back to article Leaked docs: NSA 'Follow the money' team slurped BANK records, CREDIT CARD data

The NSA doesn't only hoover up your emails, web surfing habits and phone call metadata – they also harvest your credit card records and banking transactions. The latest leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA is monitoring international banking and credit card transactions that pass through the Society for …

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  1. FuzzyTheBear
    Big Brother

    Here we go again.

    But we all know , though totally unacceptable and outrageous our governments will do nothing.

    We do not expect them to , they are the enemy of the People.

    1. LarsG

      Re: Here we go again.

      And we can do nothing about it........

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Here we go again.

        @LarsG

        I disagree. There is always something we CAN do about whatever-it-is with a bit of thought, invention and unity of purpose. Bringing those together has always been the problem historically; unfortunately it is invariably only intolerable oppression or extreme poverty and injustice that provides the motivation to sing from the same hymn sheet. We won't call time on these shits till we're uncomfortable enough, but history also suggests it won't be too long before they themselves supply the majority with sufficient motivation.

        1. Clare (web specialist)
          Unhappy

          Re: Here we go again.

          I absolutely agree it is appalling that these people monitor credit card information. There are some things you buy that you just don’t want anybody to know about but I usually use money.

          I might be a lot more upset if I thought these perverts were looking at detail of emails, or god forbid Facebook.

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    How is this a surprise?

    Basically it's been clear for a while now that if it has "bits" then the NSA has it - we're talking the facts of the case here. The SWIFT "information sharing" agreement is really old news and one of the first companies to get into the "lets sell access to the NSA" after 9/11 was a credit card processor.

    Yawn.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: How is this a surprise?

      This is different. The surprise is there's no judicial process for the NSA to get at the SWIFT data (however much of a rubber-stamping exercise that is for the US Treasury) and they're also getting hold of CC data.

      I suppose that the NSA has Visa by the balls in the same way as they do MS/Google/Apple/etc... so we can take their denials with a pinch of salt.

      1. Tom 13

        @Dan: The article says no such thing.

        In fact it hints at the more probable truth: the slurping is going through channels that have been legislatively approved, requested by the Executive branch, and approved by the Judiciary. Both Visa's statement and the low number of stored records given the daily volume point in this direction.

        You may think the laws should say otherwise, that the executive branch should be more circumspect, and/or that judges should be more protective of Constitutionally protected natural rights; but it looks to me like all of the processes have been followed and the slurping is not surreptitious. Which might make it even more outrageous, but is quite something different than the supernatural boogieman slurping everybody's data that Snowden et. al. are trying to paint them as.

        1. Ian 55

          Re: @Dan: The article says no such thing.

          Quite.

          The English translation of "we are not aware of any unauthorised access to our network .. Visa's policy to only provide transaction information in response to a subpoena or other valid legal process" is 'we rolled over'.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How is this a surprise?

      "Basically it's been clear for a while now that if it has "bits" then anyone in the world can own it, pending enough willpower / money / time / desire to acquire it - we're talking the facts of the case here. The ability that any and all your information can be hacked is really old news and one of the first companies to get into the "we will only use security to the level that is profitable" was a credit card processor.

      The paranoid will survive."

      There. fixed it for you.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: How is this a surprise?

        Well, I got a writing from my bank start of the year telling me that they were now "Patriot Act Compliant".

        The bank is not even US based.

        Like feeling Vader's dick in you. BIATCH!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Patriot Act Compliant"

          The world is clearly the wrong way up when that is portrayed as both marketing slogan and badge of honour.

          1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Re: "Patriot Act Compliant"

            "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel" - Samuel Johnson

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Patriot Act Compliant"

            The world is clearly the wrong way up when that is portrayed as both marketing slogan and badge of honour.

            Obama thinks that's good enough. That why he wants your Visa card.

        2. sabroni Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: I got a writing from my bank

          We call that a letter.

          1. codejunky Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: I got a writing from my bank

            @ sabroni

            "We call that a letter."

            Only one? When I get mail from them the envelope is thick due to their insistence in printing a lot of letters per each page of rubbish they try to sell me. And maybe a statement in there too. That has many letters and many numbers. And many minus signs.... so many

    3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: How is this a surprise?

      Downvote this all you like - it doesn't change the facts, go back to watching The X Factor.

