back to article NSA ramps up PR campaign to keep its mass spying powers

The NSA has begun what is likely to be a determined PR campaign to retain mass spying laws as they head toward expiration at the end of the year. In a post on its website titled "Section 702 Saves Lives, Protects the Nation and Allies," America's surveillance nerve center argues it "relies" on the controversial part of the …

  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    NSA"Last year we proved <redacted> really did kill 20 US citizens at <redacted>

    QED We must keep section 702 in force.

    My BS meter redlining like a Geiger counter in the engine compartment of a Cold War era Soviet nuclear submarine.

    And then letting the FBI dip into to it at will.

    My instinct is this will continue until a) The NSA is shut down entirely or b)Purged of pretty much all its senior management. c) Staff start doing actual jail time for this gross, persistent invasion of privacy.

    They really are like kiddie fiddlers. They know it's wrong, but they like it sooo much.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby

      @John Smith ... Re: NSA"Last year we proved <redacted> really did kill 20 US citizens at <redacted>

      Look mate,

      Here's the crux of the problem.

      You have the issue of bad guys wanting to kill you because you don't believe in the exact same things that they do. They think of you as the evil incarnate.

      So how do you stop them from attacking you from within your borders?

      This is why you need this and other laws like it (depending on the country you live in.)

      Take a look at Spain. They got lucky that the bomb factory exploded before they could get the bombs out and forced them in to killing people by running them down. I mean seriously, how sick does it sound that we say we're lucky only 13 people died because the terrorists ran them over instead of blowing more people up.

      Then there was the gas canister incident in the Netherlands? Or the potential plot to blow up an airline using explosives found in Barbie dolls in Australia.

      The real crux of the issue is how well you can trust your government to protect you and not abuse the system.

      on 9/11 I was supposed to be in a meeting 5 blocks away in NYC, but my manager nixed the travel plans. Where were you on 7/7? (7/7/2005 London)

      What happens when the US misses the next 9/11? How much do you want to wager that people will forget that 702 could have been in place and could have improved our chances of preventing it?

      When you consider that Google has more and better information that what the Government could hope to collect, and yet that doesn't bother you ... sorry, I trust the government which is bound by laws than I do trust a corporation who will do whatever they want...

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        "on 9/11 I was supposed to be in a meeting 5 blocks away, manager nixed the travel plans."

        Wow, and it seems you still s**t yourself at the thought.

        I'd never realized how easily scared some people are. I think we'd find the universe could get along quite happily without you (or me, or pretty much anyone else) in it.

        As it happens I knew someone who was in the 2nd tower. He saw the first plane go in. He had a choice. Treat as BAU and go to work or run like f**k.

        He didn't expect a 2nd plane but he didn't like the idea that tower could drop on his tower. He was there. He lived, as did many thousands of others. He went home to his wife. End of story.

        S**t happens. Or as Mary Shaeffer observed at the time "Expecting perfect safety is for people who don't have the balls to live in the real world." Never heard the expression "Fear is not real" have you?

        IIRC the numbers for MI5 terrorist "suspects" it's 2000 suspects in a country of 60 million IE 0.003%. But you're so scared of these ar**holes you'd rather live with no privacy because you're soooo scared of people who might (not will, might) cause an incident. As for 7/75 (IE 12 years ago) all the bombers "auto Darwinated" themselves, so I suppose just having a random stranger being shot in the head by the Police is just a bit unlucky for you?

        What happens if that random stranger is you? Will your relatives be so supportive of the police?

        I don't think so.

      2. Oh Homer
        Big Brother

        Re: "bad guys wanting to kill you"

        This is not new. There have been "bad guys wanting to kill you" for millennia. So why, after thousands of years of murders, including everything from alleyway muggings to full scale genocide, is it only now supposedly necessary to violate the entire world's privacy, and transform supposedly "free nations" into prison states that treat every citizen like a criminal suspect, ironically in the name of protecting the very freedoms that have now been decimated as a supposedly necessary measure to protect our freedoms?

        That's like executing someone to protect them from being murdered.

        It's ridiculous.

        It's even more ridiculous when you consider that you are more likely to be killed by your bathtub than by a terrorist, so why is the government not spending trillions in taxpayers' money on fighting a War on Bathtubs®?

        I also suspect that the "threat" was entirely manufactured by the same people who now offer us "protection" from that threat, as a pretext to justify oppressive legislation and powers that would otherwise have been violently rejected by the electorate. The majority still complain about the inconvenience of it all, certainly, but ultimately they reluctantly accept this oppression as a supposedly "necessary evil".

