back to article US govt watchdog slams NSA snooping as illegal, useless against terrorism

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a federal panel set up to advise the US government on policy, has published report concluding that the bulk collection of data on US citizens by the NSA is illegal and ineffective at stopping terrorism. "Based on the information provided to the board, including classified …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile in Britain.....

    /tumbleweeds

  2. edge_e
    Facepalm

    from despair to where?

    Collecting all this data isn't helping fill this swimming pool.

    We have to carry on collecting this data because people will be really angry if the pool's not full when the sun comes out.

    "we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation"

    ...

    The report's authors were split on their views, however. Rachel Brand, who served as assistant attorney general for legal policy at the US Department of Justice (DoJ) between 2005 and 2007, said wrote in a dissenting opinion that the bulk data collections were legal and warned that if there was another major terrorist attack "the public will engage in recriminations against the intelligence community for failure to prevent it."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: from despair to where?

      The dossier states that this particular bulk data collection program started in 2001 shortly after the September 11 attacks, and was cleared by the Bush administration in 2006 under the terms of the Patriot Act.

      Rachel Brand, who served as assistant attorney general for legal policy at the US Department of Justice (DoJ) between 2005 and 2007, said wrote in a dissenting opinion

      Ummm nope I can't see what ulterior motive she might have for opining that the bulk data collections were legal... can you?

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: from despair to where?

        Brand doesn't need an "ulterior motive". The sort of people who become assistant attorneys general are the sort of people who favor empowering the police state. Note that the other two critics of the report mentioned in the article are also former law enforcement: Collins Cook was also a DoJ AAG, and Mike Rogers (who happens to be my own US Rep, so I'm very familiar with his politics) was an FBI Special Agent.

        People who hate sweets don't often become pastry chefs; people who distrust the State's intrusion into privacy tend to stay away from jobs in the upper tiers of the justice system.

        The real problem with Brand's comment ("the public will engage in recriminations against the intelligence community for failure to prevent it") is that it's idiotic and inconsequential. If the USA lasts long enough as an entity, there will be another successful terrorist attack against it, from some quarter or other. And when that happens, regardless of what the intelligence community has been doing to prevent it, there will be recriminations. Public opinion does not arise from sober historical analysis and the careful weighing of costs and benefits. There will be howls of outrage from some regardless of who might be to blame or what might have been done differently.

        So Brand's reasoning is either vacant, or reduces to "I don't want to be blamed for it". That sort of excuse is tiresome, childish, cowardly, and specious.

        (Rogers' reasoning, on the other hand, is "hurrah for snooping!". He's not a stupid guy, but he's also not what you'd call "complex", at least in this area. He's backed every government surveillance proposal that's come along.)

  3. Cubical Drone

    The big issue in a nut shell

    "the public will engage in recriminations against the intelligence community for failure to prevent it."

    And this is expressly the problem.

    I don't often feel sorry for politicians, but they're caught between a rock and a hard place on this one.

    As long as their are no recent attacks, the chant will be "we want privacy, we want privacy" and if there is a major attack the the chants will be "why didn't you do something to stop this" and "we want security, we want security".

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Cubical Drone Re: The big issue in a nut shell

      ".... if there is a major attack the the chants will be "why didn't you do something to stop this" and "we want security, we want security"." In the case of the Pee-CLOB, also known as the WilmerHale Plan B, it seems they are quite happy to play it both ways, making money on such boards whilst also representing AQ members in Gitmo. I assume an attack to them just means more opportunities.

      http://www.pclob.gov/about-us/leadership

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cubical Drone The big issue in a nut shell

        whilst also representing AQ members in Gitmo

        Or maybe they just feel a moral responsibility to look out for the members of an organisation which was created by the people your American three letter agencies trained to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: ObnoxiousTwit Re: Cubical Drone The big issue in a nut shell

          "....an organisation which was created by the people your American three letter agencies trained to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan." Another myth that the sheeple perpetuate. The CIA funded the mujahideen, mainly the Northern Alliance, although they did also indirectly arm and train some people like the Southern drug lords (such as the Hekmatyar clan) to fight the Soviets that have since become allies of the Taliban. They did not directly fund, arm or train Al Quaeda, they sent funds for groups outside the Northern Alliance to the Pakistani ISI as part of Operation Cyclone. NONE of those organisations was created by the CIA, not the tribal groups that formed the Northern Alliance, the drug lords or AQ, they ALL pre-dated US involvement. Bin Laden formed his group which was later renamed Al Quaeda with Saudi money. He always received the majority of his funding from Saudi sources, and all linked to the Muslim Brotherhood (who ran the "services office" for AQ in Peshawar), he simply did not rename his organisation Al Quaeda until August 1988.

          The US's involvement began after the Soviets backed the Karmal regime in the Afghan civil war. The US strategic view was to stopping Soviet expansion into Pakistan (the USSR had a long term strategic goal of gaining a port on the Indian Ocean). The POTUS that started it all was not Reagan, despite what the sheeple like to pretend, but their second fave Dummicrat POTUS, Jimmy Carter, in 1979. Reagan subsequently expanded Carter's program after the Soviet invasion, bringing in the CIA's "special advisers" (including British ex-SAS mercenaries), which worked with parties approved by the Pakistani ISI. Amusingly, the ISI was also receiving funding for the mujahideen not only from other Western countries but also China, but you never hear the sheeple trying to claim the Chinese funded AQ. No CIA funds went to AQ unless they were secretly diverted by the ISI, and seeing as AQ was receiving about $600m per year in Saudi funding it is extremely unlikely the ISI saw a need to. But by then the CIA and FBI were already investigating AQ, especially their recruitment operations in the States and their links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

          Another myth is that AQ played some major part in the war against the Soviets, but this is again more propaganda and fantasy. At any one time there were approximately 250,000 Afghans being armed and trained with CIA money to fight the Soviets, but there were never more than 2000 non-Aghans involved (mainly Arabs) at any time, and that includes other Islamist groups as well as AQ. AQ spent more of their time assassinating anyone they perceived as not supporting their desire for a "pure" Islamic caliphate in Afghanistan (such as Ahmed Shah Massood, who led the Northern Alliance and fought against the Soviets and then the Taliban). The majority of the estimated 35,000 AQ-trained men did not even enter Afghanistan until after the Soviet withdrawal, with most of AQ's efforts being in fighting those that opposed the Taliban after the Soviets had left.

