Tag Archives: NSA

How Patriotic is the Act?

I’ve written about this topic before and as seen in this video, most people won’t pay attention to a story about national surveillance unless the conversation is dumbed down. Just in case you aren’t too busy watching TV, standing in line reading the latest tabloid about the Kardashians, buying lottery tickets, or checking out the sports scores, I’m going to post this in hope that it matters to some people. I won’t be using only simple words or sarcasm to explain the problem. Only those who have a reasonable vocabulary and attention span will want to understand this topic.

Edward Snowden decided while working as a contractor for the NSA, the United States was over stepping the bounds of human decency and reasonable limits when it came to spying on American citizens as well as International organizations which shouldn’t be the target of focus. In the video, he cited UNICEF as an example, or the negotiation of lawyers over the pricing of shrimp.

John Oliver, using his comic style and making absurd references, presented some of the reasons the Patriot Act is a law which may be used as a tool for extreme covert activity by people given unprecedented power to invade our privacy, and to release potentially harmful information as a weapon of influence or control.

One of several Drone types.

One of several Drone types.

Domestic surveillance has become common place for local police, through the use of cellular data capture utilizing devices within a limited area, or drone technology.

Key to the growth of surveillance technology is the public desire to keep people safe, combined with apathy of most people as to how technology is used. This is how a draconian law like the Patriot Act got passed.

News for the Tech Trade


No More Secrets

In the movie “Sneakers” (1992) we have a cast of technical, former agent and skilled con artists who unravel a mystery of a mathematical code installed in a device which has the capability of decrypting anything. A wonderful tool but in the wrong hands could also be used to gain an advantage. The important part of this isn’t the movie itself but the premise from which I want to explain things further about keeping secrets and the use of power to gain the advantage.

We have seen in recent years a story that is old. It’s a story about powerful well-connected and sometimes wealthy people to do what they want to whom they want. This pattern has often been repeated but the success of those committing terrible evil acts rely on the aid of others to control or limit the damage should their secrets be revealed.

Just as a point of review, recall the period of time Bill Clinton was President and the affair or sexual favors he received from a young Monica Lewinsky. Most of the time, people don’t defend this type of activity but because he was the President and represented a political party, “the team” circled the wagons and defended him. The reason was simple, loss of his staying in office most likely would cause a loss at the ballot box for the next election cycle. This happened to a great degree when Richard Nixon resigned in the midst of scandal. This time, the political party in power didn’t want a repeat of history for the next set of elections.

Another scandal arose when it was revealed many young boys were molested by their clergy and eventually, the story got out. For quite a number of years, religious powers that be were able to suppress the truth and often with knowledge of the incidents, simply moved the leader to a new city or position of authority.  Again, we saw the faithful align themselves with the group and defended against or obscured the facts.

We have seen this repeated so often, you would think people would be wise to the tactics and subterfuge, but most of the time, we just go along. There have been several significant events which under normal circumstances  would create an atmosphere of severe distrust or possible impeachment. We have seen the U.S. government under present administration run guns across the border into Mexico as apart of a supposed “sting” effort but in reality it was a poorly planned technique designed to change public opinion so a weapons ban of at least a certain type of firearm could be enacted. The result was 400+ people were knowingly killed with those weapons turned over to a drug cartel.

After that we have had several other under handed activities revealed including the over use of authority to target specific groups opposing the present regime. I’m referring to the use of the IRS as a form of punishment of political enemies. Of course, like all of the other ways we see it when the powerful seek to manipulate, the deniers come out of the background making counter claims and false accusations.

Then we had the Libyan U.S. Embassy under attack with absolutely no retaliatory or defensive response initiated.  Those in charge were given an opportunity for public denial while at the same time an innocent was accused of starting it through a film made a year before. When that story didn’t float, new ones were concocted but ultimately no serious investigation other than a cover up followed.

Probably the most telling story of all has been the ongoing Edward Snowden revelations. Here an unknown technical person takes the world stage by revealing how under-handed the mission of the U.S. Intelligence community has become in collecting data all around the world including its own citizens. The best attempts so far to sweep it under the rug have failed but there’s plenty of smear campaigning against Snowden, a low-level whistle-blower by the powers that be.

This story summarizes the danger and moral depravity in the lives of some of the powerful and celebrity. Like the movie I referred to earlier, “no more secrets” should be the theme of any story relating to the underpinnings of this tale of sexual molestation by a parent. Every bit and perhaps more devastation than the conduct of perverted priests. This is an old story, but despite the many career awards given to this man, it shows just how devastating the sexual misconduct and secret life of a predator can be on their children. Rather than re-tell, I’m providing a link and I hope you will take time to read it; An Open Letter From Dylan Farrow . There’s few things as deplorable in this world and I don’t believe Woody Allen should have supporters in this matter.