        To quote William Pitt the Younger:

        Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

        1. Oh Homer

          Re: "a pretext to justify oppressive legislation and powers"

          Sorry to answer myself, but I just realised that the bigger interest served by this pretext is actually the weapons manufacturing industry, a.k.a. the War Economy.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @John Smith ... NSA"Last year we proved <redacted> really did kill 20 US citizens at <redacted>

        "... sorry, I trust the government which is bound by laws..."

        Which government is that then? The point of the article is about how government agencies evidently believe they are not bound by the laws to which you allude.

      4. sysconfig

        Re: @John Smith ... NSA"Last year we proved <redacted> really did kill 20 US citizens at <redacted>

        "You have the issue of bad guys wanting to kill you because you don't believe in the exact same things that they do. They think of you as the evil incarnate."

        I've got a few issues with this statement. First and foremost it's the moral high ground which the U.S. and many of its citizens are still claiming. The number of civilian casualties in the Middle East caused by the U.S. and their allies, is likely a lot higher than the number of terrorism victims on U.S. soil, in the same time frame. You don't even need to go as far as including the Gulf wars, which were based on the evidently false claim that WMD existed in Iraq. (That claim was known to be false before the war, not after returning empty handed.)

        Moral high ground and fear mongering together are the biggest threats to our society. They're both used for political and economical gain, not to make us safer.

        Besides, a lot more people have died in car accidents, drug misuse, gun accidents and crimes; each of these categories individually have produced more fatalities. And they are domestic. Now why do you think that not a lot is happening to tackle those? Because there's nothing to gain for big arms dealers, intelligence agencies and politicians; all of them desperately need fear and threats to further their agendas, inside the country and abroad.

        Every time we give a piece of privacy away, the terrorists have actually won another battle.

      5. Fatman

        Re: @John Smith ... NSA"Last year we proved <redacted> really did kill 20 US citizens at <redacted>

        <quote>When you consider that Google has more and better information that what the Government could hope to collect, and yet that doesn't bother you ... sorry,</quote>

        You seem to forget that Google DOES NOT have the power of the state behind it, snooping TLAs DO!!!!!

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @John Smith ... NSA"Last year we proved <redacted> really did kill 20 US citizens at <redacted>

        " I trust the government which is bound by laws than I do trust a corporation who will do whatever they want.."

        You are joking, i hope.

        NSA and other TLAs do whatever they want and no laws have any effect on spying, in reality. On top of that they can order people to keep their mouth shut about the spying and crimes done, a power no company has.

        So these assholes are _worse_ than any company, not better.

      7. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: @John Smith ... NSA"Last year we proved <redacted> really did kill 20 US citizens at <redacted>

        "The real crux of the issue is how well you can trust your government to protect you and not abuse the system."

        TL:DR This is very long. For a reason. To make a point. If you really dont have the time to read this then I will leave you with this quote:

        Government / people who dont care: "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear"

        Me: "I have nothing to hide, from those I trust"


        Actually I prefer the government to get on running the country (when it concerns internal affairs) rather than trying to wrap me up in bubblewrap to protect me from grazes while siphoning off my data and (eventually) asking for keys to my house to keep me safe and unaware from bombs going off.

        If a bomb goes off and I die, I dont want my last thoughts being "Damn you government for not keeping me safe". I'd be quite upset about being blown up (if I'm aware of it) and would prefer my last thoughts to be "I die because I am free". Yes. I'd rather they blow me up because they hate my freedom rather than threaten me with being blown up knowing that my government will make me less free.

        I am a free person. I dont belong to the government. I am not a sheep to be reared and managed. I am not a resource or an asset that needs managing. Let the government regulate cars, bikes, shops. Not my life. I dont need it nor do I want it. I'm free and people died to get me this freedom.

        Maybe more people may see it this way when the government eventually demands and get access to our homes.

        If you have nothing to hide, why wouldn't you allow a cctv camera in each room and cupboard? Monitored by an AI algorithm and spot checked when flagged by humans. Only a criminal or a child/wife abuser would want to have the house as a private space where they can break the law. Cameras in every room, skeleton keys for every front door lock, to protect us from the hackers, to protect the children from Uncle David, to help crack down on copyright infringement.

        They could enter homes for random spot checks at night, just in case you are abusing your child in the bathroom. Just in case you are growing certain banned plants. Just in case you are reading a banned book, or possess one. Those that resist are crazy conspiracy theorists. There is no argument for resistance! We have nothing to hide in our digital lives, so naturally not in our physical ones. If you do, you must be breaking the law somehow.