          So, no, WilmerHale are not operating under any moral obligation whatsoever, probably just fat Saudi cheques. Now, do you see how a little actual reading and understanding of the subject could help you avoid looking so stupid again?

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: The big issue in a nut shell

      > "we want privacy, we want privacy / "we want security, we want security".

      Assumes that the way to get security is more spying on obviously non-terrorist citizens.

      Its the old, we have to keep sprinkling magic dust on the roads because people won't forgive us if there is a tiger attack on a pre-school.

      1. willi0000000

        Re: The big issue in a nut shell @YAAC

        you sir, are, of course completely correct.

        [and if i can have just a few billion more dollars and several thousand more staff under my command, i'm sure that i can keep the Magic Dust Mine™ open for, at least, a few more weeks - see you again when the money runs out]

    3. Mark 65

      Re: The big issue in a nut shell

      But, as stated, there was no evidence whatsoever that it has helped prevent anything thus far including Boston. So it is largely pointless. Restore privacy please.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: there was no evidence whatsoever

        That was the major opinion of the report, but other opinions in the report said otherwise. I was thinking the same thing until I read the contradictory claim in the news article.

        Given the number of cases in which the collection has been upheld in the courts, the major opinions having overstepped their boundaries on that issue calls into question their objectivity on the effectiveness question. And that's beyond the question of: if you were the head of an intelligence agency and you had to report to a group of people you knew would leak confidential information, would you reveal sufficient details to prove the system was effective? Because if you do, the effective means will cease to be effective.

        There is no question that when there is another terrorist attack, the spy agencies will be held to ridicule and burned in effigy for failing to protect the people (regardless of what motives the person noting it had in the report). That is precisely how we wound up where we are now. Not only should the agencies been able to gather the data, they had, but because of insane rules about information sharing they failed to connect the dots.

        Now, there is a case to be made that because of the effectiveness of computers in hoovering up data that would be legally collectable were it done by people moves us into the realm where that data now needs to be regarded as protected even if it were done by people. I'd be willing to live with that change provided we make some other rational changes as well. The first of which is that we have to stop treating terrorism as a domestic policing issue and as an actual act of war that results in the same consequences as any other act of war.

    4. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      No! This is expressly the problem.

      Lee Harvey Oswald tried to inform the powers that be the Presidunce was going to be shot.

      The Presidunce was shot.

      Several people tried to get the various authorities to look out for the attack on the twin towers.

      The houses all came a tumbling down.

      The ****wit George Bush set up some smoke and mirrors everyone protested is illegal

      The courts have ruled it is illegal.

      With all the best will in the world-which they already don't have, the US secret services are never going to get the best will in the world. And if there is another warning of a threat it will all go pear shaped again because that is how things go in places like the USA.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The big issue in a nut shell

      Privacy? OMG look at how much very personal information is spewed across the web every day. If there is another attack, it is not the security community that will be hurt. There will be giant backlash against any politician seen as limiting the intelligence community in its attempts to secure us all.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The big issue in a nut shell

      We were caught flat footed by the World Trade Center Atrocity just as we were caught flat footed by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The problem does not lie with the inability of the government to violate our constitution. It lies with those who were too complacent to do their jobs! The news media did a fine job of throwing up a smoke screen over those lapses, but it had nothing to do with our inability to gather intelligence during that time. The problem was we had intelligence data on several of the perpetrators before hand, but that data was steadfastly ignored by a large number of people.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: data was steadfastly ignored by a large number of people.

        No, the large number of people were preventing from reading that data and being able to connect the dots. A policy that was put in place by the very people who now claim we have to undo the current information sharing system.

        That isn't to say the current system shouldn't be updated and modified. But both sides need to be treated with equal skepticism.

      2. JP19

        Re: The big issue in a nut shell

        "we had intelligence data on several of the perpetrators before hand"

        It didn't require much intelligence to figure out 3 or 4 suicidal loons armed with small knives could hijack an airliner and crash it into a building - a handful of suicidal loons figured it out and it is not like aircraft hijacking hadn't happened before.

        Oh how different the world could have been for the sake of a few cabin doors with locks.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: JP19 Re: The big issue in a nut shell

          "....It didn't require much intelligence to figure out 3 or 4 suicidal loons armed with small knives could hijack an airliner and crash it into a building...." Actually, it did seem beyond the capabilities of certain politicians to see such a possibility. Firstly, all the scenarios the FAA and other authorities operated under assumed any hijackings inside the continental US would be domestic terrorists or criminals, i.e., not the type interested in either suicide or crashing planes into buildings. Secondly, they assumed all such hijackers would want to negotiate, hence the lack of orders to shoot down the remaining airliners even after the first impact. Everyone assumed that even Middle-Eastern terrorists operating in the States would follow the pattern of the old skyjackings - treat the passengers as valuable bargaining chips for the release of comrades in prisons. Instead, the 9/11 hijackers considered the passengers as nothing more than an inconvenience in their aim to use the airplanes as weapons.

