back to article NSA spying on US and Israeli politicians stirs Congress from Christmas slumbers

After two years of doing little about the mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, the US Congress has sprung into action in less than two days – with investigations into the NSA spying on some the legislature's members. On Tuesday the Wall Street Journal reported that conversations between members of Congress and senior …

  1. a_yank_lurker

    One Way to Congress Critters to Act

    Not a smart move by the NSA (aka Notably Stupid Agency). It is guaranteed to keep the Iran deal in the muck and serious sniping at the NSA for who they targeted. Now we know who the real targets of the NSA were, not any terrorist group but America's Native Criminal Class (Mark Twain hat tip).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One Way to Congress Critters to Act

      It's not as if I didn't tell you this before...

      1. Mark 85

        Re: One Way to Congress Critters to Act

        I think a lot of us have said this before... power and control. If you control the leaders, you have more power then them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One Way to Congress Critters to Act

      It seems to me that some Republicans are conspiring with a foreign power to try to frustrate the policy of a government which, whatever its faults, is more democratic than most.

      During the 1580s, in England, various members of the aristocracy were conspiring with the King of Spain to overthrow Queen Elisabeth 1st and install a Catholic theocracy. The Queen spied the hell out of them and was able to rely on a few loyal commanders to harass the Armada until it got wrecked by North Sea weather. It was the right thing to do then - and it is the right thing to do now. The Republican suckup to Netanyahu is as bad as the Tory suckup to the Saudis, and for the same reason - their interests are not actually our interests.

      Support Israel in general terms yes, allow one of its more unpleasant politicians to dictate policy, no.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One Way to Congress Critters to Act

        Since the NSA, CIA, and FBI are all part of the Executive Branch which is headed by the President, how about Obama issues an Executive Order halting all surveillance done without a court-ordered warrant?

        It really is that simple.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: One Way to Congress Critters to Act

          ... how about Obama issues an Executive Order ...

          And Then? How would Obama know what the not-so-loyal Opposition is up to?

          The best way to understand the US system is to realize that it is organized right from the ground up around gangs, with regular turf-wars between them and temporary alliances. American politics is not really about the country or it's citizens - it is about what present advantage on alliance of gang-bangers may gain over another by doing 'X' instead of 'Y' - Including ratting out one's own intelligence officers, betraying former allies while taking a huge crap over Nuremberg and the Constitution. .

      2. Eddy Ito

        Re: One Way to Congress Critters to Act

        It was the right thing to do then - and it is the right thing to do now.

        You say that now but you know as well as I do that the NSA wasn't just spying on a few Rs sleeping with Netanyahu, they spied on everybody. They spied on Rs, Ds and everyone in between. It's only a matter of time before the shit hits the fan.

        I might even feel bad for the guy they've set up to take the fall. Any guesses on who that might be?

      3. oldcoder

        Re: One Way to Congress Critters to Act

        Historically, that was not the job of the NSA.

        The FBI was the agency to investigate internal corruption which is what you are talking about. And the FBI under H. Hoover got into trouble for doing so without authorized warrants.

        This was why the separation of the external investigation (the NSA) from the internal (FBI) was done. It preserved the rights of the citizens.

        Now that everything is munged up into Homeland Security... anything goes.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One Way to Congress Critters to Act

        What rubbish, it is more that the administration is conspiring with a foreign government to undermine US interests.

        But spying on elected members of Congress, that's something I'd bet that the administration would love to do every election time, and under this President they probably have...not that it's helped him much.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One Way to Congress Critters to Act

      "How do you solve a problem like Netanyahu?"

      Let the Iranians turn Palestine into the world's largest glow-in-the-dark glass carpark? The Americans don't need to put up with his country's ongoing activities as a terrorist state now that they have their own oil.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: One Way to Congress Critters to Act

          "God in the Bible ends up saying he will save Sodom if there are just ten righteous persons in it."

          The BFG (Since we're quoting fiction to address the real world...) said "The matter with human beans, is that they is absolutely refusing to believe in anything unless they is actually seeing it right in front of their own schnozzles."

          So perhaps the real answer is to send congress on a little holiday to the East?

