoring Abu Ghraib photos.

WikiLeaks ‏@wikileaks 3h
If a nation wants to engage in a revolt on the basis that the US government is recording all their phone calls, that is their right.

WikiLeaks ‏@wikileaks 3h
It is not the place of Firstlook or WaPo to decide how a people will chose to act against mass breaches of their rights by the United States

WikiLeaks ‏@wikileaks 3h
It is not the place of Firstlook or the Washington Post to deny the rights of an entire people to know they are being mass recorded.

WikiLeaks ‏@wikileaks 3h
We condemn Firstlook for following the Washington Post into censoring the mass interception of an entire nation https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/05/19/data-pirates-caribbean-nsa-recording-every-cell-phone-call-bahamas/
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 2:57 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


Well I mean the answer is obviously Saudi Arabia or Yemen. God forbid it's a western democracy, because that would be hilarious.
posted by phaedon at 3:02 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


You know, if you had told someone about this in the 1990s, they would have looked like a real kook. Turns out we are the nation the paranoiacs were warning us about.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:10 PM on May 19 [9 favorites]


Frankly, I don't really like the idea of a random journalist with a document dump to be the one deciding which covert intelligence programs should be outed and which shouldn't. The fight over what names to redact really brings this into focus.
posted by kiltedtaco at 3:11 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


Frankly, I don't really like the idea of the NSA running a panopticon, yet here we are.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:12 PM on May 19 [60 favorites]


Secret police are not compatible with an open, democratic society. Please reinstall and try again.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:14 PM on May 19 [21 favorites]


The slides tout one of the successes of the program: Catching someone arranging the transport of 90 pounds of weed through the US Mail.

I question whether we're getting our money's worth out of this program, to say the least.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:35 PM on May 19 [10 favorites]


It makes me sick to my stomach that the only answer the NSA has is "We don't do it to U.S. Persons." as if Bahamians, Mexicans, Kenyans, Phillipinos, and people from country X don't have inalienable rights to privacy.

How did we descend to this point? Did we really trade away the privacy of the entire human race to protect 4.4% of it?
posted by Megafly at 3:37 PM on May 19 [10 favorites]


I wonder if anymore details will come to light regarding storage of the data. The credible arguments against NSA recording content and storing it for all time rests on the assumption that their storage capacity is near to commercial available options. While the NSA technology may be miles ahead in crypto analytics and data mining, in the past, aside from FPGA's (which don't affect storage) they have done most of their work with more or less off the shelf hardware (to the best of our knowledge). I haven't seen any evidence to the contrary of this yet.

This is also potentially why the calls they're recording are only retained for 30 days. It's not like they wouldn't archive it if it were feasible. Additionally, why it's likely to be a very small country. What will be interesting that potentially could come out of this is we might discover (within certain parameters) the call volume for which the NSA could legitimately record all content.

The decision not to name the countries is a bit odd, especially after this (heavily editorialized) excerpt: https://twitter.com/hilare_belloc/status/466426593465102336/photo/1
posted by yeahwhatever at 3:43 PM on May 19


It makes me sick to my stomach that the only answer the NSA has is "We don't do it to U.S. Persons."

Except the NSA does most of what it does to US Persons too. I've frankly lost track of every single disclosure so I can't remember whether NSA is actively recording all my phone calls, or just the numbers of who I call, or just my emails, or just my Google searches, or what. But we're a long way from the original founding principle that NSA's jurisdiction was only for non-US citizens and only outside the US. That's part of what makes their unchecked power so dangerous. It's not just a foreign intelligence service any more, it does domestic intelligence too.

70 pounds of weed, huh? I feel certain in a day or two we'll hear about the child pornographer they caught too. Or maybe a sex slave trafficker.
posted by Nelson at 3:54 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


It makes me sick to my stomach that the only answer the NSA has is "We don't do it to U.S. Persons."

They pay GCHQ to do that work.
posted by Thing at 3:57 PM on May 19 [12 favorites]


Weed busts may sound out of the NSA's domain...

But they had reliable information that the 70 pounds of weed was THE BOMB.
posted by el io at 3:59 PM on May 19 [9 favorites]


They pay GCHQ to do that work.

