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NSA Head Asks How To Spy Without Collecting Metadata

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the you-and-your-connected-dots-can-shove-off dept.

Privacy 509

jfruh writes "NSA Director Keith Alexander, testifying before the Senate this week, got weirdly petulant, asking his critics how he was supposed to do his job without collecting metadata on American communications. 'If we can come up with a better way, we ought to put it on the table and argue our way through it,' he said. 'There is no other way that we know of to connect the dots.' He also implied that major U.S. tech companies might have greater capacities than his organizations, and that they should help him out with new ideas."

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509 comments

Then Fire Him (5, Insightful)

craigminah (1885846) | about 7 months ago | (#45680683)

Is he doesn't know how to do his job without violating all our rights then he should be replaced.

Re:Then Fire Him (5, Insightful)

eriklou (1027240) | about 7 months ago | (#45680709)

Came to say this...
Time to hire people that can actually think outside of the box. Problem with that is they'd be too smart to take the job.

Re:Then Fire Him (5, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | about 7 months ago | (#45680843)

That is the cynicism that gives Americans what they have now. If every American actually felt there was a problem it would stop. The problem is that Americans condone this behavior as a general populace. So you get what you vote for. It is like the stat, "oh I hate Congress, but my guy is doing just fine, the others are the problem." RIGHT!!! It is always the OTHER...

Re:Then Fire Him (5, Insightful)

SuperTechnoNerd (964528) | about 7 months ago | (#45680941)

The problem is that Americans condone this behavior as a general populace..

It's more along the lines of not understanding fully whats going on and people feeling powerless to do anything about it.

Re:Then Fire Him (5, Insightful)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 7 months ago | (#45680987)

From what I've seen, people are either apathetic or support it. As it turns out, people in the "land of the free" don't actually care about freedom all that much.

Re:Then Fire Him (0, Troll)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 7 months ago | (#45681101)

Well that is because the Nanny State and professional babysitters promises them a warm bottle, a blankie and a cuddle in return for votes.

No, this is NOT a troll, this is exactly what happens when people figure out they can get stuff for "free" if they vote correctly. Conditioned response. Pavlov's Dogs etc etc etc.

Re:Then Fire Him (1)

Xeno man (1614779) | about 7 months ago | (#45681107)

Unless you want to take away a few guns, then that is all they care about.

Why do libertarians complain so much? (1, Interesting)

mozumder (178398) | about 7 months ago | (#45680967)

The internet isn't yours.

It is theirs.

The best thing for civil libertarians to do is to just get off the internet entirely.

Or do you guys complain every time you visit someone else's house?

This is the big problem with all these narcissistic individuals - they think they own the world because they think too highly of themselves.

When the Internet was created, everyone knew you didn't have privacy on it, since anyone could read everybody else's mail spool.

Somehow all these losers started invading the internet, decided to become comfortable within it, and they never got the memo that the Internet wasn't a private communications system.

We need to get these losers off the Internet. This is best for them.

It's also best for the Internet.

Re:Then Fire Him (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680893)

Wish I had mod points right now, you'd get'em all.

Re:Then Fire Him (5, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | about 7 months ago | (#45681019)

Outside the box, how about inside the box!

What is wrong with good old fashion detective work? You get tips from people you follow them up, you listen to truly public chatter learn who the malcontents are and infiltrate their groups, etc.

All things police and spy agencies have been doing as long as they have existed and it worked without with to a large degree without global privacy shredding mass data collection. Is it likely to be as "effective" my guess is probably not as effective as mass surveillance can be but then again there is little evidence to suggest the the mass surveillance has worked so well, I mean people are still going abroad to meet with terror organizations come home and then sneak bombs on planes; they have just failed to detonate.

Its a question of finding balance: risks, costs, and rewards. The real solution is we need to start getting rational about that.

Re:Then Fire Him (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 7 months ago | (#45681185)

Here's out of the box thinking. How about we all admit that even with near-total surveillance, something like the Boston Marathon attack can still happen, and that there is a finite limit to the safety even the most expansive surveillance regime can supply, and therefore stop pursuing goals whose ultimate destination is reduced liberties with little in the way of reduction in risk.

Bingo. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680781)

Constitution first. If you can't do what you are trying to justify within the bounds of that very plain-language document, then you DO NOT DO IT.

It would be easy to stamp out all domestic abuse. Just post a federal officer in every couples' bedroom.

Same applies for violent crime with firearms; turn every home upside down and confiscate every firearm you find. If any "missed" or hidden turn up later, immediate death penalty. Possession or use after this point - also immediate death penalty.

It would sure make the cops' jobs easier! We should totally do that! Except it's flagrantly in violation of both the spirit and the word of the Constitution - just like the NSA's metadata dragnets - so too fucking bad.

Do your jobs above board, according to the law. You know, those pesky things you make and ignore, but we serfs have to follow? Those.

Re:Bingo. (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 7 months ago | (#45681045)

The constitution is not a very plain language document. Consider the second amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Are gun owners required to be in the militia? Is the State free to draft gun owners?

