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March 10, 2008 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Two years ago, then NSA-chief Gen. Michael Hayden said its domestic surveillance program was "not a driftnet over Lackawanna or Fremont or Dearborn, grabbing all communications and then sifting them out." Today, a story in the Wall Street Journal alleges this is precisely what is happening. Total Information Awareness seems to not have died, but to have just been quietly absorbed into the NSA's already extensive surveillance apparatus, all without the hassle of any kind of transparency or oversight.
posted by [expletive deleted] (70 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
As long as you're doing nothing wrong, right, citizen?
posted by Balisong at 12:48 PM on March 10, 2008


This "Wall Street Journal" you speak of... it's a dirty liberal hippy rag, right?
posted by LordSludge at 12:49 PM on March 10, 2008


This seemed to be a pretty reasonable take on things. Then again
posted by timsteil at 12:50 PM on March 10, 2008


The Long Road Ahead For The Civil Liberties Fight And FISA
posted by homunculus at 12:58 PM on March 10, 2008


And there’s no way those asymmetric threats could use the technology from the information systems against us, I Promis

But there’s a reason they’re going to this ‘sit behind my desk’ intel style.

From timsteil’s link: “Given the quality of Al Qaeda’s operational security, you need trusted people who can penetrate the organization,” Thomas Fingar, the deputy director of the O.D.N.I. for Analysis, said. Yet the American intelligence community has traditionally been a white-male enclave. Few agents can even pronounce Arabic names correctly. On September 11th, there were only eight fluent Arabic-speaking agents in the F.B.I.; now there are nine. The U.S. government ranks language proficiency on a zero-to-five scale, in which five is the equivalent of a native speaker. “Training a person up to a four-plus is almost impossible,” Philip Mudd, who is in charge of staffing and training two thousand analysts for the F.B.I.’s National Security Branch, told me. “The people you want are first-generation immigrants. But the security guys will say, ‘Wait!’ ”

And if they’re gay, y’know, that’s a friggin catastrophe.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:05 PM on March 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


More at Threat Level.
posted by homunculus at 1:06 PM on March 10, 2008


Transcribed from WSJ link

Examples of the data the NSA can look at without a judicial warrant in its search for hints of terrorism:

Email: Recipients and sender address; subject; time sent

Internet: Sites visited and searches conducted

Cellphone: Numbers incoming or outgoing; length of call, location

Phone: Numbers of incoming or outgoing; length of call

Financial: Information about bank accounts, wire transfers, credit-card use

Airline: Information about passengers


I've made this argument so many times, that I really feel like I'm beating a dead horse now, but god damn it, if this is information they want about us, then any politician who signs off on this kind of invasion of privacy should really be forced to submit to it themselves.

If you think you have the rights to inspect my bank records or internet usage for traces of terrorism, then I have the exact same right to inspect theirs for signs of corruption.

Statistically, I think there is a damn good chance that we will find more corrupt politicians using searches like this than we are going to find Americans engaging in terrorist plots, so by that metric alone, this should be implemented immediately.

If we really want to protect the country, that is.
posted by quin at 1:08 PM on March 10, 2008 [33 favorites]


I hate this fucking administration and our intelligence apparatus. But this doesn't surprise me in the least.
posted by nevercalm at 1:23 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Raise your hand if you didn't see this one coming.
posted by m0nm0n at 1:23 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Impeachment. That is all.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:23 PM on March 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


The US government has always spied on it's citzens, it's just much larger and more obvert program now. Traffic analysis is a broad analysis of communication patterns wheras interception of calls involves specfic id's. While there is proabley some overlap, they seem distinct to me. Bushies government seems to be including all analysis as another means of obnubilation. If they can pick up bin laden's cell phone it would seem relatively easy to screen out US citizens.

Legless and confused, that's me!
posted by Rancid Badger at 1:32 PM on March 10, 2008


So this is how Spitzer got caught?
posted by brain_drain at 1:47 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Video: Lawrence Wright, staff writer New Yorker; author of "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" (Apr 25, 2007 at Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs)
posted by acro at 1:48 PM on March 10, 2008


“Given the quality of Al Qaeda’s operational security, you need trusted people who can penetrate the organization,” Thomas Fingar, the deputy director of the O.D.N.I. for Analysis, said. Yet the American intelligence community has traditionally been a white-male enclave. Few agents can even pronounce Arabic names correctly."

