back to article John Kerry bombshell: 'Yes, the NSA... reached TOO FAR, inappropriately'

US Secretary of State John Kerry has issued a rare mea culpa on behalf of the US government and its NSA surveillance platforms. Speaking at a panel discussion for the Open Government Partnership, Kerry said that in its efforts to thwart terrorists, the US had gone "too far" in its collection of personal data, but insisted that …

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  1. Eddy Ito
    Facepalm

    Perfectly said

    "What we are trying to do is, in a random way, find ways of trying to learn if in fact there is a threat that we need to respond to."

    All I can say is it's a good thing they aren't trying to learn to walk.

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick

      Re: Perfectly said

      "All I can say is it's a good thing they aren't trying to learn to walk."

      or procreate.

    2. oolor
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Perfectly said

      >All I can say is it's a good thing they aren't trying to learn to walk.

      Or come up with a better random number generator...

      My best translation for that Kerry quote is "we are stabbing blindly hoping to get the terrorizers."

    3. Don Jefe

      Re: Perfectly said

      Christ. I'm glad this guy wasn't elected President. If responding to random events with more random events accomplished anything positive or even tractable we'd all have our flying cars and monkey butlers by now. What's the square root of chicken liver?

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Perfectly said

        "If responding to random events with more random events accomplished... "

        Well that pretty much describes most upper management, now doesn't it?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Perfectly said

        He does seem to look more and more like herman munster.

    4. Julian Bond
      IT Angle

      Re: Perfectly said

      So this an attempt to solve the travelling salesman problem using a Monte Carlo method?

  2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Happy

    Translation

    "....."in some cases it has reached too far, inappropriately."....." By I appropriately he means getting caught.

    1. Ted Treen
      Big Brother

      Re: Translation

      "innocent people are not being abused in this process... in some cases it has reached too far, inappropriately..."

      Either this is self-contradictory (not unusual from a politician)

      OR

      Only guilty people are being inappropriately abused

      OR]

      He can't speak English

      OR

      He doesn't know WTF he's on about

      Answers on a postcard to:-

      1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20500, United States

      All correct entries win a stay at a holiday camp at a spot which is part of Cuba - with some natty orange holiday clothes

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Translation

        Since apparently the exercise includes (rarely) NSA staff reading the personal data of people they are considering sleeping with, which technically could be everyone, either that isn't counted as "abuse" or they pick people who aren't "innocent", probably because honest-to-god blackmail works quicker than flowers and chocolates. And presumably we're only hearing about that particular use, and only when it's successful. No comment on NSA spooks checking out what they've got on the real reputation of sellers on eBay.

        On the plus side, when there is evidence of crimes besides terrorism (such as non-terroristic murder, which happens a lot, and drug dealing) the publicly known agents of law and order are allowed to use NSA evidence in trials, by lying about it, such as denying that it was, in their terms, obtained illegally, and therefore is invalid.

      2. doronron

        Re: Translation

        It's the last one.

        He does know if innocent people are abused, that *was* for the court to protect against, he *Kerry* is not in the loop. He doesn't review the queries, he doesn't know the targets, he knows what he's been told, and most of them learn more from the leaks than the official version they are told.

        William Hague did the same thing, claiming they were fine honorable men. He's never met them, there's hundreds/thousands of them, half are American. He cannot vouch for people he doesn't know and he isn't in a position to vet the 40,000 selectors he's been told about let alone all the future ones run against the data he's authorizing, and secret ones he doesn't know about.

        He simply wanted to do a stock speech hoping to kill discussion early on, by his "ordinary citizens going about their business" payload. A veiled threat that if you stand up and criticize then you will be spied on.

        Rifkin did the same mistake, he said he's seen the list of people spied on and it was OK. Yet the data retained for 6 years by the US runs into the future, how could he have seen the list of who they'll be spying on 6 years from now? And of course he also assumes they're telling him the truth, even as they're lying to others. Even GCHQ's copy runs into the future, I bet it's 3-6 months of data by now, the leaks are quite old.

        Interesting to see, they're forced to admit there is a problem, yet they won't fix it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Translation

      It's not as if I didn't tell you:

      "We officially acknowledge that, unofficially, a few individuals working for numerous United States intelligence agencies may have overstepped their legal authority.