And don't get me started on copyrights and patents.

Re:Bingo. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45681123)

I completely agree with what you're saying, but the examples you've posted also have the additional requirements of huge amounts of (visible) manpower. You would need an absurd number of policemen to curb domestic violence that way, for example, likewise to search through every house. I get your point, and I know that metadata collection facilities such as have been constructed also take huge amounts of manpower, but there are a few orders of magnitude of difference between them. Google or Facebook or Yahoo(?) or any other absurdly large tech company with nigh-omnipresence could probably produce a comparable infrastructure. To a significant part of the population, the response to "turn every home inside out and confiscate all guns" is "No, it's too hard", not "No, it's illegal for a good reason".

The problem is that, going forward, absurdisms such as "post a federal officer in every bedroom" won't be so absurd in practice, especially with regard to the internet. To invoke Orwell, just "post a smart TV(tm) in every bedroom". Or don't even bother, because we can have every cell phone do the job for us, even while switched off. The effort of "post a federal officer in every bedroom" may drop from "impossible" to "$2mil and three months of contractor time, plus 2-3 weeks for deployment". And frankly, I don't think the argument of the Constitution will stand up against that kind of implementation ease at the voting booth.

Re:Then Fire Him (1)

fredrated (639554) | about 7 months ago | (#45680785)

First post and best suggestion. You win.

Re:Then Fire Him (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680827)

It's not that he doesn't know how to do the job, it's that the job is impossible.

He's right, you can't make connections without any form of tracking whatsoever, and his job is to make those connections. He shouldn't be fired, but perhaps his job should be changed or removed.

Re:Then Fire Him (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680871)

The real question: How was he doing his job before? Or is he saying the NSA has been useless for the past 60 years, and only now is viable since everyone started carrying a real-time GPS tracker?
In that case, do we get our tax dollars back?

Re:Then Fire Him (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45681143)

That's a dumb question.

In the past the NSA has collected data where people were communicating, via radio, telephone, and then satellite networks. AS technology evolves people migrate to the Internet, and such the NSA moved to monitoring the internet. Unfortunately monitoring communication via the internet means you start picking up metadata; that is the nature of internet communication and is what makes it different than prior radio communications.

The internet didn't exist 60 years ago, and the NSA has a broad mission in covering all forms of electronic communication. He's referring to the monitoring of the internet.

Re:Then Fire Him (3, Interesting)

dywolf (2673597) | about 7 months ago | (#45680955)

Then you are short sighted and not admitting reality.
and do not think i am a supporter of the rampant NSA spying.
But let's be real, and think about it.
(And refrain from hyperbole such as "all our rights")

This entire issue is once again the conflict between two competeing ideals that we ahve, and we want both to be true at the same time.
Like it or not, old unverified quotes aside, people want both liberty AND security. (why else do we have laws and police and military?)

The truth is, no intelligence work can occur without "metadata" (as a concept, not just related to digital tech), which is basically just circumstantial evidence in the digital realm. it may not prove a link, but it does indicate worth look (much like the correlation/causation saw). metadata can indicate if something needs a further look, or not.

I am not against the collection of data from an individual, targeted with reason, and with proper due process, such as a warrant. The potential can analysed, and then dismissed or acted on further. If dismissed, the data is flushed and not retained. That is reasonable and even normal.

And I believe the Admiral is being disengenuous when he says they cant function without the collection of metadata.
I believe that his implied intent, what he really means, is that they cant function without colelction of everyones data, all the time, and that is what he's trying to preserve. Essentially, a lie of omission.

I believe that to be wrong, and harmful.
The problem isnt the mere collection of metadata.
The problem is the collection of metadata ON EVERYONE ALL THE TIME, without cause or due process, and the permanent retention of that data.
Blanket collection and the mentality of "everyone is a suspect" is the problem.

Re:Then Fire Him (0)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 7 months ago | (#45681031)

Then you are short sighted and not admitting reality.

I don't see anything about his comment that's shortsighted, or anywhere where he doesn't admit reality.

(And refrain from hyperbole such as "all our rights")

I don't think it's hyperbole.

Like it or not, old unverified quotes aside, people want both liberty AND security.

Hopefully the former is considered far more important, but I don't think people are very intelligent in general.

Re:Then Fire Him (2)

Eggplant62 (120514) | about 7 months ago | (#45681081)

How does Constitution work? How crime get prosecuted? You want to do your job and collect data to catch crooks, you target someone specific, you get a warrant, you make the requests through the carriers, and you do it like it's always been done. Thanks for your utter disregard for all of our rights, you fucking jackhole.

Re:Then Fire Him (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45681139)

No actually, he's dead right –there is no better way to do what he wants to do. The problem is that he's misunderstood what the citizens and the tech companies have asked him to do. What they've said is not "don't track us that way", it's "don't track us, the trade off of our safety vs this is not worth it."

