PRISM and Stellar Wind Programs

CBS reports that the PRISM program is an arm of the Stellar Wind program.

A top-secret arm of the controversial Stellar Wind program set up in the wake of 9/11 is allowing the National Security Agency and the FBI to tap directly into the central servers of nine major Internet companies to extract audio, video, photos, emails and documents that let analysts track an individual's communication, CBS News has learned.

The program, called PRISM, was established in 2007, according to The Washington Post, which broke the story Thursday evening. CBS News senior correspondent John Miller said it doesn't deal with names but was designed as a way for the government to track suspected terrorists. It culls metadata from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple and will soon include Dropbox.

The Stellar Wind program was revealed a few years ago by NSA Whistleblower William Binney and James Banford. (video here.) He says it is a domestic spying program: [More...]

“Domestically, they’re pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you’re doing. So the government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it’s a very dangerous process.”

In May, 2012, in response to an inquiry by Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, Charles McCullough, Inspector General of the Intelligence Community wrote.

The facility to store the massive records allegedly was built in the middle of nowhere in Bluffdale, Utah.

Thank you for your 4 May 2012 letter requesting that my office and the National Security Agency (NSA) Inspector General (IG) determine the feasibility of estimating "how many people inside the United States have had their communications collected or reviewed under the authorities granted by section 702" of the FISA
Amendment Act (FAA). On 21 May 2012, I informed you that the NSA Inspector General, George Ellard, would be taking the lead on the requested feasibility assessment, as his office could provide an expedited response to this important
inquiry. The NSA IG provided a classified response on 6 June 2012. I defer to his conclusion that obtaining such an estimate was beyond the capacity of his office and dedicating sufficient additional resources would likely impede the NSA's mission. He further stated that his office and NSA leadership agreed that an IG review of the sort suggested would itself violate the privacy of U.S. persons.

According to the Wasington Post:

PRISM was launched from the ashes of President George W. Bush’s secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced the president to look for new authority.

Binney is one of a few NSA Whistleblowers who has helped the EFF with their lawsuits. He's been raided, but never arrested.

One of the suspected terrorists they used the data on was Colorado's Najibulla Zazi.

National Intelligence Director James Clapper said last night he will immediately unseal some of the NSA documents to show the descriptions of the program are inaccurate, and that the comply with the law and have sufficient oversight both by judges and DOJ.

Apparently, their reasoning is that the acquisition and storing of the documents don't constitute a search. It's only a search when they go through the documents, and before they do that, they get an appropriate order.

The Telecomms and Social Media Sites who are named as targets have all said they never heard of the program or cooperated with it. It's beyond my tech skills to know if that's possible.

Meanwhile, Clapper says he's immediately releasing some classified details about how the use NSL letters and Section 215. He says they don't spy on Americans.

Clapper also announced that he was declassifying some information about the "business records" provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He said that by the order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the government "is prohibited from indiscriminately sifting through the telephony metadata acquired under the program," and that the data collected is under strict review and overseen by the Department of Justice and the Court. He also added that the Court reviews the program about every 90 days; and that the Patriot Act of 2001 has the power to require the furnishing of records "relevant to an authorized national security investigation with the approval of the FISC."

Binney's affidavit, filed in the EFF lawsuit Jewell v. U.S. states:

The NSA has the capability to do individualized searches, similar to Google, for particular electronic communications in real time through such criteria as target addresses, locations, countries and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email. The NSA also has the capability to seize and store most electronic 5 communications passing through its U.S. intercept centers. The wholesale collection of data allows the NSA to identify and analyze Entities or Communities oflnterest later in a static database. Based on my proximity to the PSP and my years of experience at the NSA, I can draw informed conclusions from the available facts. Those facts indicate that the NSA is doing both.

More here.

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    The Guardian has more and it's (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Anne on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 08:12:17 AM EST
    about as chilling as anything I've learned - and it tells me I was right to laugh out loud at Clapper's assurances:

    A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.


    The presentation claims PRISM was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a "home-field advantage" due to housing much of the internet's architecture. But the presentation claimed "Fisa constraints restricted our home-field advantage" because Fisa required individual warrants and confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US.

    "Fisa was broken because it provided privacy protections to people who were not entitled to them," the presentation claimed. "It took a Fisa court order to collect on foreigners overseas who were communicating with other foreigners overseas simply because the government was collecting off a wire in the United States. There were too many email accounts to be practical to seek Fisas for all."

    The new measures introduced in the FAA redefines "electronic surveillance" to exclude anyone "reasonably believed" to be outside the USA - a technical change which reduces the bar to initiating surveillance.

    The act also gives the director of national intelligence and the attorney general power to permit obtaining intelligence information, and indemnifies internet companies against any actions arising as a result of co-operating with authorities' requests.

