back to article OK, it's time to talk mass spying again: America's Section 702 powers are up for renewal

While the entire US political machinery has been caught up with one Trump-based scandal after another over the past three weeks, larger underlying issues are starting to re-emerge. And top of the list is mass surveillance. Section 702 of America's Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) expires at the end of the year – …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do you remember when...

    The CIA director was like "You know NOTHING, Ed Snow!" And he flung his ax in his general direction! But missed his target and fell headlong into the brush. Ed Snow raised Longclaw upon high and let loose a mighty swing. The CIA director was sliced open from chin to balls, and his secrets spilled out onto the hillside in a rush and cloud of steam. The fighting must have cause too much noise, Ed could hear some villagers approaching and decided to make his exit to the nearby Middle Earth town of Bree. You might say he made a Bree-exit. But I wouldn't, that would be too cheap.

    Good article, with excellent points, although should that be 2001, and not 2011 on page one? Perhaps I missed the attacks in 2011, I was pretty busy building Linux infrastructures and stuff.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do you remember when...

      I can't find record of any major attack on 9th November.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Maybe the Committee should indicate to DNI that they will defund him unless they get meaninful answers to their questions.

  3. veti Silver badge

    14th amendment

    And this, dear Americans, is what you get - and frankly, what you deserve - for trying to bypass the constitution.

    Seriously, which part of "nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws" was not clear? You cannot pass laws that protect American citizens, but not non-citizens in the same situation. It's unconstitutional, and rightly so. This is what happens when you try.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: 14th amendment

      "nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws" was not clear?

      Well bugger to you Mr veti. I've now got to go and read the bloody thing, you didn't provide enough context for those of us unfamiliar with the entirety of the US Constitution and its Amendments to respond. For starters what is "its" let alone "its jurisdiction" or what "laws" refers to.

      I'll (not) properly respond to your comment well after you have given up caring and I'm up to speed.

      Shoddy work, mate, really shoddy. 8)

    2. Mark 85

      Re: 14th amendment

      "We" Americans haven't tried to bypass the Constitution. The TLA's are bypassing it and only Congress (maybe.. depends on what the agencies have to hold over their heads) can stop them. Get a grip before spreading the hate to the innocent. We're doing our best in some very trying circumstances but you guys across the pond have some issues with your TLA's also. Fix them, and then get back to us on how you did it.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: 14th amendment

        but you guys across the pond have some issues with your TLA's also. Fix them, and then get back to us on how you did it.

        A fair riposte Sir and I consider: a killing blow.

        On the bright side we are able to debate these things in a pretty forthright way. Many people can't.



        1. Mark 85

          Re: 14th amendment

          On the bright side we are able to debate these things in a pretty forthright way. Many people can't.

          Very true. Have one on me.

          1. Swarthy

            Re: 14th amendment

            @Mark 85 && gerdesj

            Well done chaps, this is how political discourse should be, and rarely is.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 14th amendment

          On the bright side we are able to debate these things in a pretty forthright way. Many people can't.

          An old Soviet joke goes something like this:

          - An American says: I can criticize my President and the Congress as much as I want, and nobody will do anything to me because of it

          - A Russian guy replies: Big deal! I can criticize your President and your Congress all day long too, and I'll be just fine.

          Sadly, it looks like in either case that forthright discussion goes little good: the people in power seem to continue to do exactly what they want and mostly remain in power despite the overwhelming evidence of breaking the laws they themselves wrote and sworn to uphold on numerous occasions.

  4. tr1ck5t3r

    Do you ever get the feeling that we have been actors in a psychological experiment to see what people will do with their computers? Considering porn is the number 1 activity online not too mention the most emotive & provocative, do you think all this Edward Snowden stuff is just an excuse to get us watching more or less porn? When the SEC was caught watching porn when the Financial Crisis kicked off, it also exposed how financial companies took their business to whoever would give the best fake rating for their financial bullshit product. The darker side is what extreme porn will people try out, some 50 shades of grey perhaps or something else for the weekend. The point is, with the spooks supposedly watching our every online move, and as the psychologists will have got enough data as the experiment has run for the last decade or so, just how suggestible are people? Judging by all the viral activity thats trending online I'd say very suggestible. So is humanity at a dangerous inflextion point with this herd mentality and will these debates like the one's congress have, have any effect on the sheeple?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      The enter key is on the right hand side of your keyboard and probably has an arrow on it pointing to the left. Try pressing it once or twice between bits of your streams of consciousness. Other points of interest (whilst you contemplate that marvel of input) include "." and ",". Whilst you are considering how best to get your point across, why not consider using capitalisation appropriately?

      If English is a second language to you, then I apologise for the capitalisation thing. Please break up your comments to make it easier to digest. Please also avoid the word "sheeple" - that's a meme that you do not want to be associated with - trust me on this.

      Finally, if you insist on using a turn of phrase like "viral activity thats trending online" then please ensure that the URL in your browser has the word facebook or twitter in it and FFS: "that's".

      Damn: I'm grouchy tonight.

      1. jake Silver badge

        What's wrong with the word "sheeple"?