Re:Then Fire Him (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 7 months ago | (#45681145)

No, it means he should be fired and NOT replaced.

LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680685)

just LOL.

I want an Oompah Loompah, daddy! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680687)

I want an Oompah Loompah NOW!

Simple. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680691)

The same way we did it before we were capable of meta data collection based spying.

Not possible. (5, Insightful)

Carrot007 (37198) | about 7 months ago | (#45680697)

He means, how can I spy without spying?

You can't.

Re:Not possible. (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#45680743)

That's the thing though. He's asking "How can I spy without spying on a particular subset of people I'm not supposed to spy on?"

It's like asking "How can I put my clothes in the washer without putting my wool suit in the washer?" Especially since most of us are only worried about that one t-shirt with the mustard stain, it seems particularly inane.

Re:Not possible. (5, Funny)

goombah99 (560566) | about 7 months ago | (#45681015)

Siri, find all the terrorists in the US.

Re:Not possible. (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 7 months ago | (#45681129)

And enhance!

duh (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680699)

you obtain the necessary warrant and then perform whatever action is necessary without breaking the law. was that so hard?

Re:duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680735)

This is not about investigating crime. It's about figuring out which foreigners to track, then tracking them.
We're not talking about people we have probable cause for a warrant to search or arrest.

Re:duh (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680805)

They aren't actually breaking the law now with metadata collection. The courts have ruled on that. You might wish they were, but they aren't.

Re:duh (5, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 7 months ago | (#45680937)

They aren't actually breaking the law now with metadata collection. The courts have ruled on that. You might wish they were, but they aren't.

If they're searching the communications (or "papers") of American citizens without a warrant, then they sure as hell are breaking the law, regardless of what some complicit, unconstitutional, kangaroo court has to say about the matter.

Re:duh (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680959)

Courts have ruled that numerous things are legal only to be overturned. That's a shitty argument.

Re:duh (1)

msauve (701917) | about 7 months ago | (#45681063)

cite, please

AFAIK, the Supremes have ruled only on the metadata provided by '70's era pen registers [findlaw.com] , which provided only the time of calls and outgoing dialed numbers. The ruling was also based on an "individual's subjective expectation of privacy," something which would be reasonably present when an explicit privacy policy exists as part of the service contract (as it does with most/all phone services these days).

Re:duh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45681149)

If the constitution can be reinterpreted by courts in a way that up means down, then the constitution is meaningless. People who believe in the fundamental importance of the constitution to avoid tyranny are entitled to say that spying on citizens without court orders goes against the fourth amendment. The constitution is a simple document, meant to convey fundamental rights and impose limitations on the power of government in a way that any citizen can understand. Its success depends, precisely, in the ability of a significant percentage of citizens to understand its content and demand adherence to its principles.

These courts are the ones breaking the law, the most important law of them all. If people accept this rhetoric that the courts are allowed to reinterpret the constitution, then we are already living in tyranny.

Re:duh (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about 7 months ago | (#45680889)

I feel that I have to put up the disclaimers first:

#1: I'm a theorist. Think of everything below strictly as theory.
#2: I don't live in the US - so I see things with foreigner's eyes. If I'm missing something or there's something I misunderstand, then it's not intentional.

With that being said...
Obtaining the necessary warrant might prove to be impossible without obtaining communication-based proof beforehand. Today, they see that 555-0101 called some number from Afghanistan 2-3 times a week during the last 6 months, and some of them came from chemical products shops, while others came from hardware stores, electronic pieces stores and the White House (during tourist visit hours) - so there are some flags raised. If they can't do that anymore, they won't know and won't be able to take the appropriate step to prevent something truly horrible from happening. Then everyone will yell that they didn't do their jobs.

I can't say I agree with NSA's current methods, not at all. But at the same time I can't figure a better way to prevent impactful, unlawful acts from happening (from terrorism to major drug smuggling and so on and so forth). In this specific area I kind of agree with him. Is there a better way? And by "better" I don't necessarily mean "let's go full legal and there you have it" - that's probably way worse from an outcome perspective. What if (again, as I said above, theorizing here) the NSA stops collecting that data and within 3 years the amount of bombs going off increases tenfold, while at the same time drug usage increases by millions of souls, meat trafficking gets out of control, etc.? Then it will be widely regarded as being "the worst decision that could possibly be made".

The higher national security, the greater the costs (and sacrifices of personal privacy). It's valid for pretty much every country in the world. A balance must be stricken, but weights on both platters are variable and subjective.

I know that right now everyone and their dog is up in arms about NSA spying on citizens, which shouldn't happen, but at the same time I can't imagine any other way to tell who's the innocent citizen and who's the evil plotter who wants to blow everyone up. My trust isn't with the NSA but at the same time isn't with the Average Joe saying "you should stop it, period", either.

Re:duh (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 7 months ago | (#45681167)

If you can't do your job without violating people's rights (which I highly doubt in this case), then I don't think your job should exist, regardless of whether the security is effective or not. Freedom is more important than security to me.

that's probably way worse from an outcome perspective.

