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Old 05-30-2014, 12:03 AM   #41
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The Frontline program (one of the best in years IMO) really shifted my attitude about Snowden significantly. The revelation that Ashcroft, and Mueller of all guys refused to sign the re-authorization of the program was a real eye opener to me.

I figure on the subject of law order vs individual rights both of these guys are going to come done hard on the side of law order. The acting Attn General was prepared to resign is really shocking.

Reading how the House bill "repealing" the collection of phone records was watered down makes also think that there very well connected folks who have a lot of juice and remain determined to retain this capability regardless of the constitutionality of it.

One of the problems it seems me is that FISA court, doesn't appear to be as much a court as glorified grand jury. The old saying is that with good prosecutor, a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich. I get the feeling that most of the time FISA just rubber stamps things. Sure they have real judges and so they probably push back some of the time. But I don't think you can get any type of justice in our system without both sides having advocates. In the case of the FISA, it would take nothing short of the the ACLU and the Cato Institute being allowed to have some their employees get top secret clearance and act as the advocate opposing the judge before I'd be satisfied.

I was also gratified to find out how many CIA, NSA, FBI, DOJ, and even Congressional staffers, risk career and even jail time to try and stop this program using proper channels. Their collective failure I think boost Snowden's claim that only way to get the info was to do what he did.


I was listening to a professor on the PBS Newshour point out that you have 35,000 times higher chance of dying of heart disease than terrorism. So I really think our priorities are screwed up.
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Old 05-30-2014, 04:53 AM   #42
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I was also gratified to find out how many CIA, NSA, FBI, DOJ, and even Congressional staffers, risk career and even jail time to try and stop this program using proper channels.
Yes, that was well done. It has been widely reported that the culture within NSA is heavily biased to protecting the privacy of Americans, it is something these professionals have had drummed into them for their entire careers. Systemic, deliberate abuses decades ago (see COINTELPRO, etc) heavily damaged the reputation of the organization and posed a true threat to the civil liberties of Americans (unlike the presently alleged actions, IMO). That's what real abuse looks like: collection and analysis of information about US persons without court involvement with the intent to deny them their First Amendment rights and to influence the domestic US political environment. And these abuses were the reason for the Church Committee and all the ensuing reforms.

We do need effective structural safeguards to protect against mistakes and abuses even by the most well-meaning people. We should all recognize that the collection and analysis of information on Americans by the government is a very dangerous thing to our republic, so it is entirely right to regard it with the highest suspicion. But I object to the lionization of an individual who took it on himself to decide he "knew better" and throw away the good work of thousands of people and millions of taxpayer dollars, and to naively advance the cause of those individuals and groups who pose a >real< (not a theoretical) threat to the lives and liberties of Americans.

These TV shows and blockbuster newspaper articles give voice to a small minority of people who actually know about the programs and oppose them. I am given to understand that a far larger share of people who know the details of the program, with consciences equally as developed, find the safeguards to be adequate. They'll just keep toiling away in silence, protecting lives and liberties. Meanwhile, Mr Superior Conscience destroys their work, besmirches their reputations, diminishes the effectiveness of a proven, valuable tool that is saving lives, and exposes sensitive communications and capabilities to exploitation by that well-known protector of Human Rights and Liberty--Russia. He's no hero, he's traitorous, naive, arrogant idiot. His inability to see nuance and to think through the logical result of his actions has resulted in his present personal circumstances, I only wish he had not done such damage to others on his personal journey of self aggrandizement and destruction.

But, I don't have strong feelings on this.
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Old 05-30-2014, 08:45 AM   #43
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Not having seen the interview, I believe Snowden is exactly what he says.

Before 9/11, the government exercised a lot of self-control on spying. The hardest part about getting the authority to spy on someone's communication was not judicial approval, but the internal controls set up in the individual agencies and then at main DOJ. Even though their role was supposed to be making sure that the government's petition was legally sufficient for judicial approval, too often I found myself battling local AUSAs and some deputy AJ in DC over political implications. Everyone was very aware of the appearances, and afraid of being seen to go too far out of fear of a legal or public backlash on the methods we used. "We don't want to abuse the tool out of fear of losing it."

My first wiretap taught me that the judges do not exercise their authority as they should. As I was handing the affidavit to the Federal Magistrate, he pushed it aside and said, "Agent, just show me where the Attorney General signed off on your intercept and that's all I need." Affidavits that represented thousands of hours of investigation were glanced at for a few moments. Not always, some judges did their jobs, but many did not.

