Privacy vs. National Security: Where Should Gov Draw the Line in the Fight Against Terrorism?

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This topic contains 22 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Henry Brown 4 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #179046

    David B. Grinberg

    The revelations about classified NSA surveillance programs per Verizon and PRISM have raised many questions and concerns by citizens and some lawmakers — not the least of which is:

    1) Where should Gov draw the line between protecting privacy of citizens and using secret surveillance to fight terrorism?

    In the wake of the public outcry, the Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, said in a statement:

    • “The surveillance activities published in The Guardian and The Washington Post are lawful and conducted under authorities widely known and discussed, and fully debated and authorized by Congress.”
    • “Their purpose is to obtain foreign intelligence information, including information necessary to thwart terrorist and cyber attacks against the United States and its allies.”

    2) Do the statements by President Obama (“nobody is listening to your telephone calls”) and Director Clapper (above) provide any reassurance to privacy concerns?

    3) Do you generally agree or disagree with the potential effectiveness and legality of these programs? Why or why not?

    Photo Credit: Reuters

    * All views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only.

  • #179090

    Henry Brown

    1. It would be my opinion that the government should in fact protect the privacy of all citizens. Understand that this may not be possible at all times. Would like to think that if there would be a reason for not protecting citizen’s data then transparency is the best solution: Would offer that with the renewal of the Patriot Act, it was announced that NSA was going to use META data to sometimes connect the dots regarding terrorists and other security related issues there might have been some “noise” and if NSA or DHS or CIA had made a good enough case we wouldn’t be involved in this less than ideal discussion, where the government is saying that we have been using META data since the original Patriot Act and some of the key players denying there could be anything like that going on and then as more data became available from the Guardian via Mr. Snowden and NSA agreed that we (the US) is capturing META data the response from the providers of that data became somewhat less vocal in their denials.

    2. MY OPINION the canned statements made by Mr. Clapper and the President did very little to convince a certain percentage of Americans that the Meta data collected by the government was not, at least, some overreach of “big brother”.

    3. Would offer that if the intelligence community didn’t believe that these programs were effective that they wouldn’t be engaging in the collection of all/any meta data on everyone. Legality of these programs is rather apparent to me at least. But then so were the segregation laws passed by both congress and the state governments some 50 years ago.

  • #179088

    Henry Brown

    IMO an excellent blog/commentary from Bruce Schneier blog

    Government Secrets and the Need for Whistle-blowers

    Yesterday, we learned that the NSA received all calling records from Verizon customers for a three-month period starting in April. That’s everything except the voice content: who called who, where they were, how long the call lasted — for millions of people, both Americans and foreigners. This “metadata” allows the government to track the movements of everyone during that period, and a build a detailed picture of who talks to whom. It’s exactly the same data the Justice Department collected about AP journalists.

    The Guardian delivered this revelation after receiving a copy of a secret memo about this — presumably from a whistle-blower. We don’t know if the other phone companies handed data to the NSA too. We don’t know if this was a one-off demand or a continuously renewed demand; the order started a few days after the Boston bombers were captured by police.

    We don’t know a lot about how the government spies on us, but we know some things. We know the FBI has issued tens of thousands of ultra-secret National Security Letters to collect all sorts of data on people — we believe on millions of people — and has been abusing them to spy on cloud-computer users. We know it can collect a wide array of personal data from the Internet without a warrant. We also know that the FBI has been intercepting cell-phone data, all but voice content, for the past 20 years without a warrant, and can use the microphone on some powered-off cell phones as a room bug — presumably only with a warrant.

  • #179086

    David B. Grinberg

    Excellent points, Henry. Also, thanks for sharing the article below.

    This is a critically important discussion that folks really should weigh-in on, especially since feds as a group get castigated by the media and public as being part of the “Big Brother” problem.

    “Chicken Little” media sensationalism that “the sky is falling” certainly doesn’t help.

    Thanks again for taking the lead on addressing this vexing issue, Henry.

  • #179084

    Mark Hammer

    I think the question that many decision-makers have to ask themselves, regardless of where they stand on things, is “How would/will we know that it’s okay to ‘lighten up’ on security measures, or is this just the way things are going to be for the rest of our lives?”.