  2. WatAWorld

    If the spy agencies have blackmail material on all the politicians you have a Chekist state

    The US politicians who think blanket spying on their own peaceful citizens is okay, but spying on two-face war-mongering foreign politicians and government officials is somehow wrong need to be schooled by US voters. (Same with UK politicians.)

    You're with a foreign government, especially a hostile or semi-hostile government, you're a fair game target for espionage. Israel, Thailand, Columbia, Brazil, Argentina, India, Pakistan, China, Russia, they're not in NATO so they should expect us to spy on them and we should expect them to spy on us. (The US even spies on NATO ally government officials)

    Elected officials corresponding with such non-allied governments should expect to be caught up in this when their communications are with such foreign governments.

    Targeting the political discussions of your own peaceful civilians on the other hand should be prohibited.

    A democracy where the spy agencies have blackmail material on all the politicians and community activists is not a democracy but a Chekist state.

    The problem is spy agencies spying on the private lives of citizens (including current and future politicians), not their spying on official and semi-official communications.

    We're rapidly becoming worse than the USSR and joining Putin's Russia in our level of internal spying.

    1. elDog

      Re: If the spy agencies have blackmail material on all the politicians you have a Chekist state

      Don't worry. The spy agencies (US, allied, and others) are all busily collecting those pearls of wisdom that pass between the US politicians' lips and other orifices.

      When you're vacuuming the whole house, you don't stop to remove bits of junk that might have originated from a congressman or a president or a mega-corp ceo. You "hoover" it all up and pretend that you won't peek at titillating bits involving Sen. Joe Schmoe and lobbyist Brandon Roosevelt. It all gets collected. It all gets analyzed. And it all will be used. The question is by whom.

    2. a_yank_lurker

      Re: If the spy agencies have blackmail material on all the politicians you have a Chekist state

      Unfortunately Putin is more honest than the Slime on the Potomac. It is a sad day when the Slime compare badly with just about dictator past and present.

    3. Marshalltown

      Re: If the spy agencies have blackmail material on all the politicians you have a Chekist state

      And, if you have your garden variety politician "negotiating" secretly and independently with foreign powers you have a monumental CF AND the added bonus of politicians committing treason.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If the spy agencies have blackmail material on all the politicians you have a Chekist state

        Congress has the right to vote on all treaties, and doesn't have to accept the administration's spin on what those deals are. They are not only allowed, they should be required to find out as much as they can. And in this case, with secret side deals NOT revealed to Congress, this was and remains a "deal" that is breathtaking in its intent to deceive on the part of the administration.

        It hasn't been signed or accepted by anyone, however it seems that it will go into effect with Iran receiving billions and yet making no actual change to its nuclear plans.

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: If the spy agencies have blackmail material on all the politicians you have a Chekist state

      The general art of politics is that one has dirt of some kind on ones opponents, but yes, when it's the spy agencies, yer fucked.

      We're rapidly becoming worse than the USSR and joining Putin's Russia in our level of internal spying.

      Becoming? Oh we past that milestone LONG ago. Remember the 4th Amendment? Civil Rights in general? Dead and buried back in the 1980s.

    5. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: If the spy agencies have blackmail material on all the politicians you have a Chekist state

      (The US even spies on NATO ally government officials)

      We all spy on our allies -- how else are we going to know what they're really thinking?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They actual discover some terrorists

  4. Youngone Silver badge

    Colour me cynical

    Nothing will come out of hearing or investigations, as the Republicans will be hoping that when their man enters the White House they'll be able to use these same tools to spy on whoever they wish.

    In the meantime, some theatre to make it look like they're "doing something".

    1. Naughtyhorse

      Re: Colour me cynical

      I somehow doubt that any republican showing even a modicum of foresight will seriously expect to see 'their man(or woman lol)' enter the Whitehouse any time soon.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A surveillance state doesn't mean the good guys watch the bad guys. It means a group of random guys, including that fat girl who always sat next to you at school and farted really loudly, watch whoever they feel like, including you.

  6. David Roberts

    Try substituting Putin for Bibi

    If the members of Congress had been making/taking personal phone calls to/from Putin then would there be the same outrage? Or would they be roundly castigated as traitors?

