back to article How NSA continued to spy on American citizens' email traffic – from overseas

Newly revealed documents (not from Snowden this time) show that the NSA has continued to collect Americans' email traffic en masse using overseas offices to get around curbs introduced domestically. Shortly after the September 11 attacks, President Bush authorized the NSA to collect bulk metadata on emails sent by Americans ( …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All the more .....

    ease of transferring data to GHCQ and back again

    1. NoneSuch Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: All the more .....

      No one in the US ever done a tracert to find their ping goes across the border into Canada on a unidentified IP before returning?

      Give it a go.

      The NSA can't spy on you unless your traffic crosses a border. So who owns that nameless router?

      1. elDog

        Re: All the more .....

        Actually, that's eggsactly what I want.

        I use a VPN/proxy(PIA) that sends all of my data (encrypted) across borders. The snoops can snoop all they want but unless they're ready to leash a few hundred GPUs on my measly packets, it is probably better than having it traced directly to my ISP in Northern NJ.

        1. Adam 1

          Re: All the more .....

          > The snoops can snoop all they want but unless they're ready to leash a few hundred GPUs on my measly packets...

          Obligatory

      2. Paul Hargreaves

        Re: All the more .....

        If only networked worked that way.

        Those people wanting to snoop traffic will do so in ways you (as the subscriber) can never see. For example, port mirroring on switches, or using WCCP redirects on the ports that they are interested in. So ICMP requests will happily continue to went their merry way, but you aren't using ICMP when you read email...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: All the more .....

        No one in the US ever done a tracert to find their ping goes across the border into Canada on a unidentified IP before returning?

        Perhaps it only has to be routed through the local British Consulate or similar, as found in many large US cities, that would count as "overseas".

      4. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        And now the good news

        Since by Presiduntial decree Americans can go abroad to commit crime... Americans can now go abroad to commit oh, wait...

      5. P. Lee

        Re: All the more .....

        Well, lots of people access email over http. Maybe we could do SMTP/ICMP?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Haven't a clue

    As the recent thing in Paris shows, all this is just totally a waste of time and money.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Haven't a clue

      Actually, we'll never know that for sure. The point, surely, is that the politicians authorising the payments and the spooks trousering the money for their pet projects will never know that either.

      The problem is not proving that email trawling occasionally turns up results. That's probably not hard to prove. One or two examples would do it and (sure enough) that's what gets trotted out every time someone complains. The problem is proving that the money spent trawling (which is measured in the billions if some reports are to be believed) would not turn up more results if it were spent differently. Sadly, in a world with finite resources, that's what you need to prove to justify the costs.

      1. elDog

        Re: Haven't a clue

        Very similar to the effects of spending money on advertising. Nobody has a clue whether it works or not, except in controlled focus groups.

        Whole industries are built on convincing customers (frequently Fortune-100 corps) that they need to invest in more snake-oil. At least that's what the snake oil salesmen say.

      2. RobHib
        Unhappy

        @Ken Hagan - Re: Haven't a clue

        "The problem is proving that the money spent trawling (which is measured in the billions if some reports are to be believed) would not turn up more results if it were spent differently.

        Correct. In a democracy, I defy anyone to come up with a more effective scheme that a government can use to escape proper and efficient scrutiny by its citizens than to involve itself in secrecy and surveillance in the name of security. The fundamental–a priori–logic behind government involvement in such activities automatically means that they must remain secret from everyone–the citizenry included.

        Government secrecy is a fundamental weakness within the very structure of the democratic process of Western democracies; we citizens have to accept whatever our governments say about such matters irrespective of the questions we put to them for, ipso facto, their silence or answers must always obfuscate. Western democracies never stop proclaiming openness yet 'Everything in the West is secret unless there is a conscious decision to the contrary.' [Ralston Saul]

        In an ideal world where the bona fides of our governments were 100% guaranteed then government secrecy carried out with the sole purpose of protecting the citizenry would be acceptable and not in dispute. Trouble is we live in a real world where we have to have regular elections 'to keep the bastards honest', yet The State's security apparatus continues from one regime to the next and escapes such scrutiny every time. (Similar can be said about the diplomatic service whose default modus operandi is secrecy–as history has shown, often wars can start without any effective input from the citizenry.)