    No matter how necessary you think it is, or was, there is no disputing that such measures cost wads of money, and incur certain risks and inconveniences. So there are incentives for wanting to eventually go back to the “way things were” prior to the Patriot Act. How would someone know that it was okay to do so? What would the criteria be, for citizens, for legislators, for folks “here” vs “there”, for people deeply involved in security culture vs people outside of it?

    These are tough questions. I sure wish someone could answer them.

  • #179082

    David B. Grinberg

    Let’s just keep in mind that the goal of these programs is to protect the American homeland and U.S. citizens from an international terrorist attack — the next of which may pale in comparison to 9/11 by potentially taking out an entire American city with a crude nuclear device or chemical/biological weapons.

    Yes, the federal government is protecting America.

    Moreover, these surveillance programs have reportedly been in place for the past seven years and were covered in detail by USA Today a few years back. Thus, this is old news in that sense.

    But don’t tell that to the mainstream media which thrives on super-sized sensationalism to boost news ratings and corporate revenue. Even at their best, the media sometimes only get the story half right, especially when classified information is selectively leaked to news organizations.

    Moreover, illegally releasing such highly classified gov intelligence gathering information hurts us by helping our enemies learn more about our national security surveillance apparatus.

    Such unlawful top secret disclosures are considered espionage and treason against America, just in case anyone cares about that.

    The smart thing to do would have been to share such concerns quietly with members of the U.S. Congress who can leverage their lawmaking power and influence to make concrete changes for the better, as needed and appropriate.

    Aiding and abetting America’s geopolitical enemies by leaking top secret national security information is nothing to celebrate or be proud of. To the contrary, it deserves disrepute and jail time.

  • #179080

    David B. Grinberg

    Thanks for your intelligent insights on this topic, Mark.

    Two thoughts here:

    1) The American people “don’t know what they don’t know” in terms of terrorist plots uncovered and foiled based on surveillance tools which are legally available to the U.S. national intelligence community. The gov may have disrupted and stopped hundreds or thousands of would-be terror plots that the public will never know about.

    But it only takes one major terrorist attack for a public outcry on the other end of the spectrum claiming that gov is not doing enough to protect us. It sounds like a no-win situation for gov in terms of earning the public trust — damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    2) We can’t put technology, the proverbial genie, back in the bottle. The more new and evolving information technology becomes available to the public, the more difficult it will be for people to safeguard personal information — and not just from the government, but from phone companies, Internet providers, banks and a host of other entities, including computer hackers.

    If some people really seek the utmost level of personal privacy then they should disconnect from today’s digital/mobile/virtual world. Don’t use the Internet or phones. Rather, go live in a log cabin in the woods.

    It seems to have worked well for Henry David Thoreau on Walden pond.

  • #179078

    Henry Brown

    Could/Maybe should start a new discussion but since this posting and the questions I have posted here are directly related to this discussion….

    Several blog postings over the last 3 days have referred to the Patriot act as the “authorization” for spying and or the collection of Meta-data

    Several of them referred to Title 50 › Chapter 36 › Subchapter IV › § 1861

    Access to certain business records for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations

    (a) Application for order; conduct of investigation generally
    (1) Subject to paragraph (3), the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or a designee of the Director (whose rank shall be no lower than Assistant Special Agent in Charge) may make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution.

    (2) An investigation conducted under this section shall—
    (A) be conducted under guidelines approved by the Attorney General under Executive Order 12333 (or a successor order); and
    (B) not be conducted of a United States person solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

    (b) Recipient and contents of application
    Each application under this section—
    (1) shall be made to—
    (A) a judge of the court established by section 1803 (a) of this title; or
    (B) a United States Magistrate Judge under chapter 43 of title 28, who is publicly designated by the Chief Justice of the United States to have the power to hear applications and grant orders for the production of tangible things under this section on behalf of a judge of that court; and
    (2) shall include—
    (A) a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation (other than a threat assessment) conducted in accordance with subsection (a)(2) to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, such things being presumptively relevant to an authorized investigation if the applicant shows in the statement of the facts that they pertain to—
    (i) a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power;
    (ii) the activities of a suspected agent of a foreign power who is the subject of such authorized investigation; or
    (iii) an individual in contact with, or known to, a suspected agent of a foreign power who is the subject of such authorized investigation; and
    (B) an enumeration of the minimization procedures adopted by the Attorney General under subsection (g) that are applicable to the retention and dissemination by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of any tangible things to be made available to the Federal Bureau of Investigation based on the order requested in such application.