    There seems to be ongoing special treatment for Israel by the USA in all sorts of areas. This is allegedly because some powerful members of the Jewish community feel that their first loyalty is to Israel not the USA. Before I get accused of anti-Semitism I should also point out that there was more loyalty from Irish Americans to terrorists than to a major ally of the USA. Until 7/11 clearly explained what terrorists do. Also there was more loyalty to the organisational structure of the Roman Catholic church than to the children being abused by its distictly un-Christian clergy.

    So there should be surveillance of anyone (especially a legislator) who is suspected of having a primary allegiance to a foreign power and/or terrorist organisation. That is surely what intelligence agencies are there for.

    As mentioned above, this is not the same as monitoring every person in the world just in case you should ever need to investigate them in the future.

    1. Old Handle

      Re: Try substituting Putin for Bibi

      I would agree, with one amendment. Anything collected during such monitoring must become public record. Because that's who legislators are supposed to be accountable to, the public. Not the spies. A situation where a shadowy unelected wing of the government has control over a supposedly open and democratic part is too dangerous to allow.

      1. Naughtyhorse

        Re: Anything collected during such monitoring must become public record.

        Oh please let that happen :-)

    2. e2e4

      Re: Try substituting Putin for Bibi

      "This is allegedly because some powerful members of the Jewish community feel that their first loyalty is to Israel not the USA."

      Nope, this is because Israel is a friendly state, and Putin's Russia is NOT.

      By the way, a similar outrage arose when it turned out that NSA was spying after a head of another friendly state - Germany.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Try substituting Putin for Bibi

        Nope, this is because Israel is a friendly state, and Putin's Russia is NOT.

        We know that Israel is a "friendly" state because it fired on USS Liberty in 1967 killing 34 American servicemen. We know that Russia is an "unfriendly" state because it never fired on US troops except in retaliation when attacked by US fighter planes at Niš in Serbia in 1944. It's a funny thing this "friendship" lark...

    3. h4rm0ny

      Re: Try substituting Putin for Bibi

      >>"This is allegedly because some powerful members of the Jewish community feel that their first loyalty is to Israel not the USA"

      Let's properly deal with the anti-semiticism accusations whenever you criticize the Zionist lobby in the USA. There is a Zionist lobby, it does exert a disproportionate influence (as seen by US policy). However, it's not the "Jewish lobby". There are many Christian Zionists in the USA. In fact, there's a very common alignment and fairly popular Christian sects in the USA that teach that Jerusalem must Jewish for God's plan for the world to come to pass. Members of such churches included people like John Ashcroft, Attorney General for the USA. Zionism certainly is distinct from being Jewish even in the USA. Outside of the USA it's even less of an overlap. A recent survey showed that 70% of British Jewish people were significantly at odds with Israeli foreign policy. I think a pretty large number even believed it shouldn't be a Jewish state, but I don't have the survey to hand so can't cite numbers.

      Why dwell on this? Because one of the mainstays of Israeli PR and lobbying is to pretend that Israel speaks for "the Jewish people". It's a deliberate aim to conflate criticism of Israel with criticism of Jewish people. Despite it being demonstrably distinct. I'll certainly condemn quite violently actual anti-semitism, along with any other form of racism. But using false accusations of that to shoot down your detractors I despise because that actually increases racism. When someone says "don't criticise Israel because Israel == Jews", the effect is also to say "criticise Jews for Israeli foreign policy". Given people have zero desire to be held responsible for the actions of a foreign government they have no power over just because of their religion or ancestry, I find that pretty appalling. There is no shortage of Jewish people who are not Zionist and plenty of Zionists who are not Jewish (usually Right-wing Christians).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Try substituting Putin for Bibi

        "Let's properly deal with the anti-semiticism accusations"

        A confusing term in itself seeing as the Palestinians are more "Semitic" that the average Jewish Israeli citizen - who are largely of European genetic heritage...