          Unfortunately, that preconception extended to the flight crews who DID have doors with locks. When the hijackers started killing people the crews unlocked the cabin doors in the hope of stopping the killing, thinking that would then lead to the type of negotiated scenario they had been told to expect. No-one expected the hijackers to be able to fly so the pilots thought they would be safe to negotiate, nor that the hijackers would be happy to slaughter their captives anyway. 9/11 was new, it went completely against the expected scenarios, and door locks made SFA difference. In the case of one of the planes, the passengers heard the news, guessed what the hijackers planned for their flight, and rallied to smash the locked door to get into the cockpit, forcing the hijackers to crash in the countryside.

          Hindsight is always 20-20, it is foresight that is rarely so.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: JP19 The big issue in a nut shell

            Although, this hindsight can also provide some new foresight:

            I believe a future 9/11 style suicide-hijacking is unlikely to re-occur for the following reasons:

            1) I doubt any pilots behind locked cockpit doors will ever let hijackers through again. Even if the hijackers threatened to kill everyone with their smuggled knitting needles, Swiss Army knives or whatever.

            IIRC, the security protocol for hijacked pilots is to now radio for help and land the craft as quickly and safely as possible. The cockpit door is not opened to ANYONE, no matter what happens.

            2) If cockpit doors are locked and sealed for the duration of the flight, then only a very clever subterfuge (or a terrorist posing as a legitimate pilot) would enable terrorists to gain access to the flight deck.

            3) Today, suicide (or even traditional) hijackers taking control of a passenger compartment with sharp instruments would be seriously outnumbered by a frightened, formidably dangerous, and angry mob. I'd lay my money on the passengers taking some casualties and it not ending well for the hijackers. And as long as the cockpit remains closed and the plane is landed safely, the passengers and crew's chances of survival remain higher.

            4) Even if terrorists did manage to commandeer a civilian aircraft, the likelihood of it ever reaching an unscheduled destination or target (such as the Pentagon) is slim. The suicide hijackers best bet would be to crash land immediately, because the plane will probably be shot down after disregarding the first warning from a military craft or ground control.

            For civilian aviation the main threat has always been in the air. Piracy only becomes feasible when deadly weapons or explosives can be smuggled aboard. Hence the emphasis on passenger and luggage searches at airports.

            One reason 9/11 succeeded was that few real measures or protocols were in place to detect or prevent suicide hijackings on home soil. Until the twin towers were hit, it was being processed like a normal air piracy event. No one believed it could happen, until it was too late.

            And suicide terrorism comes with its own peculiar set of rules and endgames. For security forces, the crux of the problem is that suicide terrorists will always be the most difficult threat to protect against. With nothing to lose, they can cause considerable damage with the right equipment and opportunity. Like a lone wolf classroom shooter, they don't always give off signs or fit a specific profile. If dedicated and well-trained, they will not give themselves away until it is too late.

            That is the bad news. The good news is that most human beings are not suicidal killers unless they are forced to be. The sooner we start addressing the reasons (usually desperate economic conditions, civil wars, illiteracy, indoctrination by lunatics from failed states and with worse leaders) people could even consider such a drastic step the better our chances of bringing it to a stop.

    7. JP19

      Re: The big issue in a nut shell

      "caught between a rock and a hard place on this one"

      A position they happily placed themselves in. By definition you can not effectively combat terrorism - that is why it is terrifying. Politicians lie telling you they can and the dumber section of the population believes it and thanks them for it. The enormous army fighting the war against terror with their snouts in a $ trillion trough are quite pleased about it as well.

      Thankfully there are hardly any terrorists and almost no competent and equipped ones. They haven't foiled any terrorist plots worth worrying about because there were none. Basically it has been an enormous waste of money, privacy, and liberty the blame for which lies with dishonest scumbag politicians (and the dummies who believe them).

  4. Oh Homer
    Big Brother

    "if there was another major terrorist attack"

    "the public will engage in recriminations against the intelligence community for failure to prevent it."

    Yeah, because their existing mass surveillance did such a great job preventing the last one.

    Oh wait...

    Here's a radical idea: maybe if the US dropped its invasive foreign policy, there might not be such attacks in the first place, and they wouldn't have any pretext "need" for mass surveillance.

    Although, admittedly, that might not serve the grasping aspirations of America Inc.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Oh Homer Re: "if there was another major terrorist attack"

      "....maybe if the US dropped its invasive foreign policy...." ROFL! One day the dictators at the UN are complaining about the US policy, the next they are begging the US to provide forces and money and to be the World police they complained about the day before. One day the sheeple are delighted with Obambi making speeches in Cairo, the next they are bleating about how the Arab Spring hasn't brought the World peace, love and understanding. Here's a clue - the problems in the World, especially the problems in the Middle East, long pre-date the creation of the United States, let alone US foreign policy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh Homer "if there was another major terrorist attack"

        Here's a clue - the problems in the World, especially the problems in the Middle East, long pre-date the creation of the United States, let alone US foreign policy.

        Somehow the pre-existance of problems in the world excuses America making things worse by fucking around in other peoples countries... that's almost as good as Mr Kerry demanding the UN univite Iran from the Syria conferences because they're allied to the Syrian Regime, whilst he and his supply the insurgents. I guess Americans get hypocrisy like they get irony.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boston Marathon Bombing

    That happened at the full height of covert surveillance. People seem to forget that one.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Anon Cluetard Re: Boston Marathon Bombing

      "That happened at the full height of covert surveillance...." The Marathon Bombing wasn't an AQ-co-ordinated plot and only got airtime because of the LACK of real AQ attacks in the US (BEACUSE of the surveillance systems in place). In places like Iraq or Syria or most of Africa it wouldn't even make the news.