        History has well demonstrated that secrecy often accedes to unaccountable power. Despite much recent rhetoric from governments to the contrary, there's not just one smoking gun but many which essentially all point to abuse of power by governments at the expense of their citizenries. Furthermore, there's precious little evidence that these abuses have actually made citizens safer–witness the recent attacks in Paris.

        If governments had genuine bona fide intentions then, as we've seen with the Paris attacks, their first recourse (excuse) wouldn't be to blame encryption for their surveillance failures especially when there's no supporting evidence [that's been made available to us]. Second, governments are obsessed by secrecy even when there's no longer any need for it, why do they keep old–dead–cases secret forever and a day unless they have something very serious to hide? For example, why do they still keep secret many WWII files after 70+ years when even the most secret of secrets, Enigma, has been made public? As with so many aspects of State security, we are not even told the extent of these ancient files let alone their contents or for the reasons why they continue to remain secret.

        [Not for one moment am I advocating that operational matters be broadcast to the world, clearly they should be kept secret for the duration. If it's not already clear then what I'm referring to is the general ongoing secrecy, self-protecting nature, lack of transparency, and unaccountability that surrounds these secret state bureaucracies and that their very presence (given their present structure) is seriously undermining our democracy. If that were not enough, governments have resorted to the age-old tactic of scaring the hell out of citizens by promulgating the highly secret nature of state security–the FUD principle.]

        The fact is governments have shown that they cannot be trusted; moreover, our system of governance is sufficiently broken that secrecy that surrounds security remains inviolate, essentially we citizens cannot enter into any meaningful discourse about how to fix it.

        Strong encryption is one of the few remaining protections we citizens still possess to keep the intrusive, meddling State at bay. Therefore, we need to wage the strongest possible political fight to keep the status quo. As I see it, if we fail then we're one further step along the road to totalitarianism.

    2. Joseba4242

      Re: Haven't a clue

      As the four cases of diphteria in vaccinated people in Europe show, all this vaccination is just totally a waste of time and money.

    3. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: linicks Re: Haven't a clue

      "As the recent thing in Paris shows, all this is just totally a waste of time and money.' Incorrect, though it is probably what you want to baaaaahlieve. As with the Charlie Hebdo attackers, the majority of the Paris attackers were on the radar of the intelligence community, there was just the lack of political will to deal with them.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        @ Matt Bryant

        Therefor the OP is correct, since all this data collecting didn't change the result one iota.

        What is the use of invading everyone's privacy all the time if things like this still slip through ? If you're invading, then at least make it do the bloody job right.

        I don't want to learn that some things are caught. If you're invading everyone's life then I want all things to be caught.

        Otherwise it's just not worth it.

        1. Vic

          Re: @ Matt Bryant

          I don't want to learn that some things are caught. If you're invading everyone's life then I want all things to be caught.

          I think I'd settle for "substantially all".

          What we have so far is "a handful of cases that we're not going to tell you about in any detail". And that's not enough.

          Vic.

        2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Pascal Moaner Re: @ Matt Bryant

          "Therefor (sic) the OP is correct, since all this data collecting didn't change the result one iota...." No, you and the OP are wrong, and in more than just your statement. You are insisting the failing was on the part of the intelligence community when they did their job and identified the terrorists and their sympathisers, when in reality the failure was on the part of the politicians that lacked the will to act. The laws are made by the politicians, so if the law does not protect the citizens then it is the politicians that have failed, not the intelligence community.

          And in that, it is you that is to blame. Probably not directly, I doubt if you stood up and said "let's keep potential terrorists where they can hurt us" (I don't think even you are that deluded), but in your self-deluding, socio-political group-think that supported and applauded those that criticised those that would have tried to protect you. In the case of the UK you can see this in the shrieking, righteous fury of the Left when Theresa May has tried to strip the citizenship from those that take advantage of our willingness to indulge in "multi-culti" nonsense (http://www.alternet.org/world/uk-stripping-terrorist-suspects-citizenship-its-dangerous-precedent-rest-world, https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/alice-ross-patrick-galey/stripping-uk-citizenship-by-stealth). Belgium's problem was it let itself become a haven for extremists, then did not act against those that sought to undermine the very open society that allowed them safe haven in the first place, all in abeyance to EU law and the blind acceptance of the "multi-culti" mantra.

