• This is a political forum that is non-biased/non-partisan and treats every persons position on topics equally. This debate forum is not aligned to any political party. In today's politics, many ideas are split between and even within all the political parties. Often we find ourselves agreeing on one platform but some topics break our mold. We are here to discuss them in a civil political debate. If this is your first visit to our political forums, be sure to check out the RULES. Registering for debate politics is necessary before posting. Register today to participate - it's free!
  • Welcome to our archives. No new posts are allowed here.

NSA whistleblower asks to testify

Lefty

Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2005
Messages
119
Reaction score
0
Location
Philadelphia
Gender
Undisclosed
Political Leaning
Liberal
A former National Security Agency official wants to tell Congress about electronic intelligence programs that he asserts were carried out illegally by the NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
...
"I intend to report to Congress probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts conducted while I was an intelligence officer with the National Security Agency and with the Defense Intelligence Agency," Mr. Tice stated in the Dec. 16 letters, copies of which were obtained by The Washington Times.
...
In his Dec. 16 letter, Mr. Tice wrote that his testimony would be given under the provisions of the 1998 Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, which makes it legal for intelligence officials to disclose wrongdoing without being punished.
http://www.washtimes.com/national/20060104-114052-6606r.htm

And I want to point out that this is legal, thanks to H.R. 3829 Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998.

http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=729&sequence=0
 

cnredd

Major General Big Lug
DP Veteran
Joined
Jul 5, 2005
Messages
8,682
Reaction score
262
Location
Philadelphia,PA
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Slightly Conservative
If someone in particular did this instead of going to the NY Times to leak it, this wouldn't have been such a publicity stunt...:shrug:
 

oldreliable67

DP Veteran
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
4,641
Reaction score
1,102
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Undisclosed
Note that he states that his testimony will report...

probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts
 

Lefty

Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2005
Messages
119
Reaction score
0
Location
Philadelphia
Gender
Undisclosed
Political Leaning
Liberal
oldreliable67 said:
Note that he states that his testimony will report...
I think you say that more outof the respect of "innocent until proven guilty" than anything. I really think you're reading too much into that.
 

aps

Passionate
DP Veteran
Joined
Sep 25, 2005
Messages
15,675
Reaction score
2,979
Gender
Female
Political Leaning
Liberal
Lefty said:
I think you say that more outof the respect of "innocent until proven guilty" than anything. I really think you're reading too much into that.
Excellent point, Lefty. Since there are legal experts claiming that the acts were legal and those that claim that they are illegal, it it wholly appropriate to say that the evidence will show "probable" wrongdoing. My guess is that this person needs to show that he personally felt that the acts were unlawful and is careful not to day that the wrongdoing was definite, since it could just be a matter of opinion.

oldreliable--anything to prove your point, huh? ;)
 

oldreliable67

DP Veteran
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
4,641
Reaction score
1,102
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Undisclosed
aps said:
Excellent point, Lefty. Since there are legal experts claiming that the acts were legal and those that claim that they are illegal, it it wholly appropriate to say that the evidence will show "probable" wrongdoing. My guess is that this person needs to show that he personally felt that the acts were unlawful and is careful not to day that the wrongdoing was definite, since it could just be a matter of opinion.

oldreliable--anything to prove your point, huh? ;)
What point did you think I was making? Doubly :confused:

This is wierd. I guess your query and Lefty's response are because I have been defending the program by citing the legal opinions and precedents offered by the legal scholars supporting the AG's position. But a careful reading of my posts will reflect that I totally agree with your above statements: it is not clear-cut or definitive, there is legal ambiguity and important legal issues to be resolved. (I am glad to hear you say that, btw.)

My post was simply to point that even someone who was going to take the appropriate route (as opposed to leaking) and testify before congress recognized that there is disagreement as to the legality of the NSA surveillance program.
 
H

hipsterdufus

cnredd said:
If someone in particular did this instead of going to the NY Times to leak it, this wouldn't have been such a publicity stunt...:shrug:
So you think "Deep Throat" was a publicity stunt too. So much so, that Mark Felt's identity was kept sectet for over 30 years? Come on... This is part of media's job (when they decide to do it) to serve as a check and balance against government corruption.