    Where under this section of the USCode does it give NSA/FBI/DHS the authority to go on “fishing expeditions” (my description of the collection of Meta-data)?

    Why are these fishing expeditions classified? little own classified at the Top Secret Level, we as a society do not classify search warrents at the local level for criminal activity.

    Has anyone questioned the legality in the federal court systems of this section on disclosure?

    d) Nondisclosure
    (1) No person shall disclose to any other person that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained tangible things pursuant to an order under this section, other than to—
    (A) those persons to whom disclosure is necessary to comply with such order;
    (B) an attorney to obtain legal advice or assistance with respect to the production of things in response to the order; or
    (C) other persons as permitted by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the designee of the Director.

  • #179076

    Mark Hammer

    You seem to be saying this is how it’s going to be, and has to be, from now on.

    My question is, if it didn’t have to be like this from now on, what would be the criteria for that turning point? My stance is that if we don’t plan for that transition point by asking that question, we will never reach it; it will always remain some abstract point off in some abstract future. (Although there could be a TLC show in it, somewhere “NSA Data Hoarders”).

    “Don’t know what we don’t know” suggests that determination of that transition point can never be in the hands of the electorate, or even legislators, for that matter, but would remain the eternal perogative of those within the security infrastructure, who simply can’t tell us what the relative risk is in concrete terms, because it would “compromise national security”. Makes one feel kind of locked in a windowless enclosure by someone on the other side of the door who says they will let you know when it’s safe to come out. (Although to inject a teeny bit of levity in an otherwise solemn topic, I’m reminded of comedian David Brenner’s old routine about how it’s the female mosquitoes that bite, but the male mosquitoes that make the most noise, so the time to be most concerned about being bitten is when you don’t hear anything.)

    Do I want to rely entirely on their judgment? Do I know what they are basing their judgment on, or do I have to take it completely on faith that their judgment is astute, comprehensive, balanced, unbiased, well-calibrated?

  • #179074

    Henry Brown

    Granted we don’t know how terrorists plots were uncovered and or foiled just as we don’t know if there were any plots uncovered by collecting and searching meta-data. I would have some level of difficulty in believing the people who are in charge of collecting and reviewing this data since they seem to have had some “difficulty communicating” with the american public about what and why they were doing it.

    Yes we can’t put the genie back in the bottle, but just as cars improve I believe that we can hope and work for safer driving. I understand that for the government(and any other entity) to support me I have lost my right to total privacy, but I sure would like to know what the government is doing with my information.

    I realize that I am probably a minority but I still read the users rights and responsibilities when I connect to an organization which is going to share my private information and I can and have chosen not to connect with them if I didn’t feel comfortable with sharing the data which is me.

    I have been a victim of identity theft because someone stole personal information. Since then I have, as much as possible, attempted to find out who and why has accessed my data.

  • #179072

    David B. Grinberg

    I think the U.S. military, along with the national security and intelligence communities, deserve the utmost respect, praise and trust for keeping America relatively safe in this dangerous and unpredictable post-9/11 world.

    Perhaps I’m the only one around who actually places too much trust in these institutions of government whose mission is to protect and defend America. I’m no constitutional lawyer, thus I won’t attempt to apply legal theory and/or case law to the Fourth Amendment or whatever constitutional violations are allegedly being made via “Big Brother” surveillance and intelligence gathering techniques to safeguard the homeland.

    I do, however, think it’s absolutely amazing that America has not been subjected to a massive 9/11-style terrorist attack, or much worse, since 9/11/01. That’s a track record I’m willing to stand by and pledge allegiance to.

    Despite one of the most toxic political climates ever in Washington, the majority of Democrats and Republicans stand in unison when it comes to defending America. As Machiavelli famously put it, sometimes the “end justifies the means.”

    And, yes, sometime it does based on one’s opinion and beliefs. Everybody is certainly entitled to their own view and I know that mine it probably not the most popular — especially considering all the typical media sensationalism we often observe in coverage of “Big Gov” related stories.

    Moreover, as one my esteemed colleagues noted in another post, most folks who think they are able to have a semblance of “privacy” (based on one’s definition) in today’s digital/mobile/virtual high tech world have been badly mistaken for some time now or are just playing dumb.