I feel this attitude is the problem.

What if (again, as I said above, theorizing here) the NSA stops collecting that data and within 3 years the amount of bombs going off increases tenfold, while at the same time drug usage increases by millions of souls, meat trafficking gets out of control, etc.?

What if giving the government the power to murder anyone they wanted was the only way to stop bogeymen from nuking a city every so often? Then wouldn't it be better to die while defending your principles? I'd rather not live in such extreme, ridiculous worlds to begin with.

Your job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680715)

Maybe you just shouldn't do it.
Spying on your own citizens is bad.

How about warrants with probable cause? (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 months ago | (#45680717)

So instead of actually doing targeted investigations, you've decided that collecting everything about everybody is the best way to go about it, and if you happen to pick up unrelated stuff for which you had no probable cause, too bad.

Sorry buddy, but just because you can't figure out how to do your job without turning the country (and the entire world) into the worst sort of Big Brother environment is YOUR problem.

And since you've decided that the easiest way to do this is to spy on the whole planet -- fuck you, because the rest of the world hasn't consented to that and doesn't give a shit about the challenges of you doing your job in compliance with the law.

All I'm hearing is "waah, how are we supposed to spy on just some people without effort, warrants, probably cause, and following the law?".

Re:How about warrants with probable cause? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680763)

not to mention that they probably collect so much shit that it's IMPOSSIBLE to adequately examine it -> WTF are you even bothering? Hoovering up EVARYTHING is just something a cretin would do because they don't know WTF they're doing.

i.e. answer, we get off our fannies, go out, do our footwork, target likely suspects, obtain warrants IF they're citizens, and surveil them. Pretty simple really, but the getting up off their asses is apparently teh hard part, or maybe it's the whole actually having to work thing rather than pretending to and/or having the answers ready to be unwrapped on a silver platter...

Re:How about warrants with probable cause? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680885)

not to mention that they probably collect so much shit that it's IMPOSSIBLE to adequately examine it -> WTF are you even bothering? Hoovering up EVARYTHING is just something a cretin would do because they don't know WTF they're doing.

i.e. answer, we get off our fannies, go out, do our footwork, target likely suspects, obtain warrants IF they're citizens, and surveil them. Pretty simple really, but the getting up off their asses is apparently teh hard part, or maybe it's the whole actually having to work thing rather than pretending to and/or having the answers ready to be unwrapped on a silver platter...

In other words, the NSA is the digital eqivalent of one of those obsessive hoarders who lives in a house full of stinking garbage and has a yard full of scrap iron?

Re:How about warrants with probable cause? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680821)

And since you've decided that the easiest way to do this is to spy on the whole planet -- fuck you, because the rest of the world hasn't consented to that and doesn't give a shit about the challenges of you doing your job in compliance with the law.

I have to contend with this part. The rest of the world doesn't get a say, and those with enough political influence that they might be considered to have a say have implicitly consented by their own spying programs.

The NSA's job is to spy on the rest of the world, but leave the US citizens alone. This guy seems unable to accept that one little limit in their charter.

Re:How about warrants with probable cause? (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 months ago | (#45680865)

The rest of the world doesn't get a say

So Americans would accept that they don't get a say if, for example, China or Russia tries to do the same thing? Because, you know, it's lawful according to them?

Or are you saying you're special somehow and that the rest of the world should be bowing down and accept your superiority?

Because that's not going to happen.

Re:How about warrants with probable cause? (2)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | about 7 months ago | (#45681059)

So Americans would accept that they don't get a say if, for example, China or Russia tries to do the same thing?

No

Or are you saying you're special somehow and that the rest of the world should be bowing down and accept your superiority?

No

I'm saying the NSA is part of the national security apparatus of the US government. It's not on the same team as the Russian (or China) national security apparatus. It's not some kubaya future where countries don't compete. The NSA was hired by my government on my behalf to give it an edge in international disputes/conflicts, either immediately or in the long term. I support that. If spying on every Russian citizen helps that, I support that too. I mean, that's the mission statement.

I know some Russian agency has a mirrored goal. But, since its job is to support Russia, not America, I don't support it.

I fully expect some Russian guy to have the exact opposite feelings as I do.

Re:How about warrants with probable cause? (1)

biek (1946790) | about 7 months ago | (#45680981)

The NSA's job is to spy on the rest of the world, but leave the US citizens alone. This guy seems unable to accept that one little limit in their charter.

I was under the impression they actually were playing by these rules, but exploiting the loophole of "Hey, THOSE countries are the ones doing the collection of data on US citizens. It just so happened we also had interesting information on their population so we decided to trade."

Re:How about warrants with probable cause? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 7 months ago | (#45680831)

I keep telling people that the ability to commit crime and get away with it is important. People need risk: They need the ability to perform an action and face a consequence. Usually. Sometimes. Maybe even rarely. The less we care, the lest risk. Oh you shoplifted a 35 cent stick of gum? Nobody saw? Nobody cares. We'd like to stop that but uh. You murdered some shopkeeper while robbing a convenience store? There are 16 federal investigators looking for you, your picture is everywhere, and the police are coming with heat.

