Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.
Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.
Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents.
The surveillance files highlight a policy dilemma that has been aired only abstractly in public. There are discoveries of considerable intelligence value in the intercepted messages — and collateral harm to privacy on a scale that the Obama administration has not been willing to address.
Specifically, the board concluded, “we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.”
The document, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations,” reveals shady practices like using “honey traps” that may start as Internet dating, but the PowerPoint also points to in-person meetings to discredit the subject.
Other findings include “false flag” operations (undertaking malicious actions and making it look like the work of a group they wish to discredit), the application of social sciences like sociology and psychology to disrupt and steer online activist discussions, lure targets into compromising sexual situations, deploy malicious software and virus and post lies about targets in order to discredit them.
In July, the German branch of Transparency International also awarded Snowden its Whistleblower Award. That same month, a Swedish sociology professor also nominated NSA leaker Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize for his “heroic effort at great personal cost.”
Professor Stefan Svallfors said giving Snowden the Nobel nod could “save the prize from the disrepute incurred by the hasty and ill-conceived decision” to give the 2009 award to Barack Obama.
The National Security Agency is involved in industrial espionage and will take intelligence regardless of its value to national security, the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has told a German television network.
In a lengthy interview broadcast on the public broadcaster ARD TV on Sunday, Snowden said the NSA did not limit its espionage to issues of national security and cited the German engineering firm Siemens as one target.
“If there’s information at Siemens that’s beneficial to US national interests – even if it doesn’t have anything to do with national security – then they’ll take that information nevertheless,” Snowden said in the interview conducted in Russia, where Snowden has claimed asylum.
Libertarians don’t believe that the people who work for the government are evil. It’s the institution of government itself, a monopoly on the use of force that can martial the resources of the entire nation. That kind of power is dangerous even when used by good people with good intentions.
This isn’t some new age idea cooked up by pot-smoking libertarians in the 1970s. It’s a founding American principle and the reason for the entire Bill of Rights. It was summed up best by Thomas Paine in the pamphlet credited with convincing most American colonists to support independence from Great Britain:
“Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”