Beyond typhoons, gun violence or torching a doobie at the MTV awards, the planet continues to be under a deep-throated surveillance by our betters at the NSA.
Despite the spotlight, they’re still operating full-gallop.
(Illustration found here).
Just to gain some measure of the NSA’s bullshit operations, this nugget last week from a lengthy analysis at the New York Times:
The C.I.A. dispatches undercover officers overseas to gather intelligence today roughly the same way spies operated in biblical times.
But the N.S.A., born when the long-distance call was a bit exotic, has seen its potential targets explode in number with the advent of personal computers, the Internet and cellphones.
Today’s N.S.A. is the Amazon of intelligence agencies, as different from the 1950s agency as that online behemoth is from a mom-and-pop bookstore.
It sucks the contents from fiber-optic cables, sits on telephone switches and Internet hubs, digitally burglarizes laptops and plants bugs on smartphones around the globe.
And they’re up to their assholes with codewords, shinning-literary with letters, defining they’re wordsmiths:
“There’s MESSIAH, there’s PINWALE,” says Bill Arkin, who served in Army intelligence and has written several books about the spy world.
“There’s BLAZINGSADDLES. These are all NSA code words.”
Even the NSA budget is assigned a code word, says Arkin.
“There are tens of thousands, describing operations, exercises, weapons activities, programs, pieces of equipment, spying things,” he says.
“No one really has one, single, super-duper database on all of them.”
There are some conventions when coming up with code words.
The CIA typically uses metals or a stone, like Ruby or Greystone.
NSA code words are always one word, uppercase.
Some may sound like two words — like the program EGOTISTICALGIRAFFE — but are written as one.
And supposedly, what links all this to necessary is terrorism, and the US general public is confused and dim-witted because of spin bullshit — they really don’t understand the full scope of what the NSA does for a living.
Via the Washington Post this past weekend and a poll about surveillance:
On the Lawfare blog Thursday, Zegart wrote that her poll showed “Americans will give their government more leeway if they can be convinced counterterrorism tools are effective.”
She said the poll indicated, however, that the National Security Agency had not demonstrated that its phone and Internet data-collection programs were “necessary to combat terrorism” as it tried to deal with recent disclosures based on documents released to journalists by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
As Zegart put it, “What is currently missing in the NSA debate is a fulsome discussion that links those tools to the greater security they are supposed to provide.”
Some weird results from the poll:
— Thirty-nine percent of those questioned believe that the NSA’s bulk collection of all U.S. telephone records — the 215 metadata program — includes listening in to the contents of those calls. In fact, the NSA collects data on the numbers dialed and the length of calls, not their content.
— Almost one-third “believe NSA conducts operations to capture or kill foreign terrorists and another 39 percent were not sure.” The agency doesn’t do either.
— The poll also found that “35 percent believe NSA interrogates detainees and another 42 percent were not sure.” The NSA does not conduct interrogations.
And Hollywood has an influence:
The survey also shows that television and movies affect people’s opinions of reality.
“I found that the more people watched spy-themed television shows and movies, the more they liked the NSA, the more they approved of NSA’s phone and Internet collection programs, and the more they believed the NSA was telling them the truth,” Zegart wrote.
A majority of people who in the past year watched at least six spy movies “had favorable views of NSA, but only 34 percent of infrequent spy moviegoers reported favorable views of the agency,” according to the poll.
Forty-four percent of those who watched spy-themed TV shows frequently or occasionally approved of the NSA programs that collected telephone records and Internet data. By comparison, 29 percent of those who rarely watched such shows approved of the surveillance.
And the conclusion to all this bullshit noise:
One finding of the study, according to Zegart, is that the Snowden disclosures have not only revealed once-secret activities, they have also led to a drop in public confidence “in the accuracy of the intelligence enterprise writ large.”
One of Zegart’s final conclusions is that “NSA has shown its programs are legal. It has not shown that they are valuable.”
In short, she said, “the agency has not given a compelling or consistent account to the knowledgeable skeptic of how its programs are effective, efficient, and prudent in scope.”
Mainly, because they can’t.
What they do, however, is apparently whatever they want. This is an organization like those big banks that are too big to fail, and, too big to prosecute — the NSA is so swollen, so bloated with its own self-importance and is fueled by its own unchecked motion on everything and everybody the forward lurch cannot be abated without some full-scale assault.
Most-likely, the NSA will never be fully brought under control. Even John Kerry is now running around trying to convince people President Obama didn’t sign-off on all those dastardly surveillance operations — Obama was just either asleep-at-the-wheel, or like drone warfare, relished the whole scheme.
And is OPEC a center of terrorism?
Germany’s Der Spiegel accounts the whole scenario along with this revealing note:
Saudi Arabia’s OPEC governor is also on the list of individuals targeted for surveillance, for which the NSA had secured approval from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The documents show how careful the Americans were to suspend their surveillance when the Saudi visited the United States.
But as soon as he had returned to Riyadh, the NSA analysts began infiltrating his communications once again.
As I said, the light of day won’t change the weather.