    In short, where previously the NSA needed individual authorisations, and confirmation that all parties were outside the USA, they now need only reasonable suspicion that one of the parties was outside the country at the time of the records were collected by the NSA.

    The document also shows the FBI acts as an intermediary between other agencies and the tech companies, and stresses its reliance on the participation of US internet firms, claiming "access is 100% dependent on ISP provisioning".

    The post is too long to quote here - but well worth reading.  If anyone asks why your hair is standing on end, or seems to be on fire, just give them the link.

    I'm sure the talking point will be that this program is only targeting foreign communications, but the standard of "reasonably believed" is about as broad as it could be.  Further, the assurance of FISA court "strict review and oversight" is no assurance at all, given the rubber-stamp nature of its approvals.

    Off-grid is looking better all the time.

    More from the Guardian: (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 11:35:06 AM EST
    Uber cooperative (none / 0) (#54)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 03:10:15 PM EST
    Churchill is flipping out on a different plane peering in at this special relationship enabling of fascism.

    I just sent (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Zorba on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 12:41:27 PM EST
    another check to the ACLU.  And I'm going to send one to The Electronics Frontier Foundation, as well.
    "Reasonable suspicion," my @ss.
    I don't even recognize this country any more.  Not that all kinds of shenanigans did not occur in the past.........

    Binney's takeway: "We are this far," (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 09:49:15 AM EST
    he says, as he holds his thumb and forefinger close together. "We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state."

    If (none / 0) (#22)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 12:30:49 PM EST
    If Obama only knew.

    As someone with a strong tech background, (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Farmboy on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 10:13:20 AM EST
    it's obvious that much of what the program as described relies on is the personal information that the public openly provided to Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and the rest. And the gov't certainly doesn't need those companies to provide our identification to them; we do that ourselves every April 15th.

    Spying isn't the right term to use when folks freely and openly Tweet every thought that they have, post embarrassing selfies on tumblr and facebook, and search Amazon for copies of the Anarchist Cookbook. That the gov't wants to perform a Google search on the data that we share with the world of our own volition doesn't surprise me one bit. We put the information out there for the sole purpose of being shared.

    I think I'm going to write an app where people can actually see the giant billboard they've erected on the internet; the digital equivalent of Marley's chains.

    I wear the chain I forged in life! I made it link by link and yard by yard! I gartered it on of my own free will and by my own free will, I wore it!

    I don't think... (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Dadler on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 10:40:09 AM EST
    ...it's Mary Jo Dillweed's facebook posts that are getting the attention. It's one thing to look at personal stuff we've made public, it's quite another to look at phone records, texts, etc., which were never intended to be public. Combine that with a federal government with a long and proven track record of psychological incompetence, and ultimately you will get a lot of innocent people swept up into bullshit started by the halfwits who work in lonely rooms at NSA.

    no profanity please (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 10:49:54 AM EST
    I don't believe in the magical AI tracking (none / 0) (#13)
    by Farmboy on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 11:05:53 AM EST
    system from the Person of Interest TV show, and that seems to be what is imagined by many folks talking about this topic. That said, my point is that for the PRISM system (as revealed) to function it doesn't need much more than the information we share publicly every day.

    I don't think it's capable, despite the scary talk, of active monitoring. Recording every image, tweet, blog post, etc, that goes across the internet would require all the resources of the internet, plus more. It's like the com sci variant on Godel's Incompleteness Theorem; a system containing itself can't analyze itself.  I'm willing to bet it's set up as a passive resource, so that when some NSA analyst needs to look up a person they access that person's online info. That's when they find that Mary Jo Dillweed runs a Tim McVeigh fansite, not before.

    Besides, if the gov't was actually monitoring every bit of anti-american sentiment on the internet, much of the Fox news audience would be in secret FEMA camps right now.


    You're optimistic. (5.00 / 3) (#17)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 11:48:37 AM EST
    Firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities, is what drove a career intelligence officer to provide PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials to The Washington Post in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy. "They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type," the officer said.

    Well linked (none / 0) (#30)
    by Slado on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 01:54:44 PM EST
    The idea that this government has earned our trust after Bush and Obama is simply laughable.

    One could only believe it because they want to.   The government has gone out of it's way to abuse our trust in it these past few years.  

    Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  -Lord Action

    Power corrupts.. (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by jondee on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 01:59:38 PM EST
    so, that would apply to the one percent, as well?

    What career intelligence officer is that? (none / 0) (#51)
    by Farmboy on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 02:53:27 PM EST
    The guy who ran to China had only been working for a defense contractor for a few months before he decided to leak the presentation. To whom are you referring?

    I think you need to brush up on (5.00 / 1) (#53)
    by Anne on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 03:03:48 PM EST
    your facts:

    In 2003, he enlisted in the US army and began a training program to join the Special Forces. Invoking the same principles that he now cites to justify his leaks, he said: "I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression".