Whislteblowers need to go to the media to tell their story. Bush has been clamping down on this freedom since day one of his administration. Clearly, we now know why...
 

oldreliable67

DP Veteran
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
4,641
Reaction score
1,102
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Undisclosed
Whislteblowers need to go to the media to tell their story.
No, they don't. The needs of the whistleblower in the intelligence community are well provided for by the afore-mentioned legislation.

The media need whistleblowers to go to the media to tell their story.
 

aps

Passionate
DP Veteran
Joined
Sep 25, 2005
Messages
15,675
Reaction score
2,979
Gender
Female
Political Leaning
Liberal
oldreliable67 said:
What point did you think I was making? Doubly :confused:

This is wierd. I guess your query and Lefty's response are because I have been defending the program by citing the legal opinions and precedents offered by the legal scholars supporting the AG's position. But a careful reading of my posts will reflect that I totally agree with your above statements: it is not clear-cut or definitive, there is legal ambiguity and important legal issues to be resolved. (I am glad to hear you say that, btw.)

My post was simply to point that even someone who was going to take the appropriate route (as opposed to leaking) and testify before congress recognized that there is disagreement as to the legality of the NSA surveillance program.
Oops. Hee hee hee :lol:
 

SouthernDemocrat

Pragmatist
DP Veteran
Joined
Jun 23, 2005
Messages
22,309
Reaction score
13,542
Location
KC
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Moderate
cnredd said:
If someone in particular did this instead of going to the NY Times to leak it, this wouldn't have been such a publicity stunt...
I disagree, how is a whistleblower supposed to inform the public of something illegal if they don’t do so through the media?

The smoke screen here is the Administration wanting to “find out who leaked this”. They knew about the leak for more than a year. Why was the investigation not started when they first found out about the leak?

Furthermore, the premise is ridiculous. Al Qaeda, just like some crack dealer on the street, already knew that their conversations were possibly being intercepted.
 

oldreliable67

DP Veteran
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
4,641
Reaction score
1,102
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Undisclosed
I disagree, how is a whistleblower supposed to inform the public of something illegal if they don’t do so through the media?
You think if a whistleblower goes to Congress that his whistlblowing would be ignored by the media? Hardly likely.

The smoke screen here is the Administration wanting to “find out who leaked this”. They knew about the leak for more than a year. Why was the investigation not started when they first found out about the leak?
Good question. The answer probably has something to do with the fact that the NYT didn't publish for a year and perhaps with the agreement that the admin obtained from the NYT in doing so. We should find out more definitively as the investigation proceeds.

Furthermore, the premise is ridiculous. Al Qaeda, just like some crack dealer on the street, already knew that their conversations were possibly being intercepted.
James Risen's new book on the CIA and the Bush administration offers an explanation. See this thread, post #64 for more.
 

SouthernDemocrat

Pragmatist
DP Veteran
Joined
Jun 23, 2005
Messages
22,309
Reaction score
13,542
Location
KC
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Moderate
oldreliable67 said:
You think if a whistleblower goes to Congress that his whistlblowing would be ignored by the media? Hardly likely.



Good question. The answer probably has something to do with the fact that the NYT didn't publish for a year and perhaps with the agreement that the admin obtained from the NYT in doing so. We should find out more definitively as the investigation proceeds.



James Risen's new book on the CIA and the Bush administration offers an explanation. See this thread, post #64 for more.
The New York Times only published this now because a book was about to come out that revealed it. They only wanted to beat the book.

James Risen’s explanation only makes sense if you are totally ignorant of how this stuff works. I work as Systems Administrator. What the NSA does is no different than what occurs in the private sector. The only difference being is that the NSA has a ton of money, and has access that the private sector does not necessarily have.

However, all they are doing is sniffing packets. The NSA obviously has access to networks to where they can install packet sniffers and look at the IP traffic that floes through a router. If send something from here to our office in Denver, I can easily just by doing a trace route see every router those packets travel through. The terrorists are not idiots, they already knew what networks any electronic correspondence traveled through and they already knew the potential of interception, especially if that data went through any networks in the U.S.

This stuff is all based on open standards. The NSA has no more talent in this regard than the private sector has and if they did, someone in the private sector would hire them away. The only thing that the NSA has is access and the terrorists knew that already.
 

oldreliable67

DP Veteran
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
4,641
Reaction score
1,102
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Undisclosed
The New York Times only published this now because a book was about to come out that revealed it. They only wanted to beat the book.
No argument there.

