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NSA Can't Search Its Own Email

Unknown Lamer posted about 9 months ago | from the apt-get-install-thinthread dept.

IT 165

cycoj writes "The NSA says that there is no central method to search its own email. When asked in a Freedom of Information Act request for emails with the National Geographic Channel over a specific time period, the agency, which has been collecting and analyzing the data of hundreds of millions of Internet users, says it can only perform person-per-person searches on its own email."

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165 comments

big surprise (4, Insightful)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 9 months ago | (#44370437)

Perfect example of "do as I say, not as I do". But this isn't just a NSA problem, it is a government problem.

Re:big surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370715)

Not exactly. With all their personnel already assigned to snooping on the rest of the world they just don't have the manpower to install a solution.

Re:big surprise (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370881)

More likely a case of somebody lying to get around a FOIA request, for which there will be consequences. All government agencies have very strict regulations concerning record keeping and FOIA, with jail time possible for anyone who fails to abide by those regulations.

Re:big surprise (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371175)

jail time??? your funny to think that anyone will see jail time. A promotion maybe.

Re:big surprise (4, Insightful)

Sancho (17056) | about 9 months ago | (#44371443)

FOIA does not require that you make it easy to comply with FOIA requests. Nothing in there says you have to have globally searchable e-mail or document storage, in fact. And the costs to fulfill the request are paid by the requestor, not the agency. By using an archaic, difficult to use system, they can legitimately make the costs of fulfilling FOIA requests prohibitively high. Thus they follow the letter of the law, though not the spirit.

They could search National Geographic's mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370913)

Simple, they have all that meta data, and can simply put in the National Geographic email domain and it will return a list of who in the NSA had contact with them.
Then they can filter for just those people and those emails.

So they're a bunch of fucking liars and the Freedom of Information Act is the least of the laws they've broken.

Re:big surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371149)

Why do you assume that it is a lie? I cannot imagine a secure server that the NSA would use where one person could gain access to everything that has ever been emailed. (Not to mention that they may have something ancient and classified that they use that is not entirely the same email that everyone else uses.) These are like the most paranoid people on the planet, right? So they're worried about what happens when the janitor who cleans the floor and has been cleared for 30 background checks and daily lie detector tests for the last 20 years turns into James Bond -- in that case, I would want email servers broken into many small distributed pieces to limit damaging leaks.

Re:big surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371655)

Why do you assume that it is a lie? I cannot imagine a secure server that the NSA would use where one person could gain access to everything that has ever been emailed. (Not to mention that they may have something ancient and classified that they use that is not entirely the same email that everyone else uses.) These are like the most paranoid people on the planet, right? So they're worried about what happens when the janitor who cleans the floor and has been cleared for 30 background checks and daily lie detector tests for the last 20 years turns into James Bond -- in that case, I would want email servers broken into many small distributed pieces to limit damaging leaks.

I've got this great big bridge for sale you might be interested in buying ...

NSA *Won't* Search Its Own Email (4, Insightful)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 9 months ago | (#44370445)

FTFY

Re:NSA *Won't* Search Its Own Email (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370587)

They must be using Microsoft Exchange.

Exchange (2)

daninaustin (985354) | about 9 months ago | (#44370657)

There are lots of products that do this for exchange. I would bet that it's a security issue or they just don't want the feature.

Re:Exchange (5, Informative)

datavirtue (1104259) | about 9 months ago | (#44370933)

Avoided the feature because of FOIA requests. There are a lot of loopholes for gov organizations to avoid sunshine requests if they really want to--part of it is making the information difficult to reach (can't get the info==do not have to comply). Also, FOIA compliance hinges on each institution's policy in regard to the information. They can set a two day retention policy so that if you request it four days from now they will delete it and reply that the information is not available. Government institutions are hostile to information requests--believe it or not. Power and control is paramount in these environments and arbitrary information requests from outsiders flies in the face of this disposition. [first-hand knowledge]

Re:Exchange (1)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | about 9 months ago | (#44370951)

There are lots of products that do this for exchange. I would bet that it's a security issue or they just don't want the feature.

For that matter, it does it out of the box and has for several years and revisions...

Re:Exchange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371109)

My god if the NSA is using Exchange we are in more trouble than I thought.

Re:NSA *Won't* Search Its Own Email (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370987)

Exchange has an insane number of e-Discovery tools. In fact, in Exchange 2013, there is a role group just dedicated to sifting through stored E-mail.