    He recounted how his beliefs about the war's purpose were quickly dispelled. "Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone," he said. After he broke both his legs in a training accident, he was discharged.

    After that, he got his first job in an NSA facility, working as a security guard for one of the agency's covert facilities at the University of Maryland. From there, he went to the CIA, where he worked on IT security. His understanding of the internet and his talent for computer programming enabled him to rise fairly quickly for someone who lacked even a high school diploma.

    By 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland. His responsibility for maintaining computer network security meant he had clearance to access a wide array of classified documents.

    That access, along with the almost three years he spent around CIA officers, led him to begin seriously questioning the rightness of what he saw.


    He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he "watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in", and as a result, "I got hardened."

    The primary lesson from this experience was that "you can't wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act."

    Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA's surveillance activities were, claiming "they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them".


    Would I call Snowden a "career intelligence officer?"  No.  But I wouldn't call him someone who "ran to China" after working for a defense contractor for "a few months," either.


    Unless Politico is wrong - which I wouldn't (none / 0) (#59)
    by Farmboy on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 03:38:58 PM EST
    put past them - they report:

    Booz Allen said Sunday night that Snowden had been its employee for less than three months.


    I also read that he left the job at BA to "hole up" in a hotel room in China. Could you please cite a source to back up your statement that he didn't run off to China? Thanks.


    I was thinking the same thing (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by ruffian on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 11:03:34 AM EST
    They do not need any cooperation from Google or Facebook to collect and connect all the publicly available stuff. Not saying they are not getting that cooperation, but they could find out plenty on their own.

    These days we exist to be monetized or criminalized.


    They do not need cooperation... (none / 0) (#18)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 11:50:41 AM EST
    Nonsense.  Much of Facebook and Google, et al, is hidden behind what are advertised as privacy walls.  Not that Facebook and Google, et al, aren't already mining that data.

    Privacy Policy? (none / 0) (#20)
    by vicndabx on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 12:02:08 PM EST

    The types of information listed below are always publicly available, and are treated just like information you decided to make public.

    ◾ Name

    This helps your friends and family find you. If you are uncomfortable sharing your real name, you can always  delete  your account.

    ◾ Profile Pictures and Cover Photos

    These help your friends and family recognize you. If you are uncomfortable making any of these photos public, you can always delete it. Unless you delete them, when you add a new profile picture or cover photo, the previous photo will remain public in your profile picture or cover photo album.

    ◾ Network

    This helps you see whom you will be sharing information with before you choose "Friends and Networks" as a custom audience. If you are uncomfortable making your network public, you can  leave the network .

    ◾ Gender

    This allows us to refer to you properly.

    ◾ Username and User ID

    These allow you to give out a custom link to your timeline or Page, receive email at your Facebook email address, and help make Facebook Platform possible. Learn more.

    Content shared with the custom audience (none / 0) (#21)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 12:17:59 PM EST
    only is what I referred to.  That's what the NSA wanted and what it has been given.

    You won't find me arguing with YOU (none / 0) (#24)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 12:47:44 PM EST
    About this topic:)

    Pure Non-Sense... (5.00 / 8) (#25)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 12:50:00 PM EST
    ...I am a very private person I do not consider a Google search, email, phone records, voice chats, file transfers, purchases, or my GPS location public data.

    I do not use any kind of social networking, I post regularly on about 3 websites, but I not not use any information could be linked to me.  Do this day I am still feuding with Linked in over them publishing my work number and address.  I don't have an account with them.

    Data that I, and most people consider private should have the expectation of privacy.  Jesus, half the emails I receive at work are stamped with some sort of privacy statement.  If the government considered that public data then I would be a rich man, cause there is a lot of information they currently consider private and if I used that say work the stock market, I would be in jail.  

    If I send a letter I expect it will be private, and that is using the government to deliver it.  Matter of fact, there are penalties if someone violates that privacy.  What you are suggesting is not using one of the best inventions of mankind if I expect privacy.  Is this true for all grand inventions or just this one ?

    Spying is what this is.  Observing secretly without the person's knowledge or consent.  I can't believe you even suggested that my required financials disclosures to the government is relatively the same as them secretly recording my daily movements and internet usage.  They why is it a fricken secret ?

    I got news for Uncle Same, Bin Laden wasn't Skyping on his iPhone 5 via his AT&T friends and family plan.

    Sop far they have came out sand said they have thwarted one terrorist act.  That is seriously their defense.

    And FB, I am really disappointed in your view on this one, normally I am with you and like your insights, but this is mindbogglingly.  If they want to peruse data people purposely put in the public square, fine, but not stuff that is intended to be private.