And they pretend that paying foreigners to do work on behalf of the U.S. government is legally not an action of the U.S. government because of magic.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:59 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


reminder that NSA passes tips to the DEA (including on US citizens) for drug investigations, and then the DEA retroactively fabricates an evidence trail to hide the fact
posted by p3on at 4:16 PM on May 19 [11 favorites]


I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Cable and Wireless, which owns the Bahamas comms systems.

C&W used to be the UK government's overseas comms provider, running monopoly services to the Empire. It was intimately connected with the security services, to say the least - I doubt there was anything the NSA could have taught it about blanket surveillance under deep state cover. Post-privatisation, it continues to be the effective monopoly supplier to many old territories (effective to a certain extent; it's been run fabulously badly), but - like BT - the old state connections are very far from dead.

I hope to live long enough to see this story properly written up. I'm not sure I expect to.
posted by Devonian at 4:17 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]


Related.
posted by curious nu at 4:18 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Frankly, I don't really like the idea of a random journalist with a document dump to be the one deciding which covert intelligence programs should be outed and which shouldn't. The fight over what names to redact really brings this into focus.

Why should the rest of the world care about the secrecy of US intelligence programs? If the UK was recording the phone calls of every American, I would want to know, whatever the supposed merits of their program.
posted by ghharr at 4:26 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


Frankly, I don't really like the idea of a random journalist with a document dump to be the one deciding which covert intelligence programs should be outed and which shouldn't. The fight over what names to redact really brings this into focus.

Kiltedtaco, I get where you're coming from, and at the very least I think we agree that such document dumps are a less-than-ideal avenue toward an informed public. And I think we probably agree that it takes an informed public to make informed choices about self-governance. Beyond that, though, I think we differ. It seems like these threads always have a lot of head-butting and relatively little dialogue. So I hope that you can answer some questions I have about your point of view.

If indeed these programs are legal, do you agree that many reasonable, well-informed Americans could nevertheless be surprised at the extent and nature of our surveillance programs?

Do you think that Congress and the executive branch have done a good job of making clear the bounds of the law, and their interpretation about what the law allows?

Do you think it is possible for the government to simultaneously exercise the secrecy necessary to conceal these programs and the transparency necessary for the body politic to exercise informed consent?

How is that balance best reached, and had it been reached before the Snowden leaks?
posted by compartment at 4:28 PM on May 19


This is exactly why rainbow codes are a good idea

That list of randomly generated names is fun reading. "Purple Passion" was literally designed to be earth shattering.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:51 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Everyone should know just how much the government lied to defend the NSA. A web of deception has finally been untangled: the Justice Department got the US supreme court to dismiss a case that could have curtailed the NSA's dragnet. Why?
posted by homunculus at 4:51 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


It makes me sick to my stomach that the only answer the NSA has is "We don't do it to U.S. Persons." as if Bahamians, Mexicans, Kenyans, Phillipinos, and people from country X don't have inalienable rights to privacy.

It's worse than that, really. We spy on foreign citizens and tell their governments about them, and they spy on ours and tell us about them. There's no privacy anywhere.
posted by empath at 4:54 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


> Frankly, I don't really like the idea of a random journalist with a document dump to be the one deciding which covert intelligence programs should be outed and which shouldn't.

But this is not a document dump. This is the highly selective release of partially redacted relevant documents.
posted by toofuture at 5:25 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Frankly, I don't really like the idea of a random journalist with a document dump to be the one deciding which covert intelligence programs should be outed and which shouldn't. The fight over what names to redact really brings this into focus.

I'd rather they just dump the whole thing and damn the consequences. The whole fucking system is sick.
posted by empath at 5:27 PM on May 19 [12 favorites]


The slides tout one of the successes of the program: Catching someone arranging the transport of 90 pounds of weed through the US Mail.

Mexico.

Greenwald has been doing the rounds lately, arguing that they are saving the best for last. Their original statments made it sound like they were still another 4 weeks out from completing the story, and that the big story would be 'exactly "who" the NSA has been spying on.'

Can you imagine what would happen should a threat get through the US/Mexico border? That's a really good reason to withhold information if you fear violent retaliation. First off there would be Hell to pay if a threat did make it through the border, and even more to Greenwald and any publisher if Mexican Americans and/or undocumented immigrants decided to protest and/or riot.