Re:NSA *Won't* Search Its Own Email (4, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 9 months ago | (#44370845)

It's pretty shocking that after having been caught lying to congress about the program, they're STILL LYING ABOUT IT. They must not think much of us. I guess they've been reading all our e-mails, they probably know us pretty well and are right to think that we'll let it slide.

Re:NSA *Won't* Search Its Own Email (5, Insightful)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 9 months ago | (#44371261)

Why wouldn't they continue to lie? Congress, the President, and the American public have made it abundantly clear that there will be no consequences for lying. So, why not?

Damn straight! apk (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371001)

It's SO f'ing ridiculous, & worst of all? They're trying to feed us BULLSHIT like we're fucking STUPID or something... It's an INSULT to American people's intelligence!

* This really 'sets me off': &, it should all of you also, as fellow americans - we DON'T want this shit to go on -> http://hotair.com/archives/2013/07/24/video-nsa-white-house-getting-worried-about-defunding-vote-in-house/ [hotair.com]

Mr. Alexander's getting "panicky" & REACTING too: His tax dollars WE PAY FOR *may* be cut the F off... "We SEE you" pal, for what you TRULY are.

Why am I upset along with every other "Joe Public little person" out there? The assholes use it against us, but "OH, NO, not on ourselves!"...

That, & I saw protesters get f'd over - then, the abuse of the IRS targetting political opponents (both of which are WRONG as wrong gets), but then I saw how Gen. Keith Alexander & Mr. James Clapper outright LIED saying they were NOT intercepting communique data of US citizens (especially since the NSA is or WAS not permitted to do so to native US citizenry - sure, "but it's LEGAL" yea, ok - changing the rules IN "SECRET COURTS" (WTF? They're EMPLOYEES OF OURS, not our masters, we have a RIGHT to know what the fuck they're up to, especially when it concerns us), subverting constitutional rights & such is WRONG too - up there with "hate speech" b.s. too - if you say something, it has every RIGHT to be said, but it's up to YOU to listen or not, but it is STILL a right).

NOW, here's a theory on WHY Mr. Obama is trying to VETO this from passing: My guess is that the reason the head of the IRS didn't lose her job is that she'd "spill the beans" on WHO gave her the "go-ahead" to pull her shit as she did (and his hair has turned grey from it this past quarter - now, there's a clue)... same with all the others like Clapper & Alexander.

The rats WILL start eating the other rats when push comes to shove, just like in this video (i have to hand musicians 1 thing - they're generally intelligent & see things WAY in advance) -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfpgpf6QVnI&ob=av2n [youtube.com]

APK

P.S.=> Folks - today, is THE day, where we find out just how "for the people & BY the people" our representatives in Congress are... apk

Re:NSA *Won't* Search Its Own Email (1)

bfandreas (603438) | about 9 months ago | (#44371629)

I'm still going with "can't".

If they were asked to produce all relevant correspondence then a simple search algorithm won't be relyable enough.
If that is the case and that's how they interpret that request then it is further proof that red tape is thicker than their mission statement. Cooperation looks differently. This is a bureaucracy trying to weather a storm. And this is why the NSA should be dismantled and their place should be taken by somebody who understands their mission and takes it a little bit more seriously.


I've seen enough CYA reactions to know one when I see one. This is one. Doesn't even need to quack like a duck.

sounds like they're running exchange (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370453)

Sounds like they're running an MS Exchange install, that was likely installed by some high dollar beltway bandit contractor...

Re:sounds like they're running exchange (5, Insightful)

jongalbreath (1621157) | about 9 months ago | (#44370543)

As an Exchange administrator, I can say that searching across an entire mail database is absolutely possible, and also very simple to do from the Management Shell. They're either lying, or just don't want to do it.

Re:sounds like they're running exchange (3, Insightful)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about 9 months ago | (#44370593)

I concur it's very simple to search across and pull user or timeframe emails. If they are like any other branches of the gov why are they not required to maintain backup copies of email? Wasn't there a big thing during the Clinton administration that resulted in Washington keeping emails on record after that?

Even if their server can't do it what about their backup repository.

Re:sounds like they're running exchange (3, Insightful)

1s44c (552956) | about 9 months ago | (#44370609)

As an Exchange administrator, I can say that searching across an entire mail database is absolutely possible, and also very simple to do from the Management Shell. They're either lying, or just don't want to do it.