What the NSA does is no different than what occurs in the private sector. The only difference being is that the NSA has a ton of money, and has access that the private sector does not necessarily have...The only difference being is that the NSA has a ton of money, and has access that the private sector does not necessarily have.
There is certainly no mystery to packet sniffing. You are, of course, correct that telecom today is based on open standards. In today's world, tracing packets has approached being a trivial task. What we don't know is what is being done with the packets that are sniffed or the means by which particular packets are selected and traced or info gained from sniffing. If telecom today weren't based on open standards, NSA would have a much harder job in doing whatever it is that the NSA is doing.

Money and access seem like pretty significant advantages. One of the things that a ton of money can buy is the ability to engage this surveillance on a massive scale and to do weird and wonderful things with this stream of data in a modeling sense. Think of the traffic at a single ISP or the volume of traffic traversing a backbone and scale up from there. Pretty soon you're talking about a lot of stuff to sift thru and identify items of intelligence value!

To reiterate, undoubtedly, there is clearly a lot more to this program than just sniffing for "JoeAlQaeda@aol.com" sending an e-mail to "MyAlQaedaBrother@aol.com" or whatever words and/or phrases might be in the "key words and phrases" dictionary, but we don't yet know enough about the program to know what it might be. One aspect that has been hinted at a bit is the modeling of associations and references. (This is distinct and separate from the data mining applications of TIA.) But not much as been disclosed about it as yet. I get the impression that there are elements of fuzzy logic, genetic algorithms, etc., involved and being applied on a very large scale with unique algorithms, but there isn't much to go on as yet, so all we can do is speculate.
 

SouthernDemocrat

Pragmatist
DP Veteran
Joined
Jun 23, 2005
Messages
22,309
Reaction score
13,542
Location
KC
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Moderate
oldreliable67 said:
No argument there.



There is certainly no mystery to packet sniffing. You are, of course, correct that telecom today is based on open standards. In today's world, tracing packets has approached being a trivial task. What we don't know is what is being done with the packets that are sniffed or the means by which particular packets are selected and traced or info gained from sniffing. If telecom today weren't based on open standards, NSA would have a much harder job in doing whatever it is that the NSA is doing.

Money and access seem like pretty significant advantages. One of the things that a ton of money can buy is the ability to engage this surveillance on a massive scale and to do weird and wonderful things with this stream of data in a modeling sense. Think of the traffic at a single ISP or the volume of traffic traversing a backbone and scale up from there. Pretty soon you're talking about a lot of stuff to sift thru and identify items of intelligence value!

To reiterate, undoubtedly, there is clearly a lot more to this program than just sniffing for "JoeAlQaeda@aol.com" sending an e-mail to "MyAlQaedaBrother@aol.com" or whatever words and/or phrases might be in the "key words and phrases" dictionary, but we don't yet know enough about the program to know what it might be. One aspect that has been hinted at a bit is the modeling of associations and references. (This is distinct and separate from the data mining applications of TIA.) But not much as been disclosed about it as yet. I get the impression that there are elements of fuzzy logic, genetic algorithms, etc., involved and being applied on a very large scale with unique algorithms, but there isn't much to go on as yet, so all we can do is speculate.
I agree with you, but my point was that the terrorists obviously knew all of this already. Anyone who knows anything about IP security knows this. Therefore, this program coming to light gives the terrorist no information that they had not already assumed anyway. Any organization in the private sector, given the talent and the resources, could do exactly the same kind of domestic surveillance that the NSA is doing. For example, if Sprint wanted to, they could setup packet sniffers on every segment and capture what ever they wanted to capture. The only difference being is that in the case of the NSA, the NSA is not just limited to one company’s network. (of course if a private sector organization were doing this, they would be breaking the law)

That’s why I say that this whole spiel about this program coming to light is a risk to national security is bogus. Common sense would dictate that the terrorists have people who know IP and Telecom Security as this kind of talent is certainly not limited to the government (in fact, the best talent in this regard probably makes a much more lucrative living in the private sector than they would working for the government), so the terrorists would have already known that correspondence over any U.S. controlled network would have a higher risk of interception.
 
