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NSA Chief Denies Claims of Domestic Spying 149

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the doubleplus-ungood dept.
AstroPhilosopher writes "Recently Wired, USA Today and other news outlets reported on a new spy center being built to store intercepted communications (even American citizens'). Tuesday, Gen. Keith Alexander testified in front of Congress refuting the articles. Alexander even went so far as to claim the NSA lacks the authority to monitor American citizens. It's an authority that was given to the NSA through the FISA Amendments Act signed into law by Bush and still supported today by Obama."
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NSA Chief Denies Claims of Domestic Spying

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Alexander even went so far as to claim the NSA lacks the authority to monitor American citizens

    That's where the UKUSA agreement comes into play.

    • Godwin. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:32AM (#39427953)
      When you lie, “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it”. — Adolf Hitler
    • Re:Loophole (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PatentMagus (1083289) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:43AM (#39428109)
      Loophole no longer needed. Remember when Candidate Obama promised to end illegal spying on American citizens? Who would have dreamed he intended to end the illegality by making it "legal" (quote marks to indicate not tested in court). At least he addressed the issue. The other 2008 candidates thought it was just fine the way it was.

      It's kind of quaint to look back at how mad I was about the spying when I now tiredly shrug my shoulders about the assassinations and that "due process" now means there is a process instead of meaning a chance to defend yourself in court.
      • Re:Loophole (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Entrope (68843) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:54AM (#39428259) Homepage

        If you are going to do very infrequently do something that is morally questionable, it is usually better to get forgiveness than permission. In cases like illegal spying or torture, that would be through keeping the activities classified and issuing pardons as necessary. "Addressing the issue" by making it legal for the government to do morally dubious things is awful long-term strategy -- it indicates that the government will be doing that often enough to need advance permission.

        • Also, one could show some positive "effect" of the unfortunate directive to appease the populace.
        • by demachina (71715)

          The problem you have with not making something legal, but doing it anyway, is you force an ever increasing number of civil servents to do something illegal as a condition of their employment which tends to suck for them.

          Some will do it without reservation, some will do it but have serious personal reservations which they may vent publicly or internalize, some may refuse to do it in the first place putting them in legal and employment limbo.

          It dramatically increases the likelihood that some of your people wi

          • by demachina (71715)

            I should add if you whistleblow on something illegal you can actually receive legal protection and even compensation.

            If you whistleblow on something classified but technically legal you are just a criminal and you will pay.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bartles (1198017)
        Remember when there was still an evil republican in the white house, and people still acted like they gave a shit?
        • Wait... Obama's not an evil Republican? But he hires cronies, flaunts the Bill of Rights in the name of national security, goes to war in oil-rich countries, and gives tax breaks to the rich. I'm so confused. Is there such a word as DINO? I know the right-wing nutjobs say "RINO" (it means any Republican who dares to talk about raising taxes, or a Senate Republican willing to confirm an Obama-nominated official, or a governor who enacts a health insurance overhaul).
        • Re:Loophole (Score:5, Informative)

          by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:31PM (#39429677) Homepage

          Those who care about issues, such as Glenn Greenwald [salon.com], and the American Civil Liberties Union [aclu.org], rather than partisan hackery do in fact give a shit, and have given Obama a hard time about this, and some have gone so far as to suggest supporting Ron Paul precisely because of his position on these issues.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          It's unfortunate.

          And this doesn't at all justify this kind of thing, but I often wonder what we don't know, that keep these things going.

          Bush was hugely unpopular, and no-doubt feeling real heat at the end of his second term from the republican party. They knew they were going to have a hard time fielding any candidate after Bush Jr. But he held on the politically costly spying and detention issues.

          Obama ran around campaigning on stopping these things, as any good politician would. He got all kinds of po

          • "So what is so goddamn scary and awful that both Bush and Obama would hold on to these hugely unpopular things, or even make them worse, at such high political cost to themselves and their parties? This, I badly want to know."
            a: an educated public willing to stand up for themselves.
        • by Applekid (993327)

          Republican president + Republican congress = bad things
          Democratic president + Democratic congress = bad things
          Republican president + Democratic congress = bad things
          Democratic president + Republican congress = bad things

          Now what have we learned?

  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:25AM (#39427855) Journal
    Luckily the NSA would never lie to us, or to congress, so I'm pretty sure that we can trust him on this one.
    • by crazyjj (2598719)

      Of course I trust them. We should all trust them. Doubleplus good, they are! No problems from me on that, that's for sure.