Sometimes the law says not to do things that don't hurt anyone, or that inconvenience people in a minor way. In such cases, usually you have to get caught by coincidence or by chance: illegal gambling doesn't get reported except when banks start noticing you and your friends (who are like oil tycoons betting in units of $10k) are coming up with large cash deposits you don't normally have, while shoplifting a can of soup won't get noticed by a $4 billion security system because nobody is spending more than $50 on a security system for a super market unless they're being robbed blind. Okay, the shopkeeper will notice you and call the cops, maybe.

In those cases, society enforces the law about as hard as it wants to. If it's economically not worth it or if we're philosophically opposed to the law, well... lots of people get away with breaking it. Sometimes you do something stupid and get away with it. Sometimes you don't know it's illegal. For whatever reason, society is less effective at enforcing laws than it would be if everyone had a camera up their ass 24/7; and it turns out this is important for the good of society.

Re:How about warrants with probable cause? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 months ago | (#45680877)

I'm sorry, I missed the part where you filtered the seven billion people on this earth down to those you choose to investigate without any initial data, but with a fixed budget.

Re:How about warrants with probable cause? (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 months ago | (#45681169)

I'm sorry, I missed the part where you filtered the seven billion people on this earth down to those you choose to investigate without any initial data, but with a fixed budget.

7 billion people on the planet, 315 million or so Americans.

How is this our problem? Are you asserting the wishes of 300 million people trump those of the rest of the world? That you're more important? That we should care more about your security than our rights?

As I said, if another country was doing this to America on this scale, it would be deemed an act of war. And yet somehow Americans seem to think that it's OK when they do it.

Metadata? (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 7 months ago | (#45680725)

"Metadata". I don't think that word means what you think it means.

Some Metadata (5, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 7 months ago | (#45680727)

Dammit I don't mind him getting the metadata he actually needs tp defend the United States. What I object to is the idea that he gets ALL the metadata without showing any need for the vast majority of it.

The 4th Amendment was written with the express intent of forbidding general warrants. Yet that's what we have.

Stop it.

Metadata data (1, Troll)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 months ago | (#45680861)

You have it wrong. The 4th amendment protects your data, not your metadata. The fact that you are mailing letters to your co-conspirators is not protected, the content of those letters are. Just because things have been automated does not mean they gain additional protection.

Re:Metadata data (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680975)

Mod up. Your right to be secure in your papers doesn't mean the government is constitutionally required to forget they know your papers exist.

Re:Metadata data (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45681053)

The fact that you are mailing letters to your co-conspirators is not protected,

Not sure I follow.

Let me put the text here "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Not seeing 'only except data we can sorta see anyway'. Which is metadata. Is it really that hard to get a warrant to look for the specific data?

However, your way breaks the fifth and the sixth. As I am being held to testify for others crimes even though I was not involved at all. I am also not getting an impartial jury (frankly none). You could even make the case they are breaking the first amendment. "and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." As how do I talk to a secret court to say 'dont spy on me'?

Our judicial and congressional system has seen fit to ignore it and take it upon themselves to protect us by violating our rights. Both in law and in practice.

Re:Metadata data (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45681057)

If that is so then it is a flaw in the wording of the amendment... not a good thing
Compelling a list of addresses for delivery of cargo time sent person sending and etc. should also require a warren... why is this different

Re:Metadata data (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 7 months ago | (#45681075)

That's not right. Current law (ECPA) allows LEO access without warrant to the CONTENT of emails stored for over 180 days by third parties.

This is outrageous. It is clearly a violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy if you extent the analogy of physical mail to email. Some members of Congress believe this and have filed legislation to end this practice.

The other aspect of this is that collection of ALL one's metadata in this age is a very different proposition to collecting the addresses on the outside of a few envelopes. The former provides a very deep insight, the latter quite limited.

Some judges have expressed opinions of this type, for example ruling that a physical 'tail' on an individual may not require a warrant, however tracking a person by planing a GPS device on their car does.

And finally the idea of general authorization of any collection activity is something the founders would deny.

Re:Metadata data (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45681155)

Except that when collected in bulk, the metadata reveals your data. A few examples:

"Consider the following hypothetical example: A young woman calls her gynecologist; then immediately calls her mother; then a man who, during the past few months, she had repeatedly spoken to on the telephone after 11pm; followed by a call to a family planning center that also offers abortions. A likely storyline emerges that would not be as evident by examining the record of a single telephone call."

"The phone records indicating that someone called a sexual assault hotline or a tax fraud reporting hotline will of course not reveal the exact words that were spoken during those calls, but phone records indicating a 30-minute call to one of these numbers will still reveal information that virtually everyone would consider extremely private."

