"NSA and intelligence community in general is focused on getting intelligence wherever it can by any means possible. It believes, on the grounds of sort of a self-certification, that they serve the national interest. Originally we saw that focus very narrowly tailored as foreign intelligence gathered overseas."
"Now increasingly we see that it's happening domestically and to do that they, the NSA specifically, targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default. It collects them in its system and it filters them and it analyses them and it measures them and it stores them for periods of time simply because that's the easiest, most efficient, and most valuable way to achieve these ends. So while they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government or someone they suspect of terrorism, they're collecting your communications to do so." - Edward Snowden, Whistle blower
And I also saw this anonymous quote:
To all who have no problem with govt data mining because you're doing nothing wrong, all they have to do is change what's wrong.
After the flurry of reports about the NSA’s alleged PRISM surveillance program earlier today, the U.S.’s Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper just released an official statement. According to Clapper, “The Guardian and The Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They contain numerous inaccuracies.”
The National Security Agency's classified PRISM program is an internal government computer system used to manage foreign intelligence collected from Internet and other electronic service providers, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement Saturday.
Clapper said he declassified the details of the NSA's surveillance and intelligence collection programs "in hope that it will help dispel some of the myths and add necessary context to what has been published" about government surveillance of Americans' phone records and foreigners' Internet use.
The National Security Agency and the FBI are siphoning personal data from the main computer servers of nine major U.S. Internet firms,The Washington Post and the London-based Guardian reported Thursday night. Clapper said those reports lacked context about how the program is governed.
The Guardian this week revealed that the government demanded millions of phone records from Verizon. On Saturday, the newspaper reported on a classified NSA data-mining program called "Boundless Informant" that allegedly records and analyzes where electronic intelligence comes from. The classified document shows NSA collected nearly 3 billion pieces of intelligence from U.S. computer networks in one month, the paper reported.
"PRISM is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program," Clapper said in a fact sheet that accompanied his statement.
The system manages foreign intelligence information collected under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, he said. "The authority was created by the Congress and has been widely known and publicly discussed since its inception in 2008," he said.
The program has yielded results, including providing insight into a terrorist organization's strategic planning efforts, intelligence about weapons of mass destruction proliferation networks and information about potential cyberthreats, the fact sheet said.
"This insight has led to successful efforts to mitigate these threats," the fact sheet said.
Clapper said Congress "after extensive public debate" reauthorized Section 702 in December. He and Attorney General Eric Holder provide "exhaustive" reports assessing compliance with targeting to Congress twice a year, Clapper said in the fact sheet. Congress also receives opinions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, he said, and congressional intelligence and judiciary committees are regularly briefed.
The government "does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers of U.S. electronic communication service providers," Clapper added. "The notion that Section 702 activities are not subject to internal and external oversight is similarly incorrect. Collection of intelligence information under Section 702 is subject to an extensive oversight regime, incorporating reviews by the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches."
"In short, Section 702 facilitates the targeted acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning foreign targets located outside the United States under court oversight," the fact sheet said. "Service providers supply information to the government when they are lawfully required to do so."
Executives from Facebook, Google and Apple disputed reports that the companies have provided direct access to their servers for the National Security Agency and the FBI.
To target someone for such intelligence collection, the government must have "an appropriate, and documented, foreign intelligence purpose," such as for the prevention of terrorism, hostile cyberactivities, or nuclear proliferation, and the foreign target must be "reasonably believed to be outside the United States," the fact sheet said. Section 702 prohibits "intentionally" targeting any U.S. citizen or anyone known to be in the United States, the sheet said. The agency also cannot target a person overseas if the purpose is to get information from a person inside the United States, the sheet said.
"We cannot target even foreign persons overseas without a valid foreign intelligence purpose," the fact sheet said.
If the intelligence community intercepts communications for a person in the U.S., it cannot use the information unless it is needed to understand or assess the importance of foreign intelligence, is evidence of a crime, or indicates a threat of death or serious injury, the fact sheet said.
Targeting decisions are reviewed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice, the fact sheet said.
The goal of the Information Awareness Office was what it called Total Information Awareness, an ecstatic state of intelligence-gathering nirvana:
The Office’s main assignment is, basically, to turn everything in cyberspace about everybody—tax records, driver’s-license applications, travel records, bank records, raw F.B.I. files, telephone records, credit-card records, shopping-mall security-camera videotapes, medical records, every e-mail anybody ever sent—into a single, humongous, multi-googolplexibyte database that electronic robots will mine for patterns of information suggestive of terrorist activity. Dr. Strangelove’s vision—“a chikentic gomplex of gumbyuders”—is at last coming into its own.In 2003, responding to public indignation and journalistic ridicule, Congress defunded the Information Awareness Office. It ceased to exist. But its activities continued under different names. Ten years later, like a solar eclipse, Information Awareness is approaching Totality.
