1. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    PRISM: NSA's leaked internet surveillance program

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Daniel, Jun 7, 2013.

    If you haven't heard, The Guardian published information they gathered from leaked top-secret Documents that claims the NSA has had an ongoing internet-surveillance program since 2007 that collects data directly from the servers of some top tech companies.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data?guni=Network%20front:network-front%20main-2%20Special%20trail:Network%20front%20-%20special%20trail:position1

    This includes Microsft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Paltalk, AOL, Skype, Youtube, and Apple.

    These companies all deny knowledge of the program.

    What do you guys think? This is a pretty big deal. We already knew there was a lot of internet surveillance but direct-access to the servers is huge. Do you think these companies really had knowledge and are trying to save face, or did the NSA hack in/operate independently?
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    From the moment I first heard of the NSA, many decades ago, I always assumed they were spying on all of us all the time. I hate that they do that, but so far (fingers crossed!) it hasn't adversely affected me, and I assume it hasn't affected many others here (or anywhere). We could make an enormous stink about this, impeach the President and everyone else in the government, and have a new revolution, but it would just happen again. The technology exists, so it will be used. Maybe we should all just get used to it - there is no getting away from it.
     
  3. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    I'm not surprised that the whole country (or world, rather) is being spied upon. I'm not even surprised by the news of PRISM. But I think we should all be outraged by this. This is a violation of some of our fundamental rights. What else does a state who spies on it's own people do? The fact that these large companies may have been directly involved suggests very bad things about our system of government.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    This is really disappointing. Given how much money some of these corporations spend on lobbying and on politics in general, I'm sure at least some of those companies knew about this.

    What sucks is that the government can do anything in the name of national security, a vague term open to interpretation. Until we can find a way to get money out of politics and better define "national security" (among other things), our civil liberties are going to be violated.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It's pretty much old news that someone leaked more info on and a lot of people don't get what's actually being looked at.

    First let me back up a bit. I'm not in favor of this, and I don't want to sound complacent, but given how much information is now collected on people by the private market, it's hard to get that much more outraged since it is inevitable the government would also do it. It's no surprise to any of us who have been following along since the Bush years.

    This started with Bush's data mining after 9/11/01. Bush simply ignored the FISA Court and claimed (falsely) that it wasn't practical to get court orders to do the data mining they wanted to do. The USA PATRIOT Act was a golden opportunity for the incumbent Party to start gathering even more information besides that related to any terrorist activity. It's like spreading tentacles.

    There was a big uproar at the time because some of the telcoms resisted, but they apparently didn't really care because soon after it was almost like they were in on it.


    Here are some links people might find mildly interesting:

    This is from a year ago: The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)
    I have more, but I want to watch Glenn Greenwald on MSNBC right now to hear the interview.

    Given Obama's image, one would hope to have seen the trend reversed. No such luck. Not sure yet what to make of that.
     
  6. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    I never doubted that the NSA do that since they look through Emails and phone conversations as well. I don't care though. They're only doing it for national security purposes and nothing that I do will hurt anyone. But yes, as always, this is the moral question: National Security or Privacy.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    (my bold)

    That's a matter of debate. The problem is, the US government has a long history of not being able to resist the temptation to do a little political spying. Human nature is what it is. That was the reason for the FISA court, so at least someone looked over people's shoulders. But Bush gutted that oversight.

    It's also problematic to use this technology and spying to stop leaks, not because of national security, but because some things are politically embarrassing. Regardless of what you think of Bradley Manning, what do you think of hiding the fact soldiers are accidentally killing news people and civilians? Who intervened? On the one hand you don't want the enemy to have such information as propaganda. But then, where is the oversight to stop such mistakes from happening? Manning saw that nothing happened and it bothered him.

    Is it worse that such acts are occurring or that they come to light? Think about it, the people who cared about those killed already know innocent people were targeted. You can bet that terrorist recruiting ship already sailed. The only people who didn't know were us, US citizens.

    We went through this with the Vietnam War. Protesters were spied on, secrets were kept from the people in the US, not the civillians who were being killed.
     
  8. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    People who cry 'I've done nothing wrong therefore why should it bother me?' really grate on me. Who says you've done nothing wrong? The government. Governments change. Whilst what you're doing/have done/will do is completely hunky-dory under this administration, you might get a later one that disagrees with, say, viewing that on the Internet, even though at the time it was completely inconspicuous; you're then jailed, fined, or treated as a social pariah (what society considers acceptable changes too, remember? Do you really want everything you ever did able to come back and bit you on the a*** at some inopportune moment a couple decades down the line?).