        The locks on front doors keep other members of the public out. But they can offer a one size fits all skeleton key for any government official to gain entry. Surely these keys will only be held by the government. Never lost or copied. Never used by an ex husband/wife who works for the government to enter theoe ex's home to spy on them or obsessivly sniff their underwear.

        It's just a matter of time. They argue for the skeleton key to the digital locks. They try to sell it. Many people fall for it and find no problem with it. How long till they demand the physical locks too? How effective will selling that be? Sell it to the kids first, at school. It worked in 1984.

        Government / people who dont care: "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear"

        Me: "I have nothing to hide, from those I trust"

        To keep our freedom we must resist anything that threatens it. This is especially true of a government attempting to regulate your freedom or spy on you to protect you. Yes they are likley a well intentioned government right now doing a good job, but governments change all the time. The powers given now will be very hard to get back in the future should anyone even be aware they should get them back, having become used to the new status quo since they were in school and its just normal isnt it?

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: NSA"Last year we proved <redacted> really did kill 20 US citizens at <redacted>

      I can unmask that:

      "Last year we proved < that American toddlers, sitting in the back seat of their parents' SUV > really did kill 20 US citizens at < a rate of about two a month while waiting in line at the car-pool >

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It will be interesting this time around

    In the past, the NSA has had a lot of support from the administration/president (both from Bush and Obama) for this. This time around, it isn't certain. Trump hasn't indicated any position on this, and doesn't really care about policy - he's more of a "wants to be seen doing something" guy than caring about what actually gets done.

    The fact that FISA spying on Russians led to evidence that fingered Flynn and Sessions among others for talking to Russians without disclosing it, and led to the former's ouster and latter's recusal (which in turn enabled Mueller's appointment) probably won't be lost on Trump. While dropping section 702 probably wouldn't have stopped that surveillance (since surveilling the Russian ambassador makes sense regardless of overall spying) it certainly can't help his view of and therefore support of this program.

    Of course he's alienated many congressional republicans and congressional democrats never listened to him anyway, so maybe it doesn't matter since congress will be cowed into acting over fear of getting blame for their vote if another attack happens. But it won't help the NSA's case if the administration is silent. It would be nice if Trump could do ONE positive thing for the country, even if it was simply out of spite. Perhaps a veto is too much to hope for, but what the hell I'll hope for it anyway.

    1. GrumpyOldBloke

      Re: It will be interesting this time around

      The rest of the world has pretty much given up any hope for Trump. His presidency has been an exercise in bicycling backwards thus far. He does not have enough political capital to take on the TLA's, he couldn't even get his party to agree on what to do about Obamacare. Best to just wait until the US sanctions itself into irrelevancy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It will be interesting this time around

        Trump is not going to oppose the NSA over this. He needs them onboard to look tough on terrorism and he wants them happy enough that they stop leaking embarrassing stuff about communications between his campaign and Russia and other potentially hostile foreign entities.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        "he couldn't even get his party to agree on what to do about Obamacare. "

        For a non Merkin like myself that was just astonishing.

        This policy that (supposedly) no Republican liked and Trump was going to slaughter like a Turkey on Thanksgiving blah, blah.

        And then he got elected.

        And the D discovers that in fact it's not quite that simple. "Yes we are all Republicans and yes we all hate it and yes you do have a majority in both Houses, but....."

        Turned out while you can (in theory) steam roller any legislation you want steering the roller is a bit trickier than it looked.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "he couldn't even get his party to agree on what to do about Obamacare. "

          What's sad about it is that Obamacare really does have some serious issues that need to be addressed, that simply repealing it will not fix. Trump's administration is actively contributing to its problems in multiple ways, such as by not committing to the federal money that helps subsidize it for low income people, so insurance companies are being forced to assume no support in their pricing. That leads to even larger premium jumps and helps their argument that it is "exploding".

          Since too many republicans have made promises to "repeal" it (the "replace" was added later when they realized some of their own constituents would vote them out if they simply repealed it) they can't be seen doing anything that a primary opponent could call "fixing and leaving in place". So it is purely political calculation for many who want to keep their cushy congressional seats (and provides a perfect example of why we need term limits - the ones who have announced they are leaving are always braver and do things for country above party)

          On the other side the democrats are equally political, they're happy to vote in unison against whatever republicans try to do, and plan to use republican attempts to repeal Obamacare and actively try to sabotage it during the 2018 and 2020 election cycles. Sort of a page from the republican playbook during the Obama years - be a party of obstruction, a party of "no", and tell the voters "you should vote for us because we're stopping the other side from doing what they want" which is exactly how republicans were running when Obama was in office.