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

        Whether the Boston Bombing was AQ sponsored or not is utterly irrelevant. The NSA and their bosses have said that the mass grab of CDRs (Call Data Records) is aimed at "preventing terrorism" pure and simple. There has been no mention, express or implied, that it targets AQ or any other named group (not even Iran!) in any US Government statements I've seen.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Martin Gregorie Re: Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

          "....The NSA and their bosses have said that the mass grab of CDRs (Call Data Records) is aimed at "preventing terrorism" pure and simple..." Not true. The collection of metadata is aimed at the disruption and tracking of GROUPS such as AQ, by finding the communication BETWEEN members of the group. The Boston nutters were just that, lone-wolf nutters and NOT members of a terrorist group. They are exactly what al-Zwahiri has been asking for BECAUSE the NSA and CIA and FBI have made it almost impossible for AQ cells to operate in the US without being detected. The best way to stop lone-wolf nutters is exactly the same best way as to stop the type of nutters that like shooting up schools - make communities and families take more attention of their own and keep the psychos under observation. Oh, but then I suppose you'll start bleating about nutters' rights then.

          1. Invidious Aardvark

            Re: Martin Gregorie Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

            If it's aimed at tracking groups, surely they know who these groups are? If so, then how about they get a warrant and target their snooping. If not, then how the hell do they "prevent" and "disrupt" these groups' communications by monitoring everyone? How much noise are they collecting? How the hell do they work out which pattern of calls is me calling my friend with a joke and him sharing it with his friends and me calling my terrorist contacts to get them to call their bomb-making buddies and arrange a car bombing spree?

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              FAIL

              Re: Invidious Aardvark Re: Martin Gregorie Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

              ".....How the hell do they work out which pattern of calls is me calling my friend with a joke ...." Well, in your case they probably look at your scholastic records and realise you're too stupid to tie shoelaces, let alone make a bomb. But I suspect the NSA and FBI do spend a lot of time sifting out the wheat from the chaff, it's called analysis, go look it up.

          2. Lapun Mankimasta Bronze badge

            Re: Martin Gregorie Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

            Right you are sir! That explains the collection of Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone data, doesn't it? By collecting her data they aimed at disrupting and tracking groups such as Al Qaeda?

            What are you smoking? I'm sure the Police don't need to find out: there does seem to be a firewall between the collection of data and its use, and I'm sure the NSA will be only too happy to look the other way, if you are a kind sharing individual and let them have about half ...

            1. Tom 38 Silver badge

              Re: Martin Gregorie Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

              That explains the collection of Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone data, doesn't it? By collecting her data they aimed at disrupting and tracking groups such as Al Qaeda?

              No, that is just just straightforward old fashioned espionage - countries want to know as much as they can about other countries and usually have agencies to do espionage.

              Not exactly a new thing, and even if they stopped mass surveillance the same agencies would still be interested in that data.

              I'm not saying it is right, just that it has always happened. If you think the BND don't monitor people like Bronislaw Komorowski you are naive.

            2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              FAIL

              Re: Loopy Wankinmasta Re: Martin Gregorie Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

              ".....That explains the collection of Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone data...." That was diplomatic spying, something that predates the creation of the USA. I'd try and explain the difference but I suspect you're too busy self-abusing to be able to pay the required level of attention (and please note I am generously suggesting you are capable of the required level of attention, something definitely not suggested by your posts).

              ".....and I'm sure the NSA will be only too happy to look the other way....." As a signatory to the OSA I am already on more than one list, but I have no problems with the NSA or GCHQ monitoring. Maybe that's because - unlike you - I have a clue.

              1. hplasm
                Trollface

                Re: Loopy Wankinmasta Martin Gregorie Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

                "unlike you - I have a clue."

                "unlike you - I have froth on my chin."

                FTFY.

                1. Eguro

                  Re: Loopy Wankinmasta Martin Gregorie Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

                  Well if it hadn't been for incompetent terrorists there would have been a few attacks that were not prevented by the NSA.

                  Off the top of my head there's the underwear bomber and the guy with the car in Times Square (which if I recall correctly was discovered because a citizen saw suspicious behaviour and acted).

                  Now you can argue all you want, that the lack of terrorist attacks on US soil is a result of Mass Surveillance from the NSA, but that's not just arguing something that's hard too prove, it's also arguing against the result of the US appointed "The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board" which just stated such claims are dubious if not downright false.

                  If you have access to some documentation as to why this board would lie about the NSA effectiveness then I'd love to hear it - and presumably so would the board, the NSA and tons of other US institutions and citizens.

                  1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                    Facepalm

                    Re: Eguro Re: Loopy Wankinmasta Martin Gregorie Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

                    "Well if it hadn't been for incompetent terrorists there would have been a few attacks that were not prevented by the NSA...." So why do you think the AQ actions in the US currently consist of the largely ineffective actions of lone-wolves? 9/11 showed AQ has the will, planning capability, monetary means and dedicated, capable personnel, to mount large attacks in the US, why do you think they have been unable to replicate their success since? Do you seriously think they decided one was enough? Oh, sorry, I just asked you to think, something very, very obviously beyond your capabilities.

                    1. Eguro
                      Facepalm

                      Re: Eguro Loopy Wankinmasta Martin Gregorie Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

                      I might be unable to think, but you seem to be unable to answer the main point of replies, that being why you are in a position to question the findings of the "The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board" - namely that

                      "Based on the information provided to the board, including classified briefings and documentation, we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,"

                      If they have made no concrete difference in the outcome, are we just keeping them around so that the terrorists feel the paranoia of potentially being watched? Because I thought it was about keeping people safe - aka providing intelligence that make "concrete difference[s]" to "outcome[s] of counterterrorism investigation[s]"

                      And if we really are just keeping them around so their presence is somehow perceived, then is that really a price we - even you?! - are willing to pay? Because it seems rather steep!