And every telephone company and internet provider just asked for a warrant or court order for their files and then complied - always making sure to send me a bill for the 'cost'.

After 9/11, when the Patriot Act was in full effect, the government seemingly removed most of the internal controls. While drinking with a former co-worker in 2002 he said that the internal controls were non-existent. "Dude, I could get up on your phone if I wanted to."

If the government is not exercising self-restraint, the judges aren't being good watchdogs, and the companies are complying without question - who is left to complain except us?
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Old 05-30-2014, 08:58 AM   #44
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I have a hard time putting my faith in someone to do the right thing with all the information they have been collecting on me when they have been denying/lying about collecting it all along.
Agreed, that's a concern. But then again, sometimes secrecy is needed to be effective.

RE - comparing to a 'beat cop' , watching and observing individuals:

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IMO it is very different. In the example you present they can look at you because you are in a public place. They cannot look at you inside your own home. They can see that you are holding a package or a purse, but as you mention, without probable cause they cannot search it.

This is a public forum. Anyone can see what is posted here. Is it permissible for the "police" to look at what is posted here? Of course. But my private messages? I think the example you present is a good one. They can look at my public presentation, but my private things are just that, private. And they should need due process to look at them.
Yes, it's different. I'm trying to draw a parallel between the old/new technologies, and analogies will usually differ in some ways. But the common point, in my mind, is that neither seems to actively interfere with my life. Let me try another, hypothetical parallel:

Imagine we had some kind of harmless scanning device that was near 100% accurate in detecting dangerous illegal materials (explosives, ricin, etc - oooops, did my checking the spelling of that get me on a list? !), even if they were wrapped up and hidden in a package (making it 'private', right?), and we set up these scanners at key points in a city. I'm an innocent guy, and I walk past these scanners. The scanner can 'see' inside my briefcase, can 'see' inside my shopping bag. But with no alarms from the system, I just go on my merry way. There really is no negative for me. But there are positives - I'm safer due to this surveillance. If an alarm does trigger, there should be a checks/balances, to assure that a false positive does not create problems for an innocent person.

That's a lot more hypothetical, but I think it's a good analogy to robots analyzing my email and calls. No real interference with my life, and some added safety.

I'll say it again, as it is so key - controls need to be in place to prevent abuse.

-ERD50
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Old 05-30-2014, 09:39 AM   #45
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.... If an alarm does trigger, there should be a checks/balances, to assure that a false positive does not create problems for an innocent person.

That's a lot more hypothetical, but I think it's a good analogy to robots analyzing my email and calls. No real interference with my life, and some added safety.

I'll say it again, as it is so key - controls need to be in place to prevent abuse.

-ERD50
You can say it as many times as you like, but a checks/balances system with controls that truly work and doesn't get compromised (over a period of time) is not going to happen (IMO).
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Old 05-30-2014, 01:00 PM   #46
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I think we will all be glad (eventually) that Snowden did it. He is very articulate for a young man and impressive. I cannot believe he did this for personal gain. That is enough for me!
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Old 05-30-2014, 01:04 PM   #47
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I've watched both parts and I thought they were really well presented. Shocking to see that the NSA have inserted hardware in many/all of the switches and routers used by the ISP's without their knowledge so that essentially everyone's data passing through is copied and sent to NSA computers. Since data is streamed through fiber optic cables then placing a simple light splitter in all the key data networks gives them a complete copy of everything.
Yah. A close friend works on an IT team that manages a huge internal storage network that handles customer cloud support, including e-mail and customer storage. When the Snowden leaks started coming out, one of the items leaked was a slide that indicated PRISM had access to the company's storage network. Management and the IT team went ballistic, and spent several days doing a hardware audit and hand-over-hand inspection of the entire facility. They found a storage node that had what was designated as a 'dark' spare fiber optic line connected. The line was live, and the node had been hacked.

They're now doing detailed inspections much more often and requiring staff to work in pairs within the data center.

This raises the cost of doing business, of course.
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Old 05-30-2014, 01:44 PM   #48
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That's a lot more hypothetical, but I think it's a good analogy to robots analyzing my email and calls. No real interference with my life, and some added safety.
Alas, the combination of a very low frequency event, like looking at a random person and finding that they are a terrorist, and a detection process that is 'almost' 100% accurate, means that there will be a fairly high false positive rate.

This is governed by Bayes' Theorem.