    If the new normal means that I, as a U.S citizen, have to sacrifice some personal “privacy” for the overall good and national security of America then I’m happy to do my part any day of the week. But that’s just me.

    On a lighter note, I’m sure George Orwell would be pleased to know that “1984” is still so popular in 2013.

  • #179070

    David B. Grinberg

    Actually, we do know that some terrorist plots, like the planned bombing of the NYC subway system, were stopped because of the intelligence gathering methods at issue — at least according to the Director of National Intelligence, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and other high-level public officials. Thus, I’m sticking by my positions, as articulated above.

    I understand that many citizens feel their privacy rights have been violated, perhaps in an unconstitutional manner, but that’s their opinion and maybe they’re correct.

    Regardless, the U.S. gov and our allies overseas need to track down that traitor who illegally leaked this highly classified top secret intelligence information — arguably putting America and gov intelligence agencies at risk globally – and exact the full weight of the U.S. justice system on such a treasonous criminal.

  • #179068

    Mark Hammer

    For me, it’s not a question of trust, or even the legitimacy of the methods used. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, by nature, and will fight you if you try to take my rose-coloured glasses away from me. I may not always trust in the judgment of others, but I trust in their good intentions. I’m also well aware that sometimes, maybe even often, there is no other means available than what seems like draconian, invasive, and/or costly measures. It happens. I’m used to it. If the bandage or stitches have to come off, there is going to be discomfort associated with it. That’s just how it is.

    But I keep asking the question: do things HAVE to be “this way” (i.e., the surveillance measures we are dancing around here) forever? Is this a permanent commitment, that every citizen, legislator, telephone user, web-user will have to live with from now on, or is all of this a temporary set of measures, adopted because of perceived prevailing conditions? Do we now accept that the sort of surveillane we once attributed to China and the USSR is simply a universal norm? And if we believe, and want, it to be only a temporary set of measures, that can be relaxed when the coast is clear, will we be able to recognize when it IS clear? What will be our criteria?

    I’m merely saying that if we have intentions of arriving at that point, we need to start asking ourselves, now, what our criteria are or will be. If you’ve never baked a cake before, and you have no instructions, you need to know what a cake looks like and behaves like to know when to take it out of the oven. We need a plan to know when our security cake is done, or else we may well leave it in the oven until the house is filled with smoke.

    It may seem like a very arbitrary digression, but I’ve made similar suggestions regarding diversity. At the moment, we believe ourselves to be playing catch-up with respect to under-represented groups in the workplace (because in many instances, we are). We set ourselves targets and practices by comparing labour-market availability (LMA) against hiring rates, and trying to reduce the gap. We count heads and, sadly, this has fostered a misguided belief that diversity is all about quotas, when we know it isn’t. But nobody seems to be doing any planning for what to do when diversity goals are eventually met. How would we know that a particular (exceptional) employer is biased or unfair or discriminatory once we declare that the challenge – at the macro level – has been addressed? And what are our criteria for knowing that it HAS been addressed?

    In both instances, security and diversity, one has to begin the process of imagining a “post-terror-threat” and a “post-inequity” world, of recognizing that a social problem or geopolitical challenge has been met, or else one becomes entrenched in adopting practices that are simply unworkable on a permanent basis. I can’t see us having a happy world if we are still calculating the gap between LMA and hiring rates 20 years from now, nor can I imagine us contented citizens if we are still under surveillance 20 years from now because no one could figure out when to turn it off.

    Certainly, don’t be unrealistic, but plan for the future, or else it won’t happen.

  • #179066

    David B. Grinberg

    Great points, Mark. First, there are some checks on the U.S. surveillance at issue, including the FISA Court and other courts which must approve search warrants, as well as reportedly re-approve and re-authorize the phone records surveillance about every three months.

    Second, I agree that we should not merely accept the status quo as being infinite. I’m sure that the military, national security and intelligence communities have criteria regarding policy and programmatic changes — just as they have so-called “war games” to plan for an uncertain future under multiple global military scenarios.

    Third, just an FYI, but “quotas” in U.S. employment are unlawful under Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Goals and timetables are the standard criteria used, but it’s not just based on race, ethnicity, etc. Other factors like geographic and socio-economic variables are being taken into account more frequently.

    Moreover, the US Supreme Court has been incrementally restricting the use of affirmative action in college admissions, with a major case to be decided soon. We are also seeing plaintiffs winning more “reverse discrimination” cases (where the aggrieved person sues on race/white, gender/male, etc.). But the diversity debate is voluminous and thus for another post.