H

hipsterdufus

oldreliable67 said:
No, they don't. The needs of the whistleblower in the intelligence community are well provided for by the afore-mentioned legislation.

The media need whistleblowers to go to the media to tell their story.
Bush is at war with the Whistleblowers Act. You don't have to look too far to see the evidence.

The famous Haliburton Whistleblower, Bunnatine Greenhouse, was demoted after exposing Haliburton's fraud and corruption.

Jane Turner, a 25 year veteran FBI agent, was removed from her position after she disclosed serious FBI misconduct in its handling of child abuse cases.

These can easily be swept under the carpet if the media doesn't put the story out to the public.

Oldreliable - I don't know if you have any children or not, but where would YOU go, if the FBI botched a child abuse scandal on one of your children? The very same government that screwed it up in the first place? It's like the Catholic Church trying handling pedophile priests internally, rather than prosecuting them.

I would shout my story from the highest rooftop to all that would listen.


Bush Administration Opposes
Whistleblower Rights Before the U.S. Supreme Court


Washington, D.C. On Wednesday October 12, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Garcetti v. Ceballos, a major whistleblower case with the potential to devastate long standing whistleblower rights. The Supreme Court is reviewing a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision which protected a government whistleblower who disclosed that a deputy sheriff had lied in a search warrant affidavit.

In the case, the Ninth Circuit held that “when government employees speak about corruption… by other government employees… their speech is inherently a matter of public concern” and is protected under the First Amendment. The Los Angeles County is seeking to overturn that holding and deny whistleblowers their First Amendment Rights.

In a highly troubling development, the Solicitor General filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the United States in opposition to whistleblower rights. The Bush Administration urged the Court to overturn the Ninth Circuit’s decision which will effectively nullify existing law protecting employees who blow the whistle concerning work-related corruption.

Stephen Kohn, Chairman of National Whistleblower Center, made the following statement:

“If the lower court’s decision is reversed, government employees will be stripped of their Constitutional protections under the First Amendment. Public employees, who disclose to superiors, incidents of government corruption, abuse, and fraud within their workplace - such as stealing from taxpayers, lying under oath, or putting innocent defendants in prison – will be stripped of their whistleblower rights. Worse, employees who make such disclosures at work could be fired simply for blowing the whistle.”

We are extremely dismayed that the Bush Administration has chosen not to protect whistleblowers. The position advocated by the Solicitor General will reverse thirty years of law and undermine traditional First Amendment protections afforded state employees.”
http://www.whistleblowers.org/
 

oldreliable67

DP Veteran
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
4,641
Reaction score
1,102
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Undisclosed
hipster,

My remarks were limited to the Intelligence Whistleblower Act. I should have made it clear that I was continuing to respond in the context of the earlier response, where I wrote that "[t]he needs of the whistleblower in the intelligence community are well provided for by the afore-mentioned legislation." Apologies for not doing so.

No argument at all with your comments on whistleblowing outside the intelligence community.
 

oldreliable67

DP Veteran
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
4,641
Reaction score
1,102
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Undisclosed
SouthernDemocrat said:
this program coming to light gives the terrorist no information that they had not already assumed anyway....the terrorists would have already known that correspondence over any U.S. controlled network would have a higher risk of interception
That is no doubt true. Al Qaeda has demonstrated an ability to exploit the internet for its own purposes. Certainly its not much of a stretch, if any at all, to further assume that their knowledge is sufficient to be aware of the risk of interception on land-line networks that use US routing. At this level, it isn't rocket science.

But, I have to reiterate a suspicion - not a belief, my knowledge of the program is insufficient to go that far - that we still don't know enough to fathom the full details of why this program is what it is. Risen's arguments make sense on a surface level, but only if there is more to it below the surface.

To try to get a bit below the surface, consider these comments (via Ars Technica):

• Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, telling reporters why Bush didn't simply ask Congress to pass a law making the program clearly legal: "We've had discussions with members of Congress, certain members of Congress, about whether or not we could get an amendment to FISA, and we were advised that that was not likely to be - that was not something we could likely get, certainly not without jeopardizing the existence of the program, and therefore, killing the program."