      • I indeed doubleplus trust that we are not spied upon. We have learned to love Govpol. We love Govpol. We have always loved Govpol. There was nothing before Govpol as Govpol has always been and will always be.

        Ehh, with all the weird stuff I look up, wonder who they think I am. If they have an algorithm that can work it out. I ask for feedback (they'll be reading this of course) as I'd like to know myself!
        • by Loughla (2531696)
          That's been my main strategy against governmental/private/or any other type of spying on my activities. If my queries reveal that I looked up bomb making parts, you better take that into consideration with the Japanese tentacle monster that's in my history as well. I feel sorry for whoever has to track my logs. That poor bastard is in for a strange ride.
    • I used to have a lot of respect for General K. Now it sounds like he's "special too [youtube.com]" (apologies to Stephen Lynch).
    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JonahsDad (1332091) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:47PM (#39429029)
      Of course the NSA does NOT have the ability to do what Congress asked the general about. If they had that ability, they wouldn't need to build the Utah data center. Once the data center is complete, they'll have the ability. Just not right now.
  • The NSA is so secret (Score:5, Informative)

    by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:26AM (#39427875)

    If you work there, you need to keep even well known facts a secret.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by drodal (1285636)
      And if you work for a company that is doing work for "the agency", you have to refer to them as "the agency"
      true story
    • The existence of the NSA was an official secret for quite a while after it became common knowledge. This is where the backronym No Such Agency comes from.
      • by rtb61 (674572)

        The NSA doesn't have to lie about spying on Americans, why else would http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_Gap [wikipedia.org] be such a major facility. Australians it seems does more spying on America than any other country in the world, cheeky Australians ;D and apparently NSA/CIA returns the 'er', 'hmm', favour for ASIO, MI6 and CSIS, all in the family so to speak and all out of the same facility (the outside looking in).

  • Wut? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueStrat (756137) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:26AM (#39427881)

    A General lying about his intentions to the enemy?

    Say it ain't so!

    The problem here is that the US Government seems to regard it's citizens as "the enemy".

    Strat

    • Re:Wut? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by na1led (1030470) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:31AM (#39427941)
      The Government regards all of us as Lemmings. They want to control every aspect of our lives, and the NSA is just one tool to accomplish this.
      • Re:Wut? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:40AM (#39428063)

        not an american-specific problem!

        do you honestly believe your own country (if not the US) doesn't also spy on its citizens? filter their information? tell them what to think?

        this is a wave that is engulfing the whole world. we are witnessing a human issue, here; not a nationalistic one.

        the sooner people (world wide) wake the fuck up, the better!

        YOUR gov does not exist for you. its always been the other way around. those in power know this. wake the fuck up, people! stop thinking 'its the other guy' who is wrong. its YOUR government, too. anyone who CAN, WILL. this much power is not possible to resist.

        the struggle of people against their 'rulers' is as old as the world. only the toys have changed, over time.

        • by na1led (1030470)

          only the toys have changed, over time.

          Those new toys is what gives 1% of the population control over the other 99%.

          • Re:Wut? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Twanfox (185252) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:58AM (#39428329)

            Today, it's those 'new toys'. Back in history, it was 'divine birthright'. The tools have changed. The mentality hasn't, not for a very very long time.

            • Re:Wut? (Score:4, Insightful)

              by na1led (1030470) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:09PM (#39428469)
              You can't compare the world today with any time in history. Humans never had the capability to destroy the whole world. We are as alien to those people in the past, as we are to a civilization thousands of light-years from here.
              • Re:Wut? (Score:5, Insightful)

                by cellocgw (617879) <cellocgw@ g m a il.com> on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:23PM (#39428691) Journal

                You can't compare the world today with any time in history. Humans never had the capability to destroy the whole world.
                Well, considering that up until a couple hundred years ago, hardly anyone ever travelled or moved more than a couple miles from the town in which he was born, the subjective meaning of "destroy the whole world" becomes "destroy everyone in my town." As our worldview grew, so did our weapons.

              • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                by ColdWetDog (752185)

                Get over it. We can't 'destroy' the world. Even a massive nuclear exchange would only reset the planet's ecosystem on an order of the last 'dino killer' asteroid. Yeah, it would suck to be us (and lots of other species) but the 'world' is going to survive our puny attempts to wipe it out.