Saudi Arabia would be even better, although I would not like what would happen to the stock market if such a revelation proved true.
posted by daHIFI at 5:30 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


another country which the article does not name

Is it the United States? It's the United States, isn't it?
posted by Hatashran at 5:42 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


Don't see how this plays out in favor of anyone.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:12 PM on May 19


Don't see how this plays out in favor of anyone.

Yeah we know, you never do.
posted by Jimbob at 6:15 PM on May 19 [22 favorites]


To clarify, you've just read that every phone call by every person in the Bahamas is being recorded for the purposes of a foreign government, and you don't see how it would play out in favour of a citizen of the Bahamas? Are you so callous that you don't care the slightest about what they might think? Or do you think ignorance is bliss and they'd be better off not knowing?
posted by Jimbob at 6:19 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


I'm going to repost something I put on Bruce Schneier's blog a year ago, because it's founded in experience I have with large-scale VoIP networks. None of it is specific to the NSA, but simply the underlying technology. That blog contains a spreadsheet with some calculations.
So, the calculations in the cited spreadsheet are based on a 8KB/sec (64kbps) stream, which would be the standard G.711 codec that is used as the basis for almost all voice transmissions. This is the "gold standard", and would have no degradation what-so-ever.

But, if you're willing to take a little hit, you could use G.726 at a 32kbps (4KB/sec) rate, which to the human ear isn't going to sound noticeably worse. It's also what's used in the DECT cordless handsets. That would cut your storage costs in half. Studies show this is approximately 97% of the quality of a G.711 codec.

Let's take it one step further, and move to G.729, which is common in VoIP, and is actually what most conference call systems use. This operates at 8kbps (1KB/sec), and now we have an 8x reduction in space. This would reduce the estimated data storage requirements (as documented in the spreadsheet) from 272PB/year to 34PB and the cost to $3.4M.

So, tell me dear friends, what do YOU think?
If you think it's cost prohibitive to store large-scale intercepts, you're not paying attention.
posted by petrilli at 6:20 PM on May 19 [10 favorites]


Don't see how this plays out in favor of anyone.

What do you mean by "this"?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:33 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


(he means anything critical of the administration)
posted by ryanrs at 6:36 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


[Reminder: You can all make collective and individual choices to make this thread go a certain way ... or not.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:44 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


WikiLeaks announces that they're going to release the name of the second country.
posted by toofuture at 6:50 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Now I'm sitting here imagining how you make an archive of all phone conversations in a country for a year useful. Speech to phonemes + bloom filter = efficient probabilistic search for "everyone who said XYZ" using a bounded amount of storage (and who minds a few false positives?). Quick, figure me out the power budget to run real-time speech recognition on a whole nation's phone calls. Yes, you're allowed to assume the existence of special-purpose NSA ASICs.
posted by jepler at 7:11 PM on May 19


Although I'm sure they'd love to do that kind of thing, think of it from the other angle.

There is some guy who you think might be up to something. Sweet, we have every phone call he ever made (because we have every phone call anyone ever made) so we can just listen to them and see if there's anything interesting.

It's like going back in time to get a wire tap and you can do it for anyone in the country.

Then, if you hear anything interesting in that trawl through his history, you can move on to his associates.

At my work we do enormous amounts of data warehousing. Are we doing something fancy to search through this data and find things of interest? Not really. But everyone once in a while, someone will say "hey, what if..." and because we have all the data for the last few decades, we can answer that question instead of starting to gather the specific data we want today and waiting months to know the answer.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:24 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]


If indeed these programs are legal, do you agree that many reasonable, well-informed Americans could nevertheless be surprised at the extent and nature of our surveillance programs?

I wouldn't call a person well-informed if this comes as a surprise.

Do you think that Congress and the executive branch have done a good job of making clear the bounds of the law, and their interpretation about what the law allows?

They don't write the laws, why expect them to understand them?

Do you think it is possible for the government to simultaneously exercise the secrecy necessary to conceal these programs and the transparency necessary for the body politic to exercise informed consent?

No.

How is that balance best reached, and had it been reached before the Snowden leaks?

See previous answer.