• President Bush, answering questions at Monday's press conference: "We use FISA still....But FISA is for long-term monitoring....There is a difference between detecting so we can prevent, and monitoring. And it's important to know the distinction between the two....We used the [FISA] process to monitor. But also....we've got to be able to detect and prevent."

• Senator Jay Rockefeller, in a letter to Dick Cheney after being briefed on the program in 2003: "As I reflected on the meeting today, and the future we face, John Poindexter's TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my concern regarding the direction the Administration is moving with regard to security, technology, and surveillance."

• Former Senator Bob Graham, from a WP article: "I came out of the room with the full sense that we were dealing with a change in technology but not policy," Graham said, with new opportunities to intercept overseas calls that passed through U.S. switches.

Taken individually, these comments are pretty innocuous, but together, pretty strong hints of new technology. Certainly, the government has been trying to use new technology, like database tech and voice recognition, for domestic surveillance for a long time, since well before the Bush administration came into office.

The domestic electronic surveillance ball really got rolling under the Clinton administration, with the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). CALEA mandated that the telcos aid wiretapping by installing remote wiretap ports onto their digital switches so that the switch traffic would be available for snooping by law enforcement. After CALEA passed, the FBI no longer had to go on-site with wiretapping equipment in order to tap a line—they could monitor and digitally process voice communications from the comfort of the home office. (The FCC has recently ruled that CALEA covers VOIP services, which means that providers like Vonage will have to find a way to comply.)

CALEA opened up a huge can of worms, and (again via Ars Technica), PGP creator Phil Zimmermann sounded the alarm back in 1999 about where the program was headed:

"A year after the CALEA passed, the FBI disclosed plans to require the phone companies to build into their infrastructure the capacity to simultaneously wiretap 1 percent of all phone calls in all major U.S. cities. This would represent more than a thousandfold increase over previous levels in the number of phones that could be wiretapped. In previous years, there were only about a thousand court-ordered wiretaps in the United States per year, at the federal, state, and local levels combined. It's hard to see how the government could even employ enough judges to sign enough wiretap orders to wiretap 1 percent of all our phone calls, much less hire enough federal agents to sit and listen to all that traffic in real time. The only plausible way of processing that amount of traffic is a massive Orwellian application of automated voice recognition technology to sift through it all, searching for interesting keywords or searching for a particular speaker's voice. If the government doesn't find the target in the first 1 percent sample, the wiretaps can be shifted over to a different 1 percent until the target is found, or until everyone's phone line has been checked for subversive traffic. The FBI said they need this capacity to plan for the future. This plan sparked such outrage that it was defeated in Congress. But the mere fact that the FBI even asked for these broad powers is revealing of their agenda."

Ring any bells for you?

The salient points that Zimmermann makes are these:

• In 1995, back when the Pentium Pro was hot stuff, the FBI requested the legal authorization to do very high-volume monitoring of digital calls.
• There's no way for the judicial system to approve warrants for the number of calls that the FBI wanted to monitor.
• The agency could never hire enough humans to be able to monitor that many calls simultaneously, which means that they'd have to use voice recognition technology to look for "hits" that they could then follow up on with human wiretaps.

It is entirely possible that the NSA technology at issue here is some kind of high-volume, automated voice recognition and fuzzy logic, neural network pattern matching system. Now, could all international calls be monitored with such a system, or anything like that? Maybe, maybe not. More likely, the NSA could very easily narrow down the amount of phone traffic that they'd have to a relatively small fraction of international calls with some smart filtering. First, they'd only monitor calls where one end of the connection is in a country of interest. Then, they'd only need the ability to do a roving random sample of a few seconds from each call in that already greatly narrowed pool of calls. As Zimmermann describes above, you monitor a few seconds of some fraction of the calls looking for "hits," and then you move on to another fraction. If a particular call generates a hit, then you zero in on it for further real-time analysis and possible human interception. All the calls can be recorded, cached, and further examined later for items that may have been overlooked in the real-time analysis.

In a recent press conference, Deputy Director for National Intelligence Michael Hayden said the following (via Defensetech):

“And here the key is not so much persistence as it is agility. It's a quicker trigger. It's a subtly softer trigger. And the intrusion into privacy -- the intrusion into privacy is significantly less. It's only international calls. The period of time in which we do this is, in most cases, far less than that which would be gained by getting a court order.”