    How is this a reasonable search, it is data mining, no different then going into everyone home and having a look.  The reason why is irrelevant.  The data should be purged, law should be written to prevent such non-sense, and the people who are responsible should be fired.  Obama is supposedly some kind of Constitutional scholar, so he should really be held to the flame.  Government officials need to start realizing the aren't above the law.


    Bravo, Scott (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by shoephone on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 12:59:09 PM EST
    You've said pretty much everything I was thinking, and said it well.

    You're not as private as you think (5.00 / 2) (#28)
    by jbindc on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 12:59:10 PM EST
    Companies are doing this all the time to monitor your buying habits and to target ads to you.  Yes, I realize this is different than the government doing it, but who is to say the NSA isn't watching this kind of stuff too?

    The desire to collect information on customers is not new for Target or any other large retailer, of course. For decades, Target has collected vast amounts of data on every person who regularly walks into one of its stores. Whenever possible, Target assigns each shopper a unique code -- known internally as the Guest ID number -- that keeps tabs on everything they buy. "If you use a credit card or a coupon, or fill out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we've sent you or visit our Web site, we'll record it and link it to your Guest ID," Pole said. "We want to know everything we can."

    Also linked to your Guest ID is demographic information like your age, whether you are married and have kids, which part of town you live in, how long it takes you to drive to the store, your estimated salary, whether you've moved recently, what credit cards you carry in your wallet and what Web sites you visit. Target can buy data about your ethnicity, job history, the magazines you read, if you've ever declared bankruptcy or got divorced, the year you bought (or lost) your house, where you went to college, what kinds of topics you talk about online, whether you prefer certain brands of coffee, paper towels, cereal or applesauce, your political leanings, reading habits, charitable giving and the number of cars you own. (In a statement, Target declined to identify what demographic information it collects or purchases.) All that information is meaningless, however, without someone to analyze and make sense of it. That's where Andrew Pole and the dozens of other members of Target's Guest Marketing Analytics department come in.

    Almost every major retailer, from grocery chains to investment banks to the U.S. Postal Service, has a "predictive analytics" department devoted to understanding not just consumers' shopping habits but also their personal habits, so as to more efficiently market to them. "But Target has always been one of the smartest at this," says Eric Siegel, a consultant and the chairman of a conference called Predictive Analytics World. "We're living through a golden age of behavioral research. It's amazing how much we can figure out about how people think now."

    The reason Target can snoop on our shopping habits is that, over the past two decades, the science of habit formation has become a major field of research in neurology and psychology departments at hundreds of major medical centers and universities, as well as inside extremely well financed corporate labs. "It's like an arms race to hire statisticians nowadays," said Andreas Weigend, the former chief scientist at Amazon.com. "Mathematicians are suddenly sexy." As the ability to analyze data has grown more and more fine-grained, the push to understand how daily habits influence our decisions has become one of the most exciting topics in clinical research, even though most of us are hardly aware those patterns exist. One study from Duke University estimated that habits, rather than conscious decision-making, shape 45 percent of the choices we make every day, and recent discoveries have begun to change everything from the way we think about dieting to how doctors conceive treatments for anxiety, depression and addictions.

    This research is also transforming our understanding of how habits function across organizations and societies. A football coach named Tony Dungy propelled one of the worst teams in the N.F.L. to the Super Bowl by focusing on how his players habitually reacted to on-field cues. Before he became Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill overhauled a stumbling conglomerate, Alcoa, and turned it into a top performer in the Dow Jones by relentlessly attacking one habit -- a specific approach to worker safety -- which in turn caused a companywide transformation. The Obama campaign has hired a habit specialist as its "chief scientist" to figure out how to trigger new voting patterns among different constituencies.

    Researchers have figured out how to stop people from habitually overeating and biting their nails. They can explain why some of us automatically go for a jog every morning and are more productive at work, while others oversleep and procrastinate. There is a calculus, it turns out, for mastering our subconscious urges. For companies like Target, the exhaustive rendering of our conscious and unconscious patterns into data sets and algorithms has revolutionized what they know about us and, therefore, how precisely they can sell.

    I am Aware... (5.00 / 2) (#29)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 01:28:05 PM EST
    ...but I know what say Google collects they aren't linking it to my name.  Nor is most of the date they collect, is behavioral science with the ultimate goal of selling me more crap.  They are, for the most part, open about it. I know what is going on for the most part and I can control most of it.

    My browser has a private setting that keeps the data they collect to what I let them.  I do not use shopping habit cards and politely refuse even my zip when asked.

    I know work is watching every second and while I am sure I have slipped, it's not a secret and it's not the government doing it without my knowledge or the ability to opt out when I want.

    I have an app on my phone that only allows GPS data when I open certain apps.  It's a battery saver so I am not doing it for privacy, or rather I wasn't.  But the larger point here is I can control most of it, bits and pieces here by private business isn't even on the same planet at the government collecting everything.