                Personally, I think the anthropocene [wikipedia.org] is just going to be a puzzling, slightly radioactive stratographic layer in a distant geology book.

                'WTF were those assclowns about' will be the byline.

        • by mhajicek (1582795)
          Wake up and do what, exactly? They control the media, the vote, the military...
          • they do control all that.

            and they control the vote in terms of lying to us to get us to vote for the really bad guys. time and again, we keep 'electing' entirely the wrong ones.

            the first step is to at least admit we are being hoodwinked.

            I can't see any progress on even THAT much, though. admitting there is a problem is step 1 and we aren't even at that point. we are pushed 'left and right' by those in power and they want this or that distraction to keep us from realizing how under their control we really

            • by mhajicek (1582795)
              They also control the vote in terms of rigging elections. It doesn't matter who we vote for. I've know people to be turned away from voting because their name had already been used to cast a vote, and they had no recourse.
        • Re:Wut? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:36PM (#39428851)

          Okay, suppose we've "woken up". Now what? If you're advocating open revolt, then "you first". If you're advocating working from within the system, how do you propose to organize and push from the roots up?

          I always hear "wake up Sheeple!" in posts, usually from older guys, with a big, echoing, lack of substance after the waking up part, as if they're saying "now that you've woken up, you know what to do... I've done my part".

          Take the next step, my friend- Do it the right/hard way, organize properly, with people that have made enough of themselves to be respected & listened to AND be willing to lose it all. Unfortunately, you're not going to find many that fit in this category.

          Look at the founders of our Republic- A fair number of them were men of some means that put it all on the line, yet died in poverty after the revolution was successful- Where are you going to find people like that now?

          And don't waste your time going around blowing shit up or killing innocent people to convince yourself that you're "making a statement" so you can feel good about having done something- aside from little issues concerning morality and ethics, it has rarely if ever created a lasting difference, and sure as hell won't work now.

          If you are not willing to put everything you have and love, including your life, your fortune, and that of those of those you love on the line, please shut the fuck up.

        • Heck, in Canada, they want warrant-less surveillance of internet, and to pay for it they want an extra addon to internet bills.

          So in essence Canadians will get to pay extra to be spied upon...

      • I thought Facebook did that ....
      • The Government regards all of us as Lemmings. They want to control every aspect of our lives, and the NSA is just one tool to accomplish this.

        I was under the impression that government is simply a tool of the 5-6 central banks that control them.

      • by Fnord666 (889225)

        ...and the NSA is just one tool ...

        I have to disagree with you here. The NSA is a whole bunch of tools, not just one.

    • Re:Wut? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mbrod (19122) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:33AM (#39427963) Homepage Journal
      All modern governments do. Administrations are more likely to be attacked and overthrown by their own citizens than from other countries. Same as it ever was.
      • Re:Wut? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:43AM (#39428105)

        mod up.

        the biggest threat is that the local people will realize they've been 'had'.

        foreign threats pale compared to pitchforks and fires by the locals.

        all of those in power dance a delicate dance in keeping the oppressed down and giving them enough to live on (just barely) to avoid the pitchfork syndrome.

        world-wide, societies are collapsing and the rich get richer and the poor get pushed to the streets.

        but the answer? SPY ON YOUR OWN PEOPLE MORE!

        (sigh)

        I wish I had an optimistic view but I just don't, anymore. evidence is so strong that things just won't end well. probably in our lifetimes, too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by LifesABeach (234436)
      And rightly so, american government should be afraid of its people. The jails are stuffed with the clueless that were not.
    • And the feeling is mutual.
  • by Gunfighter (1944) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:27AM (#39427889) Homepage

    IIRC, intercepting the communications from intercept points outside the U.S., regardless of whether they originated within the U.S., is how they justify spying on American citizens.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:29AM (#39427917)

      Listen to what government's balance sheet says.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      ...Which made perfect sense in the days of geographically-efficient routing (mail, telegraph, radio, etc.) and less travel, because it was logical to assume that once a message left US borders, it was intended for someone who wasn't a US citizen. Today, though, packets are routed through whatever is financially efficient, even if that means a satellite or a data center on another continent, and the recipient's nationality is unknown when the packet's intercepted.

    • The key word used that should not be ignroed is "justify."
  • Okay then... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:30AM (#39427919)

    If the NSA isn't spying on American citizens, then why are they so steadfastly opposed to EFF, EPIC, etc. trying to obtain that information from them in court?