Let's take a 'terrorist detector' algorithm that is 99% accurate, that is, given an email and call data set, it spots the terrorist 99% of the time in spite of circumlocutions and other camouflage, and has a false positive rate of, oh, 1%. To make this easier, let's assume that there are 300 terrorists running about in a population of 300,000,000.

So, the probability of a random person being a Terrorist, P(T) is one in a million, or 0.000001. The probability that our Detector spots a Terrorist when shown one, P(D|T), is 0.99. The complementary event, the probability that our Detector reports a terrorist when given an Innocent, P(D|I), is 0.01.

Lets compute the probability that a Terrorist is Detected over the population, P(T|D).

P(T|D) = ( P(D|T) * P(T) ) / ( ( P(D|T) * P(T) ) + ( P(D|I) * (1 - P(T) ) )

P(T|D) = ( (0.99 * 0.000001 ) ) / ( ( 0.99 * 0.000001) + ( 0.01 * (1 - 0.000001) ) )

P(T|D) = .0000989902

Given the population of 300,000,000 then we will detect 29,697 of the 300 "terrorists". As 29,397 folks will attest, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, eh? Sucks to be them.

The three uncaught terrorist will no doubt have something else to say.
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Old 05-30-2014, 02:40 PM   #49
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You can say it as many times as you like, but a checks/balances system with controls that truly work and doesn't get compromised (over a period of time) is not going to happen (IMO).
OK, but what is the alternative? And how much damage can they really do to me with this info that they can't already do with the info I provide to the IRS? First off, any 'bad eggs' in our own government have many, many ways to abuse my rights to their advantage. I'm actually more worried about the low-tech methods that can be deployed - I think they are far more likely to utilize those methods. I worry about notifying police to do a house watch if I'm away (how secure is that info?), or stopping the mail (how many people in the Post Office can share that info with a bad guy - it's certainly not 'secure').


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Alas, the combination of a very low frequency event, like looking at a random person and finding that they are a terrorist, and a detection process that is 'almost' 100% accurate, means that there will be a fairly high false positive rate.

....

Given the population of 300,000,000 then we will detect 29,697 of the 300 "terrorists". As 29,397 folks will attest, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, eh? Sucks to be them.
...
Yes, but the detector only raises a flag. A well designed system with proper checks/balances will review these flags. So while the NSA might have detected the word 'risin' in my earlier post, that doesn't mean the next step is to send out a SWAT team to surround my house, complete with a swarm of black helicopters. If my post raised a flag somewhere, I do not think it will cause my life to 'suck'.

Umm, wait a minute, who's that at the door?

-ERD50
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Old 05-30-2014, 02:49 PM   #50
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Yes, but the detector only raises a flag. A well designed system with proper checks/balances will review these flags. So while the NSA might have detected the word 'risin' in my earlier post, that doesn't mean the next step is to send out a SWAT team to surround my house, complete with a swarm of black helicopters. If my post raised a flag somewhere, I do not think it will cause my life to 'suck'.
We only have 14,000 FBI field agents right now. Assuming the Terrorist Detector Program looks at every person in the USA annually, to try and pick up those pesky home-grown radicals and recruits that are created every year, we've just added over two more investigations every year to each field agent's workload, in addition to the real leads, oddball fertilizer purchases, and other items that they are already chasing.

That is, we've taken them away from doing the real, effective police work they now do and put them to work chasing World of Warcraft clans exchanging e-mails and Scout Troop phone trees. This may be a less than effective redeployment of resources.
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Old 05-30-2014, 02:56 PM   #51
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We only have 14,000 FBI field agents right now. Assuming the Terrorist Detector Program looks at every person in the USA annually, to try and pick up those pesky home-grown radicals and recruits that are created every year, we've just added over two more investigations every year to each field agent's workload, in addition to the real leads, oddball fertilizer purchases, and other items that they are already chasing.

That is, we've taken them away from doing the real, effective police work they now do and put them to work chasing World of Warcraft clans exchanging e-mails and Scout Troop phone trees. This may be a less than effective redeployment of resources.
Sure, I have no way of determining whether analyzing all this data is effective or efficient or best use of resources. I'd like to think that the powers that be have made that determination in some reasonable way. That may be wildly optimistic, but I'm not sure what we can do, since we are several arms lengths away from this.

My comments have been directed at whatever effects it has on our personal freedom , assuming the analyzing is a good tool in our toolbox (yes, big assumption).

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Old 05-30-2014, 04:34 PM   #52
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First, you can be a hero, and a traitor. George Washington and many of his friends are. It just depends on which side you were on.