          It is really ridiculous how openly political both sides are, and the people are caught in the middle with individual health plans becoming more unaffordable by the day, and most republican or democrat voters believing the bullshit their party is slinging about the situation, and not knowing anything close to the truth, so that they look the other way while they play their political games.

          We could go a long way toward fixing it by taking the best ideas from each side - allow selling insurance across state lines, have Medicare negotiate with drug companies over pricing, etc. I'm hoping for some sort of "gang of 8" style centrist group to get together in the senate and force through something that's not really a republican or a democrat solution, though the far more partisan house may refuse to follow (a consequence of gerrymandering, which should be outlawed when we slap term limits on them)

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

            "What's sad about it..Obamacare..does have some serious issues that need to be addressed"

            I'm not surprised.

            I'm wondering how many of these were written in by the Democrats to make it "Republican friendly" enough to get it passed and how many they were forced into writing in, again to get it passed in both Houses. :-(.

            "I'm hoping for some sort of "gang of 8" style centrist group to get together "

            I'm guessing the Founding Fathers wanted this to be the norm, rather than the exception.

            That's what happens when you run a country the size of the US with a structure lifted from running British town councils in the 17th century. :-( .

            1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

              Re: "What's sad about it..Obamacare..does have some serious issues that need to be addressed"

              You're correct about how the ACHA got passed initially ... and the American system of government was actually designed by the founding fathers to be completely ineffective UNLESS the country faces an external threat. As for basing the structure on British town councils - no, it's lifted from Plato as much as anything.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "What's sad about it..Obamacare..does have some serious issues that need to be addressed"

                The passing of the original AHCA was pretty interesting. Unlike the republicans who tried to write bills in secret and send out them for votes with no committee hearings, no markup, and almost no discussion in congress, they had dozens of committee hearings, and republicans submitted many amendments that were voted on and approved. When it came time to vote for the finished product, however, EVERY republican voted against it.

                It is a good thing the strategy republicans tried with Trumpcare of ramming something through without any debate or amendment failed, or I fear that would become the norm for both parties when they have control, to the detriment of us all.

        2. Updraft102

          Re: "he couldn't even get his party to agree on what to do about Obamacare. "

          Most Republicans only like to oppose Democrats when they know it won't matter. They voted to repeal Obamacare many times when the Dems had the White House and the Senate... they'll fight like lions if they know they're going to lose anyway. They like being the token opposition that never gets to do anything... it's their little part in the play and they're okay with it. They have to pretend they want to win and prevail and all that kind of thing (political theatre, you know), but they really don't want to.

          Every now and then, something happens and they find themselves with the levers of power, and it freaks the hell out of them. They know their assigned role is not to advance the policies they ran on, their so-called core beliefs-- those are just for show, to dupe the people into thinking there's a real choice, that there's a battle of ideas going on in the halls of government. What do they do when they, despite their best efforts, end up in the majority? If they vote as they promised in that case, why, they may actually end up causing the kind of change they campaigned on, and that. was. never. part. of. the. deal.

          The US is effectively a one-party state, and is not a working democracy (representative or otherwise). Trump is not part of the one party, so he will be opposed and vilified by operatives from "both" parties. No one but a loose cannon like Trump was ever going to stand a chance in defeating the Hillary, the President appointed by the establishment party to ascend to the throne. The fix was in on the Democrat side; Bernie lost before he even began, and he knuckled under and supported the corrupt machine candidate who robbed him in a heartbeat. Trump was such a blowhard that the fixers who dispatched Bernie thought he'd do their work for them.

          Not that it matters, anyway. We can see that the president of the US is merely a figurehead now; the entrenched bureaucrats from the swamp are the ones in control. If you dislike Trump, and if you're reading this, chances are you do; it may sound good to you that the bureaucrats are refusing to get with the program and respect the authority of the duly elected leader of their branch of government, but consider what that means: They only obey lawful orders if they happen to agree with them. In what way is a government controlled by such an oligarchy a "democracy?"

          1. fishman

            Re: "he couldn't even get his party to agree on what to do about Obamacare. "

            "We can see that the president of the US is merely a figurehead now; the entrenched bureaucrats from the swamp are the ones in control."

            No. It isn't the bureaucrats. Our politicians are owned by special interests and will do whatever they are told.