Question becomes, can we equate what the NSA is doing with what Bletchley Park was doing in WW2? Easier for the greatest generation since theirs was a declared war with obvious enemies instead of this ongoing police action against untold numbers of free agents. If you assume the NSA et al are telling the truth about plots foiled because of their info, you take one view, if you assume they're a bunch of lying liars, you take another. Unfortunately, the nature of the biz makes objective judgement difficult and posturing all too easy.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:59 PM on May 19


another country which the article does not name

Is it the United States? It's the United States, isn't it?


No. No one here gives a shit enough to cause 'violence'. My second guess after Mexico would be Haiti, seeing as how they had to rebuild their communications infrastructure.
posted by daHIFI at 8:12 PM on May 19


The White House Is Trying to Weaken the NSA Reform Bill: Report
posted by homunculus at 8:38 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


If you think it's cost prohibitive to store large-scale intercepts, you're not paying attention.

On the flip, we have defense-contractor and authoritarian shill Joshua Foust saying that the "mistakes" of the NSA amount to less than 1MB, "about one MP3 file per day," never mind that 1MB is about 500 pages of text.
posted by rhizome at 8:40 PM on May 19


The Surveillance State Doesn't Have to Be an Orwellian Nightmare
posted by homunculus at 8:50 PM on May 19


Wait, how did Wikileaks find out the second country? Or maybe they just figured it out.
posted by empath at 9:00 PM on May 19


Wait, how did Wikileaks find out the second country? Or maybe they just figured it out.

empath, see Business Insider's speculation:

Consequently, there is no clear indication that WikiLeaks can back up the threat. The most plausible way for this to be possible is if Appelbaum, who led the reporting on several Der Spiegel articles based on NSA documents (which may or may not be from Snowden), shared information with his friend Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. Applebaum tweeted that The Intercept's redaction was "a mistake."

Generally, secrets are hard to keep. Piss off one person and it's not a secret anymore. (Although, there is no certainty if/how Wikileaks knows the country in this specific case. They could be bluffing -- who knows.)
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 9:08 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


Although, there is no certainty if/how Wikileaks knows the country in this specific case. They could be bluffing -- who knows.

Well the 72-hour timeframe for release is a bit weird - what exactly is he waiting for? He either has the answer or he doesn't. Is this an ultimatum? Assange hasn't been getting much coverage lately, maybe he's aching for a few days back in the spotlight.
posted by Jimbob at 9:14 PM on May 19


Well the 72-hour timeframe for release is a bit weird - what exactly is he waiting for?

I can think of two reasons:

1) To preserve at least some kind of collegiality with the original story authors by enabling them to break the news instead of Wikileaks, while ensuring that the redacted information is revealed in a timely manner.

2) Wikileaks recognizes that there actually is some kind of legitimate security threat to people and calculates that 3 days is enough time for whoever is in immediate danger to get out of it.

Personally I would favor explanation 1 to 2. Why wouldn't Wikileaks want to see another Tunisia, if the revelation did have that effect?

(Also, I hate to be the spoilsport, but I doubt that a country is going to go up in flames when its name is revealed as being spied on / collaborating with the NSA. I think it's just a default assumption that all the world's governments are in some way accomplices at this point, so what will the surprise be? I predict the results being anticlimactic. That goes double for those countries that are the likely candidates: Afghanistan, etc. That being said, the company whose name was redacted probably is more vulnerable than the country.)
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 9:26 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


“DEA is actually one of the biggest spy operations there is,” says Finn Selander, a former DEA special agent who works with the drug-reform advocacy group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “Our mandate is not just drugs. We collect intelligence.”

Ok, now I understand why the U.S. government loves the war on drugs. I thought it was about drugs. Silly me.
posted by mrhappy at 9:41 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


I'm not a "US person", and as I understand it I don't have rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. But here's the thing. Weren't the Constitution and the Bill of Rights created in response to abuses of power by the British government? And at the time those abuses were committed, there were no "US persons". In fact the American colonies weren't even a political unit. Surely those wrongs were recognised as affecting all people, and the remedies were likewise expressed for all people. In other words, the authors of the Constitution did not wish that a person in (e.g) New York should spy with impunity on mail that was being sent to Virginia; but no more would they have wished that a person in Virginia should spy on the mail of someone in the Bahamas.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:34 AM on May 20 [5 favorites]


Similar theme: How Britain exported next-generation surveillance
Thousands of cameras, millions of photographs, terabytes of data. You’re tracked, wherever you go.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:56 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Wait, is the US doing this to start violence, or prevent it? The way the OP worded it seems to imply the former which is really confusing.
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:51 AM on May 20


This is exactly why rainbow codes are a good idea

That list of randomly generated names is fun reading. "Purple Passion" was literally designed to be earth shattering.