    For one, Google isn't throw me on the no fly list or one of their dark holes because of some glitch.  Nor will they ever make some law in 30 years in which my every move throughout my life is somehow a factor.  They might milk me for a couple extra bucks, sucks, but I can live with that.


    And What Are They Doing With It ? (5.00 / 2) (#38)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 04:12:39 PM EST
    Filling up my mailbox, targeting ads, the information they sell is to get me to drop a couple bucks.  I hate it, but that is something I know about and made the informed decision to use their very useful services, at times, in trade for them letting other businesses try and sell me stuff.  They don't connect names to the data, it's behavioral marketing.  If that policy changes I will probably revise by current behavior or not, but it's still my decision and I can obtain the facts if I choose to do so.

    With the government, there is no benefit beyond them telling me it's for my own good, nor is there a limit on what they collect.  There is no informed decision or opting out by using a competitors services, it's straight up data mining and they have the vast amounts of data to cross reference with stuff Google doesn't, like medical records, services records, school records, records that most of us would consider extremely private.  I don't believe for a second they aren't attaching names to the data.  It would not make sense to not have a terrorist name if you are trying to keep them from committing a terrorist act.

    One of the biggest fears I have, is when the idiots run the country into the ground and need cash, there is a pile of gold sitting in them there servers.   Data they presume to be theirs.  I don't want my life's digital imprint to be currency for anyone, especially a weakening and desperate government.  Russia's 'secretive' files open like no ones business, and those were actual manilla folder with paper and not nearly as vast.


    Google collects all the info they can find out (none / 0) (#32)
    by Farmboy on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 02:53:52 PM EST
    about you, with the sole purpose of selling it. Selling you to other corporations is how they make the majority of their money.

    Not only that, they've been caught violating browser privacy settings and hiding tracking information on your machine outside of the normally expected locations. Street view paid for itself because as they drove up and down city streets their vehicles sniffed out unprotected wifi networks, accessed them, and captured as much personal data they could.

    This is all public knowledge, yet millions use Google every minute. The only way to stay clear of Mountain View is to start with a fresh hard drive and OS installation, then never use them for searches or social media ever again. BTW, guess what Microsoft does the data it captures when you use Bing? Yep, that's right...


    Well said, Farmboy (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by christinep on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 03:12:00 PM EST
    And, what is so hard to comprehend is that a number of people cannot see or comprehend how when they blab about their own every move--via email, social media, or on a cell phone yakking loudly about every "private" aspect of life--they are erecting a billboard, blaring the personal tidbits from the rooftops, and/or putting a full=pager in the newspaper.  

    We (the collective "we," that is) talk about privacy rights, but so many act as if the brains seeped out the ears as their actions negate any professed privacy concerns.  Maybe this national "lets stop & take a look" can serve to awaken individual awareness as well.  If not, then we really have dumbed-ourselves-down.


    I am having a hard time understanding (5.00 / 4) (#36)
    by Anne on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 03:35:23 PM EST
    how it is anyone's business what I search for on Google, or who I call on my cell phone or land line, or who is calling me, or who I am having e-mail conversations with.  I should not have to feel that, in choosing to call my daughters, I am on a party line - remember those? - with the government, and that picking up the phone was the point where permission was granted.  I should not have to feel that the NSA is a "cc" or "bcc" on every e-mail I send or receive.

    Yes, we've all been privy to one end of other people's conversations, but how does not being discreet about the volume level of one's voice translate to permission for the government to have access to one's phone number, the numbers you're calling, how long you're on the phone, where you were when the call took place, etc?  So, you heard Susie Smith having an argument with someone, or you heard a man discussing his business meeting - does the simple fact that you, as an individual, can hear mean that person - and all the rest of us, by extension - have to surrender our rights to the government?

    The argument you are making is about 16 kinds of wrong, in my opinion, and seems like an adjunct to "if you're not doing anything wrong, what's the problem?"


    When you put something in the public venue (none / 0) (#39)
    by christinep on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 04:23:11 PM EST
    it stays in the public venue.  We may not like it -- and I don't like it--but, that is the way it works.  A kind of analogy:  When it is in "plain sight" or "clear view" there may be an implied waiver of "privacy."  An anecdote from years ago:  A young attorney, whom I once supervised, believed that there were all kinds of legal ways to keep certain documents private; among other things, he had allowed himself to scribble what might best be described as "doggerel" in a file; when the federal judge, at a later date, ordered that the full file be released, he found out about the practicalities of things; he didn't like the result, and, meanwhile, I continued to preach about the value of discretion or some such sermon.

    My primary point here: Putting it all out there can be wonderful ... but, when I do that, I assume that some of the words could come back to me in ways that aren't what was intended.  I've learned that lesson more than a few times in life.  It isn't about excess caution; only about what has always been a part of life.  The Internet is really no different...only more hard-hitting, in view of the certainty that certain misbegotten commentary does not get erased & can hit one square in the face.


