NSA Targets As “Extremists” Americans Who Simply Wish to Protect Themselves from Oppression

Cross-Posted from Washington’s Blog.

A Cancer that Treats Any Immune System Response as a Threat to Be Challenged

In the wake of revelations about the extent of mass surveillance by the NSA and other agencies, people are trying to protect themselves by adopting encryption and other privacy tools.

The Guardian reported in January:

The gathering crisis of trust around consumer web services and the fallout from Edward Snowden’s revelations is fuelling a significant uptake in anonymity tools, new research shows, as internet users battle censorship and assert their right to privacy online.

Globally, 56% of those surveyed by GlobalWebIndex reported that they felt the internet is eroding their personal privacy, with an estimated 415 million people or 28% of the online population using tools to disguise their identity or location.

Aggregating market research data from 170,000 internet users worldwide, GWI found that 11% of all users claim to use Tor, the most high profile for anonymising internet access.

Tor was created – largely with funding from the U.S. government – in order to allow people who live in repressive authoritarian regimes to communicate anonymously on the Internet.

So it is ironic that the NSA targets as “extremists” (the word the U.S. government uses for “probable terrorists”) anyone who uses Tor or any other privacy tool … or even searches for information on privacy tools on the Internet.

Jacob Appelbaum and other privacy experts explain at Das Erste:

  • Merely searching the web for the privacy-enhancing software tools outlined in the XKeyscore rules causes the NSA to mark and track the IP address of the person doing the search. Not only are German privacy software users tracked, but the source code shows that privacy software users worldwide are tracked by the NSA.
  • Among the NSA’s targets is the Tor network funded primarily by the US government to aid democracy advocates in authoritarian states.


The NSA program XKeyscore is a collection and analysis tool and “a computer network exploitation system”, as described in an NSA presentation. It is one of the agency’s most ambitious programs devoted to gathering “nearly everything a user does on the internet.” The source code contains several rules that enable agents using XKeyscore to surveil privacy-conscious internet users around the world. The rules published here are specifically directed at the infrastructure and the users of the Tor Network, the Tails operating system, and other privacy-related software.


The former NSA director General Keith Alexander stated that all those communicating with encryption will be regarded as terror suspects and will be monitored and stored as a method of prevention,as quoted by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in August last year. The top secretsource code published here indicates that the NSA is making a concerted effort to combat any and all anonymous spaces that remain on the internet. Merely visiting privacy-related websites is enough for a user’s IP address to be logged into an NSA database.


The comment in the source code above describes Tails as “a comsec mechanism advocated by extremists on extremist forums”. In actuality, the software is used by journalists, human rights activists, and hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who merely wish to protect their privacy.


Tor Project’s Roger Dingledine stated the following: “We’ve been thinking of state surveillance for years because of our work in places where journalists are threatened. Tor’s anonymity is based on distributed trust, so observing traffic at one place in the Tor network, even a directory authority, isn’t enough to break it. Tor has gone mainstream in the past few years, and its wide diversity of users – from civic-minded individuals and ordinary consumers to activists, law enforcement, and companies – is part of its security. Just learning that somebody visited the Tor or Tails website doesn’t tell you whether that person is a journalist source, someone concerned that her Internet Service Provider will learn about her health conditions, or just someone irked that cat videos are blocked in her location. Trying to make a list of Tor’s millions of daily users certainly counts as wide scale collection. Their attack on the bridge address distribution service shows their “collect all the things” mentality – it’s worth emphasizing that we designed bridges for users in countries like China and Iran, and here we are finding out about attacks by our own country.

If you read Linux Journal – or even read extremely popular sites like Boing Boing – the NSA will target you.

Reddit and other popular websites have promoted privacy tools. 6% of all American adults – and 15% of males aged 18-29 – use Reddit. Are they targeted as well?

If you think we’re exaggerating the threat to privacy from the NSA, remember that the Department of Homeland Security called DHS’ own privacy office “terrorists”.

And the Department of Justice blacked out words in a document saying their disclosure would pose a “grave threat” to national security. The words? The Fourth Amendment.

This flies in the face of American values. After all:

  • The Founding Fathers valued privacy over safety. Indeed, the Revolutionary War was largely started to stop the use of spying by the British. Background here. In other words, the Founding Fathers gave up their safe life with little freedom to strive for real freedom.

And it shows an authoritarian mindset of treating any attempt to resist their power as terrorism.

Indeed, it is like a cancer that treats any immune system response as a threat to be taken out.

Examples are – sadly – widespread in modern America:

  • Protesting against the government’s claimed power to indefinitely detain anyone without charge … could result in your getting detained

Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department’s use of force guidelines, said … After reviewing the video [of the pepper spraying of UC Davis students] he observed at least two cases of “active resistance” from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques.

“What I’m looking at is fairly standard police procedure,” Kelly said.

Of course, NSA apologists will pretend that targeting privacy tool users is necessary to stop the bad guys. This argument is demolished by the fact that for 5,000 years straight, mass surveillance has always been used by tyrants to crush dissent.

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  1. bh2

    “Tor was created – largely with funding from the U.S. government – in order to allow people who live in repressive authoritarian regimes to communicate anonymously on the Internet.”

    Tor is a privacy system not sanctioned by government. But it’s also a voting system not sanctioned by government.