Okay, if it's so hard to penetrate AQ, then how come there's that American guy (former DJ, I think, maybe?) who I think is white who's somewhere in remote Pakistan or thereabouts, running AQ's media stuff? Of course, I can't remember his name, but he's apparently responsible for getting them more up to date, technologically speaking.

And there's Jose Padilla. And John Lindh.

I mean, if a hippie kid from Marin can get into a training camp, then WTF, CIA?
posted by rtha at 1:52 PM on March 10, 2008


Traffic analysis is a broad analysis of communication patterns

this graphic explains how it all works.
posted by quonsar at 1:55 PM on March 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


In all seriousness, this is the best news I've read all week. This story's timing is perfect in that it might give the House the leverage it needs to keep retroactive immunity for the telcos out of any possible bill. Perhaps I'm being naïve, but I really think this might be the catalyst needed to blow this thing open.

The number one political casualty I hope to see from this, besides the entire administration, of course, is Sen. Jay Rockefeller, for his craven subservience to his telco masters, followed swiftly by Sen. McCain and Sen. Clinton. I don't know if Clinton avoided the immunity vote out of cowardice, or out of her increasingly evident comfort with a police state perpetually at war with nebulous and ever shifting domestic and foreign enemies; either way, like McCain, she's shown herself, completely bereft of the judgment and courage necessary to be president.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:57 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Surely this...
posted by unSane at 2:04 PM on March 10, 2008


Surely this will be the end of the "surely this" meme.
posted by The Bellman at 2:06 PM on March 10, 2008


Surly dis!
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:14 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you object to these measures, please press 9, and an agent will be with you shortly to "handle" your objection.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:19 PM on March 10, 2008


As the thread immediately below this one attests, it seems people are roughly ten times more interested in where their politicians shoot their baby gravy than whether or not they think the Stasi were too respectful of civil liberties.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:21 PM on March 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


Not that anyone cares but for the record I predicted this over two years ago.
posted by scalefree at 2:29 PM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


if this is information they want about us, then any politician who signs off on this kind of invasion of privacy should really be forced to submit to it themselves.

Nah. I'd rather, y'know, just have a government that respects my privacy. Oh, and real consequences for elected officials that break the laws they are sworn to uphold. That'd be nice, too.
posted by oncogenesis at 2:47 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not that anyone cares but for the record I predicted this over two years ago.

I'm supposed to be impressed that you predicted that the feds don't give a shit for civil liberties?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:49 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here is a long analysis of the topic:

http://suprablog.com/index.php/2008/03/09/the-iphone-blackberry-google-android-and-the-mobile-suprasphere

It starts by evaluating the iPhone and Blackberry, but then goes very in depth into the overall issue of privacy and network services.
posted by djat at 2:54 PM on March 10, 2008


For what it's worth, scalefree, I remember those posts, and I thought they were some of the most plausible descriptions of what exactly this extralegal surveillance constituted. While Pope Guilty may disagree, I think they were fairly prescient.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:57 PM on March 10, 2008


I'm supposed to be impressed that you predicted that the feds don't give a shit for civil liberties?

No, you're supposed to be impressed that I predicted how the system they'd use for violating our civil liberties worked, namely that the TSP was an SNA-enabled automated targeting service bolted onto sniffers colo'd at IXC NAPs. The whole "subtly soft triggers" thing was about using SNA algorithms to maintain a constantly-changing list of phone numbers, email & IP addresses, merging together the data-mining & surveillance functions, automating the process & co-opting telecoms as partners in the process.