                      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                        FAIL

                        Re: Eguro Loopy Wankinmasta Martin Gregorie Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

                        "....you seem to be unable to answer the main point of replies, that being why you are in a position to question the findings of the "The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board"...." No, it is you that cannot see that I do not need to answer it as their position is just an opinion (and not even an unanimous one at that). It carries no legal weight, unlike the actual judiciary that have already said the NSA's activities are COMPLETELY legal. I do not need to reply as it has already been legally settled. So, shall we review? You are trumpeting an opinion piece that happens to back your sheeple POV, whereas my argument has already been made by the actual people that sit in judgement. In short, you lose, I win.

                        ".....And if we really are just keeping them around so their presence is somehow perceived...." LOL, you really haven't got a clue, have you? More than half of the value of the military and security services is in that they prevent our enemies from acting freely. Think of it as deterrent, if you like, just like paying for life insurance. I'd expand further on the last point but I doubt if you're old enough to buy insurance or make any similar investment.

                2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      2. sam bo

        Re: Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

        At least you got the icon right - very appropriate for your post.

      3. The_Idiot

        Re: Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

        <

        the LACK of real AQ attacks in the US (BEACUSE of the surveillance systems in place)

        >

        post hoc, propter hoc? That wouldn't get me any gold stars in any Logic class I ever sat...

        By a extension (though extending a fallacy in public could get me an indecency charge (blush)), there should therefore have been some recogniseable number of AQ attacks _before_ the surveillance systems were put in place. Which was, um, when?

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: the aptly named Idiot Re: Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

          ".....Which was, um, when?" So you missed the Twin Towers bombing and 9/11?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: the aptly named Idiot Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

            Okay, That's two- one in 1993, one in 2001. The second of which was planned by the same guy who did the first one- so a person that no-one would argue against monitoring and who it's inconceivable was not being monitored. So that's a bit of an own goal for you; the surveillance- targeted, detailed surveillance- failed. What chance does a data slurp of a whole planet have of being processed if you couldn't handle one man?

            Then, there's the evidence that parts of the government knew 9/11 was coming but couldnt communicate this convincingly to other agencies. So even with surveillance and intelligence they failed to act- failing to stop 9/11. Another point against you- the second attack should have been prevented but the people now claiming to be protecting us were incompetent. And are now more beaurocratic and dependent on getting external contractors and computers to do their thinking for them.

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              FAIL

              Re: AC Re: the aptly named Idiot Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

              "Okay, That's two...." That's after your fellow sheeple insisted there hadn't been any attacks (presumably because he has the memory retention of a goldfish). And yet you still want to argue the point? LOL, you sheep really want to baaaah-lieve!

            2. Tom 13

              Re: so a person that no-one would argue against monitoring

              But that's where the problem is. You can't monitor the man you have to monitor his phone. Only you don't know which one he's using today so you have to monitor them all. And you know it has to be all of them because you know the drug traffickers use disposable phones for their work and his counter-measures are going to be at least as good as the drug lords. And yes, prior to the Patriot Act the courts specifically ruled the sort of roving wiretap you need for that sort of surveillance illegal.

              Yes there were other problems in processing the data. Problems put in place by the same people who are now the loudest screams that we shouldn't be gathering as much data as we are. If the spies are gathering too much data to be effective they'll have to cut down. And you have to assume at least some of them are moderately competent or the whole exercise is pointless to begin with.

          2. The_Idiot

            Re: the aptly named Idiot Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

            <

            So you missed the Twin Towers bombing and 9/11?

            >

            No. I didn't. Any more than I missed extensive bombings in the UK, carried out by Irish activists largely, publicly and unashamedly funded by North American money. But, and this was the point of my comment, either you have to try to contend that the US was not in fact engaged in intelligence gathering prior to the events you mention, or that the gathering they were carrying out, to whatever degree, was ineffective. And if ineffective, then that might lead someone to wonder why doing much the same thing to a lot more people will be any more effective.

            If you have to find a needle, does it really help to say you have to look in bigger haystacks, and then expand the search scope to include piles of leaves in autumn too? Just in case?

            And I keep the tag I use here mostly because it's both entirely justified - and so folks don't think I just hang around hoping someone will go looking for my name on the covers of any books wot I writ. My apology if the practice offends :-).

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              FAIL

              Re: the aptly named Idiot Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

              "No. I didn't...." So why did you try to claim there had been no such attacks?

              ".....Any more than I missed extensive bombings in the UK, carried out by Irish activists largely, publicly and unashamedly funded by North American money....." The IRA's campaigns, whilst dreadful for us Brits (yeah, suck on that you preconceiving moron), was relatively minor compared to AQ's campaigns in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. Oh, and BTW, the GCHQ was listening for IRA coms back in those days too, you numpty. How else do you think we knew about the Gibraltar three, do you think the fairies told us? So I take it you support the GCHQ efforts to track the IRA but somehow don't support their efforts to find AQ sympathisers and operatives? How selective.

              ".....or that the gathering they were carrying out, to whatever degree, was ineffective...." The gathering was partially effective, it was the analysis and sharing of the data that was ineffective. This has since been very carefully overhauled (remember that whole Patriot Act, it had quite a bit on data-sharing?). As with any such operation it is continually evolving and improving. Oh, what - your inexperience of these matters (and lack of imagination) led you to baaah-lieve was a design-once affair? Boy, you really do like embarrassing yourself in public!