It’s easy to ridicule this—fun, too, and fun is something the war on terrorism doesn’t offer a lot of—but it’s not so easy to dismiss the possibility that the project, nutty as it sounds, might actually be of significant help in uncovering terrorist networks. The problem is that it would also be of significant help in uncovering just about everything, including the last vestiges of individual and family privacy.
Jay Leno joked about this. An unprecedented act, as most comedians, dont generally make jokes about Obama , the way they did about Bush.
See more here.
The Verizon advertisment was a source of much hilarity during these tense times, as it said "Can you hear me now?"
See More here.
The New York Times carried an article that indicates it has turned against Obama, saying that his administration has “lost all credibility”.
See more here.
A Democratic Senator (from the same political party as the administration) even called Obama a liar!
See more here.
And some officials tried to wash their hands off the whole mess by indicating that it was all one big mistake.
See more here.
Every major tech company that has been reported to be participating in PRISM, the massive surveillance program revealed by the Guardian and Washington Post, has denied involvement in the program. How should we reconcile their denials with the news reports, which include a PowerPoint slide showing that “PRISM collection” started on a specific date for each provider? There are a couple of possibilities. First, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, et al., could be lying. This might be because their spokespeople don’t know what they’re talking about, they aren’t allowed to say anything about the secret program, or they just don’t want to admit that they’re abetting massive surveillance.
The other possibility is that they don’t know they’re part of the program—that the NSA has somehow figured out a way to invade these companies’ private data. Over the last decade, more or less implicitly, the giants of Silicon Valley and the people of Earth have made a deal: We allow them to gather up every bit of data about our lives. In return, we get free or very cheap services that we have fun using and (maybe) make us more productive.
But PRISM changes that calculus. If tech giants really can’t stop the U.S. government from observing everything we do on their sites, it represents a giant hole in their assurances about our data. PRISM means that we can’t really trust these firms’ promises, and it may spark demand for alternatives. PRISM makes search engines like DuckDuckGo—which lets you search anonymously—more attractive. It sets up a market for encrypted email services, for apps that shut down location-tracking on your phone, for Web browsers andplug-ins that prevent you from being followed online. In the long run, these more private services might be less useful than the ones run by data-mining companies—they may not lead to self-driving cars—and they may cost more (if your phone’s operating system isn’t subsidized by ads, maybe you’ll pay a lot more for it) but it’s possible we’ll prefer that trade-off.
Obama campaigned against anything that would ever spy on innocent US citizens, things we now know he explicitly authorized and supported. Here are the words of Obama from 2006, before he became President and changed his mind:
“I have no doubt that General Hayden will be confirmed. But I am going to reluctantly vote against him to send a signal to this administration that even in these circumstances, even in these trying times, President Bush is not above the law. No President is above the law. I am voting against Mr. Hayden in the hope that he will be more humble before the great weight of responsibility that he has not only to protect our lives but to protect our democracy.
Americans fought a Revolution in part over the right to be free from unreasonable searches–to ensure that our Government could not come knocking in the middle of the night for no reason. We need to find a way forward to make sure we can stop terrorists while protecting the privacy and liberty of innocent Americans. We have to find a way to give the President the power he needs to protect us, while making sure he does not abuse that power. It is possible to do that. We have done it before. We could do it again.”
The PRISM-gate scandal which is sure to only get worse with time as Americans slowly realize they are living in a Orwellian police state, meant Obama would have to do more to appease a public so furious even the NYT issued a scathing editorial lamenting the obliteration of Obama's credibility. Sure enough, the president did. Reuters reports that the first course of action by the US government will be to... shoot the messengerReuters reports that "President Barack Obama's administration is likely to open a criminal investigation into the leaking of highly classified documents that revealed the secret surveillance of Americans' telephone and email traffic, U.S. officials said on Friday."
And how did Reuters learn this: from "law enforcement and security officials who were not authorized to speak publicly"
What we know is that the people in charge will possess the capacity to be tyrants -- to use power oppressively and unjustly -- to a degree that Americans in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000 could've scarcely imagined. To an increasing degree, we're counting on having angels in office and making ourselves vulnerable to devils. Bush and Obama have built infrastructure any devil would lust after. Behold the items on an aspiring tyrant's checklist that they've provided their successors:
- A precedent that allows the president to kill citizens in secret without prior judicial or legislative review
- The power to detain prisoners indefinitely without charges or trial
- Ongoing warrantless surveillance on millions of Americans accused of no wrongdoing, converted into a permanent database so that data of innocents spied upon in 2007 can be accessed in 2027
- Using ethnic profiling to choose the targets of secret spying, as the NYPD did with John Brennan's blessing
- Normalizing situations in which the law itself is secret -- and whatever mischief is hiding in those secret interpretations
- The permissibility of droning to death people whose identities are not even known to those doing the killing
- The ability to collect DNA swabs of people who have been arrested even if they haven't been convicted of anything
- A torture program that could be restarted with an executive order
Even if you think Bush and Obama exercised those extraordinary powers responsibly, what makes you think every president would? How can anyone fail to see the huge potential for abuses?