          In the case of the US I support the idea that they should take in Syrian refugees, but I don't think they should do so blindly (and that should be for all immigrants, not just Muslims). If any of those refugees take even the slightest step out of line then they should be deported and never allowed back. In the UK, we should make it clear that immigrants and refugees that want to integrate are welcome, but those that would pretend to accept the offer and instead plot against us should be denied entry or ejected, and any right to return or citizenship immediately revoked. If that flies in the face of EU law then we should insist on our sovereignty in the EU or leave.

          Just to be clear, by far the biggest majority of the victims of Islamist extremism and the fighting between different schools of Islam is other Muslims, so those that want to get away from repressive Islamists should be welcomed, just not blindly. Belgium's politicians were blind and the French paid the price. The Schengen Agreement is a security nightmare, but modifying it will not destroy the right to free movement inside the EU as far too many Lefties claim (http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/united-kingdom/131216/britain-threatens-eu-free-movement-rights). Similarly, modifying our laws to allow us to keep an eye on immigrants and refugees should not put us in breach of EU law, they would seem both logical and necessary. Shame on the tinfoil-attired for blindly pretending otherwise.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon
            Thumb Up

            Re: Pascal Moaner @ Matt Bryant

            Best post you've ever written (that I've read) Matt.

            The only thing a tolerant society cannot tolerate, is intolerance.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @ Matt Bryant

            1. Intelligence did NOT identify all of the attackers beforehand. Therefore they did NOT do their job, and mass surveillance did NOT help.

            2. "self-deluding, socio-political group-think"? You mean normal people with common sense, as opposed to right-wing, bigoted racists.

            3. Belgium's problem...all in abeyance to EU law. Yes, act when there is a problem. Wow, did you come up with that idea all by yourself?

            4. Unfortunately I have to agree with the gist of some of your last two paragraphs.

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Anon Cluetard Re: @ Matt Bryant

              "1. Intelligence did NOT identify all of the attackers beforehand....." The French have admitted that every single one of the Paris attackers identified so far was on either Interpol, French or Belgian intelligence watch lists. "Mass surveillance" allowed the French to tell the Belgians exactly where the mobile phone found dumped in Paris had been and who had been called from it, leading to the raid on the terrorist cell in Belgium and subsequent arrests in France.

              "......2. "self-deluding, socio-political group-think"?....." The Schengen Agreement is the result of EU socialist dreaming (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/theneweurope/wk22.htm) and stark warnings about the security implications were ignored when it was originally agreed. Similarly, the way people have been shouted at for even suggesting we should be on the guard against possible criminals and terrorists hiding amongst the recent wave of refugees entering the EU just goes to show how short-sighted those moral-hobbyhorse-riding shouters were. Once again, it seems the Left can't see beyond the chance to label anyone they disagree with as a "Nazi" or "Fascist" - actually stopping to consider the situation seems to come a very distant second to the eager abuse.

              "....3. Belgium's problem...all in abeyance to EU law. Yes, act when there is a problem. Wow, did you come up with that idea all by yourself?...." Wow, did you come up with that complete non-reply all by yourself?

              "....4. Unfortunately I have to agree with the gist of some of your last two paragraphs." Blimey! I'm off to buy a lottery ticket!

      2. Grikath

        Re: linicks Haven't a clue

        " As with the Charlie Hebdo attackers, the majority of the Paris attackers were on the radar of the intelligence community, there was just the lack of political will to deal with them."

        Not so much political will, as law... You need actual *proof* to make an arrest stick, get it wrong and jump in too early, and you'll just chase the people you're watching further underground. "Suspicion of criminal intent" is not something you can use in Europe, and worse: any evidence you may use for such a charge will become inadmissible in the future. Because Law, and judges having a dim view of having it played with here on the Mainland.

        This makes for a very grim catch-22: To be able to legally arrest a criminal/terrorist ring, the authorities involved have to wait until the people they're watching have at least partially started to enact whatever they're planning. And getting that timing, and the associated "collateral damage" right is incredibly difficult. Especially when you're talking human lives as "collateral". It's not a position I'd be particularly happy to be in if I'd have to make decisions like that....

        The thing about mass surveillance is that it does not help one bit in alleving that catch-22. It may give intelligence agencies a better idea of who talks to who, but it will still not tell them what people are up to. Even being able to easily read whatever communication will not help: try and prove that the "visit to Grandma" in that email is really code for [insert nefarious activity] in front of a judge.. You can't, unless you've got a signed and vetted Official Code Book to go along with it. And arresting people for Using a non-Authorised Communication Device.. Let's not go there, shall we.. That way lies madness, and oppression.