Tropical Topical

I’m at the stage in life where people can be themselves (within reason) around me. I may listen and interact with people who hold entirely different opinions and ideas than I. I may contend with those ideas if I believe they’re something I find significantly wrongly directed. It’s not out of the ordinary for others to disagree with me. I find this wholly satisfactory as long as we can be civil and the person I’m involved with doesn’t go off the rails.Image

A civil society should be able to agree to disagree but at the end of the day, we have to figure out how to get along and work out things for the better. It’s interesting to see what really puts a burr in the collar of some people. Generally speaking, even though I may engage in offering an opinion, I don’t always have a strong commitment to it because it doesn’t directly affect me. I’m sorry, I may sound a mite selfish there, but I can’t get overly concerned about things which have little impact on my life. Here’s an example…

“Coast Guard Academy has first same-sex marriage announcement”.

love birdsThis falls into the category of whooptydodaday
What I mean by that is, how does that affect me? Why should I be concerned? As far as I care, if these two women lived next door to me, I couldn’t be bothered by their choice. Perhaps if I were gay, homosexual or lesbian I might have cause to celebrate on their behalf. As it is, all I can say is, I wish them well, I hope they have a nice life together. Yes, I’m a conservative person in a general sense, but that’s really more about financial matters and having honest responsible government. If two people love each other, that’s a lot better than two which are hateful. We’ve got enough of this hate thing going around. I suggest, let them alone, don’t try to convince me that western civilization is on the brink of an apocalyptic collapse due to about 2% or 3% of the population claiming they want to be intimate with the same-sex. It’s just not any of my business. No harm, no foul.

“NSA officials consider Edward Snowden amnesty in return for documents”

I have more interest in this story because of the background and context it has for everyone in this country. While we live in a “free society”, the world around us is a dangerous place. We have enemies from within and without and the NSA is supposedly responsible for a goodly portion of staying close to understanding what  threats are significant and must be thwarted. It’s a very broad mandate.

NSA Fort Meade MD headquarters

NSA headquarters in Fort Meade MD. – able to decrypt routine SSL and banking transactions

Ever since September 11, 2001 the United States was placed on a higher alert status when it came to possible terrorist activities. It more or less placed us on a war footing. An entirely new vast government entity was established under the title of “Homeland Security”. In some respects it more closely aligned us with the world described in the novel by George Orwell, “1984.” The rules of privacy and individual liberty were rewritten. It happened under a Republican administration and seemingly joyously accepted by the Democrats. Curiously, there were many of them decrying the heavy-handed nature of surveillance and the broad powers used by the NSA and Homeland Security when the Republicans occupied the oval office, but somehow this is much more acceptable even under more aggressive activity once the Democrats became the dominant executives in charge.

Edward Snowden became a bigger public anathema to the NSA than WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. His public statements about the voracity and scope of NSA eavesdropping put them in the spotlight of the world community in a manner to which they never wanted. Besides the obvious media revelations about all U.S. citizens as well as many foreign nationals, have their phone, email and text conversations recorded. In the midst of constructing larger facilities in Utah, they have found themselves temporarily in the cross hairs of a public outcry on a range of indiscretions. Further revelations from Mr. Snowden include the admittance he absconded with a lot of supportive material revealing their electronic spy tactics.

This latest story suggests that some compromises have been entertained amongst the community to retrieve those documents, even if it might require amnesty. If they get the documents, they can squelch any story counter to their own PR. Of course the State Department, an official arm of the administration wants no deal and would like to see the man locked up without any foreseeable release date.

New NSA Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah

NSA Data Center under construction in Bluffdale, UT – Photograph owned AP

You can rape your sister, kill your brother, but when you mess with the ruling class, you’re going to get the full onslaught of those in charge. It’s always been that way. It threatens their ability to be in control. We like to think we live in modern times, but all societies treat national secrets whistle blowers as a pariah. Full understanding of those facts combined with the integrity of one’s word, should guide decisions of others contemplating this type of activity.


The National Security Agency is vacuuming up records of millions of phone calls made inside the United States. A court order reveals Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC ), whose proceedings rarely become public, was signed by Judge Roger Vinson, a federal judge in Florida.

Vinson’s order relies on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, 50 USC 1861, better known as the “business records” portion. It allows FBI agents to obtain any “tangible thing,” including “books, records, papers, documents, and other items,” a broad term that includes dumps from private-sector computer databases with limited judicial oversight.

This story contradicts that of the NSA when they sat down with CBS News to explain how they function.