The "softer trigger" here is a phrase that's on a watch list, or a call with an abnormally high volume of a certain type of vocabulary. The "agility" bit is a reference to the technology's ability to move from call to call, taking small slices. That's also probably what's behind the claim that the technology is less intrusive than a traditional wiretap, because the time slices are very short.

This sounds pretty much like what has been described above. Moreover, its consistent with Risen's descriptions emphasizing the apparent importance NSA has attached to calls routed through the US switching systems. And yes, this kind of real-time voice recognition, crude semantic parsing and pattern matching is doable with today's technology, especially when you have a budget like the NSA.
 

SouthernDemocrat

Pragmatist
DP Veteran
Joined
Jun 23, 2005
Messages
22,309
Reaction score
13,542
Location
KC
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Moderate
oldreliable67 said:
That is no doubt true. Al Qaeda has demonstrated an ability to exploit the internet for its own purposes. Certainly its not much of a stretch, if any at all, to further assume that their knowledge is sufficient to be aware of the risk of interception on land-line networks that use US routing. At this level, it isn't rocket science.

But, I have to reiterate a suspicion - not a belief, my knowledge of the program is insufficient to go that far - that we still don't know enough to fathom the full details of why this program is what it is. Risen's arguments make sense on a surface level, but only if there is more to it below the surface.

To try to get a bit below the surface, consider these comments (via Ars Technica):

• Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, telling reporters why Bush didn't simply ask Congress to pass a law making the program clearly legal: "We've had discussions with members of Congress, certain members of Congress, about whether or not we could get an amendment to FISA, and we were advised that that was not likely to be - that was not something we could likely get, certainly not without jeopardizing the existence of the program, and therefore, killing the program."

• President Bush, answering questions at Monday's press conference: "We use FISA still....But FISA is for long-term monitoring....There is a difference between detecting so we can prevent, and monitoring. And it's important to know the distinction between the two....We used the [FISA] process to monitor. But also....we've got to be able to detect and prevent."

• Senator Jay Rockefeller, in a letter to Dick Cheney after being briefed on the program in 2003: "As I reflected on the meeting today, and the future we face, John Poindexter's TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my concern regarding the direction the Administration is moving with regard to security, technology, and surveillance."

• Former Senator Bob Graham, from a WP article: "I came out of the room with the full sense that we were dealing with a change in technology but not policy," Graham said, with new opportunities to intercept overseas calls that passed through U.S. switches.

Taken individually, these comments are pretty innocuous, but together, pretty strong hints of new technology. Certainly, the government has been trying to use new technology, like database tech and voice recognition, for domestic surveillance for a long time, since well before the Bush administration came into office.

The domestic electronic surveillance ball really got rolling under the Clinton administration, with the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). CALEA mandated that the telcos aid wiretapping by installing remote wiretap ports onto their digital switches so that the switch traffic would be available for snooping by law enforcement. After CALEA passed, the FBI no longer had to go on-site with wiretapping equipment in order to tap a line—they could monitor and digitally process voice communications from the comfort of the home office. (The FCC has recently ruled that CALEA covers VOIP services, which means that providers like Vonage will have to find a way to comply.)

CALEA opened up a huge can of worms, and (again via Ars Technica), PGP creator Phil Zimmermann sounded the alarm back in 1999 about where the program was headed:

"A year after the CALEA passed, the FBI disclosed plans to require the phone companies to build into their infrastructure the capacity to simultaneously wiretap 1 percent of all phone calls in all major U.S. cities. This would represent more than a thousandfold increase over previous levels in the number of phones that could be wiretapped. In previous years, there were only about a thousand court-ordered wiretaps in the United States per year, at the federal, state, and local levels combined. It's hard to see how the government could even employ enough judges to sign enough wiretap orders to wiretap 1 percent of all our phone calls, much less hire enough federal agents to sit and listen to all that traffic in real time. The only plausible way of processing that amount of traffic is a massive Orwellian application of automated voice recognition technology to sift through it all, searching for interesting keywords or searching for a particular speaker's voice. If the government doesn't find the target in the first 1 percent sample, the wiretaps can be shifted over to a different 1 percent until the target is found, or until everyone's phone line has been checked for subversive traffic. The FBI said they need this capacity to plan for the future. This plan sparked such outrage that it was defeated in Congress. But the mere fact that the FBI even asked for these broad powers is revealing of their agenda."