Even though it was supposed to be random, it really seems like people just continued generating random names until they found one they liked. Everyone wanted a "Blue" project, no one wanted a project with "Brown".
posted by ymgve at 4:09 AM on May 20


hi there. i'm the commandant of the top secret "brown waste".

so, the NSA is spying on the brits, and we're paying our tax dollars to the GCHQ to spy on us. it would be an awful shame if the eminently foreseeable displeasure percolated down to us, the pawns on the chessboard. the american tourist in london would not be safe, and a british family touring oregon could see more than they bargained for.
posted by bruce at 8:09 AM on May 20


Wikileaks will release the name of the country in 72 hours.

"The pledge came after The Intercept revealed that the Bahamas and one other country were having most of their mobile calls recorded and stored by a powerful NSA program called SOMALGET.

While the Bahamas was named, the identity of the mystery second country was kept hidden.

Greenwald, who first broke the Edward Snowden story to the world, had said on Twitter the decision not to reveal the name was made because "we were *very convinced this 1 would --> [lead to] deaths"."

More discussion between Greenwald, Wikileaks, Appelbaum, Cook.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 10:26 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia: "I'm not a "US person", and as I understand it I don't have rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. But here's the thing. Weren't the Constitution and the Bill of Rights created in response to abuses of power by the British government?

Sort of. The Bill of Rights were a compromise between the anti-Federalists (against centralized government and pro-strong state governments) and Federalists (pro-centralized government,) in order to get the Constitution ratified. The anti-Federalists were concerned about personal libertiies and a strong Executive branch becoming king. They were also an improvement on the initial Articles of Confederation, which had formed a much looser form of weak centralized government between the states and allowed them to represent themselves as a whole in international diplomacy.

After the Revolutionary War, the colonies needed international recognition and support. To get it, they needed to show the world they were a cohesive unit. The Articles of Confederation established a federal government and allowed them to do so. However, it was too weak to form and support an army or navy sourced from the states, and this led to its failure.

And at the time those abuses were committed, there were no "US persons". In fact the American colonies weren't even a political unit. Surely those wrongs were recognised as affecting all people, and the remedies were likewise expressed for all people.

Depends on what you're speaking of. Regarding the Constitution, if by "all people" you mean 6% of the population, then sure. Suffrage, the right to vote and be represented in government was not granted to everyone. If you're referring to the civil liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights, then yes, they were granted to everyone.
At the time of the first Presidential election in 1789, only 6 percent of the population–white, male property owners–was eligible to vote. The Fifteenth Amendment extended the right to vote to former male slaves in 1870; American Indians gained the vote under a law passed by Congress in 1924; and women gained the vote with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.
The Americans had been British subjects. As far as the Declaration of Independence was concerned, it listed grievances between the colonies and their King. The Articles of Confederation was an attempt to form a cohesive whole between the former colonies. The Constitution was an attempt to strengthen the centralized government, which didn't have the power to compel the states to do anything. The Bill of Rights was an attempt to get the Constitution passed, by placating people who were afraid that establishing another monarchy in all but name would lead to federal tyranny.

In other words, the authors of the Constitution did not wish that a person in (e.g) New York should spy with impunity on mail that was being sent to Virginia; but no more would they have wished that a person in Virginia should spy on the mail of someone in the Bahamas."

Both the British and Americans used spies during the Revolutionary War. Franklin, Hale, Arnold, Darragh. And others. I doubt they would have taken issue with spies being used against a foreign power, if there was a concern over national security.

