Trust us

I’m sorry, but I don’t trust you (they also track credit cards):

It was revealed late Wednesday that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone records of hundreds of millions of US phone customers. The leaked document first reported by the Guardian newspaper gave the NSA authority to collect from all of Verizon’s land and mobile customers, but intelligence experts said the program swept up the records of other phone companies too. Another secret program revealed Thursday scours the Internet usage of foreign nationals overseas who use any of nine US-based internet providers such as Microsoft and Google.

In his first comments since the programs were publicly revealed this week, Obama said safeguards are in place.

Government secrecy is anathema to a democracy and this isn’t good enough:

Obama said he came into office with a ‘‘healthy skepticism’’ of the program and increased some of the ‘‘safeguards’’ on the programs. He said Congress and federal judges have oversight on the program, and a judge would have to approve monitoring of the content of a call and it’s not a ‘‘program run amok.’’

Notice the sleight of hand here:

Senior administration officials defended the programs as critical tools and said the intelligence they yield is among the most valuable data the US collects. Clapper said the Internet program, known as PRISM, can’t be used to intentionally target any Americans or anyone in the U.S, and that  data accidentally collected about Americans is kept to a minimum.

Let’s see:

Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade, Md., key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.” That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by The Post instruct new analysts to make quarterly reports of any accidental collection of U.S. content, but add that “it’s nothing to worry about.”

Even when the system works just as advertised, with no American singled out for targeting, the NSA routinely collects a great deal of American content. That is described as “incidental,” and it is inherent in contact chaining, one of the basic tools of the trade. To collect on a suspected spy or foreign terrorist means, at minimum, that everyone in the suspect’s inbox or outbox is swept in. Intelligence analysts are typically taught to chain through contacts two “hops” out from their target, which increases “incidental collection” exponentially. The same math explains the aphorism, from the John Guare play, that no one is more than “six degrees of separation” from any other person.

In other words, every search collects data about Americans and it’s not a big deal.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Trust Us | Petunias

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