Senate Diplomatic Firestorm

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Skywalker8921, Jun 24, 2013.

  1. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    Along those lines, for all some people claim that we are turning into a police state, I've had several friends and acquaintances who lived in actual police states. Some grew up in communist Russia or its satellite nations. A couple lived in various Latin American dictatorships. At one time or another, I've hear them express dismay at the "police state" hyperbole that a lot of people like to throw around on this subject.

    You want to see a real police state? Try looking at East Germany, where some estimates suggest that up to 1 in every 6.5 people was an informer for the Stasi. Try several Latin American countries where to this day critics of the government can mysteriously disappear and critical media corporations get shut down at gunpoint. You want corruption? Try numerous nations through the world where the only way to get anything is to bribe government officials at every level.

    I'm not saying that everything if hunky-dory with the recent revelations. But the various programs that have been brought up recently are nowhere near the doom and gloom that many people are claiming they are. There needs to be some sense of perspective here. The hyperbole really doesn't help the situation any.
    Vaderize03 likes this.
  2. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Vivec, at several points I've asked you to provide something that wasn't *this word has been censored by the NSA* rhetoric and you've failed. As I have pointed out, there's practically no grounds for concern unless you consort with all sorts of wicked people. I don't mean it in the "well, if you ain't no enemy of Murica, y'all ain't got nothin' to fear! [face_flag]" sense, which still implies agenices sift through your data but because you're a god fearin' citizen they give you a pass. The nature of intelligence analysis is that the "what" of your "Facebook data" is far more crucial than the "who".

    If, without resorting to emotive rhetoric, you can provide a coherent critique of the program and policy I for one would be filled with gratitude.
    Last edited by SuperWatto, Jul 9, 2013
  3. McLaren Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 1, 2002
    star 2
    Ender, that statement is, at best, disingenuous as NSA intelligence is not going to send the FBI (to arrest) or the CIA (to kill) a "what" but a "who." The "what" is simply a means to the crucial "who." Also, comparing companies (e.g. Facebook) to the government (e.g. NSA) just because both use data mining analytics is incredibly flawed as you can sue companies if they mishandle your data and companies do not have the power of seizure, arrest and detention.

    Perhaps this seems hyperbolic to some but, as only 26% of Americans trust their government, it is unlikely that questioning these programs is going away.
    Last edited by McLaren, Jul 10, 2013
  4. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    McLaren, it feels like that entire post was written having not read any of the earlier points I made. Can you please refer to my earlier posts in the thread and comment after reading those?
  5. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    Wow. You know your country is screwed when someone tries to console you with, "At least we're not the Stasi!"

    Tune in tomorrow, folks, when we celebrate the fact that we don't have concentration camps.
  6. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    How is the cure for the allegation of too much wankery to add even more? "Look, we're being hyperbolic and stupid, like little terrified children! Let's manage the situation by doing it again, only moreso!"

    In the history of non-events, this has a long way to go before it hits, say, Y2K levels but regardless, it is fairly remarkable
  7. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    Way to go in pissing my point completely.

    My point was against the hyperbole that treats every single semi-questionable thing that the government does as if it were equivalent to jack-booted thugs breaking down doors in the middle of the night to make politically inconvenient people disappear forever. It was against the over-reactionary treatment of every legally-authorized intelligence program as the equivalent of the Stasi's 1-in-6.5 people in the population being an informant.

    The word of the day is perspective. As in, "try to get a little", or "don't blow things out of".
  8. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    How could I possibly attain proper perspective when the government keeps altering the focus?

    If, in the wake of the expanding powers of the State, your chief qualm is hyperbole, than you and I harbor very different fears.
  9. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    The problem is that by jumping on the hyperbole bandwagon, you actually weaken the chances of any real corrective action. Instead of examining the actual details of the programs that have been revealed, and having a rational discussion of what the government's limits should or should not be, every little revelation is treated like the equivalent of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao rolled into one (with a side order of assorted tin pot dictators to go with it).

    Hyperbole sells great for the 24-hour news cycle, but it doesn't actually address or examine the underlying issues all that well.
    Valairy Scot likes this.
  10. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    drg4, I can't be any clearer:

    1) Take the wank out of your posts
    2) Think with your head, not your heart
    3) Doing research before formulating an opinion is vastly superior to doing research after forming an opinion, or not at all
    4) See #1
    5) Facts are always welcome.