As for Snowden, history will tell. Will his release lead to a better USA, a safer USA, a USA with more personal freedoms, history will tell that story. Now, we are too close, have only one side of the picture, and the results of his actions are not fully known. Will he be a George Washington or a Benedict Arnold, I don't think I will live long enough to know.
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Old 05-30-2014, 05:46 PM   #53
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Here's a copy of our hero's email to the NSA Office of General Council, his claimed attempt to raise his concerns through proper channels.

Uhh, nope.

He didn't want to fix the problem, he wanted to gain notoriety regardless of the consequences. An arrogant punk.
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Old 05-30-2014, 06:19 PM   #54
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...

So while the NSA might have detected the word 'risin' in my earlier post, that doesn't mean the next step is to send out a SWAT team to surround my house, complete with a swarm of black helicopters. If my post raised a flag somewhere, I do not think it will cause my life to 'suck'.

Umm, wait a minute, who's that at the door?

-ERD50


The NSA don't need no stinkin' black helicopters. And, Mr. ERD50, yes, sir, your life just started sucking. Mind if we come in?
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Old 05-30-2014, 06:34 PM   #55
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The NSA don't need no stinkin' black helicopters. And, Mr. ERD50, yes, sir, your life just started sucking. Mind if we come in?
At least you got my good side!

Actually, that outfit is my own little security system, nature's way of staying "STAY AWAY!!!" (There was actually a "Far Side" cartoon along those lines - several animals, porcupines with quills, a scorpion with that stinger, a rattlesnake rattling, and some weirdo dressed up in some crazy costume).

-ERD50
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Old 05-30-2014, 06:47 PM   #56
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...
Umm, wait a minute, who's that at the door?

-ERD50
Let's put that question to music!

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Old 05-30-2014, 06:59 PM   #57
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Let's put that question to music!
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Old 05-30-2014, 07:29 PM   #58
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Here's a copy of our hero's email to the NSA Office of General Council, his claimed attempt to raise his concerns through proper channels.

Uhh, nope.

He didn't want to fix the problem, he wanted to gain notoriety regardless of the consequences. An arrogant punk.
History will eventually judge Snowden. But in fairness this was a single e-mail released without full context. IIRC he claims he had made multiple attempts over time.
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Old 05-30-2014, 09:00 PM   #59
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Agreed, that's a concern. But then again, sometimes secrecy is needed to be effective.

RE - comparing to a 'beat cop' , watching and observing individuals:



Yes, it's different. I'm trying to draw a parallel between the old/new technologies, and analogies will usually differ in some ways. But the common point, in my mind, is that neither seems to actively interfere with my life. Let me try another, hypothetical parallel:

Imagine we had some kind of harmless scanning device that was near 100% accurate in detecting dangerous illegal materials (explosives, ricin, etc - oooops, did my checking the spelling of that get me on a list? !), even if they were wrapped up and hidden in a package (making it 'private', right?), and we set up these scanners at key points in a city. I'm an innocent guy, and I walk past these scanners. The scanner can 'see' inside my briefcase, can 'see' inside my shopping bag. But with no alarms from the system, I just go on my merry way. There really is no negative for me. But there are positives - I'm safer due to this surveillance. If an alarm does trigger, there should be a checks/balances, to assure that a false positive does not create problems for an innocent person.

That's a lot more hypothetical, but I think it's a good analogy to robots analyzing my email and calls. No real interference with my life, and some added safety.

I'll say it again, as it is so key - controls need to be in place to prevent abuse.

-ERD50
I COMPLETLY agree with you ERD50. Well said. I also agree that there will always be false positives, but you deal with them as best you can.

We were victims of a false positive 30 years ago, returning from our honeymoon. On I-95 near Miami, there used to be a "dead end" area, where the finished road did not have a connection or exit. Perfect landing strips for drug planes, then the waiting car to unload and speed up I-95.

So long story short, two cops pull us over, guns drawn, 10:00 at night. One takes me to the back of the car, and the other takes my young bride down into the grassy area. Then the cop tells me to open my trunk, then my suit case, and searches the contents. Finally after they are convinced there is no issue, they let us go. They explained that the type of shocks I had on my car were common for drug dealers.

You can't avoid false positives. Given 9/11 and what might be next, I will allow them to search my underwear or emails. I have nothing to hide.
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Old 05-30-2014, 09:02 PM   #60
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And by the way, I think Snowden is an idiot.
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