        3. Ian Michael Gumby

          Re: "he couldn't even get his party to agree on what to do about Obamacare. "

          "he couldn't even get his party to agree on what to do about Obamacare. "

          For a non Merkin like myself that was just astonishing.



          No shock here as an American.

          Unlike the UK, where you have how many different parties... the US really has two effective parties so that within a party, you have the multiple factions which would be separate groups in your country.

          So while all of the Republicans say they want to repeal and replace Obamacare, the question is what and how do you want to do it? Some want the government out. Others want to work with the Dems and keep certain things. Each politician has their own agenda. Some are willing to horse trade, others are not.

          So yeah, it could have been predicted.

          Here's the irony... The Democrats are willing to put their party's partisan politics over what is best for the country and their constituents. The Republicans aren't willing to do that. Hence you see the various factions at work.

          The truth... depending on what counties you live in... you can see upwards of 57% increases in premiums and several counties (depending on the state) where there is no coverage. (One county in AZ comes to mind.)

          The other truth is that the Democrats are defending ACA by saying that you shouldn't worry about this because you will most likely get aid to reduce your premium costs. THIS IS A LIE. The truth is that the premiums are rising faster than the aid you get and the aid is limited by your income level. And if you are a small business (you only need two people to be a group), your costs are also going up. My premiums are up and our benefits are down.

          But I digress.

          To your point. Trump isn't steam rolling anything. He can't. The Republicans are not putting their partisan politics ahead of what needs to get done. They need a solid leader who can better align their individual goals in to a more cohesive plan of action.

  3. fidodogbreath
    Big Brother

    It's all in the definition

    the agency has gathered huge amounts of data on an unknown number of US citizens by claiming that it can grab and store information on anyone connected to a foreign target.

    By "connected," they mean any US citizen who has had contact with anyone else who has ever had even passive contact with any person or entity outside the US -- up to (I believe) three degrees of separation.

    So, if any acquaintance of a friend of a friend has ever received a spam email from a Nigerian prince, then you're a person of interest.

    Rumor has it that the toilet paper in the NSA restrooms is printed with the 4th amendment.

    1. Ole Juul

      A click is just a click

      Very few users would even know if they're connecting to a "foreign target". I bet the NSA knows that too.

      1. Mike 16

        Re: A click is just a click

        If you have ever clicked on a or link, that'll be good enough

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's all in the definition


      You have friends who live outside the US. They will see your emails. Your phone calls. All are analyzed and most are dropped.

      If you understood the volume of data that is generated by an individual, and then the cost of trying to maintain it... you'd understand what gets dropped and what is retained.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's all in the definition

        "If you understood the volume of data that is generated by an individual, and then the cost of trying to maintain it... you'd understand what gets dropped and what is retained."


        1) It doesn't necessarily matter much what the real capabilities are, it matters more what their targets *believe* can be done. Targets is you and me btw, because the real terrists simply don't give a hoot about getting caught.

        For a long time, anyone who understood and spoke about the large scale capabilities of these organisations was accused of being a tinfoil hatter. We now know for sure that much of what was going on went much further than any reasonable person had expected. We know this courtesy of incompetent security administration in an incompetent organisation, courtesy of a whistleblower and a class of reporting we may not see again for some time.

        We also now know that politicians and administrators incriminated in these operations continued to deny the truth long after the cat was out of the bag (hello Mr Clapper, and others).

        2) In Cheltenham, England, there is a doughnut. In that doughnut, there is a lot of technology kit. I used to see the sales figures for one particular vendor's relatively mainstream part of that doughnut. And I used to know a bit about what kind of "non-IT" kit they bought (high performance RF gear, very high performance DSP gear, that kind of thing). They've got a *lot* of compute power and a *lot* of storage, and it's not all on that site or anywhere nearby.

      2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: It's all in the definition

        "All are analyzed and most are dropped"

        Only after a few days to weeks, due to current storage capacity.

        I think they have nearly finished building their new mega datacentre designed to greatly reduce this limitation.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    You only need to remember one thing...

    These are the guys who were directly responsible for the massive ransomware outbreak which cost plenty of innocent civilians a lot of money and/or effort to fix.

    If that's their definition of protecting nations and saving lives then god help us ;)

    1. DoctorNine

      Re: You only need to remember one thing...

      It's been a sh*t show since it was unrolled, and Snowden told us how and why. Further evidence is merely redundant at this point. I would be more worried that the appearance of a moderating influence would be sold to the public, with no way to monitor or assure compliance with such controls, than I would be of continuing the legislation with no controls at all.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: You only need to remember one thing...