The US has always recognized a difference between internal and external threats. So do most other countries. They have two standards: one for citizens, another for non.
posted by zarq at 10:59 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


Only tangentially related, but Secrets, lies and Snowden's email: why I was forced to shut down Lavabit. Contains details on the abuse of the US court system by federal authorities.
posted by Nelson at 11:32 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


It's looking more and more like Afghanistan is the second country in question.
posted by toofuture at 11:41 PM on May 20


Well, if there's any violence in Afghanistan we'll know who to blame.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:45 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]


venezuela
posted by banshee at 11:25 AM on May 21


Justice Department: Release of WikiLeaks Records Could Harm ‘Pending Future Prosecution’
posted by homunculus at 6:36 PM on May 21


The US Government are such mendacious whiners.
posted by rhizome at 11:13 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


It's been 72 hours and wikileaks still hasn't revealed any names...

... were they bluffing? Are they just late? Were there last-minute negotiations? Or a change of heart?

...Are we in the matrix?
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 4:17 PM on May 22


"We do not believe it is the place of media to "aid and abet" a state in escaping detection and prosecution for a serious crime against a population.

Consequently WikiLeaks cannot be complicit in the censorship of victim state X. The country in question is Afghanistan."

WikiLeaks says the second country is Afghanistan.
posted by toofuture at 11:13 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine that this knowledge will hurt the USA's image in Afghanistan; Afghans that hate the USA will continue to hate it, and those who still hope for an end to the country's problems may actually welcome the news. But in any event, the revelation shows the limits of intelligence: the situation in Afghanistan was and is awful, despite the fact that the USA owned its telecommunications. Why would we expect it to be more useful elsewhere?
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:25 PM on May 22


Yeah, I'm really puzzled why GG et al withheld the name, considering:

1) Afghanistan was the leading guess of the Internet of the redacted country
2) The US has freaking invaded the country, been there for over ten years, and has rebuilt some of it, controlling all of the significant infrastructure
3) The Taliban is well aware of the fact that they can be tracked by cell phone, going so far as to attack cell phone towers as a strategy starting a very long time ago
4) The USG has a history of crying wolf when classified information was released, insisting all hell will break loose, but inevitably none does (not to mention the USG warning about violence breaking out in Afghanistan is the hight of hypocrisy)
5) GG et al should be well aware of the above since they've been banging the 'government lies' drum for a quite a while now

So, what was the specific threat? This news seems like a confirmation of what all belligerents either knew or strongly assumed to be the case (so much that they have been acting like it for years).

I can understand why the response is muted from all sides -- invading a country and toppling the government and killing people, which the US has done in Afghanistan, is a lot more shocking than listening to that country's phone calls. It's the almost imperceptible icing on the war crime cake. (Not to mention Wikileaks dropped the news, and lord knows responsible news outlets can't mention any revelations they break!)

(Unsubstantiated conspiracy theory: GG and WL conspired to redact the name and then expose it with much brouhaha in order to increase publicity; everyone comes out of the incident looking good and with more pageviews.)
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 7:21 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


(Unsubstantiated conspiracy theory: GG and WL conspired to redact the name and then expose it with much brouhaha in order to increase publicity...)

I don't mind, if so.
posted by rhizome at 12:20 PM on May 23


To clarify, you've just read that every phone call by every person in the Bahamas is being recorded for the purposes of a foreign government, and you don't see how it would play out in favour of a citizen of the Bahamas?

I meant between the feuding Greenwald and Assange.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:19 AM on May 25


On GG's desire to withhold announcing Afghanistan as the third country: GG and Snowden have surmised that they have released perhaps 1% of the information they have. Looking forward, it is possible that GG is aware of releases related to Afghanistan on the horizon.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 10:52 AM on May 26


I meant between the feuding Greenwald and Assange.

Which is specifically related to whether or not the population of Afghanistan is aware that they have had all of their communications surveilled by the NSA.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:23 PM on May 31


NSA facial recognition: combining national ID cards, Internet intercepts, and commercial facial databases for millions of people
posted by homunculus at 10:15 AM on June 1


ACLU : The NSA knew our secrets. One year later, we know theirs.

Four ways Edward Snowden changed the world – and why the fight's not over

District Court Judge Orders Last-Minute Sealing Of Documents Related To Stingray Devices And Cell Tower Data Dumps
posted by jeffburdges at 12:35 AM on June 6


"This information is provided so American guerillas will practice appropriate OPSEC/EMSEC in the troubles to come.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:51 AM on June 11


NSA: Our systems are so complex we can’t stop them from deleting data wanted for lawsuit
posted by homunculus at 1:42 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


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