      However, we can not officially acknowledge the unofficial activities due to 'national security' issues.

      Therefore, we believe that the official investigation will reach a conclusion, one reached via closed-door negotiations to assure the America public of being secure against the threats against us. The negotiations and settlement will be officially classified, due to the sensitive nature of the NSA policies under investigation, but, rest assured, the interest of the American people will be taken into account and the proper precautions will be taken in the future."

  3. Mitoo Bobsworth
    Unhappy

    First rule of listening to Politicians -

    Don't believe a word they say.

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick
      IT Angle

      Re: First rule of listening to Politicians -

      see icon.

      Heuristics vary. Sometime a recursive approach is best - Don't listen to the first word, loop. Other times a statistical approach - throw out the first and last word and don't believe everything in between is conceptually easier but can be very slow considering how much Politicians talk.

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    What he means is:

    "Our President is determined to clarify and is now doing a thorough review in order that nobody will have a sense of abuse."

    Our President doesn't want to have a sense of being abused so he has a team of Spin Doctors working flat out to find a way of getting out of this with his nuts intact.

  5. Bruce Ordway

    What other possible outcome

    Is anybody really surprised?

    I doubt it, I think we all know what to expect when we're using modern conveniences like cell phones and the internet.

    Such easy targets and people will always abuse access in the quest to know what other are "up to".

    Today I'm not too worried about what they're collecting about me on a day to day basis for "security".

    I'm not planning anything that needs to be kept secret.

    But... I am terrified by the idea of massive data collection and retention over long periods.

    I expect multiple cases of misuse to be exposed in our future.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Big Brother

      "I'm not planning anything that needs to be kept secret."

      Who needs you to plan anything?

      Never heard the quote "Give me 6 lines from an honest man and I'll find something to hang him"?

      "But... I am terrified by the idea of massive data collection and retention over long periods."

      You should be.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What other possible outcome

      "Today I'm not too worried about what they're collecting about me on a day to day basis for "security".

      I'm not planning anything that needs to be kept secret."

      I think anyone who says this should be forced to have cameras and microphones placed in every room of their house, fed 24/7 to the spooks. I mean, you've got nothing to hide, right?

      Somewhere right now there is a terrorist building a bomb on his kitchen table, and our hard-pressed spooks won't know about it because of this lunacy concept of privacy, where people are not observed by the security services in their own homes.

      You might feel a bit self-conscious next time you pull yourself off in the shower. But remind yourself that the spooks are not the slightest bit interested in your w*nking habits, they're only after terrorists and nothing else.

      Angela Merkel might not look like a terrorist, but if you don't bug her phone for 10 years, how are you going to be sure? Can't be too careful.

      etc. etc.

  6. Graham Marsden
    Holmes

    Icon...

    ... says it all.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    Meh, its just another movie release tie-in....

    "KERRY"! The horrifying story of a misunderstood and underappreciated intelligence agency that gets corrupted by it's newfound power. Opening soon in a theater near you!

    "KERRY"! Human rights burn in Hell!!!

  8. Mephistro

    "...find ways of trying to learn if in fact there is a threat that we need to respond to."

    Mr. Kerry, with the means you and your chums use, if there isn't a threat now there will be one soon. PRISM is both an attack on and and insult to democracy.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Gimp

    Actually the NSA defense is that of BOFH's everywhere.

    "Yes, we can listen to all your conversations and emails, but there's just noting interesting enough in them to do anything about.*"

    *This conveniently skips the small detail they (like all good data fetishists) also archive the stuff, as you just never know when some "nobody" will become a "somebody."

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Actually the NSA defense is that of BOFH's everywhere.

      That's called the "J. Edger Hoover Method".

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's quite simple really

    At the very minimum they use 'mental reservation', the same technique used by the Catholic church in Ireland to evade responsibilty for clerical child sexual abuse. Basically, any words or statements from the US government and any of their agencies, as well as GCHQ and the British gov, can be taken as being misdirection, propaganda, deceit and outright lies.

  11. Scoular

    Speaking from outside the US.

    Sorry USA we do not believe you, we do not trust you.

    The reason is that you have shown us that we should do neither.