    Forget reading our texts and listening (5.00 / 4) (#47)
    by caseyOR on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 03:40:49 AM EST
    to our phone calls and scouring Facebook pages. This isn't about all the things we put in the public venue. All that is needed to track you and create a very accurate reading of your day-to-life is the meta-data.

    Who are you calling and who is calling you? Where have you been, (easy to find because cell phones constantly ping towers even when turned off) ? What topics are you searching on google? Who is sending you email? Who are you emailing?

    Was this meta-data used to track and disrupt the Occupy groups? We already know Homeland Security coordinated with law enforcement around the country to deal with Occupy groups. There is nothing to stop them from using this data.

    Jane Mayer wrote a short piece for The New Yorker the other day that describes how invasive meta-data mining really is.

    For example, she said, in the world of business, a pattern of phone calls from key executives can reveal impending corporate takeovers. Personal phone calls can also reveal sensitive medical information: "You can see a call to a gynecologist, and then a call to an oncologist, and then a call to close family members." And information from cell-phone towers can reveal the caller's location. Metadata, she pointed out, can be so revelatory about whom reporters talk to in order to get sensitive stories that it can make more traditional tools in leak investigations, like search warrants and subpoenas, look quaint. "You can see the sources," she said. When the F.B.I. obtains such records from news agencies, the Attorney General is required to sign off on each invasion of privacy. When the N.S.A. sweeps up millions of records a minute, it's unclear if any such brakes are applied.

    Metadata, Landau noted, can also reveal sensitive political information, showing, for instance, if opposition leaders are meeting, who is involved, where they gather, and for how long. Such data can reveal, too, who is romantically involved with whom, by tracking the locations of cell phones at night.

    This is important. What is happening is wrong. There is no good reason for monitoring the private lives of Americans like this. No good reason.


    Who needs internal passports (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by Mr Natural on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 08:24:45 AM EST
    when you can combine publicly available info with metadata?

    Green party politician Malte Spitz sued to have German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom hand over six months of his phone data that he then made available to ZEIT ONLINE. We combined this geolocation data with information relating to his life as a politician, such as Twitter feeds, blog entries and websites, all of which is all freely available on the internet.....  By pushing the play button, you will set off on a trip through Malte Spitz's life.


    We don't even need to go that far (none / 0) (#48)
    by jbindc on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 06:08:41 AM EST
    How about the fact that reporters were being spied upon?  Think that's any different?

    It's Google's business what you do on Google. (none / 0) (#50)
    by Farmboy on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 02:50:53 PM EST
    It's their service. You agreed to hand over ownership of everything you place on it when you started using it.

    And it's not just Google search. If you use Google Mail, Google Maps, Google Docs, Google Earth, Google Whatever, you give them permission to do what they want with the information you hand them.

    Perhaps you didn't read the fine print. It was there. Here, let me help:

    Google's privacy policies explain how we treat your personal data and protect your privacy when you use our Services. By using our Services, you agree that Google can use such data in accordance with our privacy policies.

    When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

    They warned us, and yet, we use them.

    Google Terms of Service


    The question is (none / 0) (#52)
    by shoephone on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 02:57:29 PM EST
    Whether it's the government's business what we do on Google.

    Is it? Why?


    Anne's question was whose business is it (5.00 / 1) (#58)
    by Farmboy on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 03:30:05 PM EST
    when she uses Google. It quit being Anne's business as soon as she started typing in the search field.

    Her information became Google's property because she gave it to them, and because she gave them permission to do what they wanted with it. That permission would include Google handing the information over to the gov't if they so choose.

    As to the governments' interest in what we do on Google, I guess that depends on if they have a legal warrant issued upon probable cause, etc. That's not my point; I'm pushing against the idea that the internet is private. It isn't. The gov't doesn't need to copy everything we do or type on the internet; the internet already does that. By using the internet we're painting "Romani Ite Domum!" in big letters. The message is going to be read.


    I think Anne was pretty clear (none / 0) (#62)
    by shoephone on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 04:22:00 PM EST
    that she was questioning the government's right to her private communications when she wrote this:

    I should not have to feel that, in choosing to call my daughters, I am on a party line - remember those? - with the government, and that picking up the phone was the point where permission was granted. I should not have to feel that the NSA is a "cc" or "bcc" on every e-mail I send or receive.

    And I don't think the billboard-on-the-highway analogy is an apt one, though others have used it as well.


    Google does NOT have carte blanche to hand (none / 0) (#64)
    by shoephone on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 04:29:05 PM EST
    over anything to the government, just because they feel like it.

    Good thing you're not a lawyer.