    Since your posts have been nothing more than half-formed, pseudo-ideas unsupported by any real thinking on your behalf (let alone research), I'd suggest you take the above under advisement before your next post.
  11. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    The only catalyst for genuine correction rests with an outraged general public, and hyperbole will inevitably be elemental to this. Do we live in a Stalinist state? Of course not. But the scope and breadth of the intelligence apparatus would be the envy of any past totalitarian, so we better have this (yes, boisterous, incensed) debate right bloody now, while people still have memories of living in comparatively open, free societies.
  12. McLaren Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 1, 2002
    star 2
    Hyperbole is generally understood to be "extravagant exaggeration":

    - based on documents so far released, it is estimated that the NSA collects all communications carried via fiber optic cable in the US. As the US has the most robust internet infrastructure on the planet, this collection would include about 75% of worldwide internet communications. Exchange programs with allies brings this collection to almost 100%.

    - an NSA contractor was able to copy and exfiltrate an estimated 200 classified files that detail the workings of these collection programs.

    - based on "intelligence" likely provided by the NSA, the United States had allies divert and search a plane carrying a head of state.

    - the Director of the National Intelligence gave a "least untruthful" answer to Congress in open testimony about NSA data collection on American citizens.

    - the IRS is under investigation for using audits to pressure political organizations not aligned with the incumbent party.

    One can easily connect these dots and decide that it is irrational to entrust such power to those so obviously corrupt and incompetent. However, since the justifications thus far have been that this collection is constitutional, halting this insidious usurpation of our rights will likely require an amendment or amending an amendment. No small task...
    Arawn_Fenn likes this.
  13. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    So, you have no intention of reading through the history of this thread then McLaren?
  14. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    ES, don't mistake your spy fetish for moral superiority. Positions like McLaren's and drg4's are valid and necessary in an open society. Your opinion is as relevant as theirs. Just because you're proud of having done some temp work in the fringes of Aussie Secret Services doesn't mean it would be good if everyone was as impressionable.

    You may have mellowed me with this debate, but that doesn't mean that any dissenting opinion is wrong by default. With the combination of the NSA's practices, Gitmo, and drone attacks - all of these taking place without approval of an open court - one can certainly make the case that the US is harming its (and its allies') international relationships, and that the whole policy is counterproductive. Do you assume that, if nobody objects, there is no risk of their control freakery getting out of hand? If so, I'd call that quite naieve.

    Tell me, what should happen for you to denounce the actions of the NSA?
  15. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    I don't see ES as saying that any dissenting opinion is wrong by default. Instead, he has consistently pointed out that this is exactly how pretty much all intelligence gathering agencies have operated for as long as there have been intelligence gathering agencies.

    For example, I find it hard to get worked up over complaints that the NSA is intercepting communications outside of the US, because that's the core purpose for which it was originally established. On the radio this morning, I heard that a French organization is talking about trying to sue the NSA for violations of French law (which I find ridiculous).

    Show me some actual illegal activity, for one. From what I've seen so far, they seem to have dotted all their is and crossed all their ts. The programs got warrants when needed, and the metadata collection appears to be completely in line with all applicable Supreme Court precedents (which have held that it's not covered by the 4th Amendment).

    Alternately, show me that the domestic intelligence gathering has been used by law enforcement to get around constitutional protects. Show me someone who was arrested, tried, or convicted because of that intelligence gathering. In other words, show me something more than hyperbole and knee jerk reactions.

    The danger is that hyperbole doesn't allow for actual examination of the core issues.

    What would you have the government do? Eliminate all intelligence agencies? Because that's the only thing your hyperbole suggests could be done, and that's simply not realistic.

    Otherwise, you need to be able to examine the actual underlying issues, and the hyperbole doesn't let you do that. Instead of making it easier for people to see and understand all sides of the issue (which, in turn, allows them to come to a reasoned conclusion about where the limits should be), the hyperbole is designed to get people's emotions fired up, which inevitably short circuits any attempt at reasoned discussion.
    Valairy Scot likes this.
  16. mandragora Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 28, 2005
    star 4
    Actually, German, Swiss and Austrian federal prosecutors are considering doing just that; charging the NSA for violations of national law. Needless to say, numerous complaints by citizens have already been filed.
  17. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    I agree that trying to sue them is quite stupid. But I think it's in their best interest to be critical about it. You wanna play it rough, they'll play it rough. It's really your own fault. I think the fact that US citizens can't be bothered about the extent to which the NSA is prying into the activities of your allies is the core of the problem.

