Sunday, June 16, 2013

The advantages of knowing everything

Here we go:  "NSA admits listening to U.S. phone calls without warrants":
"A requirement of the 2008 law is that the NSA "may not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States." A possible interpretation of that language, some legal experts said, is that the agency may vacuum up everything it can domestically -- on the theory that indiscriminate data acquisition was not intended to "target" a specific American citizen."
Gathering everything is OK.  Also:
"Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell indicated during a House Intelligence hearing in 2007 that the NSA's surveillance process involves "billions" of bulk communications being intercepted, analyzed, and incorporated into a database.
They can be accessed by an analyst who's part of the NSA's "workforce of thousands of people" who are "trained" annually in minimization procedures, he said. (McConnell, who had previously worked as the director of the NSA, is now vice chairman at Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden's former employer.)"
As far as the NSA is concerned, gathering everything without warrants is legally permitted, and once they have it, NSA analysts who are 'trained' to NSA standards are legally allowed to listen to whatever they want.  Gathering everything is actually better than getting a FISA warrant for a particular target.

PRISM is going to take over the entire discussion, and, lo and behold, it is not that bad.  Get  a few more keys for the 'lockbox', and all will be deemed to be well.

The three big questions concerning Total Information Awareness are:
  1. economic - can we pay to store all this information?; 
  2. technical - can we develop search engines that will allow us to handle all this information without becoming paralyzed by the sheer volume of it (remember that Simon's big straw man was the ridiculousness of having FBI agents listen to all the conversations!!!), the traditional problem with totalitarian states?; and
  3. legal - in a country with constitutional protections for basic liberties, how is any of this allowed?
The NSA believes it has an answer to the first two of these problems, and just needs to fool Americans into believing that the presence of those scary Moooooooslims under their beds justifies a bit of bending of the constitution to finesse the legal problem.  Some tinkering will be done to PRISM, and everybody will go back to sleep.

The final step will be to continue to expand the exploitation of the information as a method of social control using blackmail or something like blackmail - even the awareness that there is information out there that could be used for blackmail will start to influence behavior, particularly repressing any kind of political protest (not that there is much of that anyway) - and to use the insider information to siphon up whatever wealth is not yet in the hands of the 1% (it is a fun fact that Booz Allen is owned by the Carlyle Group).
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