FISA mandates individual warrants for specific targets; when your targeting mechanism is an algorithm rather than a human making choices of who to wiretap, that's no longer possible. Even assuming you could justify each decision, by the time you submitted it & got it approved the list would be out of date & superseded by the next day's run. This is what the FISA fight is really about, that we've put computers in charge of selecting who to wiretap based on who people know, who they talk to. It's a violation of our fundamental Freedom of Association on a grand scale.
posted by scalefree at 3:15 PM on March 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


The wikipedia link is worth clicking on for the Masonic-/Illuminati-inspired logo alone.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:16 PM on March 10, 2008


Somewhat off-topic, the whole TIA mess is one element of a mosaic that I've long seen but only very recently been able to articulate, that our entire approach to terrorism is predicated on what's known in the computer security world as the Castle Defense, the long-discredited concept of building systems with a "crunchy shell & chewy center" that only protect as long as the outer shell stays unbroken. Find a weakness at any point in that hardened outer shell & the whole system becomes vulnerable because the inner parts rely entirely on protection from outside rather than being resilient in & of themselves.

Resilience is the key to security. Once we master that, the rest is gravy.
posted by scalefree at 3:32 PM on March 10, 2008


“I think there is a damn good chance that we will find more corrupt politicians using searches like this than we are going to find Americans engaging in terrorist plots, so by that metric alone, this should be implemented immediately.”

Agreed. Well said. And indeed, terrorist attacks are likely less damaging than corruption (or incompetance).

“I mean, if a hippie kid from Marin can get into a training camp, then WTF,”

You have to fill out the application forms properly. Also you must kick very high while wearing ninja facemasks and be able to swing through monkey bars.

What amounts to “evidence” in the media and political driven prosecution does not equal the reality of the needs of counterterrorism nor the uselessness of mechanization in intellegence gathering and inevitable domestic rights abuses by those political forces.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:40 PM on March 10, 2008


Obnubilation. Awesome, just awesome.

In all seriousness, this is the best news I've read all week. This story's timing is perfect in that it might give the House the leverage it needs to keep retroactive immunity for the telcos out of any possible bill.

I agree, my continued despondence over the state of the union is somewhat buoyed by the fact that the wheels do seem to be coming off of all of this.
posted by LooseFilter at 3:44 PM on March 10, 2008


quonsar that cleared up the intellingence thingee, many thanks!
posted by Rancid Badger at 3:51 PM on March 10, 2008


I was told by the NSA that, due to retroactive immunity from liability, there would be no financial renumeration for them spying on me.

But on my death bed I would achieve Total Information Awareness. So I got that going for me.
posted by tkchrist at 4:21 PM on March 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Total Information Awareness seems to not have died, but to have just been quietly absorbed into the NSA's already extensive surveillance apparatus, all without the hassle of any kind of transparency or oversight.

Duh?
posted by Revvy at 4:50 PM on March 10, 2008


Anti-Real ID Rebellion Spreads to California
posted by homunculus at 5:52 PM on March 10, 2008


AT&T Whistle Blower: 'Congress Wants To Cover It Up'
posted by homunculus at 5:53 PM on March 10, 2008


the Masonic-/Illuminati-inspired logo

i have a t-shirt with that on the front. on the back it says "Be a Good American. Don't Ask Questions."

someone had them for sale on cafe press back when TIA was announced.
posted by quonsar at 7:58 PM on March 10, 2008


@guin: The transparent society argument, that it will be OK for authorities to surveil citizens as long as citizens have similar information about the authorities, was recently deftly debunked by Bruce Schneier.
posted by Harkins_ at 8:21 PM on March 10, 2008


How about RFID's required for work. No chip, No problem, No work. This takes spying to a whole new level.
posted by Rancid Badger at 8:23 PM on March 10, 2008


Impeachment. That is all.

Because the second thing Obama will do is put an end to surveillance.

The first thing he will do is take us all for ice cream.
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:41 PM on March 10, 2008


How about the time Gen. Michael Hayden argued with a reporter over whether the Fourth Amendment contained the phrase "probable cause"? Hayden maintained that it did not. Classic.
posted by mlis at 9:55 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


How about RFID's required for work. No chip, No problem, No work. This takes spying to a whole new level.

But will a badass cyclops mutant woman chase me down insisting that she implant a chip in me?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:57 PM on March 10, 2008


I agree, my continued despondence over the state of the union is somewhat buoyed by the fact that the wheels do seem to be coming off of all of this.

