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NSA CS Man: My Tracking Algorithm Was 'Twisted' By the Government

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the you-can-trust-us dept.

Communications 267

decora writes "Crypto-mathematician Bill Binney worked in the Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center at the NSA. There, he worked on NSA's ThinThread program; a way to monitor the flood of internet data from outside the US while protecting the privacy of US citizens. In a new interview with Jane Mayer, he says his program 'got twisted. ... I should apologize to the American people. It's violated everyone's rights. It can be used to eavesdrop on the whole world. ... my people were brought in, and they told me, "Can you believe they're doing this? They're getting billing records on US citizens! They're putting pen registers on everyone in the country!"'"

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267 comments

Oh? (5, Insightful)

Troke (1612099) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147120)

I'm shocked. The US government would never do something like that ever! A shame this will never reach +5 Sarcastic

Re:Oh? (1)

Garridan (597129) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147270)

Yep... this is why I don't work for the NSA, despite being fully qualified and in need of a job.

Re:Oh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147602)

Liar

Re:Oh? (1)

Garridan (597129) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148242)

Actually, this is fairly common among recent graduates with PhDs in math. A handful of my friends/colleagues are also in this boat, and two have chosen to work for the man.

Re:Oh? (2)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147612)

Yep... this is why I don't work for the NSA, despite being fully qualified and in need of a job.

For me it was just a lack of redheads in the office.

Re:Oh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147738)

If you need a job, you're not qualified to work for the NSA.

Re:Oh? (5, Insightful)

nolife (233813) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148276)

Why shouldn't I work for the N.S.A.? That's a tough one, but I'll take a shot.

Say I'm working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, 'cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never met, never had no problem with, get killed. Now the politicians are sayin', "Oh, send in the Marines to secure the area" 'cause they don't give a shit. It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number got called, 'cause they were pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some kid from Southie takin' shrapnel in the ass. And he comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And, of course, the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them, but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And they're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back, of course, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and fuckin' play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy's out of work and he can't afford to drive, so he's got to walk to the fuckin' job interviews, which sucks 'cause the shrapnel in his ass is givin' him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he's starvin', 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat, the only blue plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure fuck it, while I'm at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president.

Re:Oh? (3, Interesting)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147342)

I'm shocked that we haven't launched prosecutions of most of the Bush Administration over its mis-handling of everything related to security and the Constitution.

Re:Oh? (1, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147660)

I'm shocked that we haven't launched prosecutions of most of the Bush Administration over its mis-handling of everything related to security and the Constitution.

Just because something is unconstitutional doesn't mean that the perpetrator performed a criminal (and hence, prosecutable act). Plus, I gather Obama doesn't want to establish any traditions that might put himself at risk.

Re:Oh? (4, Insightful)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147690)

I'm shocked that we haven't launched prosecutions of most of the Bush Administration...

So am I, but then we'd have to prosecute most of the Obama administration, which has continued the same policies. And I say that with shame as a lifelong Democrat.

Barack Obama - best Republican president so far.

Re:Oh? (1)

Goboxer (1821502) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147902)

Barack Obama - best Republican president so far.

I use to pretend this wasn't true. But disappointment after disappointment has stacked up to point to one obvious fact. President Barack Obama is another lying politician that took my hopes for this country and dashed them on the rocks of Washington "change".

Not a surprise to anyone who isn't a gov employee. (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147468)

I guess the people working at the NSA are the last to suspect that the NSA would spy on everybody in the world. But seriously what exactly did they think the NSA was building and doing this whole time?

The NSA, along with all the other agencies probably spy on as many people as they are technologically able. If they could watch us all for cheap enough they would. So what do technological advances mean? It means more people will be watched. It means more collection and more intelligence.

Re:Not a surprise to anyone who isn't a gov employ (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148124)

I guess the people working at the NSA are the last to suspect that the NSA would spy on everybody in the world. But seriously what exactly did they think the NSA was building and doing this whole time?

No, they knew. In fact, he wasn't the only one to quit because of what went on there. Reading it about it makes us angry and state-sponsored voyeurism goes against what we all stand for, but consider this -

The NSA is but a business, a corporation. Have you ever worked for a corporation? From the bullshit advertising all the way up to knowingly pushing defective shit or selling used shit as new (feel free to take "shit" literally or as a metaphor for financial services) , corporations deceive their customers all the damn time. The three-letter agencies are but corporations, their only aim is to expand their business at the expense of their customers - in this case we the people.