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/08/in-aclu-lawsuit-scientist-demolishes-nsa-its-just-metadata-excuse/ [arstechnica.com]

https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/2013.08.26_aclu_pi_brief_and_declarations.pdf [aclu.org]

http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~felten/testimony-2013-10-02.pdf [princeton.edu]

Easy. (4, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | about 7 months ago | (#45680745)

This isn't even slightly hard.

Step 1: Require that the companies collect the information and retain it.
Step 2: Get a court order when you need to obtain information about a specific individual, and then obtain only that information.

It's not the metadata that's the problem. It's the fact that you're in possession of it, not just for the people you're legitimately investigating, but for everybody, and the fact that with our legal system being as complex as it is, you can almost certainly find patterns sufficient to suspect any honest person of a crime.

For example, I recently received an email about repairing strings of Christmas lights from someone whose last name is Snowden. Assuming that there's some relation, there's a good chance that my metadata is caught up in one of these f**king dragnets even though I have jack s**t to do with the guy who released confidential info from our government. There's no legitimate reason for them to study me—I'm pretty boring, frankly—but I would not be in the least bit surprised if it happened.

Re:Easy. (4, Interesting)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 7 months ago | (#45680929)

Step 1: Require that the companies collect the information and retain it.

Which then is at the government's fingertips. How about we do no such thing?

Re:Easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45681017)

Yeah, that requirement in itself is a dangerous precedent.

Re:Easy. (2)

jbssm (961115) | about 7 months ago | (#45681043)

Step 1: Require that the companies collect the information and retain it.

Sure, because the only thing I would like more than, for the US government to have access to all my online life, would be for a US corporation to have access to all my online life.

I wonder when... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680753)

they will say, "We can't do our job without a camera in every home".

GET A WARRANT (3, Insightful)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about 7 months ago | (#45680765)

Seriously, if you have a reason to suspect someone, you go ask a judge for a warrant to go spy on them. He might give it to you. After that you can spy on them.

And let me make this perfectly clear:

WITHOUT THE WARRANT, SPYING ON THEM IS ILLEGAL.

And by and far spying on foreigners is ALSO ILLEGAL. At least, according to their laws. The same way that it's illegal for their citizens to spy on us according to our laws. Those laws are ignored when we are at war with them. Breaking the NAZI codes was a legit thing to do because we didn't give a flying fuck about their laws, you know, at the time. You're not supposed to treat US citizens like the enemy. We're at peace.

Re:GET A WARRANT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45681117)

We're at peace.

Since when? Right now it's looking like "we will always be at war with terror" and before we know it it will be a matter of "we have always been at war with terror"

Well, that's the *bleep* point! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680783)

The *beep* NSA is not supposed to be connecting the dots on everybody without a solid case and a warrant. The constitution explicitly guarantees a basic level of privacy of communication.

He is asking whether anybody knows a better way to a total surveillance state fundamentally in violation of the constitution. If there is one, nobody in the U.S.A., particularly any government institution, is allowed to take it.

It's a crime. And he asks whether somebody knows whether there is a better way to commit crimes.

Of course, who better to ask than the leaders of the organized crime syndicate running the U.S. government?

Well there you have it... GAME OVER, NSA (5, Insightful)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 7 months ago | (#45680807)

So, despite its long and productive pre-history as a Black Chamber and special-ops division during the Cold War -- before the dawn of the Internet -- now the NSA claims that the only way they can do their job is to do things we find to be unacceptable.

Turn. It. Off. [youtube.com]

Thanks for making it easy.

He's got a point (0)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 months ago | (#45680841)

Budget, time frame, method. You only get to chose two, one if you chose poorly or create arbitrary restrictions.

Re:He's got a point (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about 7 months ago | (#45680965)

Members of congress, I've been tasked with fighting teen pregnancy. A very disrupting event that destabilizes our nation and induces undue mental, physical, and economic stress on our youths. I was given a $5 million dollar budget with the goal of a 5% reduction this year.

Now, some of you have questioned my methods. I say to you that if there is a better way of fighting teen pregnancy than shooting all teenagers on site, then let's hear it. If we can come up with a better way, we ought to put it on the table and argue our way through it.

Budget, time frame, method. You only get to chose two.

Not On Americans! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680867)

Go ahead and spy on our enemies. Go ahead and spy on our allies if that's somehow helpful.

But don't violate American rights because you don't have enough to do.

Don't (2)

mjm1231 (751545) | about 7 months ago | (#45680873)

If it can't be done without violating people's rights, then don't do it. It's really that simple.

WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680881)

So now they are past the stage of denial, and just openly admit they are trashing the Constitution, because they already built their system to work this way, so fuck off.

Pink Slip (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680891)

Mr Alexander should have been handed a pink slip long ago. One of the issues at the NSA is like the FBI under Hoover everyone is afraid of the organization so they do not get the oversight they badly need. Also what they ought to be doing is asking themselves what would Bruce Schneier do?