There are five times as many comments in the Spitzer/prostitutes thread next door as there are here. If Metafilter in any way reflects the concerns and priorities of the US at large, then I remain despondent.
posted by oncogenesis at 12:04 AM on March 11, 2008


This is why I execute all of my foreign espionage on a face-to-face basis, and avoid using electronic devices for any such business transactions. This way I will avoid becoming a target for surveillance.
posted by davejay at 12:43 AM on March 11, 2008


Oops!
posted by davejay at 12:43 AM on March 11, 2008


Debunking the FISA/PAA Myths
posted by homunculus at 1:10 AM on March 11, 2008


If Metafilter in any way reflects the concerns and priorities of the US at large

Wait.... there's tax-free food here?
posted by pompomtom at 5:33 AM on March 11, 2008


The transparent society argument, that it will be OK for authorities to surveil citizens as long as citizens have similar information about the authorities, was recently deftly debunked by Bruce Schneier.

Bruce wrote an interesting blog post but David Brin wrote a whole book on the subject, plus several hundred posts on his own blog. I hardly think the concept of the Transparent Society has been definitively put down, no matter how smart Bruce is. Before you start sounding its death knell, you should at least give Brin a chance to write a reply, no?
posted by scalefree at 10:53 AM on March 11, 2008


House Surveillance Bill Contains Provision to Aid Telecom Suits
posted by homunculus at 11:14 AM on March 11, 2008


Okay, if it's so hard to penetrate AQ, then how come there's that American guy...
...And there's Jose Padilla. And John Lindh.

I mean, if a hippie kid from Marin can get into a training camp, then WTF, CIA?


Those people walked the walk. Take your typical agent. White. Educated. Lives in the burbs. Does he want to spend the next five years in a shithole lifestyle, never seeing his wife or kids? Never setting foot in his house or SUV, sharing some crappy apartment with "fellow" devout followers, becoming part of their community?

How much would you have to pay someone to do that? And how persuasive can that money even be when they can't spend or benefit from it while walking the walk, and could well be killed if, once deep enough, Karl Rove decides to blow their cover as political revenge, if someone connected to the agent goes public that the administration is lying about what the intelligence really says. Last time Rove did that, everyone got away with it. Even the one guy who took a conviction in order to block the investigation, was saved by a Presidential intervention.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:54 AM on March 11, 2008


“Because the second thing Obama will do is put an end to surveillance.”

Uh, actually, yeah. The republicans aren’t going to want a democratic president with that kind of juice and the dems, well, Obama doesn’t have the kind of voltage Clinton carries so he’s not going to be able to dictate to the party, so same deal, they’re going to want a weaker chief executive and more control in the congress.

I strongly suspect one of the first orders of business will be stripping power from the executive branch for both sides whether Obama likes it or not. And he’ll probably like it. Given his position he’s going to have to listen more than push, at least for the first term. I mean look at the Dem campaign as a whole - the infighting all that. Clinton is still going to be a big wheel if she loses. The fact that she can smear crap all over everything and he has to stay clean is pretty indicative of what his first term is going to be like. He’s going to have to play ball to get any of his policies moving forward and all of his support comes from the grassroots so he’s going to have to get into those fundimental issues.
He’s pretty much tailor made for this.
Whereas Clinton would have a bully pulpit, especially with a democratic congress behind her and whether the republicans or the grassroots like it or not they’d have to go along (otherwise no backing for them in the races, yeah?). With Obama that control runs from the bottom up, not top down.

...what, you don’t think I’m pro-Obama just ‘cos he’s black do you?
although he is from Illinois
posted by Smedleyman at 1:27 PM on March 11, 2008


And if they’re gay, y’know, that’s a friggin catastrophe.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:05 PM on March 10


And if they're Sibel Edmonds and you if you've been gagged by your whistle-blower status, it could be another.

These assholes really haven't tried at all, have they? It's all CoIntelPro, I tell ya!
posted by vhsiv at 3:34 PM on March 11, 2008


Those people walked the walk. Take your typical agent. White. Educated. Lives in the burbs. Does he want to spend the next five years in a shithole lifestyle, never seeing his wife or kids? Never setting foot in his house or SUV, sharing some crappy apartment with "fellow" devout followers, becoming part of their community?