      The NSA developed exploits based on software and hardware vulnerabilities for purposes within the scope of their legally defined mission. Others obtained some of the exploit code and used it in their software, developed for other purposes. While NSA surely bears some responsibility, in that they apparently did not disclose the vulnerabilities to manufacturers until after theft of their exploit code, it is a stretch to assign them direct responsibility for developing and deploying programs that they did not, in fact, develop or deploy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You only need to remember one thing...

        The NSA did develop the toolkit used by WannaCry and many others.

        The NSA is 100% responsible for the existence of said toolkit, and 100% responsible for allowing foreign terrorists to use it.

        The NSA were either so useless at security that they let it get stolen and didn't even notice, or they actively handed it out to untrusted actors.

        There are literally no other explanations.

        Either way, WannaCry and the other attacks are the fault of the NSA, the same way that a gun owner is at fault if they leave their loaded pistol on the coffee table and a child wanders in and shoots someone.

        Sure, the kid pulled the trigger - but HTF did they get a gun?

        1. Updraft102

          Re: You only need to remember one thing...

          That also shows how foolish it is for politicians across the globe to advocate the idea that they should have backdoors for every encryption-enabled software product in existence, and that it won't harm regular people 'cause they won't give it to just anybody.

          They handn't planned on EternalBlue being given to just anybody either, but it was.

          If there is a backdoor, it will be used, and even if I trusted the US or any other government to only use it lawfully (stop laughing! This isn't funny!), I certainly don't trust them to keep it a secret. I'd put money on the cybercriminals cracking the backdoor-weakened cryptography long before I'd bet on any government keeping the keys a secret. How long would they use those keys before we found out they had them? One can only guess.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You only need to remember one thing...

        "Others obtained some of the exploit code and used it in their software, developed for other purposes."

        If you really believe that, I've a bridge to sell to you.

        It's painfully obvious that these "others" don't exist and it was NSA who used it and/or gave it to third parties, directly.

        One interesting word is this 'obtain' ... how do you "obtain" NSA code and tools without being at least contractor?

        You don't.

  5. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Denounce them all

    Strong stuff, this denunciation of the NSA.

    Let's hear the same for the activities of the Russian FSB, the Chinese agencies, the Iranians, ...

    1. M7S

      Re: Denounce them all

      Generally I think that there is the same level of denunciation. The issue here is that for many in the US, this agency (and others) are supposed to be there to protect the interests of their own country, and citizens like to suppose that this is them. Officials in power may, or may be seen to, disagree in some vague way. Also there are issues like constitutional protections and laws that this agency is reputed to be flouting even when democratically elected representatives, with supposed powers of oversight, try to hold them to account.

      It is a similar situation to some UK citizens and their view of the comparable UK agencies.

      The impression in many cases is that the agencies are slippery sorts who have decided to operate in an extra-legal manner. Its probably not entirely true as I don't imagine that they recruit entirely from "henchmen-r-us" and that most people join with a sense of wanting to do the right thing and protect their country/uphold the law etc, but certainly this impression has some traction and when even agencies such as the police that are supposed to operate with our consent ignore court rulings on storage of images, it really doesn't help their case.

      The problem seems to be "we can do all this stuff and it really could help protect the public, but if they knew what we were capable of, they'd be frightened and then we could not protect them" so they are in some kind of Hobson's choice, and now that the public is more aware, some think we should have a more open and honest debate, although that might give away some secrets to "bag guys" (by which I mean criminals as well as quasi-state actors) and thus defeat the protections we currently generally enjoy.

      Its a difficult area. To get back to your point about other countries' agencies, there is some condemnation of these there, although muted, but until we put out own house in order we can hardly thrown many stones.....

    2. T. F. M. Reader

      Re: Denounce them all

      "Let's hear the same for the activities of the Russian FSB, the Chinese agencies, the Iranians, ..."

      Isn't it the whole point of this "denunciation" - preventing the NSA/FBI/etc. from becoming too similar to their Russian, Chinese, Iranian counterparts and, even more importantly, preventing our societies, on both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere, from becoming equally totalitarian?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Denounce them all

      No problem. Closer to home, I'll denounce the Stasi too.

      Now, who's going to try to convince the world that the modern surveillance activities of the US agencies and their friends are significantly different from what the Stasi historically did?