        It describes what it describes better than any other single word in the English language. I rather suspect that the people who don't like it know it can be used to describe one aspect (or more!) of their own behavio(u)r.

        1. Little Mouse

          Re: What's wrong with the word "sheeple"?

          Well, yes and no.

          The word does have a very specific meaning exactly as you described.

          But it seems to me that there is also a snobbery about it that doesn't reflect well on the person using it.

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: What's wrong with the word "sheeple"?

            I tend to find people in general using the word "sheeple" tend to be rather sneering and very close minded, it becomes like trying to argue with a fanatic and makes me automatically think they probably are not worth discussing anything with.

            1. Aladdin Sane

              Re: What's wrong with the word "sheeple"?

              Obligatory XKCD.

              1. JustsomeBlokeinAz

                Re: What's wrong with the word "sheeple"?

                Have one on me. That was perfect.

            2. Swarthy

              Re: What's wrong with the word "sheeple"?

              I also tend to find that those who use "sheeple" tend to be, erm... how should I say... followers of the herd. They just want to lambaste those who follow a different herd.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Do you ever get the feeling that we have been actors in a psychological experiment to see what people will do with their computers?

      No, the psychological experiment began with OC bombing and was all about how much crap you can shovel into a fake reality sitcom until somebody sits up and notices.

      Results were encouraging.

      The next target is Iran.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why even bother

    The security services will do whatever they like anyway, they will claim black is white to say it was legal or just plain deny it... and if you are the UK, then successive governments will try and retrospectively legislate its legality.. Thanks Mrs May!

    We pretend the law makes a difference and they pretend (quite badly) to follow it.

    It is a terrible point to be at with our governments, but i say again, just what is the point of trying to hold the government to the law anymore?

  6. The_Idiot

    Scope creep...

    ... it's a right bugger :-(.

    And I don't think any jurisdiction has a great deal to be pleased about in this context. Or, more likely, they all feel very pleased indeed and are chortling into their double scotches (or bourbons, or alternative of choice in locale of relevance).

    To use the example here - FISA being 'only, absolutely, definitely about nasty foreign folk, and even then only about Big Bad Threats', morphing into a way to track car thieves and, for all I know, people who forget to take library books back. To use another - from the UK - RIPA being passed for much the same justifications as FISA, but turning into a way for town councils to get nasty about folk who don't put their garbage out on the right day. Or try to send their children to the 'wrong' schools.

    Sigh. Or grump. One of those. Probably both... :-(.

  7. Winkypop Silver badge

    Mass spying

    About time they properly investigated those priests!

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


    While the entire US political machinery has been caught up with one Trump-based scandal after another over the past three weeks.

    In an article about jesuitisms emitted by TLAs, this doesn't start off too well, as I haven't heard of a single Trump-based scandal. I have heard of chaos, confusion, dangerous doofosity and NYT headlines with a tenuous link to reality, yes. I now know about Evola too, he's a pretty cool guy, he founds esoteric fascist cults to alter reality and doesn't afraid of anything.

    In 2001 – after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington – the NSA then persuaded the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that it should be allowed to search using the personal identifiers of US citizens, ie, their telephone numbers or email addresses. This was despite the fact that the law had previously specifically prohibited this sort of "reverse targeting."

    This timeline is fishy. After the Saudi-sponsored hit it took a few years for this to take hold (an attack made more dramatic and WMD-relevant by distribution of Anthrax packages by persons still unknown in spite of the apprehension and suicide of an Oswald-like character who is hot for sorority girls). The mass hoovering became profitable when "Big Internet" and "everyone online" started to happen, let's say around Google's IPO in 2004. Or maybe when mobile Internet took off, so around 2007? Additionally, i I understand correctly, reverse targeting is also all about targeting US citizens by declaring collected data "incidentially obtained" during the aboveboard activity of snooping on foreigners, so it's really about the search terms (an irrelevant detail in any case).

    For this reason alone, it is vital that vigorous public debate over Section 702 – what it is intended to achieve and how to prevent future abuses of the law – happen as soon as possible.

    It's over. The deep state is now pretty deep and cemented by excellent tools while the TV screens are filled with fake reality and clownish pussy riot marchers. As President Redacted (the Republican briefly in charge after Bush Junior, prior to the Trump administration; nobody really rememebers him, it's as if he had been wearing a Scramble Suit the whole time) stated in June 2013, NSA runs "a circumscribed, narrow system directed at us being able to protect our people." Yes, indeed. But who are "our people"?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm.....

      "I haven't heard of a single Trump-based scandal."

      I almost rejected this for its sheer stupidity but I'll leave it here for all to see. You're either expertly trolling, or helping to fuel the creeping post-fact neurosis that's threatening to poison the great nation that is America.

      There are so many fuck ups, it's hard to know where to begin. Firing his acting AG who turned out to be right. Bannon's bungled Muslim ban. Michael Flynn. The constant lies and completely unsupported assertions, especially about voter fraud. Russia. Nordstrom. The OPSEC comedy performance art at Mar-a-Lago. The crappily written exec orders. The fact that the exec orders on the WH website do not match what was signed. Acting tough on China until it granted him his trademark. Putting Betsy DeVos in charge of education. Having anything to do with Jeff Sessions, let alone making him Attorney General, after he was deemed too racist to be a federal judge in the 1980s. And so on.