    Carte Blanch (none / 0) (#65)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 06:43:02 PM EST
    If Google feels like it they do have the power to hand over any or all of your information to the government as long as in its discretion, handing over the info is in good faith.
    For legal reasons

    We will share personal information with companies, organizations or individuals outside of Google if we have a good-faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of the information is reasonably necessary to:

    meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.
    enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations.
    detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues.
    protect against harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, our users or the public as required or permitted by law.

    I don't think anyone has any illusions about (none / 0) (#55)
    by Anne on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 03:12:24 PM EST
    our relationship with Google and other search engines; it may be Google's business what I do on Google, but how is that the government's business?  

    I know why I'm doing an online search, I know what I want the information for and how I intend to use it - shouldn't I have the right to know why the government wants that information and what it intends to do with it?  Isn't that reasonable?


    I think what the gov't wants should be warranted (none / 0) (#60)
    by Farmboy on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 03:47:21 PM EST
    under the terms of the fourth amendment. If the gov't gets a legal warrant to search a landfill, do they need to contact every resident whose trash may or may not be in that landfill? Or is the judge's order sufficient for them to proceed with the search?

    That's the sticking point! What the 4th am. allows (none / 0) (#63)
    by shoephone on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 04:26:18 PM EST
    And wouldn't it be great of Congress actually feels compelled to delve into that constitutional issue? Because they sure as he[[ didn't do that when they voted for the Patriot Act -- twice.

    Bull. (5.00 / 4) (#37)
    by nycstray on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 03:49:11 PM EST
    I'd say a majority of us watch what we make public via the internet and cell phone convos. And even those that don't, still are entitled to a right to privacy when they want it.

    They obviously have and know things (none / 0) (#56)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 03:16:27 PM EST
    You aren't putting any place "publicly".  I mean if you buy vitamins on amazon, you aren't announcing it to the whole world.  Our entire existence these days leaves digital tracks, just because it does doesn't mean we gave any sort of consent for anyone to collect all that data and carefully store it in the desert where under some sort of order our whole lives can finally be "processed" for our future trials.

    Phuck these disgusting bastages.


    Yep. (none / 0) (#57)
    by shoephone on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 03:22:35 PM EST
    I also never use or buy anything from Amazon. Talk about a disgusting company...

    But we already know this about Google (5.00 / 2) (#34)
    by shoephone on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 03:15:48 PM EST
    and Bing, and Yahoo, and the rest. And if they are caught violating privacy policies, they should get nailed for it, because they, like Facebook, will face a consumer backlash. They will have to amend their privacy policies. And guess what? Some of us use DuckDuckGo for internet searches, and they do not track any searches or collect information. They're not trying to sell me anything.

    But there's a difference between what private businesses do and what the government does. The 4th amendment was devised so that we are protected from government intrusions into our private lives, our homes, our private communications. When the government violates it, and does so under the excuse of emergency laws like the Patriot Act, it's a danger to the citizens. And when citizens blindly accept the government's justifications that it has to be done secretly, in order to protect us, then we spiral into totalitarianism. It's not something to be blase about, on the premise that companies and some government agencies have already been doing it for awhile, so we should just stop whining.

    Geoffrey Stone's book, Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime, covers a whole array of intrusions by the government, including a an excellent chapter on the Sedition Acts of 1798. He wrote it ten years ago, in response to Bush administration policies over terrorism. It's even more prescient now.


    I'm not a lawyer, but it is my understanding that (5.00 / 1) (#61)
    by Farmboy on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 03:59:15 PM EST
    there is no legal expectation of privacy for much of the information individuals place on the internet. If I'm wrong, great, then perhaps one of the lawyers on this site could point out the law.

    Regardless, I'm speaking from a technical perspective, not attempting (without training) to defend a legal argument. If you rent a billboard along the interstate, you shouldn't be surprised that it is seen. What is on that sign isn't secret because it is so very public.


    How much? (none / 0) (#26)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 12:53:20 PM EST
    I would buy that app, maybe give it out at Christmas too.

    Funny Part (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 03:31:44 PM EST
    I, and many tech geeks like me who are traditionally very liberal, care very little about this issue.  I think I now understand why.

    So many interactions with the internet and tech generally these days bring with them the assumption of giving up privacy.  We know for the most part that everything we google and gmail and facebook and twitter can be accessed by someone without our permission for marketing purposes and otherwise.  The idea that the government, on top of the dozens of people data mining to sell us stuff, is looking at it as well just doesn't bother you if you understand how often you are giving up privacy just by using a site and not reading the click/agreement at the start.  

    In short, if you are using the internet the way most people use the internet, your privacy was lost with what you are posting to google and facebook already.

    Secondly, there is a sense that I think most of us have in the numbers.  In fact the idea that the government is gathering every single phone call on AT&T for example is actually a better fact than if they grabbed a few selected streams.  It's the same as making a personal phone call on a crowded subway and making the same phone call in an elevator with one other person.  The volume of data provides an anonymity that is just fine for almost all of us other than the drug dealer, terrorist or other doer of consistently illegal deeds.  