    4. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: How is this a surprise?

      Because there's a difference between your assumptions and evidence?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jesus H F*cking Christ, just what are the NSA *not* doing?

    And what does "or other valid legal process" mean exactly? Visa being pretty cagey there.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: skelband

      ".....Visa being pretty cagey there." For decades, even before the advent of electronic terminals and swipe cards, VISA was providing info to their own fraud investigators, let alone the FBI and Secret Service. Data on where you had shopped, when, what you bought and how much it cost was chucked into a database long before market trend analysis was a even buzzphrase. VISA did it so they could track fraudulent use of their cards. Just how much data they looked at and on who VISA would probably not like to discuss openly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: skelband

        For Visa to be recording information internally for fraud detection is something that most people would expecting them to be doing as well as all banks. The first time I realised that someone had skimmed my debit card was when the bank rang me. That's cool.

        For Visa to be spaffing information to the NSA without due process is not acceptable. That process is a court order. Other legal mechanisms are basically doublespeak for NSA strong arming them into giving up their info.

      2. sabroni Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: VISA was providing info to their own fraud investigators

        So you mean that when I make a VISA payment VISA know about it? That's exactly the same as them giving information to the american government!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I heard rumors that they have cameras inside every toilet to spy on people

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I heard rumors that they have cameras inside every toilet to spy on people"

        Do you mean the building or the porcelain ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I heard rumours they have people on the internet post stupid comments on threads about privacy, pretending it's not important and sidetracking people with toilet jokes!

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Warrant?

    What is this thing you speak of?

    Of couse they only need to threaten with the words 'if you don't give us everything you will find operating in this country rather difficult if not impossible. It is your choice?'

    If you don't agree this is what you will see following you around ----->>>>

  5. Chris G Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    No more surprises

    If it was announced that NSA operatives cooked and ate fresh babies in the name of national security I would not be surprised, providing of course they were thought to be terrorist babies and of course since all babies share similarities ( they are small, smelly and noisy) those that are not actually terrorist babies are only collateral damage (snacks).

    If you read Rogue State by William Blum it is clear that ANYTHING that is considered to be in the interests of the current ideal of National Security will be given at least a hearing and probably will be given a go!

    There is always the thought that knowing inside information about some transactions may also be beneficial to Black Ops budgets.

    Quite surprised GCHQ were a little cagey!

  6. chris lively

    The only surprise here is the statement that the db only had 180 million records. That's tiny. There are probably that many transactions in an hour...

    So, is the number off by a few zeros or are they throwing out anything under a certain dollar amount ? In other words just keeping those above say $10k?

    Of course, it is a bit worrying that the NSA collected at least some of this data by hacking into the other systems. If they are doing it, so are others.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: chris lively

      "The only surprise here is the statement that the db only had 180 million records....." Gee, could that be because it is a very targeted system and they are not looking at EVERYONE's transcations as the sheeple want to baaah-lieve?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: chris lively

        Matty, Matty.

        It's pretty retarded to newspeak the meaning of "sheeple" into "those who DISTRUST the well-intentioned government".

        Now get off your mall scooter and take a deep breath. What's the matter? Fearing that the market of Itaniums will crash even more when the NSA is put on a leash?

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Destroyed All Braincells Re: chris lively

          "....retarded to newspeak the meaning of "sheeple"...." What are you on? The term has always referred to those well-meaning self-delusionists that trot along behind those like Assange. I remember it being used for CND hippies with a similar level of paranoid delusion back loooong before Assange was even born! I remember some hilarious conversations with deeply deluded and paranoid ladies protesting at Greenham Common, who were so scared of their own shadows they even had punch ups where women sharing the same tent became equally convinced their tent partner just HAD to be an MI5 or US MIC undercover agent. I had great fun feeding their paranoia - these were the kind of people that really believed their TVs watched them!

          "....the market for Itaniums....." Sorry to burst your bubble, but the NSA are traditionally one of IBM's biggest mainframe customers. The people that actually collect a lot of the data used by the NSA (Google, etc.) are more inclined to be using x86 platforms, except for the telecoms, which do still have a large contingent of Itanium kit. Last I heard there was still plenty of old VMS still being used in the financial houses that probably report plenty of data to the NSA, so that's probably on Itanium by now too. But I suspect the future of sifting such data, given that it requires lots of relatively low-powered streams running in parallel, will probably be Linux grids made up of racks and racks of cheap Atom or ARM servers (possibly AMD if they can get the Seamicro kit in front of the right people). But then I can probably see that because I actually work in the industry, unlike the majority of the sheeple like you.