Of course it's possible with Exchange or with anything else for that matter. There is an exception to FOI requests where getting the information is expensive. What they mean is they can't do it within whatever small budget they allocate to serving FIO requests.

Re:sounds like they're running exchange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370653)

They might not be using exchange.

I can confirm that it's not easy to do if you use Novell Groupwise and rightly so. Admins should not have access to users mail. But the fact that they do not have an e-mail archiving system is interesting i taught that it was the law for government agency.

Re:sounds like they're running exchange (2)

pipatron (966506) | about 9 months ago | (#44371275)

It could be that certain agencies are exempt from the law. For your own safety of course. It's better that you don't know.

Re:sounds like they're running exchange (1)

morcego (260031) | about 9 months ago | (#44371169)

As an Exchange administrator, I can say that searching across an entire mail database is absolutely possible, and also very simple to do from the Management Shell. They're either lying, or just don't want to do it.

It is also possible on Notes, any Unix mailbox format (maildir, mbox, maildir+, w/e), and any other e-mail system I can think of.

Re:sounds like they're running exchange (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 9 months ago | (#44371323)

My inclination would be to believe that they have built their email system so that what they are saying is technically correct, but I would bet that is because they don't want to (of course, there is a significant chance that they are just lying). However, even if their email system does not technically allow them to search in the manner that they say it can't, there is almost certainly another way of doing so that would yield essentially the same results.

Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370455)

That is rich......

Right... (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about 9 months ago | (#44370461)

The NSA says that there is no central method to search its own email.

[cough] Bullshit [/cough]

Re:Right... (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | about 9 months ago | (#44370495)

Well there is, but they'd have to kill you if they tell you about it.

Re:Right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371191)

Why assume they probably want to do that anyway, if you don't obey and serve?

The best way to love the USA right now, is to hate the NSA and the whole industrial-feudalist fascism that is the rest of the iceberg.

Re:Right... (2)

TWX (665546) | about 9 months ago | (#44370499)

Yeah... Perhaps a congresscritter should ask during a joint committee meeting, and if this answer is provided, the individual should be held for being In Contempt of Congress...

Re:Right... (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 9 months ago | (#44371251)

Yup: They won't use Contempt of Congress to deal with this, which is why I have Contempt for Congress.

Re:Right... (4, Informative)

runeghost (2509522) | about 9 months ago | (#44371307)

The Director of the NSA has openly admitted he lied to Congress, and his punishment is... nothing. Not even harsh language, much less prosecution or losing his job.

IRS too (READ, & understand).... apk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371487)

http://it.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=4011121&cid=44371001 [slashdot.org]

* Shit makes me MAD as hell... this line of CRAP? It *may* fool folks NOT into computing, but it sure as hell doesn't fool me (or doubtless MOST OF YOU AS WELL, since you know how this tech works).

Now, I have nothing against men who probably go in with the right idea & honorable intentions... problem is, as I said in the link I posted earlier above? Is that they are JUST MEN, & subject to "Absolute Power Corrupting Absolutely"... & I suspect THAT is what most folks don't like about it, or trust (especially after the IRS fiasco - hell, the head of it didn't even LOSE HER JOB for Pete's sake!).

Same with Clapper or Alexander - you can bet your BOTTOM-DOLLAR it was the MAN @ THE TOP who gave the go ahead, & they told him flat-out:

"Fucker, you FIRE ME? I will bring down hell on your earth spilling the beans YOU GAVE ME THE GO-AHEAD TO DO IT!"

Bank on that - it IS exactly how political scumbags operate "deny, deny, deny" & then when caught? Stick together like glue, to the very end... then, start TURNING ON ONE ANOTHER for 'self-preservation' for power's sake.

APK

P.S.=> I know 1 thing - were I to bullshit a court, much less the Congress/house/senate? I'd be in jail... nobody is though, & that makes ME say "WTF!"... rules, they are for everyone - perhaps MORESO for those enforcing said rules/laws, & they? They HAVE to be "better than" their opponents, & yes, that means morally, & playing the game STRAIGHT UP imo, not lowering themselves to their opponents own "low ground"... you start doing that? Then other rules/law breaking starts!