Where has your outrage been? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680903)

The NSA has been doing this since well before all of you (okay, nearly all of you) were born. It's right in their mission statement. Where the fuck have you people been. Oh, right - you've been living in near absolute safety while they feed this information to the military to go kill brown people who hate us.

Headline should have read (5, Interesting)

kjshark (312401) | about 7 months ago | (#45680905)

"NSA Director Keith Alexander, testifying before the Senate this week admitted he's not qualified to protect us from terrorism." He said " I have a limited imagination and can only come up with one illegal solution to the problem". This is despite the fact that many terrorist plots have been discovered without violating rights, and his spying solution has failed to stop others. All he has is a hammer so every problem looks like a nail.

Just Stop! (1, Insightful)

jamesl (106902) | about 7 months ago | (#45680907)

Stop Spying.

Don't spy on everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680913)

Spy only on those you have valid reason to need to spy on and you won't have to ask stupid feckin questions like "how can we spy without collecting metadata", because our problems with the spying isn't that it's metadata you're collecting, but that you're spying on anyone and everyone and hoping that some baddies will be found.

You might as wel lock everyone up in the hopes that some criminals will get caught.

He's right... if his job is to *prevent* terrorism (1)

Aristos Mazer (181252) | about 7 months ago | (#45680933)

If his job is to prevent terrorism, he's right... he can't do that without a substantial surveillance dragnet that tramples the 4th Amendment.
If his job is to investigate and prosecute terrorism after it occurs, he can do that and stay within the Constitution.

I think he would have to convince his bosses (both the administration and the American people) to be comfortable with a different mandate. Are we comfortable with that? I am -- but then, I'm one of those who believes the risk of a government with that level of surveillance abusing its powers seems to me like a worse environment than one in which another 9-11 occurs every 5 to 10 years.

There's a balance that needs to be struck. In my opinion, there's an imbalance right now.

Re:He's right... if his job is to *prevent* terror (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | about 7 months ago | (#45681005)

If his job is to prevent terrorism, he's right... he can't do that without a substantial surveillance dragnet that tramples the 4th Amendment.

He can't do it with that dragnet, either. All this NSA dragnet shit was in place for YEARS at the time of the Boston Marathon bombing, and it wasn't worth shit.

-jcr

Back up... (4, Insightful)

BringsApples (3418089) | about 7 months ago | (#45680935)

Why does this have to be such an extreme set of operation? Why has America slipped into this great fear-based society, that must be constantly defended? If this guy's job is so hard, maybe we should start asking why the job is so hard, rather than how to do the job? Because it just may be that there is no answer for this question, it's the question that's the problem.

Freedom isn't free (5, Insightful)

doas777 (1138627) | about 7 months ago | (#45680951)

The cost of freedom is that you must acknowledge that you must remain vulnerable to attack. Otherwise you destroy the freedom you are supposedly trying to protect.

In this case, that the job exists at all is the problem. That makes the solution simple and elegant. The only remaining issue, is accepting that everytime somthing bad happens, we are necessarilly limited in our ability prevent it.

The government cannot ever make me safe. all they can do is protect my liberties, and over the last 12 years they have been doing a piss-poor job of it.

Re:Freedom isn't free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45681067)

Freedom isn't free

True - but the illusion of it is on sale in Walmart at low, low prices! (made in China).

It's obvious what to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680971)

Just subcontract the job to a private company.

THEY can do whatever they want, no warrants needed.

Google, Facebook, Twitter etc. are collecting and selling the metainformation anyway.

Cry me a fucking river. (2)

jcr (53032) | about 7 months ago | (#45680983)

If his job can't be done without violating the fourth amendment, then his job should be eliminated.

-jcr

classic verbal judo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45680997)

That's a classic "define the argument" tactic. He doesn't want the debate to be "is spying cost effective" or "is spying itself harmful" so he attempts to make the argument about metadata collection, hoping his audience will accept the necessary premise of that argument: Spying is required/beneficial.

Don't get suckered. It doesn't matter whether the NSA uses metadata, payload inspection, facial tracking, or anything else...what matters is that a surveillance state is harmful to everyone near or under it.

Refactor the NSA (2, Interesting)

MagicM (85041) | about 7 months ago | (#45681001)

Split the NSA into the Department of Big Brother and the New-NSA. Big Brother collects all the data and tracks everything about everyone, but the data is not query-able without a warrant (and all access is logged and reviewed, and abuse is actually penalized). Then the New-NSA can do their job the way they're supposed to, using warrants.

Re:Refactor the NSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45681153)

Actually, that has just been suggested... :-)

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/12/obama-panel-says-nsa-phone-spying-records-should-be-held-by-third-party/

We dont want you to connect the dots (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 7 months ago | (#45681029)

We don't want you to spy on us, period.

Alternate method. (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 7 months ago | (#45681033)

"NSA Director Keith Alexander, testifying before the Senate this week, got weirdly petulant, asking his critics how he was supposed to do his job without collecting metadata on American communications.

Easy. Assume we're all guilty until we can each prove our innocence - oh, wait...