    Say a government gets in with hardline views on abortion/minorities/socialism (pick your poison) and decides that people like you ought to be cataloged and monitored, or even imprisoned. Because of the NSA's actions now, at some point in the future all they'd need to do to weed out those they want to play a part in society and those they don't is load up your file and view all the 'questionable' opinions you've ever expressed. And don't try to tell me there's no way that situation could ever occur - that's what everyone who's ever found themselves in that situation thought, and this data-mine itself proves that governments don't necessarily show all their cards. You can't guess at who'll be in power in twenty, thirty, forty years time. Such data-hives should be opposed for the very reason they were created: better safe than sorry.

    Terrorists - and other 'offenders' this technology has been used against, such as those who don't recycle and catchment area cheats - pose a far lesser threat to national security than a neurotic government armed to the teeth with information.
     
  9. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Didn't you see the Wiki-leaked video footage of the helicopter shootings? Nothing accidental about that.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You are choosing a different time in the scenario to pinpoint the "accident". Of course the killings were on purpose. But identifying the enemy is where the mistake occurred.

    Now you can believe if you want that someone purposefully targeted the Reuter's cameramen and the others were collateral damage. I fail to see the point of why they would have been targeted. My conclusion is, a mistake was made identifying the targets.

    I think it was wrong, but don't think a mistake was made when the hotel full of reporters and the Al Jazeera HQ was targeted early on in the Iraq invasion. Those were some of the wrongful actions the team Bush put in place carried out. But a couple of Reuter's cameraman? There is no logical reason to believe that was anything but a mistaken target.
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Of course they should be opposed. People have a right to privacy (at least in some countries).

    Maybe the trick to not being bothered by the government is simply to not stick out like a sore thumb. One thing the government does not have is an infinite pile of money to deal with trivial things. Any opinions I express are also expressed, online and by phone, by a million other people. Why would they single me out? They simply can't deal with all of us - we'd all overwhelm the courts and the whole legal system for no particularly good reason, and even if they want to imprison us, where would they do so? That amount of prison capacity doesn't exist. If we're doing nothing to harm anyone - if we're just yapping on the internet - well, they might not like it, but it's unlikely they'll try to do anything about it. It'll cost too much, and cause too much bad publicity for them.

    In order to maintain a certain level of public approval, they can really only afford to act against those who pose an actual threat. It costs a heck of a lot to maintain a totalitarian state.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I agree. But carrying that a step further, how do you put this cat back in the bag? And are you more, less or equally concerned that the commercial world has an even more extensive data base about your beliefs and political positions?

    Then there's the overlap, when political campaigns seek to collect data on voters. They may not have the ability to arrest you, but the US doesn't so much have a history of arresting political dissidents, rather the history is one of trying to discredit them by unethical means. Public disclosures of Martin Luther King's adultery and the phony news leaks claiming Valerie Plame pulled strings to get Ambassador Wilson assigned to the Niger investigation of the 'yellow cake' fabrication are examples of what the US has used against political enemies rather than arrest.

    Voter caging schemes collect voter demographics then target areas for voter disenfranchisement actions.

    If one is not concerned about this kind of spying being used to target dissidents, are you equally unconcerned about the risk an incumbent might use it for a political advantage?
     
  13. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Hundreds of civilians have died as a result of drone strikes. I don't think the term "mistakes" applies anymore. The US government seems to have a shoot first, ask questions later mentality. Sadly, a lot of people aren't even aware of the civilians casualties or of programs like Prism.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That's where data mining programs come in. It's not physically possible someone is actually listening to that volume of calls or reading that volume of email. Nor is it possible among all those employees there are no whistleblowers, no employees with loose lips at the corner tavern or while impressing friends and lovers.

    People have Orwell's "1984" scenarios in their minds with this. That was the scenario he imagined in 1949. Now we have the technology and have to adjust that scenario based on all the new things we can see around us. Orwell's scenario was never possible. You'd need about 2/3 of the population to keep constant watch on the other third when you allow time for 24 hour shifts.

    However, just because Orwell wasn't exactly right doesn't mean he didn't have a valid idea. The mechanics are different. Torture and imprisonment are not needed to maintain positions of power, nor do those tactics work very well. One need only look at the last remaining totalitarian regime, North Korea, to see how difficult that kind of society is to maintain. It costs all their resources and then some.

    In China you find a transitional government. The crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and the imprisonment of political dissidents demonstrates the government still relies on force. But you can also see elements of manipulating information that are evolving in China. My son was discussing Internet censorship with a Chinese student in his graduate program. Apparently she views the government's Internet control as protective, rather than oppressive. Then you see all the ways people on the Net fight back, like the recent slew of images that mimic the lone protestor in front of the tank to get around the government censors.