    Thanks again, Mark, for your exceptional contributions to this discussion — which are very much appreciated. Perhaps you want to tackle Henry’s reply below regarding:

    “…the Patriot act as the ‘authorization’ for spying and or the collection of Meta-data” per “Title 50 › Chapter 36 › Subchapter IV › § 1861.”

  • #179064

    David B. Grinberg

    Henry, thanks for the above comment. Good questions. You may, in fact, want to consider it for a separate post as this one appears to be petering out — unless Mark wants to take a stab at it? Thanks.

  • #179062

    Mark Hammer

    I work on employee surveys. For a variety of reasons, I’m the poor sap who has to read through thousands and thousands of comments that public servants append to these surveys (because we asked if they had any). In fact, that’s what I’m doing this morning between sips of coffee.

    I often get asked by folks in my organization, or those in the HR community in other agencies, whether we “do anything” with the comments. The presumption is that we should just be able to throw the 1667 pages (10pt Arial narrow, single space, 3/4″ margins) that I’m staring at into some sort of text-mining software, and magical insight will squirt out the other end, which we will then transform into a report, and publish.

    Doesn’t work like that, though. Comments go off in a zillion directions. People use expressions I’ve never heard of, make references to things I’ve never heard of, leave out words, make spelling and grammatical errors, and more. To make sense of all this data (and that’s 1667 pages from this year. We get similar amounts…every…stinking…year. That’s where I acquire my perspective from.), and subject it to a coding scheme within text mining software, you have to have at least some rudimentary notion of what it is you’re looking for, and what forms it may show up in, and in all the years I’ve been doing this, I still have no idea of what to expect. I suppose if one was simply interested in counting stuff, you could just let the software have its way and apply algorithms, but that doesn’t mean that the stuff that was important for policy development would rise to the top of the heap. So, I have to read it, and apply my own “wet-ware”.

    And therein lies the problem with ALL THAT SURVEILLANCE DATA, and the reason why a great deal of what happens is fishing expeditions, almost of necessity. What folks ought to be looking for is not always specifiable, so they simply have to keep their eyes open for anything that might seem conspicuous. They feel a need to gather it all, hang onto it all, and keep running it through the pasta-maker, again and again and again, until it turns into something.

    Many of you might be familiar with the Freakonomics books, in which a variety of meta-data and similar is considered to provide alternative explanations of social phenomena. The data are generally observational, rather than derived from experimental manipulation, and while the hypotheses and accepted wisdom the authors challenge may very well deserve challenge, that does not mean their inferences from the data they have looked at are necessarily better explanations.

    Both economists and security specialists tend to embark on fishing expeditions, looking for conspicuous patterns. Sometimes they find something of use, and many times they don’t. Yesterday’s market predictions are forgotten about as quickly as Jean Dixon’s horoscopes from last week, just as yesterday’s terror suspects are shelved.

    The bind that security culture finds itself in is that its “permission” to go fishing is predicated on public and legislative trust that the baited hook always comes up with something edible for dinner that night. To reveal that a weekend spent casting the line with nothing edible to show for it…yet again…is to cast doubt on the entire exercise. So security culture is very protective of itself, and especially of its failures, and is eminently capable of persuading decision-makers that it needs to be protective. Understand that this is completely independent of all that very understandable Valerie Plame stuff, where identities need to be concealed for operatives. But that said, it is a very slippery slope we arrive at when “I can’t tell you why I can’t tell you about what I’m doing or why I’m doing it”.

    The paradox is that we seek to build a society where the availability of trust is as commonplace and normative as getting a sip of water from the fountain in the hallway, yet we find ourselves in these places and circumstances where we are moving at breakneck speed to undermine citizen trust. And that’s not at all what any of us wants.

  • #179060

    David B. Grinberg

    FYI — from the Washington Post “Wonk Blog”:

    Here’s everything we know about PRISM to date

    • “Since the Guardian and The Washington Post revealed the existence of the NSA’s PRISM program last week, there’s been a confusing debate about what exactly the program is and how it works.”

    • “While the Obama administration has tacitly acknowledged the program’s existence, tech companies have angrily denied that they had given the NSA “direct” or “unfettered” access to their servers. So what’s going on? Let’s try to separate the facts from the hype.”

