Comments about ‘Experts dispute NSA leaker's claim about wiretapping’

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Published: Wednesday, June 12 2013 1:20 p.m. MDT

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Great Horned Owl
Spanish Fork, UT

There are a couple of issues here.

1) "Metadata" is basically an index to every communication within a domain (like Verizon or AT&T or whatever) so even if they need to get a rubber-stamp from the 7-member FISA court (which basically never refuses anything because everything is requested as "Vital for National Security") or some other warrant granting body *later* it's still possible to go back and snoop *everything* (emails, voice calls, texts, whatever was transmitted) with way, way, way too much ease and lack of oversight.

2) The storage capabilities and organizing methods for storing all these indexed communications continues to improve at an astounding rate. I've personally spoken to contractors who were tasked with developing better algorithms for snap-identifying spoken language in a phone call so that it can be more wisely routed to storage by specific language (and presumably so that metadata can be added to an index). There are no laws regarding how long the Federal government can keep the intercepted information that they haven't technically received warrants to specifically look at yet nor how much they can store.

The rest of these arguments are really just Public Relations distractions.

Salt Lake City, UT

"FISA court which basically never refuses anything"
Its a "secret" court. Where did you obtain the data for the percentage of requests approved?

"There are no laws regarding how long (or how much) the Federal government can keep"
If you were writing that law, what is a reasonable limit for keeping the data? How long do police and other agencies keep evidence?

"the intercepted information"
Just to be clear, the government isn't intercepting information, the service provider is intercepting. You agreed to let the service provider share the intercepted information when you checked "OK" without reading the EULA.

Salt Lake City, Utah

I don't recall Snowden ever using the term "wiretapping." There is an important difference. Snowden is concerned with the storage capacity and the personal quantity of data that is turned over to the NSA on an ongoing basis. That is not wiretapping and is treated different legally. By subtly recasting Snowden's comments in this way, these spokespeople are constructing a straw man. If you're paying attention, this makes things even smellier.

Salt Lake City, Utah

To "Moderate":

1) Secret courts do not publish statistics regarding their approval rates; hence it has no pressure to disapprove anything. It is highly, highly unlikely that much is ever turned down. Asking for proof with a published statistic from one that does not do so is hardly reasonable.

2)How about imposing any limit on time for keeping data? Currently, there is none. That's Owl's point.

3)The term "intercepted information" means exactly that. It characterizes the class of information, not the specific actions of the government. Owl never stated the government intercepted the information, but that they compile and use the information. Which is entirely accurate.
And while we are on the subject of language, you should know that the EULA is typical for software but not for all providers. I have never signed one for my provider. It isn't needed because it is already a course of law for court-ordered discovery. The point is that the discovery has completely gotten out of hand and is now squarely into the realm of data building and data profiling of American citizens.

Dallas computer guy
Dallas, TX

If you don't believe the NSA (or some other branch known or unknown) does not listen in to calls it wants to under the auspices of the patriot act, you are naive. The metadata gathering along with the communications on the Internet they are privy to helps them decide on who they need to listen to.

If they have the power to, they will use it. Time has shown that to be true again and again. The technology is there and has been displayed in movies like "Enemy of the State". This is what Snowden is saying. The metadata points them in a direction, and they use the technologies to monitor who they want. The people that are doing it don't need authority or believe they have the authority or the right to use the technology as they deem fit for "national security reasons".

To believe anything less is naive.

Portland, OR

Edward Snowden has said that Americans are being wiretapped and that content of their messages is being surveilled. Both claims are false. Only phone numbers, locations of phones and duration of phone calls are collected under these NSA programs. What the analysts are looking for is communication between foreigners suspected of terrorism and Americans. To actually look at content of communications by Americans, investigators still need to obtain individual warrants.

Initially, the Washington Post was taken in by Snowden's claim the NSA directly taps into the servers of Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. They have since learned it is inaccurate and revised their earlier articles not to make that claim.

Yesterday, Snowden accused the American government of spying on people in Hong Kong and China, in a bid for protection in Hong Kong. Of course, the U.S. spies on China and China spies on the U.S. The fact Snowden believes his revelations are bombshells suggests he is ill-informed and naive.

D Benton Smith
Cottonwood, AZ

What the author of this article really means to say is that he can not, personally, visualize or know how such a technical feat could be accomplished, so he contacted a couple of people who also didn't know, who then become his "experts" (plural form) in a headline that plays pretty loosely with the definition of "expert" and pretty is minimalistic in terms of the plural.

In order to even post this comment I had to reveal a fair amount of personal information. That's meta data. I have a pretty disgusted opinion about NSA and a similar view of shills like Mike who apologize their Treason. That's content. Any fool could hate me for my opinion, but only a fool with a spy network like NSA could but that meta data and content together in a microsecond and flag me in a watch-list data base for permanent storage.

NSA and others conspired to violate the civil rights a few hundred million citizens. That's illegal. To change its legality would require changing the 4th Amendment, not just circumventing it by means of secret policies and rubber stamp FISA courts.

Full stop.

Logan, UT

@ Interloper

"both claims are false"


You *believe* both claims are false, because no one else has told you differently. The assumption being that the intelligence community routinely tells you everything...or anything, for that matter. Are you sure that your assumption is even close to reality?

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