    Chinese Netizens Defiantly Remember Tiananmen Square
    Then the government fights back: No "Big Yellow Ducks" on Chinese Microblogs for Tiananmen Square Anniversary

    It's an arms race. :D ... Sorry, I'm digressing much too much.

    Back to data mining. Hypothetically, say you were China and you wanted to arrest dissidents. You would data mine for Big Yellow Ducks and sweep up a few toy store owners along with the real dissidents. Your net might get kids who weren't serious threats to the government.

    This kind of spying here, while not as bad as my hypothetical scenario, is still a trend that should be of some concern.
     
  15. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You're preaching to the choir. Please go back and read my original post.
     
  16. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Another slash to add to the gravestone of American Prosperity.
     
  17. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just watching Obama defend PRISM last night on TV. He said something like "Only non-US citizens living outside the US have been spied on".

    I am non-US citizen living outside the US, my wife is a US citizen living outside the US. If they are spying on me, they are spying on her - or how do they know who's using this computer? President Obama - with all due respect you are full of shit, but if you are reading this right now, you're not really, I think you're great - see you in August when I land in Reno, Nv. Please ask your homeland security guys to be nice to me and I promise to vote for Billary next time round!
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    However, data and information are two different things. Data only becomes information when it is structured in a meaningful way.

    Collecting data is simple, and collecting vast quantities of it is a brute force process. Organizing into information requires context and a lot of work.

    The principal failures of the intelligence community in recent years have not arisen from a lack of data. The various Senate investigations and other analysis after major catastrophes have shown that the data was there, but it wasn't available as information to those who could do something about it.

    The potential for misuse always exists. For sure, I don't trust those who are collecting the data. But I also don't think they are competent enough or motivated enough to use that data effectively gainst ordinary citizens, not without calling forth a shitstorm that would blow away their chances of collecting that data for real security threat assessment. Enough of them in high places know they are protecting their own positions by keeping that data secure from inappropriate use.
     
  19. Michael O
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    Michael O Contributing Member

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    What else can they say publicly? "Hey guys! There's a bunch of freak-a-zoids who want to kill you and the government needs our help. And of course there will be those in the government who will find all the info helpful by simply selling it. What's the odds it has already happened?

    Personally, I would prefer the FAZ's to be boar raped, then eaten by the squealers and turned into pig shit. Certainly they would believe there would be no way into heaven as pig shit. Had this route been taken, I wouldn't have had to leave several bottles of wine behind in a airport for some frigging half-witted airport worker/NSA goober to drink. Yeah...I'm pissed!
     
  20. Michael O
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    Michael O Contributing Member

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    Silly Erebh!

    It's too late, they are already spying on you. Got paid $10 to turn you in and now enjoying a bottle of yellow tail.

    Cheers.

    BTW: They only rape you before you get on a plane. If you fly enough, guess you just get used to it, kinda like the the showers in a prison on a 10 year sentence.
     
  21. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    As I listened to the coverage of this news story (interviews with the leaker and today's hour dedicated to covering the story in depth on Democracy Now) my daily slew of junk phone calls started particularly early, 8 am this morning. My thought was, those bastards could track these robo calls to their sources and stop this illegal activity. :mad:

    From Democracy Now:

    "You’re Being Watched": Edward Snowden Emerges as Source Behind Explosive Revelations of NSA Spying

    Glenn Greenwald on How NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Helped Expose a "Massive Surveillance Apparatus"

    "On a Slippery Slope to a Totalitarian State": NSA Whistleblower Rejects Gov’t Defense of Spying

    What I find odd is the reaction to this news as if it were a big surprise. Did people just ignore the infrastructure construction which was reported years ago, both when a secret 'room' was revealed inside an AT&T building in 2006 , and the huge NSA building in Utah reported by Wired over a year ago that I mentioned above?
     
  22. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The sad thing is that the government is now going to hunt down Edward Snowden. Hopefully this ends better for him than it did for Manning.
     
  23. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    But the one is for certain, he knew the consequences that would come after this but he did it anyway. He had the country's best interest at hand.
     
  24. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Although the government has tried to justify the program as authorized by Congress, I found it interesting to note that one of the authors of the Patriot Act has come out against the NSA spying program and stated that the Patriot Act was not intended to allow this sort of action by the government.
     
  25. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Yes, he did, which is why I support him and Manning. I'm curious to see what the White House says about all this. So far they've kept quiet.
     

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