And as often happens in big corporations, the employees who have the integrity to bring up silly shit like "ethics violations" and "fraud, waste, and abuse" are marginalized (and in the 3-letter agencies, often threatened by a psych eval by a rubber-stamp shrink and relegated to janitor duty), and either leave for greener pastures or fired...or worse.

All that whistleblower shit you see posted in the hallway? Simply a formality. No corporation wants righteous radicals. Shut the fuck up and do as you're told, and document the hell out of everything so you'll get amnesty when the hammer comes down.

Re:Not a surprise to anyone who isn't a gov employ (3, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148140)

The NSA doesn't recruit people by telling them that they will be spying on Americans. I have met an NSA recruiter, and this is the story they tell you: As a cryptologist at the NSA, you will be working on interesting mathematics, mathematics you won't find in academia or in industry, and your work will help protect American lives. So say you are a 28 year old, you just finished a PhD in math or CS; wouldn't such a job be tempting?

The people who run the show at the NSA are not idiots. They know how to work with geniuses who might have a moral objection to spying on Americans. They know how to convince people that their work will only be used against foreigners, and how to get those people to put as much effort into their work as possible. If I had to venture a guess, I would say that most NSA mathematicians and computer scientists are aware of how their work is actually being used, except in rare cases where it is reported in the mass media (like the wiretapping scandal).

Why is it so bad, anyway? (2)

Shin-LaC (1333529) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148028)

Everybody knows that the US government intercepts the world's communications. If they now do the same to Americans, it just seems fair.

In other news (4, Insightful)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147126)

... cryptologist Bill Binney was found dead today in his New York apartment the victim of an apparent accident.

Re:In other news (2)

LilGuy (150110) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147226)

Two bullets went through the anterior of his skull causing massive brain hemorrhaging and severe head trauma. It has been ruled a suicide.

Re:In other news (1)

milkmage (795746) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147362)

those bullets were on the street.. he must have fallen on them.

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147910)

shot himself in the back ten times, pausing once to reload

Re:In other news (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147372)

Accidentally brutally stabbed himself in the stomach while shaving...

Re:In other news (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147400)

How can two bullets go if its an accident?

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147456)

whoosh!

Re:In other news (3, Informative)

definate (876684) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147470)

This was a test of inference, to see whether or not you have aspergers.

You tested positive. I'm so sorry.

Re:In other news (3, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147658)

Nah, they usually go for the old "suicide" route, like that reporter a couple of years back that slit his wrists in the tub. the problem was if anybody would have bothered to find out about the guy first they would have found out he had blood phobia so bad his family said he would pass out if he pricked his finger. Kinda doubt a guy that couldn't stand the sight of blood would go for a slow bleed out.

As for TFA, is anybody surprised? We have seen the enemy and he is us. Ever since the end of WWI (where before WWII we were like 37th on the list of militarily sizes) the USA has been nothing but a giant power grab, hell look at the FBI with COINTELPRO. With that one they went as far as actually executing a Black Panther for not staying in his place, does it surprise ANYONE that our government is right up there with China when it comes to spying on its own people?

I'm sure they'll claim its to "catch pedos/terrorists" and get Nancy Grace and all the talking heads to cheer for it if this little setback actually causes any flak, but with the megacorps who are in bed with the government owning the media I doubt this will even make the evening news. That is why voting today is pretty much pointless past the local level, the megacorps will make sure only properly bribed choices are allowed. Anyone you vote for, whether D or R, will continue to give lip service to "freedom" and "privacy" while continuing the status quo. See Obama and warrantless wiretaps for example.

Re:In other news (1)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147896)

The more you learn about what really goes on in the U.S., the more you realize how closely it resembles ancient Rome.

Corrupt? What's amazing is that the people actually believe that our leaders *aren't* corrupt by default.

Re:In other news (1)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148210)

The more you learn about what really goes on in the U.S., the more you realize how closely it resembles ancient Rome.

Corrupt? What's amazing is that the people actually believe that our leaders *aren't* corrupt by default.

They don't? I don't know anyone who doesn't believe they are corrupt. But for some reason, lots of people want the government to run more and more things for us.

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148306)

"nyone you vote for, whether D or R, will continue to give lip service to "freedom" and "privacy" while continuing the status quo. See Obama and warrantless wiretaps for example."

And Bush and Cheney can't show their faces in the EU without being picked up on a warrant.