      2. BlueGreen

        Re: chris lively @Matt Bryant

        Hello Plump and Bleaty, ewe still trying to claim it's other people that are the sheeple? Sweet!

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: BoringGreen Re: chris lively @Matt Bryant

          <Yawn> Still unable to post a coherent argument, I see? This is my surprised face, honest. Did you get the gold vulture from being El Reg's tealady?

          Which of my points posted in this thread is it that is causing you such distress, or is it that you simply so hate being debunked you intend to forum stalk with more pointless posts whenever my name makes you cringe in fear of reality? Go on, try and be even mildly interesting and post a point of view. I'm not even going to ask that it be your own (it usually isn't), but it would at least be a (minor) contribution rather than just a sulking snipe. I'm sure you're just bubbling over with "righteous" indignation that the NSA may know you used your Mom's VISA card to buy your subscription to Sheep Fanciers Monthly, so try and put your objections in a post. Think of it as a possible start on the therapy you so obviously need.

          1. sabroni Silver badge

            whenever my name makes you cringe in fear of reality?

            it's not a fear of reality Matt, but you certainly make me cringe!

            You really need to get over yourself, you sound a bit demented.

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: sabroni Re: whenever my name makes you cringe in fear of reality?

              Just poking fun at the sheeple, chap. If you do it artfully enough you can reduce even the pacifists amongst them to such a rage I even had one kicking three-shades of brown stuff out of his own VW combi! Besides, all this childish "Baaaaah, the NSA is watching me" bleating is getting very boring.

      3. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: chris lively

        Sure 180 million records are the targeted ones...

        BUT instead of getting exactly the data requested via warrant on specific targets (which would be the legal and proper way to do it), they are looking at all transactions and then selecting the ones they want: "NSA is monitoring international banking and credit card transactions that pass through".

        I guess if you want to be pedantic bout it, it could be strictly legal within the US, but for those of us who are non-merkins, that's a foreign country that is nominally our ally hacking our systems to get data behind our backs instead of using an existing a mechanism by which they can ask for, and get, that same data.

        Not cool

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: chris lively

          That 180 million was in 2011 and was one project named 'dishfire' for reasons unknown. Sounds like a single project to me; not the whole of the thing.

        2. Tom 13

          @ James Micallef

          No hacking is required, and your government likely agreed to it either through direct treaty, bi-lateral agreements, or secret memorandum of understanding.

          NSA issues one of their special warrants under the Patriot Act, the banks hand over the data. Whether on tape, disk, or via a direct feed. NSA filters the data stream for what they want and file it for further research as needed in the future. Probably no humans involved in looking at even the filter stream except for quality control purposes. Because the simple fact of the matter is that once you get much past 100, no human reads that much data randomly looking for connections.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This shows active cooperation

      The only way to weed it down to 180M is to be embedded in the system and be able to query only the stuff that is "of interest". Otherwise (if it was a product of a normal sigint or intrusion) the dataset would have been much bigger.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: This shows active cooperation

        Or collect it all and discard what is uninteresting. It isn't clear why we - the cardholders - should prefer one approach to the other, though.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmmm....

    And SWIFT transactions are conducted via AES-256 encryption.

    So make your own conclusion as to how safe AES is.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: AC Re: Hmmmm....

      "....So make your own conclusion as to how safe AES is." If they have a hack into the systems then they are probably looking at the data before encryption is applied.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmmm....

      It WAS "safe"...until someone threw enough money at "the problem" to make it disappear.

      And, on that note, our lesson ends for the day.

    3. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Hmmmm....

      There are many ways to decrypt a message that do not involve "breaking" the cypher.

      As already pointed out: hacking in before it is encrypted, using you 'influence' to get a copy of the key(s), compromising the key/certificate generation software, compromising a closed-source implementation so it leaks information that you have the key to make use of...

  8. Don Jefe

    Makes Sense

    This makes perfect sense. How else will the IRS know who has (untaxed) money overseas without invoking National Security. It is fairly obvious money is the only thing that National Security is about. It sure as fuck isn't about catching terrorists.