... apk

yeah right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370465)

they are only trying to get rid of some of the attention they have now ;)

NSA, we are watching you!

what is good for the goose is good for the gander (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370473)

Maybe they should run all their internal email through their PRISM system, that way it can be searched for keywords and META data much easier. Problem solved.

Re:what is good for the goose is good for the gand (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about 9 months ago | (#44370607)

No doubt a trusting agency such as that would already be scanning their internal emails looking for leaks.

Re:what is good for the goose is good for the gand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371099)

The developers should always eat their own dog food.

Re:what is good for the goose is good for the gand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371219)

these PRISonM developers should actually just eat dogfood

Suuuuure (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370503)

That's such a line of shit.

It's not that they cannot search their emails. It's that they have chosen to not create a search mechanism, because they have found this excuse is accepted by the courts to deny information requests. They will use every trick available to them to avoid adhering to laws they don't like.

Do you really believe anything they say?

"Can't" vs. "Don't Want To" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370507)

I suspect the real reason is that they don't want to, not that they can't. In the NSA's defense, when an organization works with highly compartmentalized information, having the ability to scan all employees' email is not wise from a security perspective.

Re:"Can't" vs. "Don't Want To" (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 9 months ago | (#44370605)

Even the government is not stupid enough to run multiple Exchange servers within the same intranet. They probably run a version of Exchange with some add-ons they bought from Microsoft to handle classification controls. Even with multiple Exchange servers, in order for e-mail to actually be sent between subnets, they need to be connected. NSA is 30,000+ people, so we're talking about a cloud (hate that word) environment for managing that many e-mails. Querying for data from the "cloud" is not complicated or difficult.

Plus let us consider how many of those 30,000+ people are not analysts or anything of the sort. Half of those are probably support staff, handling paperwork, budgets, crappy powerpoint presentations, etc. The only thing they have to hide is how little they actually do at work.

Re:"Can't" vs. "Don't Want To" (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 9 months ago | (#44370783)

Plus let us consider how many of those 30,000+ people are not analysts or anything of the sort.

Indeed. While I'd expect the NSA to generally have it's stuff together, everybody needs to realize that large organizations can have varying levels of competence(and incompetence) in varying areas and tasks.

For the NSA, the lion's share of it's resources goes towards providing security and exploiting security holes. It has multiple 'defensive'(not in the news much) and 'offensive'(been in the news much more) cells, and they tend to not talk to each other. You have the mentioned admin people, but they're mostly afterthoughts.

Even the government is not stupid enough to run multiple Exchange servers within the same intranet.

*snerk* You have more faith in government than I do. I wouldn't be surprised if there are multiple exchange servers set up, heck, I KNOW there has to be multiple networks, at least 4, probably a lot more. Thus the 'find the individual' comment, so you can find the appropriate network(s), the appropriate servers, to do the search.

Re:"Can't" vs. "Don't Want To" (3, Informative)

datavirtue (1104259) | about 9 months ago | (#44370999)

The only thing they have to hide is how little they actually do at work.

You've obviously have never worked in government. There is no need to hide how little you actually do--furthermore, working hard or working extra will ultimately get you in trouble (we call it "getting your hand slapped").

Re:"Can't" vs. "Don't Want To" (3, Interesting)

djmurdoch (306849) | about 9 months ago | (#44370673)

Suppose that instead of "National Geographic", someone at the NSA wanted to search every email that was sent to Snowden's Gmail account from within the NSA.

Do you think they would be able to do that? Not being able to do that sounds like a security problem.

Re:"Can't" vs. "Don't Want To" (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 9 months ago | (#44370799)

Suppose that instead of "National Geographic", someone at the NSA wanted to search every email that was sent to Snowden's Gmail account from within the NSA.

Do you think they would be able to do that? Not being able to do that sounds like a security problem.

I thought their excuse was that they could do a search for a single email address, just not a complete domain. So snowden@nsacontractor.com would work, but *@natgeo.org wouldn't.

Others seem to be arguing that they're saying that they can only search against one employee as well.

Doesn't add up (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 9 months ago | (#44371151)

having the ability to scan all employees' email is not wise from a security perspective.

NOT having the ability to scan email is not wise from a security perspective. If someone is doing something they ought not to be doing, exactly how is the NSA going to find out? They claim they need this ability to find out if civilians are dangerous so why would the same logic not apply to their internal operations? Makes NO sense whatsoever.