Ring any bells for you?

The salient points that Zimmermann makes are these:

• In 1995, back when the Pentium Pro was hot stuff, the FBI requested the legal authorization to do very high-volume monitoring of digital calls.
• There's no way for the judicial system to approve warrants for the number of calls that the FBI wanted to monitor.
• The agency could never hire enough humans to be able to monitor that many calls simultaneously, which means that they'd have to use voice recognition technology to look for "hits" that they could then follow up on with human wiretaps.

It is entirely possible that the NSA technology at issue here is some kind of high-volume, automated voice recognition and fuzzy logic, neural network pattern matching system. Now, could all international calls be monitored with such a system, or anything like that? Maybe, maybe not. More likely, the NSA could very easily narrow down the amount of phone traffic that they'd have to a relatively small fraction of international calls with some smart filtering. First, they'd only monitor calls where one end of the connection is in a country of interest. Then, they'd only need the ability to do a roving random sample of a few seconds from each call in that already greatly narrowed pool of calls. As Zimmermann describes above, you monitor a few seconds of some fraction of the calls looking for "hits," and then you move on to another fraction. If a particular call generates a hit, then you zero in on it for further real-time analysis and possible human interception. All the calls can be recorded, cached, and further examined later for items that may have been overlooked in the real-time analysis.

In a recent press conference, Deputy Director for National Intelligence Michael Hayden said the following (via Defensetech):

“And here the key is not so much persistence as it is agility. It's a quicker trigger. It's a subtly softer trigger. And the intrusion into privacy -- the intrusion into privacy is significantly less. It's only international calls. The period of time in which we do this is, in most cases, far less than that which would be gained by getting a court order.”

The "softer trigger" here is a phrase that's on a watch list, or a call with an abnormally high volume of a certain type of vocabulary. The "agility" bit is a reference to the technology's ability to move from call to call, taking small slices. That's also probably what's behind the claim that the technology is less intrusive than a traditional wiretap, because the time slices are very short.

This sounds pretty much like what has been described above. Moreover, its consistent with Risen's descriptions emphasizing the apparent importance NSA has attached to calls routed through the US switching systems. And yes, this kind of real-time voice recognition, crude semantic parsing and pattern matching is doable with today's technology, especially when you have a budget like the NSA.
There is nothing that the NSA is doing that is so extraordinary that the private sector could not do as well. In fact, arguably, the private sector would find a way to do it better. I am pointing this out because people who would blindly trust the government assume that the government has some knowledge or technology that the rest of us do not possess. In this case, that is simply not true. The difference as I pointed out before is the level of access that the NSA has.

However, it’s all neither here nor there. We do not live under totalitarianism. The extent of the executive branch’s powers does not surpass the other two branches of government. We are a nation of laws and not men and we have a constitutional right of privacy in this country. Just because the Bush Administration believed that they could not obtain approval for this program in congress does not mean that they are justified in doing it anyway. In fact, if anything it shows the illegality of this program. If FISA law is inadequate, then fine, change the law. You can’t just ignore it.


So far I have heard plenty of arguments for changing the law, but the arguments I have heard for going around it are abstract to say the least.
 

oldreliable67

DP Veteran
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
4,641
Reaction score
1,102
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Undisclosed
There is nothing that the NSA is doing that is so extraordinary that the private sector could not do as well. In fact, arguably, the private sector would find a way to do it better.
Thats most likely true. But, as I said earlier, the difference between the NSA making the effort and the private sector making the effort is money and resulting scale of the effort. I would bet that the NSA can throw orders of magnitude more dough at something than all but a consortium of the very largest companies in the private sector.

If you haven't already read it, an excellent book on the NSA, is "The Puzzle Palace" by James Bamford.
 