  • #179058

    David B. Grinberg

    Gen. Keith Alexander, chief of both the National Security Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command, testified today at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. Here’s some of what he said about terrorist plots foiled with the help of surrveilance techniques currently considered questionable, according to the Washington Post:

    Alexander: Phone record provision helped thwart ‘dozens’ of terror events

    • The Patriot Act provision that allowed the NSA to collect phone records has helped thwart “dozens” of terror events, Alexander said.
    • In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Alexander cited the cases of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan American who guilty to planning suicide attacks in New York, and Pakistani American David Headley, who conducted surveillance in support of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India that killed more than 160 people.
    • In both instances, he said, the NSA program helped unravel the plot.
    • He said it was his intent that records showing the secret surveillance program was critical to disrupting dozens of such plots will be made public within a week.
    • The order that allowed for the NSA collection of phone records of millions of Americans was based on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows law enforcement to obtain a wide variety of “business records,” including calling records.
  • #179056

    Henry Brown

    Believe that this was the same gentleman who “denied” that we were collecting phone records of US citizens at the beginning of this event last Thursday or Friday…. My attitude has become I am having a great deal of difficulty in believing an individual who only tells his audience what he thinks they want to hear.

    If this program did such a great job of disrupting terrorist, why were they able to kill 160 people in India? Why didn’t this program capture the communications and prevent the death of 4 people in Boston?

    If this secret survellance program was doing such a great job wouldn’t it have been better to “brag” about thier accomplishments? I am sure that a majority of americans would have no major problem having their phone records if it was to prevent deaths of “innocent” people

    Thank you for letting me Rant!

  • #179054

    Mark Hammer

    Thanks for that link. I very much liked this phrase from Google chief architect Yonatan Zunger: “We didn’t fight the Cold War just so we could rebuild the Stasi ourselves”. That’s pretty it in a nutshell, innit?

  • #179052

    David B. Grinberg

    Interesting op-ed from Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post. I usually don’t agree with her point of view, but she makes some sense here.

    Googled to tears

    • “In these post-Snowden days, the notion of anonymity is ludicrous. But so it has been for some time…”

    • “While Americans bemoan their loss of privacy…it is helpful to recall our own role in this gradual process of, shall we say, regurgitative knowingness.”

    • “That is, our apparent willingness to show and tell every little thing in the quest to be known. Fame and Celebrity are…in the public forum…”

    • “These acts of baboonery, not so feigned after all, are unsubtly reminiscent of chimpanzees who, unconsciously aware of the camera’s hostile intrusion, try to offend it with grimaces, grins and lingual extrusions.”

    • “Now, suddenly we’re offended that national security operatives are following our behavior patterns? Cue Cheetah’s laugh track.”

  • #179050

    David B. Grinberg

    Henry and Mark:

    This old Pogo cartoon sums it up pretty nicely IMO. Just substitute what I call “online personal information degradation” with the environmental degradation referred to here…

    • Are we our own worst enemy?

  • #179048

    David B. Grinberg

    CNET News and other media outlets report:

    NSA probed fewer than 300 phone numbers in 2012

    [out of billions]

    • “The U.S. government searched for detailed information on calls involving fewer than 300 phone numbers last year, according to an unclassified document circulated Saturday.”

    • “The paper said such searches — part of two controversial U.S. intelligence gathering programs — led to two men allegedly plotting to attack New York City’s subway system, Reuters reported.”

    • “The data, which the Associated Press reported is destroyed every five years, thwarted terrorist plots in the U.S. and more than 20 other countries.”

    • “U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, explained how the program worked without violating individuals’ civil rights.”

    • “We take the business records by a court order, and it’s just phone numbers — no names, no addresses — put it in a lock box,” Rogers told CBS News’ “Face The Nation.”

    • “And if they get a foreign terrorist overseas that’s dialing in to the United Sates, they take that phone number… they plug it into this big pile, if you will, of just phone numbers — it’s like a phonebook without any names and any addresses with it — to see if there’s a connection, a foreign terrorist connection to the United States.”

    • “When a number comes out of that lock box, it’s just a phone number — no names, no addresses,” he continued. “If they think that’s relevant to their counterterrorism investigation, they give that to the FBI. Then upon the FBI has to go out and meet all the legal standards to even get whose phone number that is.”

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