Smart design. (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 9 months ago | (#44370521)

Isn't this pretty much what privacy adocates have advised for years? The NSA is one of the groups gathering people's data against their will. If anyone knows what possibilities to avoid if you don't want people in your data, it's them.

By Design? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370529)

How convenient for them.....

Get Snowden to do it (1)

charnov (183495) | about 9 months ago | (#44370545)

Snowden didn't seem to have a problem finding information. Maybe they just need a contractor to come in and do it for them...

Re:Get Snowden to do it (2)

1s44c (552956) | about 9 months ago | (#44370637)

Snowden didn't seem to have a problem finding information. Maybe they just need a contractor to come in and do it for them...

It is highly unlikely that Snowden knows everything the NSA is involved in. The stuff he released might be inflamatory but there will be plenty more he never knew about.

Re:Get Snowden to do it (1)

Salgak1 (20136) | about 9 months ago | (#44370711)

Indeed. To release something, you need to know it exists in the first place. We've all heard tales of programs that don't, officially, exist. I'm sure all the Intelligence agencies have a plethora of them, but you could never prove it. Which is kind of the point of such programs. . . .

Yep. The Men in Black have the data, and the NSA is THEIR cover (grin)

And we accept this excuse? (5, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | about 9 months ago | (#44370547)

If I were in charge, and the agency responsible for technological espionage and information security told me they couldn't search through their own emails, I would fire them. Every single one of them. Bam. Agency dissolved, someone go think of a new TLA for the new agency. This is like a Navy that can't figure out how to dock a battleship, or a tax agency that doesn't know what all the valid exemptions are. Complete and utter incompetence.

What's saddest is that this almost certainly isn't true. They've got these capabilities. They're just trying to hide something ("everything" qualifies as something, for their purposes). *Maybe* they're telling the truth, if they've got some custom, highly-encrypted system where emails can only be decrypted by the users. But that doesn't seem like the phrasing used here.

What's saddest is that "we're completely fucking incompetent" is not just the excuse they went with, but that it actually works.

Re:And we accept this excuse? (4, Insightful)

1s44c (552956) | about 9 months ago | (#44370703)

If I were in charge, and the agency responsible for technological espionage and information security told me they couldn't search through their own emails, I would fire them. Every single one of them. Bam. Agency dissolved, someone go think of a new TLA for the new agency.

Not an option. The NSA has a portfolio of affairs, abuses of power, criminal behavior, tax fraud, drug abuse, etc. on every member of the government. Nobody will oppose those who could end their career in a few keystrokes. ...Or maybe I'm just paranoid.

Re:And we accept this excuse? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 9 months ago | (#44370839)

If I were in charge, and the agency responsible for technological espionage and information security told me they couldn't search through their own emails, I would fire them. Every single one of them. Bam. Agency dissolved, someone go think of a new TLA for the new agency.

Not an option. The NSA has a portfolio of affairs, abuses of power, criminal behavior, tax fraud, drug abuse, etc. on every member of the government. Nobody will oppose those who could end their career in a few keystrokes. ...Or maybe I'm just paranoid.

I'm sure some oppose those who could end their career in a few keystrokes... you just haven't heard about those people for obvious reasons.

Re:And we accept this excuse? (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 9 months ago | (#44371245)

he NSA has a portfolio of affairs, abuses of power, criminal behavior, tax fraud, drug abuse, etc. on every member of the government.

I would like to believe that there are at least a couple members of government for which a portfolio containing that sort of data would be empty. The idea that of the hundreds of congressmen and senators, that none of them at all have avoided committing these serious violations of the law just doesnt seem reasonable. Its reasonable to suppose that most of them are guilty of serious violations of the law, but not all of them.

Re:And we accept this excuse? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370763)

They may have some sort of distributed email system, based on something old / classified. Think of it from NSA's side for a moment. You have this network of people with some of the most secret stuff in the US, and you are in charge of designing an email system. You're worried that someone could gain access to the servers, maybe even physical access, and you want to minimize such damage if it happens.

I could easily imagine that each person or workgroup would have physically separated mail servers.

Re:And we accept this excuse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371007)

I assure you that the IRS screws up which exemptions are valid all the goddamn time, and the US Navy does in fact use local tugboats to dock warships in foreign ports.

No joking or sarcasm intended here.

Seriously, you're acting like this is the first time you've seen an organization with an incompetent IT department.