Well, shit, there are guys who've gone underground for years to infiltrate the Mafia, or big drug gangs. It just seems weird to me that cops, the BATF, and Treasury can recruit guys who can and will do that, but the CIA and those other 3-letter agencies can't seem to swing it. The CIA even has people who walked the walk as spies in the former USSR, and do the same now, I'm sure, in different places.

And haven't we been told again and again that this is a long war? Shouldn't our intelligence agencies have figured out by now that infiltrating these groups should be part of our longterm strategy, and plan accordingly?

Lindh and the other guy got religion, went overseas, were apparently more or less immediately accepted, and while Lindh's in jail, Gadahn is allegedly pretty close to AQ higher-ups in Pakistan. If one hippie kid from Marin and one hippie kid from SoCal can do this, I say again, WTF, CIA?
posted by rtha at 3:55 PM on March 11, 2008


rtha:
Institutional competence rapidly disappears without at least some form of accountability. 3-letter agencies shielded by total secrecy thus need not be concerned with either of those. :-(
posted by -harlequin- at 4:02 PM on March 11, 2008


I know. It's just something I get all ranty about sometimes.
posted by rtha at 4:06 PM on March 11, 2008


Total Informationa Awareness, Eliot Spitzer, Valerie Plame, Gov. Don Siegelman, Fredo Gonzales' hijinks at DOJ -- has anyone actually realized that the Bush Administration has INSTITUTIONALIZED the misconduct of the Nixon Administration?

Just an observation.
posted by vhsiv at 1:32 AM on March 12, 2008


Hoover-Era Spying on Father Motivated Anti-Wiretapping Plaintiff
posted by homunculus at 10:22 AM on March 13, 2008


House Democrats: Classified Documents Show Telcos Don't Deserve Amnesty

Congress Holds Rare, Secret Spying Session Thursday
posted by homunculus at 2:53 PM on March 13, 2008


House Passes Spy Bill, Rejects Telcom Amnesty Despite Veto Threat
posted by homunculus at 5:39 PM on March 14, 2008


President weakens espionage oversight
posted by homunculus at 9:43 PM on March 15, 2008


And if they're Sibel Edmonds and you if you've been gagged by your whistle-blower status, it could be another.

Speaking of Edmonds, Bill Moyers just did a piece on going after the whistleblowers.
posted by homunculus at 9:43 AM on March 17, 2008


Qwest CEO Gets New Trial, But Not For Pre-9/11 Domestic Spying Claims
posted by homunculus at 3:17 PM on March 17, 2008


Wiretapping's true danger: History says we should worry less about privacy and more about political spying.
posted by homunculus at 3:19 PM on March 17, 2008


Debate and Protest at Spy Program’s Inception
posted by homunculus at 10:12 AM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Eric Lichtblau on Exposing the NSA’s Warrantless Wiretapping Program and How the White House Pressured the New York Times to Kill the Story
posted by homunculus at 9:33 AM on April 1, 2008


Today's Must Read
posted by homunculus at 10:56 AM on April 1, 2008


"NEW YORK (AP) -- The military is using the FBI to skirt legal restrictions on domestic surveillance to obtain private records of Americans' Internet service providers, financial institutions and telephone companies, the ACLU said Tuesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union based its conclusion on a review of more than 1,000 documents turned over by the Defense Department after it sued the agency last year for documents related to national security letters. The lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court."

Wow, this country is so neat! The DoD wants my phone and ISP records why, exactly?
posted by rtha at 3:35 PM on April 1, 2008


Countdown: Mukasey’s FISA Fables - Lies or Admissions?
posted by homunculus at 9:27 AM on April 2, 2008


Fusion Centers Analyzing Reams of Americans' Personal Infromation
posted by homunculus at 1:43 PM on April 2, 2008


Telecom Whistleblower Discovers Circuit that Allows Access to All Systems on Wireless Carrier—Phone Calls, Text Messages, Emails and More
posted by homunculus at 9:22 AM on April 10, 2008


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