        Some forms of mass surveillance are useful to map out networks, and I expect intelligence agencies to actually employ techniques like that. It's their job, after all. But the unfettered access to all communication desired by some simply would not assist in any way in gathering evidence and/or preventing [event].. And they know it. Which begs the question: Why would they want it then?

      3. Uffish

        Re: lack of political will...

        In France the number of people of interest to the security services greatly exceeds the number of security people available to monitor them. Solve that problem in the real world and the Croix de chevalier de la Légion d’honneur is yours, along with kisses on both cheeks from the President.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: lack of political will...

          So the solution is to spy on everyone so that all future attackers will have been known to the security services

      4. Bernard M. Orwell

        Re: linicks Haven't a clue

        I trust you have evidence to the contrary, MB? I mean evidence now, not rhetoric, faulty logic, ad hominems or opinion. Actual *evidence* that the French authorities intelligence services knew all about the attacks in both incidents but failed to act.

        That's a big claim.

        almost as big as claiming that all this intrusion, surveillance, loss of civil liberties is effective, financially appropriate and commensurate with the threat.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Boring Bernie Re: linicks Haven't a clue

          ".....Actual *evidence* that the French authorities intelligence services knew all about the attacks in both incidents but failed to act....." That's not what I claimed. I stated that all the attackers identified so far were known to the authorities and had been linked to extremist groups or individuals (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34832512). So the intelligence had been gathered and should have been shared and acted upon, and if the PC crowd hadn't been bleating on about "Islamophobia" and "profiling" then action might have been taken against the group or individuals a lot earlier.

          Ironically, it seems every time the PC crowd rush to shout "Fascist" at anyone that criticises an Islamist, with almost infallible regularity that Islamist turns up a few years later either in an investigation of a terror attack or having traveled off to fight for a terror group (Saadiq Long allegedly being the most recent and blatant example).

          "....commensurate with the threat." Yeah, I bet there were plenty of the victims at the Bataclan that often rebleated such popularist, handwringer mantras, only they can't tell you now.

          1. Bernard M. Orwell

            Re: Boring Bernie linicks Haven't a clue

            "....commensurate with the threat." Yeah, I bet there were plenty of the victims at the Bataclan that often rebleated such popularist, handwringer mantras, only they can't tell you now."

            If the systems that have been imposed both on our civil liberties and our tax-payer purse HAD been commensurate, and the authorities KNEW who was going to carry out these acts, then surely they should NOT have happened?

            I don't have a problem with profiling actual suspects, nor do I object to surveilling of actual suspects, and when these things turn up a positive I expect action to be taken to ameliorate the detected threat. I do not believe that mass surveillance is a good way to carry out these activities, and that the process must be extra-governmental and subject to legal oversight at the highest levels. It is not for the politico's to decide the legality of the processes any more than it is for them to direct the police or the courts to suit their political agenda.

            And, if nothing else, surely this should prompt some sort of question as to the motivations of the government (as far as where and why they are spending VAST sums of cash on these activities without measureable result) and how cost effective the measures are.

            Even looking at this from a capitalist, conservative viewpoint should prompt serious questions that require clear answers, and so far we're not getting them.

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              FAIL

              Re: Blathering Bernie Re: Boring Bernie linicks Haven't a clue

              ".....If the systems that have been imposed both on our civil liberties...." Firstly, let's debunk that part of your circular non-argument. Please do explain how any of your "civil liberties" have been eroded in the slightest? You still post your nonsensical and paranoid drivel here with zero expectation of punishment, so where is the evil police state you insist has been "imposed" on you? What a crock!

              "....our tax-payer (sic) purse...." When did they start taxing your benefits? Joking aside, the amounts spent on such surveillance programs are minuscule compared to what is spent on education and healthcare in the UK. I know you'll blindly shriek and insist otherwise, so to try and remove your ignorance I suggest you go do a quick read here - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/budget-2015-documents. You will probably require the help of an educated adult, though finding one may be a problem in the circles you seem to move in.

              The rest of your circular non-argument is an attempt to insist that unless the "system" is perfect it cannot be justified, to which I ask what systems in your life are actually 100% effective and perfect? Even the simplest of systems unencumbered by popularist political hobbling will fail. You are the perfect example of the failure of birth control, a system as simple as using a condom (though that might have been a challenge for your parents), why would you insist such a vastly more complex system must be 100% effective? Seatbelts and airbags don't save every victim of a car accidents, are you insisting they are worthless and the laws that put them in all cars must be removed or your liberties are being imposed upon? Again, what a brimming crock!