Re:And we accept this excuse? (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | about 9 months ago | (#44371159)

Anything can be done with digital information, but if they have to hire a contractor to do it or even write a script they can say it inaccessible for FOIA purposes.

Re:And we accept this excuse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371287)

A few weeks after the NSA has been revealed to be spying on just about everyone, they publicly claim to be incapable of finding their own shoe laces.
The public responds in various ways, including:

What's saddest is that "we're completely fucking incompetent" is not just the excuse they went with, but that it actually works.

Were I responsible for overseeing the NSA, I would so double their bonuses given this response.

Re:And we accept this excuse? (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 9 months ago | (#44371675)

What's saddest is that "we're completely fucking incompetent" is not just the excuse they went with, but that it actually works.

Not sure if you've noticed, but that's been the US governments MO for decades for hiding their true purposes.

Remove funding, destr their systems, fire them all (1)

Picass0 (147474) | about 9 months ago | (#44370565)

It's time for Congress to disassemble this agency. Their track record of protecting the American public is horrible.

Re:Remove funding, destr their systems, fire them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370935)

Their track record of protecting the American public is horrible.

Or is it? One issue is that it's entirely possible that they HAVE stopped terrible plots and then buried them in the shadows. And I'm sure they'll claim they have done so if they are ever threatened with de-funding or tighter control/oversight, but of course we'll probably never know either way.

Re:Remove funding, destr their systems, fire them (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | about 9 months ago | (#44371199)

That is probably one of the dumbest comments I've seen on slashdot for some time. It's like one of those comments you would see on YouTube or something. I'm no fan of government anything, but to say that the NSA has a terrible track record of protecting the American public is just stupid.

Clearly they need a bigger budget (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370583)

This is a muse to get more money.

I'm fully convinced that all government agencies exist for the sole purpose of extracting as much taxpayer money as possible.

Re:Clearly they need a bigger budget (2)

ArcadeX (866171) | about 9 months ago | (#44370721)

The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.

In the olden days... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370617)

government lies were more believable. Nowadays they don't even try to pretend they give a fuck.

Same ol' NSA protocol (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 9 months ago | (#44370655)

Lie, lie, lie, until you get caught, 'cause there's nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Re:Same ol' NSA protocol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370847)

Same ol' leadership-of-any-kind protocol.

FTFY

Sounds like the Onion.. (2)

sylivin (2964093) | about 9 months ago | (#44370697)

.. but ends up as truth.

Seriously though, the NSA is directly involved in lying to Congress. Do you think they would have any system that would allow easy discoverability of their misdeeds? I am sure their processes are in place to make any type of lawsuit or congressional oversight as difficult as possible.

Of course, any results this poor fellow would have received anyway would be just pages and pages of blacked out text with the headers and footers as they only "public" information.

Re:Sounds like the Onion.. (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 9 months ago | (#44370871)

.. but ends up as truth.

Seriously though, the NSA is directly involved in lying to Congress. Do you think they would have any system that would allow easy discoverability of their misdeeds? I am sure their processes are in place to make any type of lawsuit or congressional oversight as difficult as possible.

Of course, any results this poor fellow would have received anyway would be just pages and pages of blacked out text with the headers and footers as they only "public" information.

Who needs the contents? As we've been arguing with PRISM, the message headers are more than enough to gather a detailed picture. They can always look up the precise NatGeo emails from THEIR side once they get the bigger picture of subject lines, internal people, date/time, message routing, etc.

NSA (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44370723)

NSA doesn't fund their operations primarily with drug running anymore. Insider trading is the best source of funding. And they have all the information they need to do this.

Easy fix. Supply the Metadata then. (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 9 months ago | (#44370797)

Or whatever large glob of crap they store the email in. They do have servers, right? Somewhere on those servers is a file, RAID array, partition, SAN or JBOD, Most likely encrypted. Hand over the disks, the encryption keys and whatever else is needed to access that Metatdata.

Have the court appoint someone approved by the EFF to sign an NDA/Gag order/whatever and sift through the Metadata removing items which are of key importance. If those top brass military brats think they are above the law, go around them.

being difficult is not an excuse (1)

Dale512 (1073668) | about 9 months ago | (#44370833)

Not wanting to or it being hard isn't an excuse to not comply with a valid FOIA request. Finding email correspondence is a pretty routine thing that they should be able to handle. If we truly had checks and balances in the system they would be punished for failure to comply.