            2. Tom 13

              Re: unashamedly funded by North American

              That would be unashamedly funded by Teddy Kennedy and his buds which are the same buds standing alongside you in this argument. Clean up your own house before blaming me. My grandfather on my Dad's side fled Ireland because there were too damn many idiots killing people.

              Yes, there were problems in the intelligence community. Put there by Democrats who didn't want them sharing information without playing a tedious game of Mother May I in pursuit of people who changed phones more often than Imelda Marcos changed shoes. Focus on the wrong problem: amount of data collection and you can't fix the right one: empowering honorable people who are trying to protect the country to do their jobs.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

        The Marathon Bombing wasn't an AQ-co-ordinated plot and only got airtime because of the LACK of real AQ attacks in the US (BEACUSE of the surveillance systems in place). In places like Iraq or Syria or most of Africa it wouldn't even make the news.

        You really think Americans being killed by bombs being detonated in America didn't deserve airtime. That they only got it because it was a slow news day on the terrorism front... really?

        WOW fuck Matt... that has to be the stupidest thing I think I've seen even you post in defence of this shite... and that's going some.

        I can assure you from a nation which has suffered at the hands of your people funding a shit load of bombing campaigns in my country, that every terrorist act gets airtime.

        Do try to remember when you next try and tell us all about what terrorism attacks are, that a fair number of us come from countries which have seen far more terrorism than your country has ever experienced.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: ObnoxiousTwit Re: Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

          ".....You really think Americans being killed by bombs being detonated in America didn't deserve airtime...." <Sigh> Look, it's obvious you have serious comprehension problems, but even a cretinous sheep like yourself should be able to understand that the point being made was what we consider horrific (three people killed) simply does not make the news here when it happens in other parts of the World. Take Iraq, for instance, where daily bombings kill many more - do you ever read about those events? Do you consider American lives to be more newsworthy, somehow more valuable, than Iraqi lives? The Boston bombings were on April 15th 2013 and got massive coverage in the West for weeks, yet that very same day there were ten fatal bombings reported in Iraq, killing a total of 42 people (and it's not known how many of the injured died since) - none made the Western news. Of those ten bombings four have subsequently been shown to be the work of AQ and as many as three others are thought to be AQ-linked. Those four known AQ attacks alone killed 22 people that same day, but you will never have known about them because you were too busy bleating in tune with the rest of your flock and only following your sheeple-approved news sources. Congratulations on demonstrating exactly how blinkered a moron you are.

          The Boston bombings got such airtime BECAUSE the activities of the security services have ensured such events are very rare in the West, whilst they are daily happenings in countries AQ and chums are able to operate in.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ObnoxiousTwit Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

            Take Iraq, for instance, where daily bombings kill many more - do you ever read about those events?

            Yes, yes I do.

            Do you not Matt, is your little world constrained to the local news outlets? Is that why your world view seems so very limited to me?

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              FAIL

              Re: ObnoxiousLyingTwit Re: ObnoxiousTwit Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

              "Yes, yes I do...." Pull the other one, it has bells on! It is VERY obvious your reality filter does not allow you to see beyond you baaaah-lieve. You most obviously did NOT have a clue as to the bombings in Iraq on 15th April 2013, just as you seem completely unable to register the actions of AQ and their chums in any other part of the World not appearing on the children's editions of the TV news. I suggest you go away and do a lot more reading before you try again.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: ObnoxiousLyingTwit ObnoxiousTwit Anon Cluetard Boston Marathon Bombing

                Pull the other one, it has bells on! It is VERY obvious your reality filter does not allow you to see beyond you baaaah-lieve. You most obviously did NOT have a clue as to the bombings in Iraq on 15th April 2013, just as you seem completely unable to register the actions of AQ and their chums in any other part of the World not appearing on the children's editions of the TV news. I suggest you go away and do a lot more reading before you try again.

                The funniest thing about this is watching you defending bulk data collection as a tool to stop terrorist attrocities, and citing terrorist bombings as proof that we need it.

                Odd that the NSA/GCHQ combo didn't manage to know about the bombings in Iraq on the 15th of April 2013, and warn the Iraqis that the bombings were going to happen, isn't it Matt?

                Do tell us again about how bulk data collection is a useful tool.

                Your screaching in defence of these programs seems odd, epsecially when you use actual incidents which weren't detected and prevented to justify the programs existence. Is there some personal reason why you are screaching so loudly about this? Defending something personal to you?

                1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                  FAIL

                  Re: ObnoxiousTwit Re: ObnoxiousLyingTwit ObnoxiousTwit Anon Cluetard Boston...

                  "....and citing terrorist bombings as proof that we need it....." And citing terrorist bombings that are HAPPENING in areas where our security services are NOT in the same position to operate effectively, and where the indigenous sympathetic population does not feel as constrained as the sympathisers in the West do. Why do you think the GCHQ wanted to tap cables for the Middle East - because the locals aren't keen on sharing. Your problem is you cannot see the difference. In the areas with high bombings the Allies either do not have control or have given over control to newly rebuilt local security services. In the case of Iraq, all the careful work of the Allies in Anbar is being rapidly reversed by the Shia administration in pursuance of their anti-Sunni agenda. The CIA reportedly refuses to share intelligence on former Sunni friends in Anbar with the new Iraqi administrationa as they know most of it goes straight to Tehran, Syria and Lebanon (Hezbollah) and is used for bloody reprisals against the Sunni clans that straddle those countries.