              And finally we have a neatly pointless argument - you are not opposed to the surveillance of "real" suspects. Great, how generous of you! But you neglect to mention you are obviously and blindly opposed to the means of finding those suspects in the first place. How do you expect the authorities to find those "real" suspects before they act, by an honour system?

              Again, another post which is just another serving of your usual crock of horse manure. Please try a lot harder, it's not even fun laughing at you anymore.

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              3. Bernard M. Orwell

                Re: Blathering Bernie Boring Bernie linicks Haven't a clue

                "where is the evil police state you insist has been "imposed" on you?" ~ MB

                As you have declined to answer my comment in the thread itself, despite your answers on other, similar threads, here is a link to an article that shows one very clear example of the erosion of civil liberties as a direct result of anti-terror legislation.

                http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/11/30/police_scotland_taken_tribunal_former_detective_unlawful_snooping/

                I await your comments with interest.

              4. Bernard M. Orwell

                Re: Blathering Bernie Boring Bernie linicks Haven't a clue

                Mr. Bryant

                While I wait patiently for you to reply to my evidence of harm, I thought I'd go through your latest rant and point some things out.

                " Firstly, let's debunk that part of your circular non-argument"

                You should do some reading and learn what a circular, or self-referential, argument actually is. Then read some of your own posts again. My argument is not a circular one.

                " When did they start taxing your benefits? Joking aside..."

                Oh yes, how droll. Your usual ad hominem followed by "I'm just joking". I think I mentioned in a previous post how that reminds me of the argument that children make. I am beginning to think you're some pimply faced teenager in your mothers basement.....Taking a break from playing WoW are you? Just joking!

                "You will probably require the help of an educated adult, though finding one may be a problem in the circles you seem to move in."

                Yawn. Ad hominem. When are you going to learn that those kind of statements just make you look petty?

                "The rest of your circular non-argument is an attempt to insist that unless the "system" is perfect it cannot be justified."

                Ooh look! A straw-man instead of an ad hominem. Perhaps you are learning after all?

                "You are the perfect example of the failure of birth control, a system as simple as using a condom (though that might have been a challenge for your parents),"

                Ah. No. Back to the usual type... That was a particularly choice one. I note you don't follow it with "Joking aside". I'm certain you didn't mean it though. Just kidding. Of course you did.

                "why would you insist such a vastly more complex system must be 100% effective?"

                I didn't. That's just a straw man again. You know, putting words into peoples mouths so you can tear down the very argument you just created?

                "How do you expect the authorities to find those "real" suspects before they act, by an honour system?"

                A little more complex an argument from you this time; a vague sort of false dilemma; if I am against mass surveillance then I am against all investigative methods? No. No, I am not. I am in favour of a legal and judicial process that allows the monitoring and surveillance of criminal suspects. You know, like the ones we've always had for doing such things? I am not in favour of mass surveillance, secret police, arrests without judicial process or legal representation, or any such powers being in the hands of government alone, with no recourse or accountability to law. I am not in accord with the idea of everyone being a suspect. You know, all the things the terrorists are in favour of.

                Also, here's something for you. The French authorities recovered phones from the perpetrators of the Paris attack during the aftermath. From these it became apparent that the terrorists used clear text SMS to communicate. As you have stated in previous posts, the authorities were already monitoring these suspects prior to the attack. Forgive me for saying so, but from those two facts it would appear that all the mass surveillance in the world didn't help and wouldn't help. Why then do we need state surveillance, which clearly wasn't used to monitor these suspects, and why do we need to think about putting backdoors in encrypted comms? Even if we do, why can't we have independent judicial oversight?

                https://www.siliconrepublic.com/enterprise/2015/11/19/paris-terror-attacks-is-encryption-beirut

                Now, stop the manic laughter and wipe the foam from your chin before replying, and when you do reply, please don't neglect to answer my "evidence of harm" posts.

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Haven't a clue

      +1.

      For the same amount of money you could have purchased the necessary humint for targeting and sent teams of "Expendables" for each "interesting" target (or purchase a "soldier for fortune" style termination) 20 times over. People are corrupt. If the amount of money wasted on anti-terrorist surveilance was used on bounties instead, there would have been a grand total of zero surviving ISIS, Taleban and Al Qaeda "key personnel".