Tell them to snoop on themselves (1)

taikedz (2782065) | about 9 months ago | (#44370953)

I thought they were monitoring, and could search, all communications on Earth?

Considering their Paranoia of being spied on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371105)

Everyone might be running their own mail server to compartmentalize information, or not storing any information centrally accessible. Imagine the secrets that would be available to the next Snowden if it was...

Bat Boy Escapes (0)

msmonroe (2511262) | about 9 months ago | (#44371117)

Yeah this story sounds real. I am not seeing an accompanying article or evidence. Not saying it's not real, but it sounds like one of those government conspiracy theories like the government faked 9-11. Competent enough to stage 9-11 in front of cameras and people, with no one leaking it, then incompetent, for instance Snowden leaking information about the NSA. Who knows...

Re:Bat Boy Escapes (1)

msmonroe (2511262) | about 9 months ago | (#44371197)

Yeah this story sounds real. I am not seeing an accompanying article or evidence. Not saying it's not real, but it sounds like one of those government conspiracy theories like the government faked 9-11. Competent enough to stage 9-11 in front of cameras and people, with no one leaking it, then incompetent, for instance Snowden leaking information about the NSA. Who knows...

Sorry I'm stupid, the link wasn't showing in my browser for some reason. They're idiots then for not upgrading their email services.

Re:Bat Boy Escapes (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about 9 months ago | (#44371279)

Yeah this story sounds real. I am not seeing an accompanying article or evidence. Not saying it's not real, but it sounds like one of those government conspiracy theories like the government faked 9-11. Competent enough to stage 9-11 in front of cameras and people, with no one leaking it, then incompetent, for instance Snowden leaking information about the NSA. Who knows...

I suspect it is a very real FOIA excuse. Whether the excuse is valid or not is hard to say.
Within the bureaucracy, you can tell the FOIA officer your limitations and s/he sends them back to the requester.
Then it's on to step two: Natl Geog calling them full of congress and demanding information about their e-mail system (probably already available on a Chinese site).

And I'll bet the NSA is not lying.
I'll bet they have multiple different e-mail systems, all of them installed by different contractors at different times under different contracts and no easy way to search thru them all, especially with the additional security overlays.
That's just a guess based on normal corporate behavior in groups that grow fast and have money to burn.

Obviously lying... but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371145)

If I were designing a secure email system I would encrypt each email by default and backup the keys somewhere. However, that would make it *difficult* to to a global search of any kind...

I can see one way (2)

Chelloveck (14643) | about 9 months ago | (#44371229)

I can see one way in which this might be both true and proper. If each account was individually encrypted with keys that only the users had, what they're saying would be completely true. And I think it would be completely proper and even laudatory to run an email system that way. They could search individual accounts by having the users decrypt them, but they couldn't do a wholesale search of the entire email system. This is the way email should be!

A somewhat more likely approach would be that by policy, users are not allowed to keep email on the server. All email must be downloaded or deleted. No online folders, ridiculously small INBOX quotas, maybe a read-once policy where as soon as the mail is retrieved the server auto-deletes it. I can actually understand this being done; I've worked with corporate lawyers who would love to have the email system set up this way for the express purpose of defeating global searches. Anything can be twisted and used against you, so save nothing, leave no evidence. I certainly don't agree with that mindset, but I've worked with people who are like that.

Not that I think it actually is done either of those ways. I think it's far more likely that they're simply lying and refusing to comply. It's probably simply policy to refuse such blanket FOIA requests, and there's undoubtedly a clause buried in the FOIA itself that allows them to require that requests be specific and narrow. You know, in the way that searches of private individuals are supposed to be.

NSA lying OR hilariously incompetent? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371471)

Because it's one or the other. Mayhem ensues....

Malice vs. incompetence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371591)

I believe it, actually. Ask anybody that's ever dealt with government software what they think of the experience.

Incompetence ? (1)

GuB-42 (2483988) | about 9 months ago | (#44371731)

Three possibilities :
1 - It's a lie
2 - It's true because they have a super-secure system in place
3 - It's true because they are incompetent (I'm talking about their administration, not their researchers)

Considering the recent turn of events, I'd go with #3.
What Snowden discovered didn't surprise me. Spying is part of the job after all. But the other part is keeping it secret, and they failed miserably.

It's a game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44371741)

They're trying the "We can't be legally responsible because we're incompetent" gambit.

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