    It is no wonder the Swiss rolled over on their clients. They knew they had been compromised and it was either look insecure/incompetent or look like they were bullied. Only one of those can you reasonably excuse.

  9. Graham Marsden
    Big Brother

    "we are not aware of any unauthorised access to our network"

    Hmm, nice bit of Double-speak there from Visa! What about *authorised* access (which, of course, being a US company, they're not allowed to talk about...)

  10. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Big Brother

    It would be really nice to know under what circumstances data is snooped...

    Can they grab anything at any time? When they do grab info, what happens with it?

    Also, have they put a backdoor or found a vulnerability in aes 256?

    1. Don Jefe
      Meh

      Re: It would be really nice to know under what circumstances data is snooped...

      I fully anticipate that it will come out that this report was a highly compartmentalized publication and that in fact everything is slurped, but they've 'only looked' at the 185 million records in question. The records that haven't been 'officially' examined will be under another program name.

      It simply doesn't make sense to secretly gain access to digital information and not take it all. Why not? That's why it is secret; nobody knows, so nobody can care.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    US company + US servers + THE PATRIOT Act --> *complete* compromise.

    And as long as that piece of legislation stands it always will be.

    "Constitutional protection you say?"

    The War Against Terrorism is far too important to let that get in the way.

    1. Clare (web specialist)
      Unhappy

      Re: US company + US servers + THE PATRIOT Act --> *complete* compromise.

      Just looked this up on Wikipedia and it is disgraceful. Appropriate tools to intercept and obstruct terrorism, but they can legally look at all my emails and what I done on the internet.

      I don’t want them seeing this, my girlfriends and I share a lot of intimate stuff, it’s just not right that other people can see it. What can I do now?

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: US company + US servers + THE PATRIOT Act --> *complete* compromise.

        It is indeed sad Clare (web specialist), but it is necessary. You or your girlfiend or other friends or their friends or possibly one of their friends, friends might be harboring as yet unrealized terroristic tendencies and in order to make sure we cover all the bases after something happens you'll need to have all your information rifled through.

        If we don't know how a basically random event came to be, we can't align national resources to identify the drop of water in the ocean for future random event post analysis. You understand.

        1. Clare (web specialist)

          Re: US company + US servers + THE PATRIOT Act --> *complete* compromise.

          No I don’t understand, it is just so unfair. It is making me nauseous having read John’s comment, and looked up the US Patriot law and realised what they are doing.

          The emails between me and my girlfriend are personal. The thought of some male pervert leering at our pictures fills me with disgust. Why isn’t somebody trying to do something to stop this.

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: US company + US servers + THE PATRIOT Act --> *complete* compromise.

          "It is indeed sad Clare (web specialist), but it is necessary. You or your girlfiend or other friends or their friends or possibly one of their friends, friends might be harboring as yet unrealized terroristic tendencies and in order to make sure we cover all the bases after something happens you'll need to have all your information rifled through.

          If we don't know how a basically random event came to be, we can't align national resources to identify the drop of water in the ocean for future random event post analysis. You understand."

          Priceless.

          You've absolutely got the self serving bureaucrat-speak nailed. Very Brian Thomas Reynolds

          1. Don Jefe
            Happy

            Re: US company + US servers + THE PATRIOT Act --> *complete* compromise.

            Thank you kind sir.

            Listening to and reading that self-serving tripe is absolutely the worst part of my job. I do my level best to make a mockery out of it whenever possible.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: US company + US servers + THE PATRIOT Act --> *complete* compromise.

        "Just looked this up on Wikipedia and it is disgraceful. Appropriate tools to intercept and obstruct terrorism, but they can legally look at all my emails and what I done on the internet."

        Surprise.

        Well of course they will argue that as a US citizen they won't spy on the text just stuff like the titles, when and where you you sent it and of course if any of your friends are furriners, they're open season.

        Short term look at making sure you're AV is up to date and look at installing PGP and getting all your friends to go encrypted as well, if you want what you talk about to stay private.

        Long term start talking to the Legislature (that's your Congressman and Senator). This thing is 360+ paragraphs long and (apparently) written in 6 weeks after 9/11/01. Which shall we say is an impressive piece of work. It's a huge law and subverts a number of other pieces of law as well (kind of like a legal virus). Essentially it was sold as "This will protect America. If you don't vote for it, you're supporting terrorism."