      1. Adam 1

        Re: Haven't a clue

        > If the amount of money wasted on anti-terrorist surveilance was used on bounties instead, there would have been a grand total of zero surviving ISIS, Taleban and Al Qaeda "key personnel".

        Probably not many taxi drivers either. (Search for Dilawar)

        As soon as you start with bounties, [bad guy warlord supporter] will hand over [insert rival warlord], get some hard currency to carry on their work while you do their dirty work.

        /the justifiability of mass surveillance can not be established by whether or not it is effective in identifying targets. That is merely an "ends justifies the means" rationale

        1. Vic

          Re: Haven't a clue

          As soon as you start with bounties, [bad guy warlord supporter] will hand over [insert rival warlord], get some hard currency to carry on their work while you do their dirty work.

          To some extent, I'm not sure I care - as long as we run out of warlords.

          Vic.

        2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Haven't a clue

          As soon as you start with bounties, [bad guy warlord supporter] will hand over [insert rival warlord], get some hard currency to carry on their work while you do their dirty work.

          That is fine - the process reduces the number of warlords over time. A few rounds and they are down to:

          1. A much lower number than now.

          We presently have several _THOUSANDS_ of terrorist organizations and groupings in North Africa, Middle East and Afghanistan/Pakistan competing to get the world's attention. That is the biggest problem and the rationale for the surveilance - they are so many that we can no longer target them via humint and track them.

          2. The survivors will be well known. No more obscure Al-clusterf** of the day from village in the middle of nowhere (insert your rural backwater salafist community of choice).

          Now terminate the remaining ones by conventional means (Expendables, Soldiers of Fortune working for the bounty or just a hellfire missile through the window).

      2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Voalnd's right hand Re: Haven't a clue

        "....If the amount of money wasted on anti-terrorist surveilance was used on bounties instead, there would have been a grand total of zero surviving ISIS, Taleban and Al Qaeda "key personnel"." What complete male bovine manure. There was a $25m bounty for Osama bin Laden yet it still took all those tools you sheeple shriek about to find him - enhanced interrogation, wire-tapping and surveillance. You are failing by applying the concept of Western greed to the mindset of those that believe the rewards of their religious righteousness puts them above mere material concerns, then overlaying that mistake with the wilful blindness of your political convictions. Don't be too upset, the majority of our politicians have been making the same mistake - assuming because we would or wouldn't do something the jihadis would behave the same way - for many years now.

    5. P. Lee

      Re: Haven't a clue

      >As the recent thing in Paris shows, all this is just totally a waste of time and money.

      You are assuming "people terrorising the general population" are the target. What if the target is "those who terrorise politicians"?

      If someone is willing to die, there's not much you can do to stop them. I suspect the people they really want to catch are those who would or do embarrass them and disrupt their quest for power and expose corruption. That endeavour will always have endless endless buckets of money thrown at it.

  3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    I call bollocks

    If all you know is that I sent a message to Dan Geer, you do *not* know me. Although I almost certainly said "You are a naive fuckwit who is only championing traffic analysis because you can't actually *do* the deep inspection.", it remains possible that I actually said "Quite right. You *are* clever. Would you like lots of money?".

  4. Martin Summers Silver badge

    I honestly thought this was public knowledge already and that they did it for us in return. Hardly a revelation.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      This is a common response to e.g. Snowden. Before evidence, you only had a strong suspicion. Now, you can say "I always thought this was the case. Now I can not be called out as paranoid by others".

      Evidence is a great thing.

  5. Fibbles

    Being spied on?

    Solution: send lots of spam to strangers. The content doesn't matter, only the metadata, right?

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Joke

    Amazing

    Can I call them for the backup I'm missing?

    1. elDog

      Re: Amazing

      There's a lot of "lost" emails from recent US presidential and governor machines that are sitting on some great (virtual?) spinning rust. They've already been syntax checked, facefook-friend linked.

      I'm sure for the right change (unmarked bills) and help from friends, you can get your backup, and others.

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: Amazing

        > I'm sure for the right change (unmarked bills) and help from friends, you can get your backup, and others.

        I'm sure for the right change (unprepared policemen) and help for friends, you can get your backup, and others.

        FTFY

  7. Mike 16 Silver badge

    In related news...