How do I... (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about 7 months ago | (#45681035)

While we're brainstorming on this, can someone tell me how to shoplift food without stealing it? Until we solve that problem, I'm going to have to continue to break the law to feed my Doritos addiction, but I really don't see any alternative.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Google (1)

Erik Bird (2972117) | about 7 months ago | (#45681061)

A recent foia request by propublica for emails between NSA employees and employees of the National Geographic Channel over a time period that the TV station had aired a friendly documentary on the NSA resulted in the following response from the NSA (the supercomputing powerhouse) "There's no central method to search an email at this time with the way our records are set up, unfortunately.... [the system is] a little antiquated and archaic." A former employee of the department of labor statistics said that the department's entire data set fits on a single hard drive. Note that in the 90’s the IRS was still using vacuum tube technology. The National Security Agency in the last couple of years just started building modern data centers in Utah. There is abundant evidence provided by the Thomas Drake prosecution and the 9-11 commission report that information management is a problem in the intelligence community. Does google have better information management technology than the NSA? If corporations do have better data on the U.S. economy and population than the U.S. government doesn't it make sense to be governed by these corporations, ie government sachs? Is it not true that he who has the information has the power? And of course doesn't that create a clear “moral hazard”and “regulatory capture” situation as the corporations are regulated by the gov? Regulatory capture is basically when the cops and judges are owned, the book "13 bankers" goes over the issue for wall street. Isn’t corporate control of government part of what occupy wall street activists protested?

Not a problem (1)

Megahard (1053072) | about 7 months ago | (#45681079)

Soon he will be able to fly commercial and just listen for all the info he needs.

Yes, that *is* the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45681111)

Big technical challenge. Huge. Here's a few billion dollars to figure out how to do it within the spirit and letter of the law. Oh, right, we already gave you billions to do that. So, here's another few?

On the plus side, at least he's finally getting it: that, yes, the public need to have a conversation about what exactly is and isn't acceptable while carrying out the job. Now that the information is out there, that process can finally begin. Don't get frustrated now about something you should have begun to discuss years ago. Engage in the conversation. Don't get exasperated about it.

If soldiers can have rules of engagement, then you guys should be able to come up with similar principles about obtaining intelligence, and make sure the public is okay with the balance that you have struck. It's not going to be easy or quick, but get on with it.

Hey asshole. (1)

Arkiel (741871) | about 7 months ago | (#45681125)

Our job is to tell you what you can't do. Your job is to be effective despite this. If you don't have the imagination to do your job without meticulously raping the document you swore to uphold, maybe it's time to let someone else have the chance to do things right. Also, feel free to take a swan dive off a building. Regards, The American People, CC: the rest of the world.

The ends justify the means. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45681141)

Saying "the ends justify the means" is a clear sign of someone is out of control. Read the 4th amendment. It doesn't say, "unless you can't thing of a better way", because everyone knows what that kind of reasoning leads to.

How to collect (2)

KDN (3283) | about 7 months ago | (#45681151)

Gee, if we could put permanent police in every home in the USA we would reduce crime, but I think there is something unconstitutional about that. There are many options:
  • You have a list of suspects, tap those. And those around them, And maybe those around them. A heck of a lot less intrusive than taping the planet.
  • Pay the telecom people to store the data, and only get the data with a court order. This is similar to how the armed forces pay the airlines to have planes capable of being used by the military in a surge role, but normally run by the airlines.
  • Establish an outside entity. Outside entity will take real phone numbers and give back a unique hash. Telephone companies will send meta data to NSA, but will substitute these hash values for all telephone numbers. On court order, the outside entity will say "john terrorist has has 3141592". NSA will then do the proper searches, and say "we need the user for hash 12345, the outside firm will say its King Roland (spaceballs)". In this way, no single entity is able to abuse the system. They could collude, but it sets the bar higher.

Now, will any of these solve the problem? No. Will it make everyone happy? No. Like always, security, like liberty. is a compromise.

How about being less tyrannical? (1)

HellYeahAutomaton (815542) | about 7 months ago | (#45681165)

How about we ask Keith to ask of his people to quit, and tender his resignation voluntarily? No questions asked.

There, solved that for ya. It would be really easy to lower taxpayer liability by just putting organizations like his on the chopping block, and ending all overseas adventures. Please don't patronize us with your idealistic beliefs in safety -- one could only imagine what D.C. would be like with a Kiev-style protest.

We're asking you nicely now -- and putting it into public discourse. The next time time, I don't know how nicely people will ask. I think it might get ugly.

How did you spy before, you idiot!? (1)

kheldan (1460303) | about 7 months ago | (#45681189)

Nations have been spying on each other for thousands of years before we had the Internet, wireless telephone service, or even wired landline service for that matter, how the hell did you do your goddamned jobs back then!? Also, stating the obvious here: You do not need to spy on every goddamned one of us you fucking hacks! Get your noses out of our lives you sonofabitch!
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