        1. Marshalltown

          Re: Try substituting Putin for Bibi

          It really is humourous in a sad way to see Arabs accused of antisemiticism. It reflects monumental educational failures and a steadfast ignorance.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Try substituting Putin for Bibi

        @h4rm0ny - you have said everything I would like to say on the subject very clearly, and I hope people stop to read your post because many of them may not be aware of what is actually happening in the US.

  7. David Roberts


    Gah! Meant 9/11 obviously.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Correction

      You know, I thought that Middle-Easter guy from the local convenience store was trying a little too hard with all those patriotic candles after the Twin Towers attacks... but I'm glad to hear you don't suspect him of involvement after all.

      Seriously though, I admit I was briefly confused. I thought maybe there was some other terrorist attack two months earlier (presumably across the pond) that I hadn't remembered .

  8. ecofeco Silver badge

    What that's you say Congress?

    You created a monster and you're surprised it's turned on you? I'll bet you guys have never heard of Marie Antoinette either, have you? George Santayana? George Orwell?

    No, I thought not.

    1. Mark 85

      Re: What that's you say Congress?

      The cynic in me is ROFLMA. They speak one thing about how we all need babysitting and watching yet when the shoe kicks them.. my goodness how fast they need to investigate and put a stop to it.

      I wonder who the real terrorists are... Congress, the Government, or the citizens.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What that's you say Congress?

      Marie Antoinette - what did she ever do?

      The "let them eat cake" is a complete misunderstanding, by the way. If you read the Antonia Fraser biography you will get a very different story. Marie Antoinette was basically a victim of black PR.

  9. DocJames

    Separation of executive and legislature not so good after all

    Unfortunately in the current disaster that is US politics (ie partisanship overruling governing), this story will be perceived as far more important than a mere surveillance state watching the people. The "story" of Obama spying on republicans is too "easy" and will just be accepted by those without an interest in either surveillance or politics (ie the vast majority).

    We can of course all hope that this will do spectacular damage to the NSA, thereby helping to restore freedom on the web and all round happiness...

  10. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Looks like the rubber band is on the other claw now!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surveillance Pyramid

    It's a surveillance pyramid, each layer gets to spy on the ones below and imagines they are special and not spied on by the people above them!

    At the bottom, minor politicians, like MPs and Parliament, above those, key civil servants, above those, government leaders, above those, maybe Theresa May, Cameron and other loyal surveillance lackies.

    Above them? Key people in GCHQ and military. Above them? NSA staff. And at the top of the pyramid is the person in charge of surveillance.

    Even Obama can't ensure his own privacy using US tech, they won't let him have a smartphone because they can't ensure it won't be tracked even while in the USA.

    That's how bad it is now.

    1. Robert Helpmann??
      Big Brother

      Re: Surveillance Pyramid

      See, it isn't a surveillance pyramid - it isn't even a circular construct. The relationships as to who spies on whom are better thought of in terms of a Lovecraftian hyper-structure. If you diagram it all out and stare at it too hard, you will go mad.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Surveillance Pyramid

        You're both wrong. There is nobody in control. It's a self-perpetuating system built out of people, not run by people. Nobody spies on anybody else, the system spies on all. People are interchangeable components, that is all.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Surveillance Pyramid

          That's what THEY want you to think !

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Surveillance Pyramid

          "It's a self-perpetuating system built out of people, not run by people. Nobody spies on anybody else, the system spies on all"

          No it's a pyramid.

          Theresa May can access Parliaments emails, (May to GCHQ to PRISM to Microsoft servers).

          But Parliament cannot access Theresa Mays (no access to PRISM).

          Obama gets a briefing of everyones secrets, we don't get a briefing of his.

          At the top? Well not Obama, a military General like General Alexander you never hear about.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Surveillance Pyramid

            At the top - an unknown sysadmin who access to the General's computer and knows how to clear the access logs.

  12. James Loughner
    Big Brother

    Oh what tangled webs we weave

    Title says it all

  13. Winkypop Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Spy versus Spy

    Yesterday upon the stair

    I met a man who wasn’t there

    He wasn’t there again today

    He must be from the NSA

    (Apols to: William Hughes Mearns)

  14. Ole Juul

    good timing

    and now the legislature is calling for immediate investigations – seasonal holidays be damned.