      You get the picture. It also means I highly, highly doubt anything else you write since you see the world through such a warped lens.


      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm.....

        I almost rejected this for its sheer stupidity but I'll leave it here for all to see. You're either expertly trolling, or helping to fuel the creeping post-fact neurosis that's threatening to poison the great nation that is America.

        So what am I supposed to do? Recant for my reactionary, deplorable views?

        I wish to move back to the times to the Moderatrix.

        Now it seems thin-skinned teenagers recruited from a liberal hellhole blog are at the moderator's desk, and the sound of "I don't like your opinion, so shut up!" is the new normal. What is one to make of this? Is it over?


        I don't have the time to go into the litany of "scandals", there are angles anywhere. Let's just take:

        > Michael Flynn.

        You know someone is being lead on a leash when a single name is dropped to light up the semantic network linked to "wast right-wing danger" memes. That someone is probably the reader.

        I don't know whether Michael Flynn would be a bigger danger to world peace and sanity than a Chernobyl Mind Controller stitched together from festering leftover pieces of Mesdames Hillary and Powers, but there is NOTHING scandalous in or around Michael Flynn at the present time.

        Or, as ex-CIAster Phil Giraldi (always an excellent source of commentary) writes:

        To be sure, there are parts of the Flynn tale that just do not make sense. How is it that an experienced intelligence officer would not instinctively know that a long-distance telephone call between a man relaxing at a beach resort in the Dominican Republic and the Russian ambassador in Washington would be intercepted by the National Security Agency? And knowing that, why would anyone lie about it, even if it did include some kind of discussion relating to the current round of sanctions on Russia, which is pretty unsensational material when all is said and done? Flynn certainly had a number of other discussions with foreign-intelligence officers before the Trump inaugural, including those of Israel and most likely Britain, without any scandal being imputed even though the talks must surely have included discussion of substantive issues. The difference is clearly the involvement of Russia.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmm.....

      May I commend 'Full Frontal' by Samantha Bee to you? it has a YouTube channel here:

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm.....

      I'm glad I'm not THAT paranoid (despite the best classes money could buy ... ).

      1. Aladdin Sane

        Re: Hmmm.....

        Could this be Poe's Law?

        1. Swarthy

          Re: Hmmm.....

          Could be, but DAM has past form.

          It could be a long-running satire.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Probably best to hit them in the wallet.

    IE How much does this beast cost to support and how many actual terrorist incidents has it stopped?

    My WAG is a "shedload" and "not many."

    Maybe America is awash with terrorist sleeper cells.

    TBH though I kind of doubt it.

    Americans should fear a takeover of their government alright. By unelected data fetishists and a "coalition of the willing"(ly stupid).

    1. James Loughner

      Re: Probably best to hit them in the wallet.

      MMMMMM... COWS (Coalition Of the Willingly Stupid) I like that. Thumbs up sir.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Probably best to hit them in the wallet.

        The word "sheeple" already exists. For a reason. (Insert something about "nature" and "vacuum" here.)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have ONE simple question ..

    .. given that most government functioning has to be open to scrutiny and this (again) is not:


    It is time we start using that meme where it properly belongs. It has no place when asking a citizen why they want their privacy (the correct answer is "That's private" or more aggressively "That's none of your business"), but it damn well has a place asking those who ask it themselves.

    Even when something has to be "national secret" (which should be a very high bar with a timeout clause) there is still the matter of accountability. Until someone actually goes to jail for this nonsense I reckon it doesn't exist.

    * after +30k posts, my first ever post in caps, it's that important

  11. EnviableOne

    Hey at least the fisheries department can't get the data.


  12. Bernard M. Orwell

    "That prompted a letter [PDF] from over 30 civil rights organizations asking again for a clear statement of the number of US citizens affected. There still hasn't been a response."

    It's all of them, isn't it?

  13. Tikimon

    Taking a second look at the "sheeple" label...

    Okay, it's a combination of Sheep and People, usually pejorative and implying people who follow the herd without thought. There's also a sympathetic definition that is not insulting and applies to us all.

    Consider that your average sheep would really like to roam free and do sheepish things somewhere verdant. Instead they are locked up, fed Enough To Get By, and regularly stripped of their wool for their keepers to profit from. Their keepers use fences and locks and things to control them, and the sheep lack any ability to change this. Although they surely would, IF THEY COULD.

    So in that sense, we are all Sheeple, being locked down and fleeced by our political masters. When the government holds all the power and we lack any ability to fight back or force change, what the hell are we sheeple to do about anything?

    Baaa, dammit...

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Taking a second look at the "sheeple" label...

      "usually pejorative"

      Nope. None intended, nor implied. It's just a simple description.

      "and implying people who follow the herd without thought."

      No implication at all. Just observation.

      As for actual sheep, they are completely incapable of understanding any of the aspects you so cavalierly assign them. Unlike actual people (hopefully!), which is kind of the point of the portmanteau.

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