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Denounce them all

        One might look at the fraction of the population incarcerated, or worse, for "crimes" that consist essentially of expressing opinions against the government such as, for instance, those expressed in the overwhelming majority of the comments to this article.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Denounce them all

          "opinions against the government"

          Bashing NSA/USA in the UK-site isn't opinion against the government, argument void.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Denounce them all

      Irrelevant: They aren't having a pretense to be part of the free world. A dictatorship has to have secret police. Just like NSA.

      NSA is basically a copy of Stasi and _yet_ they claim that they are defending the people. Instead of the power oligarchy, like in East Germany.

      But at least all of the others are honest about it being state (i.e. the rich/powerful) security, not the people.

      So not only they are criminals (the others aren't). they also lie about _every f**'king thing_.

      Compulsive liar can't be trusted on anything, ever.

  6. Christian Berger

    This is of course just an extra...

    ... the real NSA PR campaign caused that now everybody believes their job is to stop terrorists. It's not, it's the job of the police.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: This is of course just an extra...

      It is quite correct to say the job of the police is to stop terrorists. It is incorrect to say, as the post invites one to infer, that the only job of the NSA is to stop terrorists. If the NSA actually says that, it is their error, and it certainly is their error that they overstate it (or remain silent while others do) by several orders of magnitude.

      The NSA and its predecessor agencies have been around for well over 75 years, during most of which the threat of terrorism as now understood was pretty much nonexistent. Intelligence and counterintelligence go far beyond "terrorism" and FISA covers far more than terrorism detection, including intelligence collection on all foreign governments that the US cares about, whether friendly or not, and counterintelligence collection such as, what caught Flynn out (but probably not Sessions, whose meetings with Russians were largely face to face).

  7. Nick Z

    State of war trumps democracy every time

    You can justify anything and everything, when the country is in a state of war.

    Because all the politicians need to say to the people is that your enemies will kill you, if you don't agree to this or that. And most people will go along with whatever the politicians want to do.

    Because it's true that when your government is killing foreign people abroad, then some of their friends and relatives will likely be upset enough to do something like this in return.

    Perpetual war is a convenient way for politicians to do away with democracy and human rights. And it doesn't even have to be a war on foreigners. A war on drugs does the same thing. Any war will do.

    1. Stork Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: State of war trumps democracy every time

      1984 anyone?

  8. fishman

    U S Healthcare

    For you non -US-ians:

    There are alot of players in the health care system in the US. Insurance companies, the American Medical Association (AMA) who represent doctors, hospitals & clinics, drug companies, and organizations like the American Association of Retired People (AARP). Each one wants a big cut of the pie and will fight to ensure it through donations to politicians and massive lobbying efforts. Obamacare is a result of this; each group got something, so the American people ended up with a system that really isn't for the patients - it's for the players.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This not just US citizens

    It is about any data that is in the US. That is why most data in Canada is routed across the line and then back in again. It also includes any fibre that crosses the border.

    I need to figure out how to make a big finger with the graphing trick I developed.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rate this article: 11 out of 10

    How many adverts do I have to unblock to pay for Kieren to stay onboard producing stuff like this?

    Where else can I read this kind of stuff, in particular this story? Couldn't find any other coverage a few minutes ago.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Rate this article: 11 out of 10

      Minor amendment needed:

      "Where else can *people* read this kind of stuff, in particular this story?"

      I've read it, you've read it, lots of people haven't seen it anywhere yet. It's important. People need to see this kind of thing. Democracy isn't democracy unless the people are well informed.

  11. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Yadda yadda Section 702 yadda WE SAVED LIVES

    Pity that such positive news about how sodomizing everyone's privacy saves lives doesn't get published more often.

    Actually, that doesn't matter.

    What matters is that putting a ball & chain on everyone, taking away cars and guns and placing them all on direct video surveillance 24/7 would also certainly save lives. It would catch wifebeaters red-handed, it would catch store thugs before they even got to the store, it would catch a junkie trying to overdose before the needle was filled, it would catch child predators, rapists in the act, etc.

    So what are you waiting for ?

  12. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Mrs Doyle

    Why not copy HMRC, the UK government tax agency and employ "Mrs Doyle" to get their message across via commercials?

    Go on, go on, go on

  13. scotitan

    pfft Corrupt Traders

    Nothing but a load of corrupt traders, from start to finish, they've been caught effecting the Libor banking rates, encryption broken to stop terrorists, nice idea, what do you do about the rate fixing at the banks afterwards then? They had PowerPC with IBM & Apple which we where assured was a relationship due to last, instead they killed off RISC-V instruction's and migrated away from PowerPC because microsoft lied, yes check the facts, microsoft & intel openly lied to apple, telling them the intel chip's where more Power efficient than PowerPC instructions and so "Open Firmware" and chips you could *trust* where killed off without so much as a wimper and that has directly effected there precious UK buisness which manufactured those chips and the hypervisor they used (Rosetta) so all in all, you actually harmed UK interest's and UK buisness and all so you could Spy better and let a load of bankers all take the piss in the process. Hope they sleep well at night knowing full well that's the case!