        Some of those clauses can be shut down. You need to tell your representatives (well they represent you) that you want them shut down.

        Bottom line. There's a thing called "presumption of innocence."

        THE PATRIOT act treats everyone as guilty, with no exceptions.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OFAC report has some of these details

    I think a lot of this falls under the "valid legal process" bit. I know that most prepaid cards and new accounts end up on a daily OFAC report. (http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Documents/cons.pdf) This report is generated by the banks/credit card companies based on requirements from the Feds. It contains demographic details, balances, etc. and is not just folks on the "bad guy" list.

    1. asdf

      Re: OFAC report has some of these details

      The first rule of information asymmetry warfare is play down how valuable the information is.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: OFAC report has some of these details

      As if the NSA could be arsed to even *look* at lawfully obtainable data.

      Hold on, why do the Feds need those kind of fishing expeditions in the first place?

      1. Tom 13

        Re: why do the Feds need those kind of fishing expeditions

        Actually, most of this stuff on finances is all pre-9/11. In theory it was put in place to locate money laundering associated with drug smuggling, prostitution, illegal gambling and other activities of organized crime. With the tools mostly already in place it was easy to extend them to National Security after 9/11. Even now I could see police looking to be able to track the money transfers to mules who empty bank accounts as a result of identity fraud.

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: why do the Feds need those kind of fishing expeditions

          Tom, you just nailed the core issue in all this. Existing tools were expanded to cover things outside their initial scope. That is what always happens with legislation. It eventually goes so far its initial purpose is forgotten, then ignored. So the original problem is left unresolved and everybody is chasing the new cheese. It remains that way until the legislation expands again.

    3. Don Jefe
      WTF?

      Re: OFAC report has some of these details

      How else do you expect them to build the 'bad guy list'? Wait for them to become bad guys? Wait for them to do something bad? Wait for some highly paid analyst with access to one of the thousands of other information sources you have streaming in to discover a potential threat?

      FUCK NO You put everybody on the list and assume they might be harboring terroristic ideas and even if they aren't, that they might be one day.

      That assumption of innocence shit is too hard.

    4. Don Jefe
      Alert

      Re: OFAC report has some of these details

      You know what else falls under a "valid legal process"? Everything the NSA is doing...

      It is a real shame that people don't remember how that justification has been used in the past. Schools these days really are horrendously bad.

  13. asdf

    More proof

    Yet more proof Bin Laden though dead and gone won. He probably knew all he needed to do was give an excuse for the jagoffs inside the system to start undermining democracy from the inside out. They would be much more effective than him and his buddy goat farmers at changing our values.

    1. harmjschoonhoven

      Re: More proof

      Osama bin Laden was not a goat farmer.

      The bin Laden family made $5 billion in the construction industry, of which Osama later inherited around $25-30 million.

      Upvoted you anyway.

      1. asdf

        Re: More proof

        Yep but he got largely cut off and ended up hanging with his buddies the Taliban who if not goat farmers definitely go for the look. He certainly wasn't living all that phat for a %1er at the end there. For one thing he was stuck in 3rd world Pakistan.

        1. KrisMac

          Re: More proof

          One of the reasons for Bin Laden's less than stellar bank balance at the end is that he spent nearly all of his inheritance personally financing and funding the development of the goat farming community in Afghanistan... ever wonder why go many of the goat farmers in that part of the world still worship the ground he walked on? Ever consider how many goats $25 Million will buy?

          That is perhaps the crux of the fundamental error the US administration made in Afghanistan - the funds that poured into the country after the invasion went to the beurocrats, brown-nosers and warlords in Kabul, not the goat farmers in arse-end-of-nowhere...

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Meh

          Re: More proof

          "Yep but he got largely cut off and ended up hanging with his buddies the Taliban who if not goat farmers definitely go for the look. He certainly wasn't living all that phat for a %1er at the end there. For one thing he was stuck in 3rd world Pakistan."

          Are you kidding me?

          Check out Bin Ladens crib

          38 000 Sq Ft, foot thick walls and satellite TV is not exactly roughing it in a mud hut.

          Obviously the security system (and air defenses) need a little work...