The rest of the world isn't drinking the Kool-Aid, you see.

Re:In other news (5, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147272)

Binney had been acting strangely in recent weeks, according to unnamed sources. Reports of paranoid rants about "government monitoring everyone" were a common theme among associates.

Binney was found wearing nothing but a bathrobe and a cockring, although investigators found several hundred dollars sewn into his bathrobe, as well as two phone numbers - one for "Belle du Jour Exotic Dance Palace" and the other to "Dave's 24 Hour Falafel Delivery". Investigators also found a "huge" porn stash in his apartment, and several copies of porn star Ron Jeremy's auto-biography, "Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz".

What disturbed investigators most, however, was a hidden cache of 73 cases of Zima. "What could one man possibly need with that much Zima?," said one bewildered and slightly shaken-looking young investigator. Older investigators are wondering about the significance of the number 73.

Binney was quoted as saying, "I'm not dead yet!" but we were unable to confirm that at press-time.

Re:In other news (1)

victorhooi (830021) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148096)

heya,

I might be too young, but was that a movie reference(s)?

Hmm, or is 73 meant to be 23, as in Jim Carrey's film?

Cheers,
Victor

Re:In other news (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148228)

"Hmm, or is 73 meant to be 23, as in Jim Carrey's film?"

Why don't you mention the name of the film, you cretin.

God damn I am sick of comments made by intellectual wannabe fucktards.

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148382)

73? One for him and each of his 72 virgins?

Re:In other news (4, Funny)

Palmsie (1550787) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147312)

In other news, rape charges were brought against Bill Binney today, he has also openly admitted he is a homosexual, a pedophile, and an atheist. His wife has also left him because he has suffered from severe psychological disorders for several decades.

+5 Propaganda machine.

The U.S. government is EXTREMELY corrupt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147320)

he U.S. government is EXTREMELY corrupt. Weapons investors want war all the time. Financial institutions get rich.

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147396)

Next to him, two people dressed in NSA casual even clothing (transvestite tutus and spider gags) were found, apparently put into a 69 deep-throat position (which didn't reach the tongues due to micropenis syndrome) after death.

The NSA spokesman, when asked, responded, that he didn't "know anything about our agen...*cough*...these American citizens and their involvement in anything at all ever since the beginning of all time.". Although, as always, he blames Anonymous. No reasons were given.

Anonymous, in a official answer, denied everything, agreed fully, and stated that they ARE the NSA... and NOT... at the same time.

And now for something completely different...
THE LARCH!

Re:In other news (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147446)

Would now be a bad time to point out that the second paragraph neatly explains how he's going to die, and that it will be soon? He's probably coming forward because he knows he doesn't have much time left. The agency doesn't have to kill him, nature will do it soon enough and without all the fussing, paperwork, and conspiracy theories.

Re:In other news (1)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147732)

So close. Actually, it's being reported the he was found dead just an hour ago on the sidewalk outside his apartment from apparent asphalt poisoning.

Consequences (2)

MT1337 (2072544) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147172)

I'm more surprised that this guy went out and said it, and we are hearing about this, instead of the news itself. What happened to the binding paperwork and consequences?

Re:Consequences (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147200)

Maybe he is one of the few people out there that actually give a fuck about the constitution.

Re:Consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147236)

This traitor will be dealt with soon...

Re:Consequences (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147402)

I'm more surprised that this guy went out and said it, and we are hearing about this, instead of the news itself. What happened to the binding paperwork and consequences?

He's 67 and in poor health. He may figure there's little they can do to him.

If it was kept secret it wouldn't matter much (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147174)

The real risk is that it's now public and people are going to gradually accept it, which knocks down the door to more casual use.

It's understandable why this is a fantastic tool, but now that this particular line has been crossed how far are we from having typical law enforcement allowed access to it? Or lawyers in civil lawsuits? Or public investigators, hackers, etc.?

Reminds of me The Dark Knight (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147220)

And Batman's eavesdropping system. Even he realized it was too dangerous for him to possess.

Well duh (2)

anomaly256 (1243020) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147232)

All I've got to say to this is "Well duh.. what the hell did you think they would do with it, Bill?"

Re:Well duh (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148156)

All I've got to say to this is "Well duh.. what the hell did you think they would do with it, Bill?"

Catch terrorists. What do you think he was told when he was working on the project, that they were planning to spy on Americans?

