Thursday, 1 August 2013

XKeyscore and the invasion of privacy

The silence is deafening. As yet another tranche of released documents makes very clear the scale of the NSA privacy invasion is mind-boggling. In the UK only Guardian readers - and occasionally the Independent - even mention what is going on. Do not think what is largely invisible in the UK is replicated elsewhere. For instance the story receives almost daily coverage in Germany. Their history of the Gestapo under the Nazis and more recently in East Germany, the Stasi, make all of these revelations resonate with the potential for state control over its citizenry. They have been there and know what it is like to live in a surveillance state. Funnily enough they do not want to return to that position. Try telling them “If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear,’ 

The latest revelations are part of an organised, carefully considered plan. The US government has attacked the messenger (again) and Snowden knew this would happen. Allowing time between releases has worked well in letting NSA officials and their backers go public in their denials and rebuttals only to find the next document shows them up as lying devious despots. The time is also necessary to ensure authentication and veracity. The time taken also keeps the story in the news. A mass release would have been a nine-day wonder. It may be being largely ignored in this country but there are significant shifts taking place in public opinion in the States. Even the promoter of the (now) notorious Patriot Act, passed after 9/11, now says the state has gone way too far and is in very dangerous territory. 

"I, sitting at my desk," said Snowden, could "wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email".
US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden's assertion: "He's lying. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do."
But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.
XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA's "widest reaching" system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet", including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.” Guardian 1/8/13

“One training slide illustrates the digital activity constantly being collected by XKeyscore and the analyst's ability to query the databases at any time.” (ibid)

One wag posted this comment online: 
‘NSA is the only part of the US government that actually listens to the people.’

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