          BTW The best way to describe the Lin Laden family cash bag was in the film Syriana when Matt Damon comments they got the contract to do the air con for Mecca.

          That's the air con for a whole city

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: More proof

            You obviously didn't evenr read your own link - which very much DOES make it actually sound like a slightly posher mud hut. Let's say no western tourist would be likely to agree to stay in its equivalent unless explicitly going for the "mud hut feeling" / had no other choice.

  14. dssf
    Joke

    "Unaware of any unauthorized access"

    " In a statement, Visa told Der Spiegel that "we are not aware of any unauthorised access to our network" adding "Visa's policy to only provide transaction information in response to a subpoena or other valid legal process". "

    Of COURSE not. You're up against Section 31 -- either in the now, the 2 minutes prior to or the 50 years after you detect intrusion. The Temporal Mechnanics will in, through, by, and at times of your recursive corrections.

    Maybe all Section *31* is about is wealth control.... Heheheh

  15. Tom 35

    Swiss Bank account leak

    So could this be another lie about where the info came from? We already know the cops cover up the source of info they get from the NSA.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Straight lines

    Search haystack; find too many needles; draw straight lines between similar looking needles; tail, arrest, finger, extradite, render and prosecute/blacklist targets for imaginary crimes suggested by the straight 'logical' lines, while studiously ignoring anyone who can think round corners; rinse and repeat ad nauseam. Optional: attend your war crimes trial/retire to beach in exile to write memoirs.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK, so....

    ...I am in dispute with my Bank over a VISA bill.

    Anyone got the NSAs customer service number?

    Maybe they can sort it out.

    1. nsld
      Black Helicopters

      Re: OK, so....

      It's ok, they are aware and will call you shortly. .......

  18. bitmap animal
    Stop

    Am I reading a different article?

    There are two main points I get from reading this article that most of the commentators see in a very different way.

    Firstly the fact that they are only storing 180 million records from a system that produced 15 million per day. This tells me that they are only interested in specific targets or patterns and not recording every transaction. Obviously they need to scan each transaction to see if they are of interest, just as a virus scanner will scan every file on your computer to see if it is of interest. Items that trigger interest will then be looked at in more detail.

    Secondly the GCHQ comment regarding the personal data should make you think about whether or not they are slurping everything and what they are doing with it.

    Perhaps there is actually a lot less going on with the agencies to get rebellious about – but that isn't what you want to hear is it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Am I reading a different article?

      How about officially requesting only those records for which interest can be justified and a case is being instrumented against, instead of just basking in financial data en-gros, huh? Yeah, that sounds like too much trouble, innit. Obviously...

    2. Don Jefe
      FAIL

      Re: Am I reading a different article?

      If you got any main points from the article you read it wrong. The article was about a few secondary and tertiary points of a massive globe spanning anti-liberty program designed to defeat an idea with bullets and bombs. A program that has not only failed miserably, it has been responsible for accomplishing the very things 'the terrorists' set out to do.

  19. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I understand that NSA is tracking financial data

    And I think that that is something I can actually approve - at the condition that the big time crims get caught.

    I mean, it is obvious that big money needs to be checked, and if they are only tracking less than 200 million records, well, that is a drop in the ocean as far as financial records is concerned.

    That seems to me to to be on par with proper, warranted surveillance of suspects, and that is not something I have an issue with.

    But . . I still don't trust them, nor would I be surprised to learn that a zero or three were dropped from that figure.

    1. Don Jefe
      Stop

      Re: I understand that NSA is tracking financial data

      I don't agree: 'Following the money' is a fine tactic for organized crime or despots but for terrorists, not so much. They don't need much money, certainly not more than a 'JihadStarterTM' local donation campaign could raise. Hell, they never had much to begin with, that's why they went with the terrorism route.

      Historically, big terrorist attacks are dirt cheap to pull off. Even groups like the IRA or ETA that really did have significant funding from overseas didn't actually use that money to kill people. They used that money to support families of those who killed people with old military weapons and first year chemistry level bombs. They used the money to establish legitimate businesses they embezzled from. They bought guns to make themselves feel like badasses but the vast majority of them were never going to do shit but talk loud (or in whispers in shitty pub basements).