    What is their explanation about the monitoring rooms in AT&T's facilities that tap into domestic fiber?

    They won't give us an explanation in a court room but they'll make promises that they aren't.

    Sorry, I can't trust the words of an organization that is vital to the interest of a dying empire.

    • by MikeRT (947531) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:19PM (#39428611) Homepage

      If the NSA isn't spying on American citizens, then why are they so steadfastly opposed to EFF, EPIC, etc. trying to obtain that information from them in court?

      Replace that with:

      "If the CIA isn't spying on American citizens, then why are they so steadfastly opposed to EFF, EPIC, etc. trying to obtain the identities of their officers and front organizations?"

      "If federal law enforcement isn't running a side criminal organization for profit, they why are they steadfastly opposed to revealing who is in the witness protection program?"

      Really, people. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why the NSA wouldn't open up to the world under some notion of "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" even if they're lilly white on domestic espionage. Maybe it's because... well... no arm of the military (which they are) in their right mind just says "hey world, come take a look at our full operational capabilities and see just how awesome and scary we are!"

    • by krept (697623)

      If the NSA isn't spying on American citizens, then why are they so steadfastly opposed to EFF, EPIC, etc. trying to obtain that information from them in court?

      What is their explanation about the monitoring rooms in AT&T's facilities that tap into domestic fiber?

      They don't want to spy on American citizens...
      They just want the technology in place to do so.

    • Easy (Score:5, Informative)

      by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:34PM (#39428807)

      1. An intelligence service cannot be effective if its sources, methods, capabilities, and techniques are known to the adversary. Intelligence processes must be kept secret, even in an open society. This has been true for the history of our nation.

      2. Inasmuch as "monitoring rooms" are alleged — because their existence, capabilities, and numbers are NOT KNOWN beyond the assertions of a whistleblower with an admitted anti-war agenda — NSA is authorized to monitor foreign communications WITHIN THE US, and must be able to identify, discern, and target such communications within the sea of digital communications.

      3. See 1.

      4. How is what you assume NSA to be doing "vital to the interest of a dying empire"? Do you think the world would be a better place without the US, the West, and the ability to project and protect principles of freedom and liberal democracy, even if imperfectly? Would China, Russia, or a chaotic mix of Mideast states and transnational radials really be a better global steward?

      I find the inaccuracy of the summary particularly amusing:

      "Alexander even went so far as to claim the NSA lacks the authority to monitor American citizens. It's an authority that was given to the NSA through the FISA Amendments Act signed into law by Bush and still supported today by Obama."

      NSA lacks the authority to monitor American citizens without an individualized warrant. And the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 actually is more strict with respect to US Persons than previous law: a warrant is required to monitor the communications of a US Person anywhere on the globe. But what the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 also does is allow NSA to target and monitor FOREIGN communications within the US, without a warrant.

      I know some people might be stunned to learn this, but the primary mission of the foreign intelligence agencies is FOREIGN intelligence. But what about "warrantless wiretapping", you ask?

      In the immediate wake of 9/11, the administration claimed the the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) allowed them to target American citizens identified as having contact with the enemy and/or were active combatants. The current Attorney General also argues that the President has this intrinsic authority under Article II of the Constitution. This was the same justification used in the targeting of Anwar al-Awlaki.

      Other examples are things like journalists embedded with military units having the communications allegedly monitored, which would happen under the guise of the Joint COMSEC Monitoring Activity. And then we have the court cases — all of which involved people or groups who were thought to be linked to terror groups, not just ordinary, everyday citizens.

      Even the most egregious examples of "warrantless wiretapping" (as alleged in the leaks to the press, or documented in various court proceedings) in the wake of 9/11 targeted very specific people — and were justified by the Justice Department, secretly reported to Congress, and reauthorized every 45 days. And that program had long ended by the time the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 fixed the dismal state of foreign intelligence collection.

      This excerpt (An 'Intel Gap': What We're Missing, Newsweek, Aug 6, 2007) sums up the issue:

      The intel gap results partly from rapid changes in the technology carrying much of the world's message traffic (principally telephone calls and e-mails). The National Security Agency is falling so far behind in upgrading its infrastructure to cope with the digital age that the agency has had problems with its electricity supply, forcing some offices to temporarily shut down. The gap is also partly a result of administration fumbling over legal authorization for eavesdropping by U.S. agencies.