    The EU then promptly fined apple, nice try but misplaced rage I think, the one's you should be slaming and fining heavily are Microsoft & Google who now through RedHat they bring you system-d with even more bugs and even more faster pwnage! Dumb-dumb-dumb! They deserve everything thats happening to them and they do not have a wimper of sympathy or pity out of me.

  14. FISA does not rule OK ?

    FISA is dead Long live FISA

    Kieran's article is fine but does not go far enough. FISA is unlawful if used in the US. If used anywhere else it is both criminal and unlawful. US law does not apply outside the territorial US. In some places FISA is espionage and leads to the blindfold and the stake in the sports stadium. In June 2014 the Irish High Court ruled FISA to be "indiscriminate mass surveillance" which is both criminal and unlawful throughout Europe. That same judgement rejected the FISA Court as a court of law.Not a single US news outlet reported these findings then or since. "indiscriminate mass surveillance" is a tort (injury) across Europe and compensation is payable to the victims.


    Kevin Cahill

  15. Adam 1

    Rank amateurs

    If they want public support, they are going to need to do better than "Section 702 Saves Lives, Protects the Nation and Allies". Try something a bit more personable like Slurpy McSlurpface.

  16. naive

    Well listen up you ignorant lefties

    Post 9/11 casualties due to acts of ISIS and other people of Arab/Muslim origin in Europe: 696 + countless lives destroyed due to permanent disabilities

    Post 9/11 casualties of terrorism in the USA of all sorts: 158

    So go figure.

    1. scotitan
      IT Angle

      Re: Well listen up you ignorant lefties

      From the lefties dept: "ignorance is not a defence for baseless criminality" trying to breach other systems hoarding "Open Firmware" like it's your exclusive copyright material meanwhile you can't seem to even get C89 to work all that well without leakage and pwnage beside's C11 with added C++ just take it on the chin from the you're PC and server farm "sucks" dept, whilst your climbing into Microsoft's bed spending countless dollars on RISC-V for your own machine and trying to fob everyone else off with closed source blobby bits.. Oh look here comes the Government - & Mr Blobby!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well listen up you ignorant lefties

      ... "696"

      Really? That's about the same amount of people who die in traffic monthly. And spying on everyone, all the time is totally justified because of that?

      I see the terrorists won you. They haven't won me.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Google want's all it's Titan chips to be "AltiVec" instructions, there where only two mistakes the NSA made, one was attacking "AltiVec" instructions which are "PowerPC" which is or was UK buisness RISC-V and the other was attacking OpenBSD which runs those instructions and is loved by hackers everywhere!

    They need to get this right and trim down or cut off garage going into there systems, like Chrome and Firefox and other candy like WebKIT!

    Webkit should not be any kind of Desktop nor should there be a million and one desktops all designed around webkit with broken stuff like x11, your advertising, your search engine or any other application that wants to egregously collect information about you like some kind of backdoor rat whilst your trying very hard to run x86 in vx86 with somekind of line in and line out backdoor into handsets which is clearly illegal!

    1. DryBones

      Re: Google

      Congratulations on passing the Anti-Turing Test.

      You are scotitian and I want my £5.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: I want my £5


    Just sit back and watch, all those inefficient power chips from Intel with the incorrect instruction cycles are reaping years of karma, every single programmer trying to stamp out bugs and then they go an introduce literally thousands of totally new and totally self introduced ones with the wrong power cycles and the wrong instruction and that means the wrong fixes for the problems. sets not geared at being able to mesh with the underlying language, which correct me if im wrong was written on 8 bit eMacs, not 32 bit single core with no floater and so they run off towards x86_64 and find that's still got problems and lo and behold they all slowly start to come back to "Altivec!" cycles & instructions because they've fudged up and your Intel server farm is slowly destroying itself with the patented "harmful" disk operating system from M$. Rosetta was a sandbox, when they killed "Rosetta" they killed off basic code protection and they've abandoned "sanity" and embraced "lunacy" now trying to convince a load of open source users that proprietry closed source blobby bits that could contain some kind of "backdoor" are just fine and perfect for all your "Open Source" computers needs!

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