      The ones that did do something had all they needed the minute they decided terrorism was the route they were going to take. Terrorism is based on fear and emotion, it is an idea that doesn't cost anything. Cut off the cash and the idea is still there and it is the idea that is dangerous. It is the idea that makes pressure cookers Weapons of Mass Destruction... Not money.

      All the 'Well Financed Terrorists' stuff, 'Drugs Support Terrorism", "Cheap Cutlery Supports Terrorism", all that stuff since The War Against Terror began was centered on the Taliban, who do have some money. Thing is they aren't terrorists anymore. They are disenfranchised State actors who the West now openly negotiates with.

      The people (that's us) were tricked and we allowed ourselves to be tricked. Bin Laden and Al-Queida never had any big money for terrorism, and the governments knew it. As others have noted previously, Bin Laden spaffed his cash in an attempt to become a Goat Baron, Al-Queida is so poor they can't afford security: We've droned their No. 2 guy twenty five times, a well funded operation could never perpetuate itself if the leadership was so fluid. People would take what money was around and go home with it. Just like they do in The West.

      NONE of that matters one iota anyway when we send $12B in unaccounted, palletized $100 bills right back to the people we claimed only months before were losing because we had cut off their cash:

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/feb/08/usa.iraq1

      The whole finance structure of terrorism is 100% USDA Grade A Bullshit.

  20. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    My buying "patterns" must be driving their Bayesian Analysis Algorithms batshirt.

    Heh heh heh.

  21. Gav

    self-evident truths

    " targets non-US citizens and so is less legally contentious"

    They are only dredging the data of innocent non-Americans. So that's all right then. Remember guys, it's not people that get unalienable rights; it's *American* people. That's what Thomas Jefferson was talking about, wasn't it?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: self-evident truths

      "They are only dredging the data of innocent non-Americans. So that's all right then. Remember guys, it's not people that get unalienable rights; it's *American* people. That's what Thomas Jefferson was talking about, wasn't it?"

      Some how the words of Little Steven are ringing around my head.

      Something about "What's that piece of paper that all those suckers signed?"

      Sounds like the response of the Legislature to THE PATRIOT act.

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: self-evident truths

      Well yes, it was what Jefferson was talking about. Specifically white 'Americans' (the Indians and blacks didn't count). Jefferson believed that only the Americans deserved this new kind of government because only they had fought for it. Other countries were too self interested, too dumb or too weak (take your pick, he applies them to every nation at various times) to grapple with the concepts being proposed.

      He believed only those who benefited from a fresh start could ever truly meet the principals he was proposing. Any attempts by other governments to adopt similar measures would be half-measures and still controlled by vested interests (see: Democratic Monarchy and Democratic Subjects for more information) and result in even worse oppression of Liberty. Other countries were better off to maintain and work within their current structures as to change them would never go well.

      Jefferson was a very smart man and deep thinker but had some really hard to reconcile ideas about equality. He was bothered by his inevitable conclusions even as he died. He didn't believe equality was truly possibly except for a chosen few. Which is really fucked up and he knew it, but couldn't find a way around it.

    3. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: self-evident truths

      If it was self-evident, surely it wouldn't need stating?

      It was really a straight forward power-struggle with those in power taking advantage of those who weren't and TJ didn't like it.

      Nothing has really changed. Certainly in the UK I see greatly increasingly intrusive governmental authoritarianism, where we used to compare quite favourably to the US.

      Having given up on any reason for morality, the law and the infinite ways around it are all that's left - and it isn't enough.

  22. Nym

    Hardly

    The first ploy in informational warfare is disinformation.

    1. Don Jefe
      Happy

      Re: Hardly

      The first rule in Game Theory is to pass off disinformation as disinformation :)

      It's like the first pitch to a batter in baseball. Nobody ever swings at the first pitch because the batter wants to see how the pitcher is going to throw and the pitcher wants to see how the batter is going to swing. Thing is, both know what the other is doing and know the other knows that.

      How do you capitalize on that? You try to guess ahead and each step exponentially increases the probability of an incorrect guess. To offset that you gather more information to make better guesses but the other guy is doing the same. It is a stalemate. No one can act without risking everything else.

      The only successful strategy is one which gets lucky. Analysts and politicians hate that fact and do their best to work around it, inevitably unsuccessfully. Generals have always understood it though. It's simply unfortunate we let the analysts and politicians take control of strategy...

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