    Note: the extent. No hyperbole.

    I was asking ES a question about his position, KK. I wasn't promoting any position myself, except that intelligence enthusiasts and privacy advocates should both be heard.
    Note: no position. No hyperbole.
    Last edited by SuperWatto, Jul 11, 2013
  18. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    I'm not saying any of what you're accusing me of though. And it's hardly a spy fetish; I've spent enough time around real secret squirrels to know it's not a life you ever want for yourself.

    My point is, I addressed at length how these operations are conducted and why it's a gross oversimplification to suggest that the "NSA is stealing your facebooks!" (yes, I am generalising here). Specifically I would say look at Post 109.

    Let's imagine that NSA has skimmed over your Facebook data. You can assume they are prying into your habits, your music tastes, your friends etc but that's a paranoid view encouraged by films and TV. What they are doing, rather than drilling down, will be skimming across data to find common threads.

    I say this because I've seen enough raw intel and the like to know that's how it works.

    Taking the JC as an example, they would not read everybody's posts. They'd find message threads (which substitute Facebook groups for the purpose of this analogy) which concern them. At this point, the "who" is not as important as the "what", as in, "what are people saying". So if they read this thread they wouldn't find mine, KKs or GAJ's views as "safe" and you lot as a "threat". They would look at content in the threads for posts which are alarming and then, when they had collated some common themes, would they start to look at who.

    Since nobody here, I assume, is plotting to aid and abet Chinese hackers or sell secrets to terrorists, chances are no NSA analyst has ever known your name, seen your picture, or looked at your wall.

    Tell me something, Watto. You have access to ModSquad. You can see my IP address, and my user notes. I've been in ModSquad and so I know that from time to time there are threads in which users are discussed. Hell, I can very safely state that at least 2 users here were subject to pages of debate during my time as a Mod. As a manager you have access to MS too and I am reasonably comfortable in asserting you've seen, and maybe posted in, discussions about specific users. Do they have a right to know? Could you do away with the system? Probably not.

    You could turn around and say, "but only admin have access to PMs*", to point out that invasive data searches are only conducted by an elite few. Well, sorry, so are these FB searches. Sape abused that power; does that mean the whole system is flawed?

    Honestly, I would say this - make your peace with the clandestine world, because it's a necessary evil. You've engaged in activities shrouded in secrecy yourself, it's just huge degrees of separation between the two but you understand the value of that shroud. The only issues I really see is that a) oversight isn't strong enough in America and b) Americans bleat on incessantly and stupidly about a right to openness which weakens their defences considerably. I'd chastise the NSA for being compromised, and the US government for indulging the ovine masses, more than anything else.
    SuperWatto likes this.
  19. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    The hyperbole comments that you quoted there were directed to @drg4. If you note, I quoted his post immediately before I made those comments. My response to you ended with the paragraph starting with "Alternatively".
  20. Souderwan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6
    I've stopped by in on this conversation a few times and mostly decided to stay clear of it for several reasons: 1) I have extensive experience in clandestine operations, 2) I have very mixed feelings about how information about this particular program came to light, 3) I am ideologically very uncomfortable with this program because it requires that I trust a government that has demonstrated (unsurprisingly) that it is untrustworthy, 4) I work for that very government.

    And frankly, the conversations on both sides of this issue are consistent with my own internal dialogue. But I wanted to address this particular point as it relates to my #3 above:



    Ever since 9/11 I've seen our government get into a genuine panic over stovepiping and pigeonholing. There is such an emphasis on interagency transparency that sensible safeguards against potential abuses are all but gone.


    Admittedly, there have been no reported abuses associated with the access to this information but it’s hardly a stretch to be concerned that such abuses are possible. Taking the administration’s position on the IRS situation at face value, it means that a few “low level” employees abused their power and negatively impacted the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of citizens without good cause. That impact was in real time and money that those individuals lost without recourse. What’s to stop a few low level employees with access to this data from abusing their power in a similar manner? Maybe it’s a political candidate that wants to run and they go mining her electronic trail and leak dirt on her to the media? Or worse yet, some high level employee abusing his power for political blackmail at higher levels of power? Money, favors, contracts, etc are all ripe for the taking. Are we really so naïve as to think that, without adequate safeguards in place, these kinds of things can’t happen? The information is there, on some server—a gold mine.

    To be fair, I have no doubt that some safeguards are in place. But going back to my observation about the post-9/11 fear of stovepiping, the access aperture for classified information is entirely too wide and it’s clear to me from what little I’ve learned of the program to date, the safeguards aren’t adequate. The oversight is inadequate.