    Lots of overtime to help pay off those Christmas bills.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seriously, though

    If it is necessary to spy on a Middle Eastern State with a bad human rights record that has nuclear ambitions, why on Earth is it wrong to spy on a Middle Eastern state with a bad human rights record (at least as per the UN) and over 80 nuclear warheads?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Seriously, though

      The Saudis have nukes? BAe really did do a good sales job !

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Seriously, though

        @Yet Another Anonymous coward

        You know who I mean.

        Back in the 1980s I was proudly shown a seismograph from the joint Israeli/South African underwater nuclear test. Israel continues to be the only country allowed to neither confirm nor deny that it has nuclear weapons, but in fact it is believed to have at least 80, the fallout from which would kill most of the population of the Northern Hemisphere. That is why the West has to support Israel; because if they looked like losing a war for existence, they would take everybody else down with them as well. It is also why we have to support the government of nuclear armed Pakistan and why India can do deals with whoever it likes; they each have the same capability.

        [edit - the only way to end the threat would be if a government arose in Israel that could end the bunker mentality and work constructively to fix the regional problems. Israel missed a tremendous opportunity to be the Singapore or the Hong Kong of the Middle East. But Israel has a large population of indoctrinated immigrants who vote mostly as they are told, so it is unlikely to happen.]

        1. oldcoder

          Re: Seriously, though

          The only way to end the bunker mentality is to have a country bigger than a bunker.

          Israel is just too small country to NOT have a bunker mentality, and a geography that really isn't defensible.

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: Seriously, though

            >>"Israel is just too small country to NOT have a bunker mentality, and a geography that really isn't defensible."

            Just like that other source of endless political conflict and assassination of foreign citizens, Luxembourg.

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

              Re: h4rm0ny Re: Seriously, though

              "....Luxembourg." None of Luxembourg's neighbours are technically at war with it, whereas Israel has both immediate neighbours (Lebanon and Syria) and more distant neighbours such as Iraq which are both actively hostile and who have made clear their intent to destroy the state of Israel. At one time or another (and often at the same time) every single one of Israel's neighbours has tried to invade Israel with the sole intent of destroying the Jewish state simply because it is a Jewish state. Luxembourg was continually at the mercy of larger neighbouring countries up until the EU was formed, a position Israel could not be reduced to as their neighbours have ethnic-cleansing as their goal. Unlike Luxembourg, which can hide behind the EU and NATO, there is no external party willing to put their soldiers on the ground to fight for Israel. Try actually thinking before making stupid comparisons.

              1. Sir Runcible Spoon

                Re: h4rm0ny Seriously, though

                The moral of the story:

                Don't trust anyone who doesn't have a sense of humour :)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So they spy on all of Europe's leaders and it's not a problem but spy on Israel and congress jumps to action?

    Why is Israel so special?

    1. Naughtyhorse


      dunno.... my mate Rafael mumbled something about the rupture I think... hard to tell through that texan-canadian-cuban accent of his.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: ...special?

        The dangers of typos - all those fundamentalists praying for the rupture.

        Truss in the Lord and yea shall be healed.

        1. Naughtyhorse

          Re: ...special?

          no typo, just mockery.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: AC

      "....Europe's leaders....." Probably because the majority of congress view Israel as a more reliable ally than the majority of Europe. Of course, there was also the fact that Israel had both the he will, independence and military capability to strike at the Iranian nuke facilities, which would have scuppered Obambi's legacy, whereas the Europeans were largely in favour of the toothless treaty.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because Israel is in a unique position to trigger a major war in the Middle East which could escalate to World War III. Things in Europe have settled down after World War II and the Cold War such that a sudden out burst of mutual hostility is unlikely and furthermore likely to be localized. The Middle East is still a hotbed, however.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: AC

        "Because Israel is in a unique position to trigger a major war in the Middle East which could escalate to World War III....." I'm always amused by this naïve and very outdated claim. Please do explain who you think Israel could start WW3 with?