      The post-Watergate Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) required a warrant for eavesdropping on people in the U.S. But after 9/11, the administration asserted that warrants weren't needed to surveil communications involving

      • Given that US citizens can now be 'Gimoized' (along with being drone-killed sans trial), we are already Foreigners in the eyes of the security organs.
      • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:24PM (#39429573)

        Do you think the world would be a better place without the US, the West, and the ability to project and protect principles of freedom and liberal democracy, even if imperfectly?

        At what point did the US project or protect liberal democracy? We are more concerned with the profitability of our businesses than with the rights and freedoms of foreign citizens (sometimes we are even more concerned about business profits than with the rights or freedoms of Americans). How are we projecting liberal democracy in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait? How are we projecting liberal democracy in South America? How about Africa?

        I know some people might be stunned to learn this, but the primary mission of the foreign intelligence agencies is FOREIGN intelligence.

        Why would anyone be stunned by it? The real question is not whether the NSA is gathering foreign intelligence, but what is being done with that intelligence. We know little because of the secrecy; what we do know is this:

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/820758.stm [bbc.co.uk]
        http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A5-2001-0264+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN [europa.eu]

        What is that? Foreign intelligence operations being used to promote the interests of US businesses and harm the interests of their foreign competitors? We are really pushing liberal democracy with that one, right?

        We only push for "democracy" when it coincides with favorable policies for US businesses, period. If a dictatorship is friendly to US corporations, we would never dream of trying to subvert the dictator or promote democracy. We put on a great show of things, criticizing censorship and other human rights abuses, but at the end of the day our foreign policy puts corporate interests first and foremost.

      • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:24PM (#39430627) Journal

        Do you think the world would be a better place without the US, the West, and the ability to project and protect principles of freedom and liberal democracy, even if imperfectly?

        I think the world would be a better place if the US actually tried to project and protect principles of freedom and liberal democracy. Hell, I think it would be great if we adopted them at home!

      • Even Attorney General Ashcroft was troubled by the sweeping nature of the powers the government wanted.

        "Suspected terrorist", without some review process, means "anyone the government wants".

        Monitoring the handful of people engaged in and supporting terrorist activities could be done with a consumer-grade hard drive. It doesn't require a data center.

      • "1. An intelligence service cannot be effective if its sources, methods, capabilities, and techniques are known to the adversary. Intelligence processes must be kept secret, even in an open society. This has been true for the history of our nation."

        The NSA did not exist before the 1950s. The CIA did not exist before the 1940s. The idea of "classified information" did not exist before the early 1900s. The Espionage Act did not exist before 1917. The Computer Espionage law did not exist before 1986. The Espio

        • The NSA did not exist before the 1950s. The CIA did not exist before the 1940s. The idea of "classified information" did not exist before the early 1900s. The Espionage Act did not exist before 1917. The Computer Espionage law did not exist before 1986. The Espionage Act was not used against people for talking to reporters until the 1980s, and it was not used 6+ times by one president until Obama.

          Totally irrelevant. "Intelligence" by any name, no matter who performs it, requires secrecy to be effective. Thi

      • by Dr Max (1696200)
        It's a well known saying that america is for freedom, but are they? sure you get to vote but you don't get to choose what to vote on (personally i think the whole thing is an illusion of control), and if you look at the laws and restrictions on citizens then you have much more freedom in typically 'not free' countries. Most of Asia lets you do what ever you want (a few things are off limits, china has a pretty big firewall but where are all the hackers, and you wouldn't want to snort a line of coke in front
    • Sorry, I can't trust the words of an organization that is vital to the interest of a dying empire.

      Agreed, but I think the proper response is, "We cannot confirm, nor deny, that we are spying on US Citizens."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They're spying on everything their hardware can handle and using keywords to record the interesting bits. I always wonder what would happen if one played back the word "bomb" 50 thousand times with the audio of a gay porn in the background on a telephone call...

    • by bmo (77928) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:35AM (#39427981)

      Probably what every fratboy at the NSA would do.

      After the automated equipment picks up the phone call, they would troll each other with the gay porn audio.