TimmyBoy

Banned
Joined
Sep 23, 2005
Messages
1,466
Reaction score
0
Gender
Undisclosed
Political Leaning
Undisclosed
cnredd said:
If someone in particular did this instead of going to the NY Times to leak it, this wouldn't have been such a publicity stunt...:shrug:
The reason why these people go to the papers, despite what this law says, is because the politics of the system finds a way to not do anything about illegal activity, so the honest people feel they have no choice but to go to the papers.
 

cnredd

Major General Big Lug
DP Veteran
Joined
Jul 5, 2005
Messages
8,682
Reaction score
262
Location
Philadelphia,PA
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Slightly Conservative
TimmyBoy said:
The reason why these people go to the papers, despite what this law says, is because the politics of the system finds a way to not do anything about illegal activity, so the honest people feel they have no choice but to go to the papers.
If that were true, then every Administration would take advantage of this and defend itself by saying to everyone, "I'm gonna do whatever the hell I want and you can't say word one because I'm going to classify it."...

Yeah, I'm SURE that's happened...Unless, of course, you believe every administration has been totally righteous until now...:roll:

Want to buy some swampland?...
 

TimmyBoy

Banned
Joined
Sep 23, 2005
Messages
1,466
Reaction score
0
Gender
Undisclosed
Political Leaning
Undisclosed
cnredd said:
If that were true, then every Administration would take advantage of this and defend itself by saying to everyone, "I'm gonna do whatever the hell I want and you can't say word one because I'm going to classify it."...

Yeah, I'm SURE that's happened...Unless, of course, you believe every administration has been totally righteous until now...:roll:

Want to buy some swampland?...
No man, that's OK, I know better than you because I used to work for the system, so I intimately more famaliar than you about what goes on behind the scenes. But if you have this blind belief that everything is perfect in the system, then I got some ocean front property in Arizona for you to buy.
 

oldreliable67

DP Veteran
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
4,641
Reaction score
1,102
Gender
Male
Political Leaning
Undisclosed
Anyone catch ABC's "Nightline" last night? Russel Tice, the fired NSA employee who has confessed that he was among the sources for th NYT piece on the NSA surveillance program. From abcnews.com's piece describing Tice's appearance on Nightline,

"Tice tells ABC News that some of those secret "black world" operations run by the NSA were operated in ways that he believes violated the law. He is prepared to tell Congress all he knows about the alleged wrongdoing in these programs run by the Defense Department and the NSA in the post-9/11 efforts to go after terrorists.

"The mentality was we need to get these guys, and we're going to do whatever it takes to get them," he said."


Apparently the mentality of Tice and many Democrats is that we don't need to get these guys and we're not going to do whatever it takes to get them.
 
H

hipsterdufus

oldreliable67 said:
hipster,

My remarks were limited to the Intelligence Whistleblower Act. I should have made it clear that I was continuing to respond in the context of the earlier response, where I wrote that "[t]he needs of the whistleblower in the intelligence community are well provided for by the afore-mentioned legislation." Apologies for not doing so.

No argument at all with your comments on whistleblowing outside the intelligence community.
I think the firing of NSA whistleblower Russ Tice, and the pressure by the administration to prohibit him from testifying before congress shows that even in the intelligence community the whislteblower's act is not enough protection for American citizens to speak out against possible illegal activity by the goverrnment.

It's not about Tice or the Dem's not wanting to go after terrorists. It's about doing it legally. If the law is not sufficient - by all means - CHANGE IT! But don't have the hubris to avoid it, and to say that it doesn't apply.

For more info see my post on Tice here:
http://www.debatepolitics.com/showpost.php?p=196565&postcount=267
 
Last edited:

aps

Passionate
DP Veteran
Joined
Sep 25, 2005
Messages
15,675
Reaction score
2,979
Gender
Female
Political Leaning
Liberal
oldreliable67 said:
Anyone catch ABC's "Nightline" last night? Russel Tice, the fired NSA employee who has confessed that he was among the sources for th NYT piece on the NSA surveillance program. From abcnews.com's piece describing Tice's appearance on Nightline,

"Tice tells ABC News that some of those secret "black world" operations run by the NSA were operated in ways that he believes violated the law. He is prepared to tell Congress all he knows about the alleged wrongdoing in these programs run by the Defense Department and the NSA in the post-9/11 efforts to go after terrorists.

"The mentality was we need to get these guys, and we're going to do whatever it takes to get them," he said."


Apparently the mentality of Tice and many Democrats is that we don't need to get these guys and we're not going to do whatever it takes to get them.
I caught a little bit of that on either Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann. Why have laws if we aren't going to abide by them? I say we just throw out the Constitution and let each branch of goverment do what it wants without any oversight.
 
Top Bottom