        Iran? How? There is a big chunk of geography sitting between Iran and Israel, which is why Iran has to attack Israel via more local stooges like HAMAS and Hezbollah. Say Israel was to make a pre-emptive strike against Iran, the only way Iran can react is non-nuke ballistic missiles, maybe some biological weapons just as likely to infect surrounding Arab nations (who would not hesitate to strike back at Iran), and the predictable rockets from Gaza and Lebanon. Hardly WW3. And do you really think any of Iran's backers are actually that ready to put themselves in the line of fire? China is more interested in sorting their troubled economy and dominating their neighbours in the South China Sea without provoking an American response. North Korea? All bluster. And Putin's Russia is more interested in shoring up their Syrian ally to get dragged into a war with even Israel, let alone NATO. The tiny Russian expeditionary force in Syria is just large enough for swatting rebels but has been kept small enough not to really upset NATO, Turkey or Israel.

        The Arabs surrounding Israel have failed in three major wars with Israel, they simply don't have the political stomach to go again to only benefit the Palestinians. Countries like Egypt, which was once the main force for attacking Israel, now find themselves bound to the US and partnering with Israel in containing Islamic extremists. Jordan is likewise, desperately trying to keep out of Palestinian affairs, being more concerned with the masses of refugees arriving from the Syrian conflict. The Jordanians are more than a little wary of refugees ever since the PLO tried to take over the country.

        The Lebanon is still a conflicted mess with Hezbollah trying to shore up their support, support that takes a dent every time the Israelis expose just how forgone a conclusion it is that they can militarily dominate Hezbollah if they really want to. In the 2006 war with Israel there was never any real doubt, despite Hezbollah's many claims, that it was simply a matter of how much Israel would have to throw at the problem to reach the Litani River. And no WW3 erupted.

        Syria is a nice mess as far as Israel is concerned - Assad's Syria stripped of chemical weapons, their military capability being ground down, and busy fighting for its own survival against Sunni jihadis that would otherwise be busy plotting attacks on Jews worldwide. And Iran tied up trying to send military aid to Assad that it would prefer to supply to Hezbollah and HAMAS. And then there's the festering ill will between Shia Iran and Sunni Palestinians that has seen HAMAS and PLO members turning up in Syria fighting against their prior allies Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. All pretty good news for Israel.

        Israel currently has more than enough superior military muscle to face down even a combination of their neighbours should that unlikely scenario arise again, and there is no Cold War to drag either Russia or the US into any such fray. Putin's bluster does not extend to a real confrontation with NATO. When even neutral countries like Sweden openly debate joining NATO it shows how Putin has overplayed his hand and united his perceived enemies.

        So, please do try and provide some argument to back your silly claim that Israel is "in an unique position" to start WW3. The reality is the rise of ISIS has meant the more likely world conflict will be a unified response between East and West against Islamic extremism, probably starting in Syria and Iraq and then extending to areas like Libya.

  17. chivo243 Silver badge

    marilyn manson

    i thought he made a quote about 'the world isn't more violent, it's just publicized better' I think we can work that sentiment to this issue:

    The world isn't more surveilled, it's just publicized better.

    If the FBI was keeping dossiers on people like Jim Morrison or John Lennon, then I have to believe there were plenty of important people that had dossiers too, they just weren't publicized.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: marilyn manson

      Yes but before to spy on a person 24x7 you needed half a dozen agents, and then another few to monitor those - so you could only spy on 10% of the population by having the other 90% work for the FBI.

      That was the problem the Stasi faced - even with informers, it had more people working for it than it was spying on.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: marilyn manson

        Too bad the acronym factory forgot this important tip when it came to employees/contractors like Snowden, not enough watchers to watch the watchers watching the employee pinching the data.

        And to be fair, I think 24x7 surveillance was used in the cases of utmost importance in the old days. I think it was simple enough to get information regarding celebrities second hand, no need to follow Elvis everywhere he went.

      2. Naughtyhorse

        Re: quis custodiet


      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: marilyn manson

        That was before computer technology matured to the level it is now. You can mass-manufacture cameras and use expert systems and image recognition to winnow out the good stuff from the chaff, meaning you only need the human intel for the important stuff.

  18. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    What? Me worried?