    Ursine Coprolites discovered in forested areas, former Argentinian bouncer took Holy Orders, and the Paris attackers did not actually use encryption:

    https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2015/11/paris_terrorist.html

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Working as intended....

    The NSA gets around the law by moving the surveillance outside the U.S., and the British government gets to truthfully say that "we don't spy on Americans for the NSA". (We just set the Americans up with facilities in Britain where they share intelligence with us in return for using a few bits Her Majesty's real estate.)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hiding in plain sight

    If you were spamming from the same email address you were sending your terrorist communiques those will be lost in the noise.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Hiding in plain sight

      A good observation. However, if you were spamming that email address and that email address was spamming you, it would be easy to mistake the bidirectional spamming as a signal and maybe examine the body.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hiding in plain sight

        That's why you use two email addresses on each side for each communication. I write you from dave@aol.com to joe@gmail.com and you reply from bob@yahoo.com to me at kevin@comcast.com.

        Any address is used only for a single one to one communication, with a bunch of spam thrown out everywhere from that address to muddy the waters.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "If I know everything about you, about who you communicate with, when, where, with what frequency, what length, and at what location, I know you. The soothing mendacity of proxies from the president that claim that it is only metadata, is to rely on the profound ignorance of the listener."

    Can these people not stop lying? The 'metadata' -which is also data by the way- serves only as an indicator as to which content is worth looking at. Even if you have all the metadata on everyone you still can't tell the difference between swapping recipes and arranging an atrocity by just looking at the metadata.

    Metadata, by the way, is "that part of data that it is economically viable to store". It's still fucking data.

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Banbury Paper

      A top secret in America until the 1970's was that you can be trained to half recognise what complicated code says without reading it. And they were doing it at Bletchley Park before the postman rang even once. Once you decide which offer the most likely fruit you can get a warrant to open the box. And you can deny it was many that you looked at.

  11. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    So the NSA spies from offshore now

    So much for political promises and official declarations.

    It's like talking to a drunk addict. They never stop drinking. Tell them to stop drinking and they go "Yup", then turn around and take an alcohol enema to get drunk again.

    Can't trust them, period.

    It's time to bring in the ghosts of the Founding Fathers.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Pascal Moaner Re: So the NSA spies from offshore now

      "....It's time to bring in the ghosts of the Founding Fathers." Again, you do not know what you are talking about. The Constitution set out by the Founding Fathers led to the Oath of Allegiance, which all immigrants that want US citizenship have to swear (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_Allegiance_(United_States)). By supporting a foreign terror group such as ISIS, any US citizen is in clear breach of their oath and should have their citizenship revoked and their right to stay in the US (or return if they are abroad) irrevocably denied. In the UK we also have an oath of citizenship called the Oath of Allegiance, all immigrants applying for UK citizenship have to swear it, and it explicitly states new citizens must abide by UK law and uphold the nation's democratic values. But when moves are made to eject undesirables the only constant is the deafening shrieks of the Lefties, the handwringers and the sheeple, all insistant that removing a threat makes you a "Nazi".

      Anyone that is supportive of extremist Islam would seem to be clearly in breach of either oath and so should have their citizenship and the rights it entails revoked, and they should be deported (preferably without appeal) and denied return. As far as I can see, there is no such oath for Belgium (I'm not a specialist on immigration law so I may be wrong on that), an area the handwringers and sheeple are unlikely to focus on in their desperation to pin the blame on anyone but themselves.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: Pascal Moaner So the NSA spies from offshore now

        @Matt, just out of curiosity, what would you suggest be the course of action for people born in-country who then end up supporting a terrorist organisation?

        Where can you deport them to?

        1. Bumpy Cat

          Re: Pascal Moaner So the NSA spies from offshore now

          You can at the least mock them and sideline them, as we do with eg the BNP.

          Not, for example:

          - give them a peerage (Lord Ahmed)

          - invite them onto BBC to excuse Lee Rigby's murder the very next day (Anjem Choudhury)

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            Re: Bumpy Cat Re: Pascal Moaner So the NSA spies from offshore now

            "You can at the least mock them and sideline them, as we do with eg the BNP...." I'm actually all in favour of locking up for life and/or stripping the citizenship from such types that use terror, regardless of their "cause", as such people seem incapable of reforming. I'd be quite happy to ship David Copeland (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Copeland) off to Gitmo, I'm sure he'd feel quite at home with the other detainees there.