Pen registers (5, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147280)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pen_register [wikipedia.org]

A pen register is an electronic device that records all numbers called from a particular telephone line. The term has come to include any device or program that performs similar functions to an original pen register, including programs monitoring Internet communications.

The USA statutes governing pen registers are codified under 18 U.S.C., Chapter 206 [cornell.edu].

Twisted? (2)

Altus (1034) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147300)

Sounds like its working just as designed.

Re:Twisted? (4, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147356)

Hmm.

I designed a gun.

No, no, no! You're supposed to point it away from you.

Re:Twisted? (1)

grcumb (781340) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148398)

Hmm.

I designed a gun.

No, no, no! You're supposed to point it away from you.

Correction: You're supposed to point it away from me.

Re:Twisted? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148046)

Sounds like its working just as designed.

Not very good, though... they are still searching for anything related on how those cables got uploaded to Wikileaks (i.e. there's still hope).

Rights? (1)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147378)

We don't have rights. If you disagree ask WWII era Japanese-Americans.

Rights? right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147650)

Rights is what the government lets its citizens have WHEN IT IS CONVENIENT. What the government gives, it takes away. People that thinks there are some kind of inalienable rights is kidding themselves. As Der Fuehrer Shrub says, constitution is just a fucking piece of paper.

the NSA is violating the constitution? (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147384)

What, did they think they could do that and get away with it?

"Well, YES."

The Shocking News... (1)

nzNick (721082) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147398)

..... and who in their right mind would thing for more then 1 second it would NOT be used to spy on the US - lets face it, if you want to black-male people you might as well target the richest country in the world first :-)

Re:The Shocking News... (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148098)

who in their right mind would thing for more then 1 second it would NOT be used to spy on the US

Who works for the NSA without trusting that the US government aims to protect the rights of its citizens? It takes a certain mentality to actually agree to government work, particularly as a cryptographer -- you are barred from working on cryptography as a civilian after being exposed to cryptographic secrets. To accept that means you believe that you are doing the right thing.

Now, I agree, any outside observer could have told you that the government would turn that technology against its own citizens and that writing it was the wrong thing to do, but the man in question was not an outside observer. He was probably told that he was working on a project that would help track dangerous people and that his work would save American lives.

I hope this has been informative. (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147414)

Hopefully people will learn from this and avoid similar mistakes in the future. I am reminded of the professor [wikipedia.org] from Atlas Shrugged.

Re:I hope this has been informative. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147528)

You go back to atlas shrugged because instead of actually being a rugged individual, you are just a sheep like most everyone else--just in this case, your choice of shepherd makes you think you are the shepherd, but you are not.

Re:I hope this has been informative. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147684)

"people will learn from this and avoid similar mistakes in the future"

You make it sound like the NSA started spying on people by accident.

committing planetary genocide requires mass fear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147510)

not that there's much to be afeared about? maybe the 'weather'?

the chosen ones' holycost could never continue without a whole bunch of bogus fear hate& deception generated by fictional dilemmas while overlooking world wide massacres.

disarm. no kidding. terrifying tuesday is being executed as planned.

Sent from my iPhone
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What is the next step? (1)

Memroid (898199) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147568)

What can Americans do to put an end to this monitoring of US citizens? What steps should we take to stop this?

Re:What is the next step? (1)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147758)

What can we do when our own government disobeys our laws??? Can the NSA be dissolved by presidential decree?

Re:What is the next step? (2)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147946)

You think the President is going to attempt to fix this problem? From TFA,

The only people Obama has prosecuted are the whistle-blowers.

Re:What is the next step? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147990)

What can Americans do to put an end to this monitoring of US citizens? What steps should we take to stop this?

Well, I don't know... abstain from doing anything online?

Re:What is the next step? (1)

Imrik (148191) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148082)

Renounce your US citizenship, once there are no US citizens they will stop monitoring them.

Happens in Europe as well, nothing new at all (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147570)

As I usually say: Surveillance will just keep growing and growing, because there is no ideology for which its masters don't feel surveillance is useful.

Right-wing? Got to protect that property from illegal sabotage and activists.
Left-wing? Got to monitor those social deviants so they can't threaten The People.
Religious? Got to discover that sinfulness and lack of fear of God.
Atheist? Got to make sure nobody commits the child abuse of raising someone religious.
Green? Still relatively useful as a tool because people mean shit compared to the planet.

Sure, your average person in the street might feel surveillance isn't needed, but the people who float to the top of any political movement tend to enjoy power and its tools.