    "Don't write anything you can phone. Don't phone anything you can talk. Don't talk anything you can whisper. Don't whisper anything you can smile. Don't smile anything you can nod. Don't nod anything you can wink." - Earl K. Long

    We have the NSA, you have GCHQ - their business is opening other peoples mail. Frankly I think that there is little that we can actually do about it given the current political climate except to adjust our lives accordingly ... wink wink.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: What? Me worried?

      A nod is as good as a wink to a blind bat...

      On a non-related note: if I didn't know that it was writen in the 1930ies I'd think "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" was about a NSA operative.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems perfectly acceptable

    The idea of spying is to know what the war mongering religious extremists are up to so spying on a bunch of religious nutters who want to prevent peaceful negotiations seems to fit the bill far more than hoovering up random peoples data.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seems perfectly acceptable

      To be fair...I don't think Netanyahu is a religious nutter. He's just what a Trump presidency would look like; "you can only trust me because only I see that we are surrounded by enemies and have them in our midst and we must take strong action against them." Such prophecies, of course, become self fulfilling very quickly. Actual Judaism not needed.

  20. Howard Hanek

    Blackmail and Extortion

    How do you THINK the Obama Administration has been so successful in getting even the most unpopular, partisan issues through Congress?

  21. quattroprorocked

    I'm shocked, shocked

    to find that spying is going on in here.

  22. Tubz Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Spy on your enermies, but spy on your friends even closer. Nobody trusts the U.S Of Ass government and it's above the law security agencies, except UK Gov and GCHQ who share the same bed !

  23. Boatdocster

    Hmm. Congress is now offended by the law they passed? Patriot Act (and that's oxymoron) allowed all phone communications to be gathered. Congress also allowed certain folks to approach a secret court, FISA (with virtually no accountability to the public), to authorize the reading and analysis of said phone records. And because of the changes to the FISA court, plus the Patriot Act, you don't have to be a foreign national or involved any criminal activity before then can start monitoring you.

    Now Congress whines because they were caught up in their own surveillance program? Careful of what you wish for...

  24. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Ahh hypocrisy.

    Ahh, the hypocrisy of Congress and the US'es main 2 political parties.

    (Find out the pubic is being spied on): "Oh? You don't want the NSA spying on you? We're 'balancing' your rights. If you have nothing to hide than fwah-de-blah-blah..."

    (Find out THEY are being spied on): " **WE** are being spied on? How dare they! This is completely unacceptable!!!"

    Although up to this point the main 2 political parties have basically tripped over themselves to see who can take away privacy rights faster, maybe now that they realize THIS WILL AFFECT THEM TOO they will actually start to reign in this out-of-control spying and place some oversight over it to make sure the "reigning in" is not just ignored.

    (The irony of this all being, this specific spying incident -- spying on diplomatic relations between various Congress-critters and Israeli counterparts -- that is actually the kind of thing the NSA is intended to spy on.)

  25. lambda_beta

    Why is this news?

    This crap has been going on for centuries. Wake up .... nobody trusts anybody. You are my friend because I can use you.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: Why is this news?

      The trouble with a DTA attitude is that eventually you stop trusting anyone, not even yourself. That inevitably isolates everyone and civilization would collapse because society requires a certain level of trust to function.

  26. J. R. Hartley

    It makes sense

    You need to know what a maniacal genocidal psychopath, like Netanyahu, is up to at all times.

  27. kain preacher

    Live in a country were it's illegal to spy on your on. Cossy on up to the NSA. while you a

    Are they Pick up a few files on your enemies.

    T .edd


  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    People are so gullible. Everyone who has the ability is spying on everyone they can. This has been going on for close to 70 years and now all of a sudden it's a big deal to some folks? Snowden is a dead man squawking and a smack talking fool. If you believe his dribble you probably believe in ocean front property in Arizona, also. Just so you are not the last to know... for about $100 you next door neighbor can listen to all of your electronic communications without you ever knowing.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: Seriously?

      Even ENCRYPTED communications? Even FIBER communications? Let's see it, then.

  29. Zangetsu

    are these not the same ass hats that said if you wanted privacy you were hiding something ilegal ?

    why does this not apply to them then ?

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