    It is naïve to think that the government wouldn’t collect this information and sift through it—especially given our proclivity for demanding that the government stop every terrorist attack from ever happening—but I think it’s perfectly reasonable to demand better oversight and control.


  21. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Noundy, I'd probably shovel some blame as far back as Church/Pike.
  22. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    ES, again, I don't care about the NSA reading Facebook wall posts. Or even Facebook messages. Whoever is on Facebook and has an issue with privacy is doing it wrong... Facebook and privacy aren't the best of friends. I for one don't trust Facebook's privacy settings for a bit. No, what I'm concerned about is unchecked profiling, abuse, and - as @Souderwan so eloquently says - lack of oversight and control. Maybe that's finally something we can all agree on.

    I gave you the banker example, but I can give you one that's closer to home. We had elections over here, last year. And we have a very controversial politician. I hate everything that guy stands for. For years, I've tried to think of ways to publicly discredit him, and I came up with a brilliant concept, if I may say so. It was just magnificent. Had I gone through with it, I'm sure it would have put a dent in his popularity. But I didn't have the guts to go through with it. This guy has allies in the States, and other nations. Who's to say he hasn't got allies in the NSA? His ideas may be radical here, but they're not that far removed from the ideas of some US factions. I know of a couple of ways to post stuff anonymously, but I'm pretty sure that the NSA would still be able to find me out. They would only have to divulge my real name, and I would be living in fear for the rest of my life. So I have dumbed down on political activism, out of fear of secret services.

    People have their own agendas. The more people work in the NSA, the more they can check, and the more they can go unchecked, the bigger the hazard.

    I never said the whole system is flawed. I think it's great that it's "our" secret services have such a wide reach. It's a boon. I'm just afraid that the US, as usual, has gone completely over the top with it, and it ends up being uncontrollable and a source of new problems. Also, I think that the scope of their paranoia is a result of their own flawed international policies - and rather than be subjected to it, I think we could make an effort to improve those policies.

    As for the comparison with MS... I appreciate the analogy, but the difference is that people signed up for it and (should) know what kind of behavior is expected of them. It's a contract. Ignore the contract, and you will be discussed in MS. There's no such contract when you're born, or when you become an adult. There's no contract when you first access the web. There is one contract, and it's called the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights; in it, the right to privacy and the right to a fair trial are laid out. They're under pressure. But not in MS.

    Nnnnnnnnnnope.
  23. dp4m Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2001
    star 9
    I'm sorry, I missed it -- what banker one what?
  24. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    Huh? Are you unable to read, or is your browser messed up? Here is (quoted) exactly what I posted. Note who I quoted at the beginning of the section. (Hint: not you.)
    The only hyperbole comment I made to you was that in order for me to denounce the NSA, I would need to see some actual illegal action, instead of the current hyperbole we are seeing from people. That was it. The rest of the comments were directed at a different user, as seen above.
  25. McLaren Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 1, 2002
    star 2
    "I think you are misunderstanding the perceived problem here, Mr. President. No one is saying you broke any laws. We're just saying that it's a little bit weird that you didn't have to." John Oliver, The Daily Show

    There is a possibility that the Supreme Court could set precedent by holding that collection programs like Prism are unconstitutional. Given their worldwide ubiquity, that may not be the best outcome. So, allowing that such systems will exist yet desiring to regain the protection of privacy/anonymity we had when collection was more difficult, such collection must be made burdensome on the collector. And, it must be done in such a way that it is not open to "executive discretion" not to comply.

    Not seeing any other proposed alternative in this forum, I'll throw out that we must amend the Fourth Amendment to add a clause: any entity that collects personally identifiable information shall annually report all such collection to the citizen whose information was collected.

    To clarify, entity would include government (including classified), commercial and private organizations regardless of size and regardless of quantity of data collected. For example, a state government takes a photo of a licence plate, notice that the photo was recorded would have to be reported to the owner. If face recognition is used, all security footage would have to be reported to each individual recognized. Post Office takes a photo of your letter, notice goes to both the sender and the recipient, No exemptions for Terms of Use or Acknowledgement of Consent or posting signs stating cameras in use, etc.

    Having written this, it does sound kind of outlandish. But, then again, so do the actions and revelations of the last month or so. Open to any other ideas on how to force serious examination of cost/benefit onto these entities that currently get our data for free.