I don't have the background to say what could avoid that situation though. Maybe a popular movement that aims to fill the channels with noise - a simple program that runs in the background and accesses various pieces of illegal/objectionable information on a running basis.

oh fuck off (2, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147678)

Green? Still relatively useful as a tool because people mean shit compared to the planet.

you dont need to make things off of your ass if you cant find anything against a particular ideology.

Re:oh fuck off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148008)

You think he made that up?

Open your eyes.

That attitude is quite popular.

Re:oh fuck off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148130)

Trust me, I can find plenty against the greens. Maybe you are the deluded one.

Re:Happens in Europe as well, nothing new at all (1)

Imrik (148191) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148090)

Anarchist?

Re:Happens in Europe as well, nothing new at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148300)

No, socially conservative, economically liberal. European Conservative party.

Conservative meaning that I would like to conserve a state of the world where the government is able to monitor someone at the expenditure of a meaningful amount of resources, so that if it's extremely important it could always be done for a limited amount of time, but most of the time not due to this hurdle of effort.

The hurdle in place must be one that it's impossible for the government to remove, because the government (whichever flavour) would always try to do so. In the US the hurdle is pretty much gone and the situation is already as described in the article. In Europe the goal is the same. Are they going to stop here? Why should they want to? There has to be some driving force or desire that took us to the current situation, and it's not like it makes sense for that driving force to be satisfied with all the current limitations to surveillance. The hurdle therefore needs to be created and maintained dynamically by nongovernment entities.

It's not like I am arguing for the killing of politicians and burning of police stations, simply that there should be certain limits to state control of citizens. If you don't treat people like you trust them then you get people who can't be trusted.

How would you build thinthread? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147616)

I think this is a particularly apt question for slashdot. This thing exists, it was developed and written. What would your implementation be?

Re:How would you build thinthread? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148222)

I think this is a particularly apt question for slashdot. This thing exists, it was developed and written. What would your implementation be?

Well, before trying to elicit that sort of thing from Americans, I'd beta test it in your country first, Mr. Zhao. :)

What about the rest of the world? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147696)

So, in the vanishingly unlikely event that this technology had not been turned against US citizens, this guy would have had no problem? Wouldn't have felt the need to apologise to the rest of the world? That's some intense xenophobia he's got there.

That's GREAT (3, Informative)

owlstead (636356) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147790)

For some reason US citizens always only think of themselves. Personally, I think it is great that they treat themselves as they do other human beings on the planet. It may bring some hard needed reflections on how technology is abused (but I'm not holding my breath).

Coulda Saved Him the Trouble (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147798)

If he'd just watched Good Will Hunting, he could have seen this coming.

Re:Coulda Saved Him the Trouble (2)

ArcCoyote (634356) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148024)

More like A Beautiful Mind

You do realize a lot of these cryptographers are borderline psychotic while they are employed by agencies such as the NSA, and eventually progress into genuine mental illness.

From TFA:
"Binney, who is six feet three, is a bespectacled sixty-seven-year-old man with wisps of dark hair; he has the quiet, tense air of a preoccupied intellectual. Now retired and suffering gravely from diabetes, which has already claimed his left leg, he agreed recently to speak publicly for the first time about the Drake case."

At that age, if his diabetes is bad enough to have taken his leg, it has probably also afflicted him with dementia. The fact he is making accusations using such vague terms as "twisted" is another clue there's something not quite right upstairs.

Also TFA, it seems like the issue is that the ThinThread is so good it picks up everything of interest including data about Americans. So the NSA decided not to use it, even with filters and anonymizing controls, because those controls could always be turned off. After 9/11, they realized they desperately needed ThinThread, they started using it without any privacy controls. Computers don't discriminate, if ThinThread sees a patten it records it. That doesn't mean that data it gathers has been abused.

First of all, warrants are not needed for pen-registers and other metadata like IP addresses and email sender/recipient data. Never have been.

Second, even though FISA warrants were not always obtained like they should have been, it has been shown every time an American involved in a NSA wiretap, it was because they were communicating with a non-American person of interest. The wiretap was on the foreign national, not the American.

Re:Coulda Saved Him the Trouble (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148138)

...Second, even though FISA warrants were not always obtained like they should have been, it has been shown every time an American involved in a NSA wiretap, it was because they were communicating with a non-American person of interest. The wiretap was on the foreign national, not the American.

In the cases they have openly and officially admitted to. They are doing much, much more.