      --
      BMO

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How exactly does the audio for gay porn differ from the audio of any other form of porn? Isn't it all pretty much slippery/slidey noises with a bad 1970's era guitar background?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    DemocracyNow (http://www.democracynow.org) has interview with Thomas Drake, NSA Whistleblower (http://www.democracynow.org/2012/3/21/in_unprecedented_obama_admin_crackdown_nsa) and James Bamford, the author of the Wired article and the book 'Puzzle Palace' (http://www.democracynow.org/2012/3/21/exposed_inside_the_nsas_largest_and)
    • by element-o.p. (939033) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:40PM (#39428901) Homepage
      Meh. I worked at NSA for about a year back in the '80s, and I have read "Puzzle Palace." Quite frankly, "Puzzle Palace" was very sensationalist. For example, I remember reading about the electric fence around FanX (IIRC). I spent a couple of months working at FanX while waiting for my clearances to come through so I could actually start doing what I was hired to do. Guess what? FanX was surrounded by barbed-wire fence, but there was no electric fence there. The history of NSA in the book was interesting, but Bamford exaggerated a bit in his descriptions of what it was actually like there. "Puzzle Palace" was more Nancy Grace than Peter Jennings.

      On the flip side, my year at NSA made me very skeptical of a lot of things I heard prior to 2004. Where I worked, we had signs posted everywhere reminding people that it was illegal (by Executive Order) for NSA to spy on Americans. We were chartered for the purpose of foreign surveillance, so Americans were off-limits. Then came the revelation of NSA wiretapping at AT&T and other telcos. Sigh. I'm just glad I don't work there anymore.
      • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:32PM (#39430745)

        I don't deal with the spying aspect of spying. I'm more on the application of force side of the military industry, and I think one of the major issues I come across is a 'I don't care' attitude from a lot of the workers who are ex-military.

        Not that they 'don't care' in a lazy manner, but that they don't care because they are used to being in the military, subject to military life, and charged with fighting an enemy. To a lot of them, they don't care about the 'technicalities' or subtlety of our diplomatic face, they care about getting the job done.

        So when it comes to issues like the drone strikes, they don't care if we are launching attacks against targets which are constitutionally tricky. They care that the target was hit, and since he was part of the 'enemy' all that mattered was that the enemy was eliminated. The fact that the method was unsavory/illegal/unconstitutional/badPR etc, didn't matter to them.

        It's an interesting observation since I come from a background of having left the military due to philosophical differences. (The not forced, but highly 'encouraged' Christianity I experienced at the USAFA and later USAF brought me borderline to becoming a conscientious objector, in addition to my disillusionment at being hit with the extreme evangelism at a military institution. I understand it's since been corrected, but when I was there it was pretty heavy handed) It makes a LOT of sense that our military industry is staffed by ex-military because they have a lot of the experience of how these systems will be used, but our military has become exceedingly adept at adjusting the viewpoints of the people in the military (intentionally and unintentionally).

        Now, that's not exactly bad (I haven't run across 'bad' people, just a lot of very 'military' minded people)... I just worry that we tend to encourage a culture in the industry that lacks concern for the application of technology, or even goes so far to encourage technology that runs counter to our declared values. In the end, if I have a requirement to get a rocket to carry payload X and accuracy Y, I will design it, but that doesn't mean I don't also have an interest in seeing that when that rocket is launched, it is launched when there is no other choice but to launch that rocket.

        • ^^THIS!^^

          I come from a strongly military background. My dad joined the Air Force when I was three; I grew up on military bases. My brother-in-law is Air National Guard, as is my brother. Both have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. I have two nephews who have also seen action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and my cousin recently joined the Army as well. Consequently, it's safe to say that I've had plenty of discussions on the use of military power and the ethics of doing so. Of them all, my brother i
  • I believe it was on NPR years ago, they had people who were immigrants calling in telling stories about how they'd be on a phone call with relatives back home and sometimes speaking obscure languages (those I vaguely remember were Scandinavian I think). Immediately after their calls, they were contacted by unknown people asking what language they were speaking.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Immediately after their calls, they were contacted by unknown people asking what language they were speaking.

      Bullshit. Let me guess why you can't find any reference for this... does it involve some sort of government conspiracy?

  • by Gedvondur (40666) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:40AM (#39428057)

    Please. Nobody in the post-911 era believes that the government is refraining from spying on American citizens.

    What a disgrace.

    • by elucido (870205)

      Please. Nobody in the post-911 era believes that the government is refraining from spying on American citizens.

      What a disgrace.

      The NSA spies on all citizens American or foreign.

  • It's true. The NSA only has authority to monitor American citizens with brown skin.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:52AM (#39428239)

    Read the order that grants NSA their current authority here.