    I am a liberal so yeah, I know that the government is doing something they maybe shouldn't and yeah the slippery slope and yeah in a few years big brother will have a live stream to someone in the CIA watching me in the bathroom and all of that, but knowing the way most of us use tech and the billions of pieces of data we are pouring into the system, I just don't care all that much.  

    Wish they'd do it in a more transparent way and wish they can find a way to further refine this to target the bad guys but if not? (shrugging shoulders).  

    This is one of the issues in principle and not reality type deals IMHO.

    But again, all of teh technical legal arguments stand on their own and have nothing to do with my thoughts about whether I care.

    Yawn. Billions of emails, phone calls spyed on (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 08:23:57 PM EST
    Anybody remember when the Church Committee was flabbergasted to discover that the CIA had opened a measly 215,000 pieces of mail?

    But, as the apologists are so fond of saying, things are different now.

    They're more efficient.

    Your attempt at conflating all this (none / 0) (#42)
    by christinep on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 09:02:20 PM EST
    is "different now" too.  Look, intercepting & reading our mail and/or wiretapping conversations (or otherwise intercepting the content thereof) is a far cry from matching tons of metadata numbers.  If the latter stops bombs -- which it apparently did foil with regard to our formerly Denver based character in 2009 who wanted-to-blow up the NYC subways together with Al Qaeda--that trade-off is worth it to me in 2013.  

    We are all concerned about government intrusion at any level.  But, we are also concerned about the proven reality of highly techno attacks becoming more evident in this new age.  Don't get me wrong: I am not about to throw out constitutional rights for anyone; but, I am also not willing to sit around wishing realities away.  This is a step by step process ... working with and keeping in mind always the living Constitution.  How to find the balance that gives continued life to our privacy rights as well as the viability of our country.  'Taint simple, McGee (or some old fashioned words to that effect.) IMO, an important starting point is respecting each others different approaches to this dilemma ... it is one of those things that transcends normal politics.


    "If the latter stops bombs" (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 09:05:26 PM EST
    Yeah, it worked great in Boston.

    No: the "starting point" (5.00 / 4) (#46)
    by shoephone on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 11:53:38 PM EST
    is the Constitution itself. The only "step by step" process occurring is the dismantling of those civil liberties that used to underpin the rule of law in this country.

    I say we need a lot more Ben Franklin, a lot less John Adams.


    Senator Frank Church, 1975: (none / 0) (#43)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 09:04:26 PM EST
    "The [National Security Agency's] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."

    Mr. Kafka, meet Mr. Orwell... (5.00 / 2) (#45)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 10:35:25 PM EST
    The Justice Department Says NSA Surveillance Is Legal but Won't Tell You Why.

    The Bush and Obama administrations have together created an elegantly logical box. Most likely through a memo from the Office of Legal Counsel, one or both administrations have persuaded themselves that sucking up the phone records of all Americans is legal. Neither administration has shared that memo, and both have benefited from another part of the Patriot Act that prevents them from having to share it.

    Honestly... (none / 0) (#1)
    by lentinel on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 05:42:06 AM EST
    Would McCain have been worse?

    McCain isn't the topic (none / 0) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 10:48:33 AM EST
    the program is.

    I didn't (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by lentinel on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 11:18:59 AM EST
    mean for McCain to be the topic.

    The "program" is so repressive and un-Democratic, I was moved to wonder whether anything proposed by a Republican could have been worse.

    I guess you would say "yes".

    I simply can't imagine anything worse.

    This "program" puts me in a state of despair.


    How can you say that? (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 11:26:41 AM EST
    Why, [sputter,] Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss are in total agreement.

    I believe if you read (none / 0) (#19)
    by CoralGables on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 11:58:05 AM EST
    you would see it was set up in 2007 under a Republican administration as an alternate to the Bush wiretap program. But it does has the approval of all three branches of government.

    So in answer to your questiom. since it was set up under a Republican president it's safe to say at a minimum it would be exactly the same.


    I read that. (5.00 / 3) (#40)
    by lentinel on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 05:14:52 PM EST
    I know when it was set up.

    I am saying that there was a big stink made about all the change that Obama was going to bring to Washington. All the transparency. How different than that ogre, McCain.

    I'm saying that it is more obvious than ever that both parties are two peas in a rotten pod and it is about time we recognized that fact and stopped lying to ourselves and others about it.

    As I said, my post was not about McCain.
    It was about the fact that a democrat in name only has adopted a republican agenda - a terrible one - and promotes it as good and necessary.  We may as well have elected McCain. Maybe there would have been some resistance to these programs from the democrats had that happened. But, actually, I don't think so.
    They didn't put up much of a fight when Bush was calling the shots - not that he isn't still doing so.