Huh... (1)

vajorie (1307049) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148072)

Can you believe they're doing this? They're getting billing records on US citizens!

Oh, so it's okay to eavesdrop on everyone but it's not okay to do that to US citizens? How nice...

Last paragraph sums it up nicely. (5, Insightful)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148128)

The Bush people have been let off. The telecom companies got immunity. The only people Obama has prosecuted are the whistle-blowers.

Watching Us and Smacking Down the Do-Gooders (1)

Goboxer (1821502) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148166)

I RTFA and this is pretty much what I got from it. A fellow developed a program to watch the flow of digital information on various networks. It was so darn good at what it did that it picked up American information too. So he built in a piece to encrypt and make the information anonymous. They decided not to use it. Then 9/11 happened and they took the powerful parts of his program, but left behind his safeguards. He suspects the government is using this bastardized software to not only spy on Americans, but watch ALL of them. Fearing this, he and others gathered together and tried to a bit of whistleblowing. As a result they became targets of the government. This surveying and whistleblower retribution essentially blows watergate out of the fucking water.

This is the most infuriating and horrifying thing I have read about the government Bureaucrats/Tyrants. The fellow suspects that every email sent in the USA is being saved in databases by the NSA. If you aren't encrypting, there really isn't an option anymore. It won't stop them, but it might slow them down.

Feel free, and obligated, to inform your representatives how terrible this is and that they won't get your vote unless they stand for American rights and privacy. Perhaps it will make a difference.

Bill Binney is apparently an idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148170)

This Bill Binney guy is an idiot, apparently; what kind of organization did he think the NSA is? They don't sell sunshine and lollipops.

Cut the crap, Kent. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148174)

What do you think a secret phase conjugate tracking system is for?

Room 641A (5, Interesting)

br00tus (528477) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148256)

I don't think people unfamiliar with telecommunications realize how significant the Room 641A [wikipedia.org] revelation was. Before the so-called Patriot Act took effect, the capability to tap all Americans phone calls and Internet traffic did not exist. Now it does - it is sitting in "points of presence" around the country - before a voice call leaves the LATA, a fiber split happens, where half your call goes to the party your calling, the other half heads to the NSA. This did not exist before 2001-2003. As far as Internet traffic, half of your packets going out and coming in go to the carriers peering point like MAE West, half go the NSA. I'm sure even an all data major carrier Internet transmission across the country splits off to one of these pipes before it goes over the high-speed continental pipeline.

Who knows about how this stuff works besides people like us and telecom people? Even this technician at AT&T didn't know exactly what was going on. Funny enough, the discovery came about because he wanted to make sure the people working in this room were working according to CWA union rules. The unions - the last remnants of ordinary worker's organization and input into a company, which is now almost totally under the control of the top corporate management and ownership, and apparently, the government and its spy agencies.

As far as people saying this is to keep Americans safe from foreign terrorists - is that why Nixon had his guys break into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate? Is that why Clinton had the FBI send him various political opponents files, or Sandy Berger was sneaking documents out of the National Archives? Or why Martin Luther King had his rooms bugged by the FBI, when what he wanted was to non-violently work for the right to vote - a right blacks theoretically had under the Constitution? In 2006 a movie called "The Lives of Others" came out, condemning the Stasi in communist East Germany for creating a police state. While American critics feel good about themselves condemning the apparatus of a police state from ancient history, one is growing in the phone companies of America. Before 2001-2003, the US did not have an internal Stasi-like phone system - now it does. There's no reason to be hyperbolic about it, it is just that the government and corporate telecommunications monopolies are attempting to remove a right to privacy and freedom we once had.

READ THE ARTICLE! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148274)

I know RTFA is something most people never do around here, but...

This article happens to be full of interesting things. Your government is out of control.

Better tags (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148314)

Like liberty, freedom?
Instead we've got: nsa, privacy, usa.
Someone could write an algorithm to come up with these trivial categorisations.

'Main Core' missing from the story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148380)

Once again, no mention of Main Core, the 8 million citizen dataset, in an article on domestic spying in the US...

It isn't only the government. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36148394)

The media companies have bastardized versions of the monitoring software as well. They have also been simultaneously lobbying in Washington D.C. for years now so they can enforce their current monitoring practices. A police state indeed.

Everything you do in front of a phone or computer can pretty much be stored, analyzed, recorded, sold, and picked apart remotely from private companies.

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