                  In Afghanistan it is almost as bad, with an imminent withdrawal of Allied forces being politically played by Kharzai trying to big himself up as an anti-Imperialist. You may think that quite pointless as the new Afghan constitution says Kharzai cannot stand for a third term anyway, not unless he intends to extend his rule by using the failure of negotiations with the Taliban as an excuse to invoke emergency powers. Kharzai's stance is devious as it insists the US and Pakistan have to negotiate a solution with with the Taliban before he will sign the post-war security agreement, which is effectively stopping the Pakistani Army mounting a proper offensive in Waziristan. The Pakistanis seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place - the Yanks no longer trust the ISI and seem to share very little intelligence with them, preferring to drone the Taliban and AQ leaders they find, and the Taliban can act up as much as they like as they know the Pakistani government needs to negotiate to appease Kharzai and the Yanks. The current anti-Shia ethnic cleansing going on in Northern Waziristan is the result, keeping all parties from the negotiating table and - as us cynics might suggest - Kharzai in power.

                  I'd suggest you go read some real news but your head is probably on the verge of exploding.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "As a result the board recommends the practice should be stopped immediately, a view not shared by President Obama based on his speech on the matter last Friday, and that any data stored by the NSA should be deleted after three years, not five."

    This shouldn't be collected AT ALL without a valid (and time limited) search warrant for each person under scrutiny.

  7. JeffyPoooh
    Pint

    Extending the net to 6 hops is actually optimum

    That'll rope in just about everyone, including Kevin Bacon and Paul Erdős.

    1. Lapun Mankimasta Bronze badge

      Re: Extending the net to 6 hops is actually optimum

      Nah! That's kinda soft. It should be a thousand-hop net for optimum (in)efficiency. And it should extend backwards and forwards in time for at least a million years. - so if someone calls his ancestor six hundred thousand years ago to set up a terrorism attack fifty thousand years in the future, the anti-terrorism alphabet soup ought to be able to nail him ... we shouldn't have to rely on the good graces of the Doctor Who all the time, should we?

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Extending the net to 6 hops is actually optimum

        It should be a thousand-hop net for optimum (in)efficiency

        No need. With spectral graph sparsification we can greatly reduce the number of edges and get approximately the same results within the epsilon of our choice. And every politician knows that when you're "finding" "terrorists", approximations are even better than accuracy.

        Hey, look - an IT angle.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Extending the net to 6 hops is actually optimum

      That'll rope in just about everyone, including Kevin Bacon and Paul Erdős.

      But then you'll get Danica McKellar twice!

  8. Tom 35

    fears public will hate spies if another 9/11 happens

    So they will keep on spying.

    Another 9/11 will happen (just like they could not even stop Boston when it was handed to them on a plate).

    - Oh dear, we didn't spy enough... we are going to need a bigger budget, and some new secret laws...

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: fears public will hate spies if another 9/11 happens

      They don't need to have another 9/11, unless we take their toys away, then you can be sure there will be another one. Make of that what you will.

  9. Old Handle

    Sounds like they hired a bunch of yes-men and due to a miscommunication some of them took their job seriously.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the real reason

    One needs only to see yesterday's report that senior police in England are asking for water cannons in expectation of protests as further austerity cuts are made to see the real reason for all this blanket surveillance of everyone.

    It's not terrorists they're worried about, it's the general public reaching breaking point as politicians and bankers get richer and more powerful while everyone else gets a pay cut and a boot stamping on their face.

    The people in charge know exactly where things are heading - so they're increasing mass surveillance and loading up on hardware to put down the dissent they're expecting.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: the real reason

      Unfortunately this is my point of view too. There is a worry at the top that populations are going to be upset about cuts that fail to affect the people making those decisions. In the UK at least there is a good chance of power cuts in next few years due to insane decisions on generating capacity, for instance, and it is at least foreseeable that there will be demonstrations about them.

  11. Charles Manning

    "Started in 2001 shortly after the September 11"

    It had nothing to do with 9/11.

    They started because the tech had got to the stage where all this logging was feasible. It would have happened regardless of 9/11.

    Just like the whole WMD thing, 9/11 is just a convenient excuse to retrofit to justify what was going on.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Affectation of effectiveness...

    --warned that if there was another major terrorist attack "the public will engage in recriminations against the intelligence community for failure to prevent it."--

    Hey, I am prepared to do this right now. 9/11 happened because the CIA and FBI couldn't get over their unique roles in the American intelligence community and actually talk to eachother when the CIA knew that key members of the 9/11 terror cells were A) members of Al-Qaeda B) In the United States and C) making calls from the United States back-and-forth to Afghanistan and "Al Qaeda Central".

    But now we have our controversial, invasive, high-tech, diplomatically costly "haystack"--and it still can't stop terrorists. Nidal Hassan wasn't stopped from shooting up Ft. Hood, when he had been on the radar of his military superiors as a "Homeland"-style turncoat--before Homeland ever premiered. And the Tsaernaev brothers in Boston were not stopped by the NSA's haystack, even though we had been tipped off by the Russians that the elder brother was meeting with Chechen militant leaders and the FBI interviewed him based on that warning.

    So by all means, let's end this invasive, diplomatically sensitive and (probably) expensive program and spend the money on healthcare/deficit reduction/education/feeding ducks on the National Mall. At least with the ducks, we will have fattened them up so we know where to go for a good dinner if the terrorists really do succeed in reducing the U.S. to anarchy.

    The bad news is that this privacy board is a new creation that has no real friends in DC, and it is going up against the administration that created it (and doesn't agree with its findings), plus the intelligence community and congressional intelligence committees.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: couldn't get over their unique roles in the American intelligence community

      WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

      They didn't share data because the f*ck up Clinton appointed to oversee them wrote rules that prevented them from sharing it.