        2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          Re: Sir Runcible Spoon Re: Pascal Moaner So the NSA spies from offshore now

          ".....what would you suggest be the course of action for people born in-country who then end up supporting a terrorist organisation?...." If the undesirable is outside the UK then just don't let them back in. If they are in the UK and their parents have been granted citizenship then their parent's land of origin would seem a reasonable dumping site. Of course, should that land refuse to take them we can always use the Obambi Gitmo plan and bribe Third World nations to take them. For those suspected to be really nasty I'm all in favour of an all-expenses paid and lifetime holiday to Guantanamo Bay, and quite happy to offshore our long-term holding of such people to the Yanks. IMHO it's highly likely the next POTUS will freeze or reverse Ombambi's plan to empty Gitmo, be they a Republican or Shrillary, so why shouldn't the US make some money by selling berths at Gitmo to the EU?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm so shocked... I'm pretty sure many of us pointed out this would be the solution.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US Constitution

    So how does this align with the US Constitution that "protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government"? You know, the one that state officials (allegedly) take an oath to uphold.

    Would the authorities be legally entitled to enter everyone's home to obtain the "meta data"?

    Or is this just another example of state doublespeak and dirty tricks?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: US Constitution

      "So how does this align with the US Constitution that "protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government"?"

      Simple: Redefine "unreasonable"

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: US Constitution

        Jonathan Adler (a real live US attorney) speaks to this somewhat at:

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/11/20/the-metadata-collection-program-is-constitutional-at-least-according-to-judge-kavanaugh/

        complete with a number of case law references for those interested in more detail.

        As the OP said, it depends on the definition of "unreasonable."

  14. Harry Anslinger

    4th amendment

    Our government has repeatedly proven that it cannot be trusted to respect the 4th amendment rights of American citizens. Our electronic communications are routinely intercepted, recorded and analyzed without the benefit of a warrant or probable cause. Encryption to thwart government intrusion on the private communications of American citizens is essential.

    1. Roo

      Re: 4th amendment

      "probable cause"

      Would that be something on the lines of:

      1) The government knows it's being a dick,

      2) Therefore it is likely that a significant proportion of the population will be planning on over-throwing USGOV.

      3) Solution: Buy lots of kit to oppress the citizens, own everyone's stuff, and hey presto: PROFIT !

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: 4th amendment

      Well if you object to what the government is doing just vote for the other lot next year - isn't democracy wonderful ?

  15. Your alien overlord - fear me

    So, could someone explain how to read email meta-data and not read the actual content? Do they mean they just record the HELO, MAIL FROM, RCPT TO commands and then stop listening? Because if they are doing that, those are the bits most faked by spammers !!

    1. ITS Retired
      Big Brother

      The meta data is the outside packet, the one routers use to know where to sent that bit of information... And where it came from. Information needed at the receive end.

      Meta data is quick and easy to read on the fly. To read the content takes a bit more time, plus part of the message might go a different route, making it even harder to read a complete message because you have to be monitoring that route as well and combine the various parts. That takes time and to do it for a lot of messages, would slow the Internet to a crawl.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        In the context at hand it is reasonably well documented that in addition to such things as IP headers the metadata also includes the "From:," "To:," "CC:," and "BCC:," and "Subj:" lines, but not the remainder unless the body is encrypted.

        The notion that the processing involved would slow the internet is follty. They are taking a copy in real time, discarding much of it immediately and filtering the remainder more carefully off line. We know this from published materials for NSA and GCHQ, and it may be assumed without risk of error that the Russians, Chinese, and others are doing something a lot like it.

  16. x 7

    if this is metadata, what is orthodata and paradata?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you can't figure it out

    Authorities have an obligation to track all electronic communications that might entail terrorism or crime. If you need to know why they need to use this valuable tool to help deter terrorism and cybercrime, crawl out from the rock you've been living under and check the local news - anywhere.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: If you can't figure it out

      We note that you downloaded a single pixel tracking cookie from a server in Russia that also hosts viruses found on government computers in America.

      You are now linked to terrorism.

      Having you, and 50million users like you added to the list of internet users "linked to terrorism" will help us prevent the next attack.

  18. Stevie

    Bah!

    My God! Who could have predicted this entirely unforeseeable maneuver by an agency known for its forthrightness and honesty?

    (And may I wish a jolly good morning to our "metadata" monitor?).

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