    Recovery, if possible at all, is not going to be quick or easy.

    1. channel extended
      Childcatcher

      Now the Other Half

      Speaking from inside the USA.

      Don't trust us, our pol's like like all do.

      Our corporations steal what they can.

      And threaten the rest.

      Honor, no longer exists is the USA.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TOO FAR, inappropriately?

    The real scare is how far down the sewer pipe would the arm of the NSA have gone if Snowden had not put the flashlight on the toilet bowl?

  13. BlueGreen

    "...in order that nobody will have a sense of abuse"

    I take it that by 'nobody' he means 'dwellers of the USA' exclusively. This "rest of the world" concept ... so tricky.

    "What we are trying to do is, in a random way, find ways of trying to learn if in fact there is a threat that we need to respond to."

    And you randomly pissed how much cash and credibility up the wall trying that? Try wandering around the streets randomly punching people in the face. Same effect. You'll deck a terrorist, eventually, 100% guaranteed.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: "...in order that nobody will have a sense of abuse"

      Try wandering around the streets randomly punching people in the face. Same effect. You'll deck a terrorist, eventually, 100% guaranteed.

      Absolutely, in fact to extend the metaphor even if none of the people you "hit" were terrorists before you thumped them, it's a fair bet some will be afterwards.

      Antagonizing everybody in the world is not a path to world peace, much the opposite probably.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    innocent people are not being abused

    We make a point of being silent while we are listening to them, and polite when talking about them afterwards. There is no abuse whatsoever.

  15. AndrueC Silver badge

    Our President is determined to clarify and is now doing a thorough review in order that nobody will have a sense of abuse.

    Which could just mean they are going to put more effort into covering it up.

  16. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Win Win is a Nice Niche Space to have Place and Commanding Stake in

    "What we are trying to do is, in a random way, find ways of trying to learn if in fact there is a threat that we need to respond to."

    That is nothing less than an honest admission that Uncle Sam does not have leading intelligence.

    And some may ponder and realise that such them makes for an easily brought crashing down to earth, sitting duck target for those and that which do [have leading intelligence] and can exercise it effectively with command and control of the media and IT channels for dissemination of message and propagation of alternative programming.

    Or, alternatively, such makes them a sub-prime customer client in dire straits need of leading intelligence feeds and seeds, which is a very lucrative and exceedingly rewarding business to be expert supplier in.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. dan1980
    Flame

    Fortress in a bunker

    In every way and at every opportunity, those with the ability to 'come clean' have lied. I am trying to think of a way that anyone can ever trust the US Federal Government again but I am at a loss.

    The reply might be that the Government only want you to believe that they are protecting its citizens and everything it does is toward that end - even if they lie to you about exactly what they are doing (on your behalf) and how.

    My response would be that the Government's view of what is in the peoples' best interests may differ sharply from the views of those people.

    The funny/scary thing is that the 'leaders' purporting to know better than their people are the same ones whose unfailing sense of civic duty and selfless devotion to the public best-interest caused the US Federal Government to be shut down for two weeks, leaving over three quarters of a millions government employees without pay. (Though they have been back-payed.) They are the same people who, through bickering and squabbling and conducting their business in general bad faith, have twice used the US (and thus world) economy as a political hostage by playing chicken on the tracks.

    They are the people who are placing themselves on a moral high ground and asking to be viewed as fair and just arbiters, trusted with protecting freedom and liberty while stripping its citizens of both.

    They are the people who publicly decry government and military brutality in foreign countries while sending unmanned aircraft to destroy not only foreign nationals but American citizens as well – leaving tallies of hundreds of innocents dead or maimed in the process.

    They are the people who, with straight grave and sombre tones, condemn human-rights violations in others while refusing to even acknowledge that the Geneva Conventions apply to them.

    In short, they are the people who wish to be seen as building that city upon a hill yet everyday work to surround it with walls and barred gates; to be given much but to be unencumbered by the responsibilities of that trust and power.

    1. Thorne

      Re: Fortress in a bunker

      “Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”

      ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

  19. Keep Refrigerated

    He's got no clothes on!

    "Our King is determined to clarify and is now doing a thorough review in order that nobody will have a sense of nakedness."

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