      GIGO

      Same thing in Ft. Hood. Hassan was protected because it was politically incorrect to say a Muslim might just be a terrorist. It is completely laughable that this event is still classified as workplace violence instead of a Terrorist attack.

      GIGO

  13. CNXTim

    NSA

    Hey, NSA et al, no need to be concerned about another nineeleven, the axis of true evil's, (bcr+I) new millennium, "boogie man" plan succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

  14. dan1980

    Sorry, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee is angry because an oversight body went beyond its scope?

    That would be quite agreeably funny were it not for the fact that Rogers doesn't seem to appreciate the humour too.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The board can determine what it likes. Nothing's going to change.

  16. Mephistro
    Angel

    Two hops instead of three...

    Makes lots of sense, if you take in account the recent rise of Whatsapp and other social services. I mean, a few years ago the most active smartphone fiddlers could text and talk to at most 20 people a day. With Whatsapp, FB and the like, each 'node' can do hundreds or thousands of contacts each day. Keeping the three hops would have crippled the NSA financially, by forcing them to eavesdrop on everybody, several times. ;-)

    1. Lapun Mankimasta Bronze badge

      Re: Two hops instead of three...

      And they don't include themselves in the three hop network? Hey, NSA, don't be shy! If I ring the al Qaeda top honcho, and you listen in, that makes you the second hop, and your boss the third, and your missus the third ... and your little bit on the side the third as well. Don't be shy, for pity's sakes! Of course, if you're busy selling the goods to China and Russia to pay the mortgage, and you're listening in to my natterings to crooks like the local elected representative, the HOG/HOS (Head Of Government/Head Of State), etc, that makes me the second hop, and the rep and the HOG/HOS the third, and they might not like that at all.

      So, NSA, don't be shy! I'm sure you could have some wonderful first-person shootouts in that magnificent headquarters of yours, with _LIVE_ AMMUNITION_, and _LIVE_ _TARGETS_!

  17. chrisp1141

    Google worse than NSA

    Okay, so what about Google? Shouldn't Google's violations of our privacy be illegal? If you have a problem with how the NSA has violated our privacy, then you should also have a problem with how Google is destroying our privacy. Personally, I think everyone should start using privacy-based sites such as DuckDuckGo, Ravetree, HushMail, etc. The NSA is different because we don't really have a choice there, but we do have the freedom to choose whether or not we use Google, Facebook, etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Google worse than NSA

      The NSA is different because we don't really have a choice there, but we do have the freedom to choose whether or not we use Google, Facebook, etc.

      I'll get more worried and vocal about Google and FriendFace invading peoples privacy, when they start sending out snatch squads to snatch people from the streets of countries in which their have no legal jurisdiction, and spirit them away to another country where they can have them secretly tortured by their mates.

    2. Eguro
      Meh

      Re: Google worse than NSA

      @chrisp1141

      So you pose a question, and then proceed to answer it yourself

      [I.E.: "The NSA is different because we don't really have a choice there, but we do have the freedom to choose whether or not we use Google, Facebook, etc."]

      Did you just feel a distinct lack of Google talk in this thread?

      And to answer your question in more earnest: Some of the things Google does probably should be (and likely are) illegal, but some of it is free choice because people aren't quite sure what exactly their personal information is worth [Looking @ Google I'd say at least a couple of bucks considering their worth divided by number of people they spy o... I mean assist in getting a better web experience]

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Our elected officials have failed to live up to their oaths.

    Every elected official and every hirling of the United States government is required to take an oath to do what? Uphold and defend the Constiution of the United States. Notice that this duty is not to defend the people, the President, or the members of either House of the Legislature, but to defend the Constitution. Without a strong Consitution, we are not a nation anymore. We are little more than heavily armed savages bent on doing the world serious harm. Don't believe me? Do some research of your own. Start with a Google search for "Hillsdale College."

  19. Gord

    legal if against terrorism - define terrorism?

    given past performance - anything they want - therefore expect continued surveillance as per usual

  20. Brent Beach

    Why is the NSA able to run illegal programs? Because the people selected for key oversight functions are so blindly pro-surveillance that the oversight function becomes a rubber stamp. From the article - "Mike Rogers (R-MI), who as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is supposed to oversee the activities of the NSA, was sharply critical of the report's findings."

    When the person responsible for oversight has no vision, then it is time for him/her to be replaced.

    Or they could rename it to the House Intelligence Rubber Stamp Committee.

  21. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    It's illegal and unconstitutional

    The people saying this has been upheld as legal -- well... two big things here:

    1) The NSA officials covered by the mainsteam media (here in the US at least!) recently have been intentionally conflating the phone call metadata program (which although troubling, is probably legal) with the NSA's numerous illegal and unconstitutional data collection programs (indiscriminate collection of E-Mail, some fraction of voice calls, texts, etc., which is inarguably unconstitutional and therefore illegal). The collecting of foreign leader's phone calls and such -- as emabarrassing as it is for the NSA to have been caught red-handed at it -- is actually the type of activity the NSA is supposed to be doing, they are fully authorized to do this. I won't be at all surprised to find foreign intelligence agencies have (at least attempted) to do the same to Obama and pals.

    2) The judges that said THOSE programs (bulk E-Mail, call, and text collection among others) are legal simply failed to do their job, they did not uphold and defend the constitution or the law as they are bound to do. If you look, they will not come up with a single LEGAL argument for these illegal programs being legal, they will say some nonsense like "These programs are too important to declare illegal". That is, rather than judging the activities and comparing them with the law, they will simply say that the gov't can do literally anything they want if it's "important". Truly, these judges should have disbarment proceeding began against them.

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