    Executive Order 12333:
    http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/eo12333.htm [fas.org]

    (If you go to a public-facing NSA briefing, this is the one they will cite.)

    • by zeronitro (937642)
      Can we also cite where in the Constitution the President has the right to execute "executive orders" and why anyone has to follow them?
      • He's the head of the executive branch. This means he gets to decide the particulars of how the laws congress passes will be carried out and boss around all the agencies under him. Bureaucrats follow the orders because it's their job, of course.

      • Constitutional redux: Congress passes law. President executes law.

        Legislative redux: Congress passes law says that the executive branch (or office under the executive's control) has the authority to do XYZ.

        President creates executive order telling the agency to do or behave in a way in order to achieve XYZ.

        Congress gave authority to the president by passing the law, the president has the authority to do that in addition to what the constitution explicitly authorizes in addition to what congress gives him.

  • [quote]saying the NSA did not have the capability to monitor, inside the United States, Americansâ(TM) text messages, phone calls and e-mails.[/quote]

    oh! so the tapping equipment is on a network that is physically OUTSIDE the US borders.

    oh. simple way to avoid the question.

    but your lips were still moving, so we KNOW you were lying, at heart.

    you bastard.

  • I hope so and I hope some of the legislatures reminded him that he was under oath ...
  • by muckracer (1204794) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:36PM (#39428839)

    Gen. Keith Alexander also denied the existence of Gen. Keith Alexander, thought to be NSA's Chief General. When questioned upon this subject, Alexander said: "If such a person would be at NSA, I could not comment upon that.". When asked, however, by a curious Congressman Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, whether "NSA" might stand for "No Such Alexander", Gen. Alexander did not hesitate to confirm with "Yes", marking the first time a high-ranking NSA-official has made such a revealing statement publicly. Yet the astonished Congressman Johnson, new to Congress and unfamiliar with such sensitive matters, asked the NSA's envoy once more in, what was perceived as too direct a fashion: "But General Alexander, if such a Person does not exist at NSA, then who are we talking to today?" After the gasps of horror subsided, Gen. Alexander answered in his usual humorous fashion, that he became well-known for ever since serving in Germany: "I could tell you, but zen you wudd be dedd! HA HA HA".
    After the meeting adjourned, another member of Congress sighed (under condition of anonymity), that he still doesn't know who they questioned today. "I mean, there's really no such person working in no such agency (and I have no reason to doubt that this is the case), but still you sit there and listen to this person from that agency and it's like totally freaking you out, man!"
    Congressman Johnson was unfortunately unavailable for an interview. He was found dead the next morning in the Potomac river, having died of accidental causes according to, strangely, Utah Police. A spokesman said "You know, we get that a lot over there in D.C...that people drink a little too much, stumble around with their feet in some fresh concrete and then jump in the river to cool of from the intoxication, where, tragically, they get pulled to the bottom by the now solid bricks encasing their expensive shoes." The NSA was unavailable for comment...

  • Alexander even went so far as to claim the NSA lacks the authority to monitor American citizens.

    Since, you know, that's stopped government entities from doing things outside their jurisdiction before.
    OH WAIT, no it doesn't. Ever.

  • FISA Amendments Act

    NSA - No Such Act

  • It's an authority that was given to the NSA through the FISA Amendments Act signed into law by Bush and still supported today by Obama.

    No law permits a violation of the Constitution. Any law that contradicts the Constitution is null and void. So they're right that they don't have the authority to spy domestically, regardless of what the FISA Amendments Act says. Whether this is applied in practice is the real mystery. Other organizations - I believe the DEA/FBI - were recently caught putting tracking devices on people's cars.

    It seems to be a common attitude in law enforcement - from the local to federal level - that liberties are an obstac

  • These three-letter agencies tend to "neither confirm or deny" their actions, so an explicit denial is probably a confirmation... Now excuse me while I relax in the comfy chair [wikipedia.org] some well-dressed gentlemen just delivered.
  • It's clear they *can* intercept and store anything they want and at this point it looks like they're working on intercepting and storing everything all the time. They probably don't actually look at it all though without a warrant (which is trivial to get at this point) or only in aggregate. Some might argue that since they have it but don't look at it they're not spying. For me, that's too close to the line. I'd prefer they couldn't collect it without a warrant. Sure, it might make their job a bit harder

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