  2. Keith Ackermann

    The fact is, they are scooping it all up. Maybe using Tor elevates the chance you’ll have eyes on you, but according to the (few enough) leaked docs, especially those of the GCHQ, they are tracking it all.

    One of the NSA reports expressed extreme frustration with Tor, and alluded to a paper claiming it cannot be 100% compromised in its current configuration. It said the best attack would be to become part of the Tor network itself, but it expressed doubts that it could be pulled off for long.

    The most insidious thing the NSA is working (so far) is this man-in-the-middle approach to shaping our reality by being able to feed our browsers what they want us to see. No need for doublethink if you can do that.

    1. Mark P.

      @ K. Ackermann

      [1] Agreed to all the above.

      [2] Also, merely surveilling with particular attention ALL Tor users, ALL visitors to sites like Boing Boing (or NC), etcetera, merely creates more vast haystacks of data NSA must filter through to find presumptive needles that might not even exist in that data in the first place.

      Yes, RETROACTIVELY, if someone is deemed a terrorist, government data collection can go back and target closely all data related to that individuals. Yes, too, government officers may treat data like an individual’s Tor use and Boing Boing visits as contributing ‘evidence’ — pretexts — for targeting that individual if the choice has been made to target that individual.

      [3] However, many of these mass data-mining programs initially got funded in 1998 as biodefense programs. (Driven by alarm at growing biotechnological capability and specific terror at the old Soviet Union’s Manhattan-Project-sized bioweapons program’s achievements with far less advanced technology –

      Sixteen years later, therefore, and after many billions of dollars thrown at various data-mining approaches that were supposed to produce predictive capability about which individuals among the U.S. and world populations would represent threats, these projects have mostly resulted in ZERO PREDICTIVE CAPABILITY to determine which individuals in the future will become threats. As shown by the failure to catch even small-timers like the Boston marathon bombers.

      1. Keith Ackermann

        And the worst part about it is, the next time they are hauled before the senate to explain why they didn’t catch the next terrorist attack, they will act all innocent and say they work under too many restrictions… they are handcuffed. Then Diane Feinstein will nod her head and start the process of tearing up another page of the constitution.

        Rinse, repeat.

        1. Carolinian

          But I think you are missing Mark P’s point which is that mass surveillance doesn’t work unless you think they simply don’t care about real terrorism. After all you’re talking about an agency that built their war room to look like Captain Kirk’s Starship Enterprise flight deck. It could be these are not, on some level, serious people despite the technical savvy.

          That said, they certainly are succeeding in instilling paranoia among the population so that part of the plan, if it is intended, is working. And it’s entirely possible that the commercial snooping is taking place and the data being used. So I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be concerned, just that it’s a bit over the top.

          BTW one thing that doesn’t get much talked about is the degree to which much of this spying–on computers at least–is tied to your IP address dogtag. I suspect the real bad guys are all using public wifi, mac address spoofing, other techniques. Or they are not using the web at all. We gave up our privacy, in part, through our love of convenience. It’s likely that the internet by it’s nature can never be a truly private medium. One reason I wasn’t too shocked by Snowden was that I always assumed they were doing that sort of thing anyway.

            1. digi_owl

              The irony being that “al-quaeda” (if it exists beyond the ravings of a FBI legal team) apparently used unencrypted email and sat phones constantly.

          1. ambrit

            The Navy itself is building a Star Trek like destroyer, named the Zumwalt. In a set of circumstances too labyrinthine to unravel, the commander of this ship will be U.S. Navy Captain James A. Kirk. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

          2. Lord Koos

            Reformed hacker Kevin Mitnick http://www.mitnicksecurity.com/products.php has advised people who care about personal online security to use a virtual private network (VPN). They cannot find your IP addess if you are on a VPN. I like Astrill which costs only $6 a month. Once installed on your desktop or laptop, you are protected no matter where you login from, and it’s a snap to use and set up. https://www.astrill.com/
            From what I understand a VPN can be cracked with some difficulty and it takes a lot of resources — they would have to think you were a high value target to bother doing it.

            Mitnick has a book coming out next year on how to protect your privacy.

            1. Carolinian

              The torrentfreak site does a periodic survey of vpn claims about privacy. I won’t link but you can google it readily

              Of course using a vpn probably flags your traffic just as much as Tor. If you’re really paranoid perhaps best to use the U.S. mail…or carrier pigeon.

              Or nothing. I do think much of the concern about this is somewhat overblown.

            2. digi_owl

              Tor is pretty much a VPN with some added jumps to obfuscate where the traffic is coming from.

              With a VPN, the connection between you and the VPN service’s server is encrypted. Then the traffic from the VPN to the net in general may or may not be encrypted depending on the service being accessed beyond the VPN.

              Unless you are using a VPN service that is adamant about not keeping logs, it is likely that some government entity can lean on the VPN provider to find out where said connection came from.

          3. cripes

            General Keith Alexander built a replica of the SS Enterprise bridge with help from a hollwood set designer. There is a photo at bottom of the link.

            Whenhe was running the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command,Alexander brought many of his future alliesdown to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations,a facility known as the InformationDominance Center.It had beendesigned by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a “whoosh” sound when they slid open and closed.Lawmakersand other important officials took turns sitting in a leather “captain’s chair” in the center of the room and watched as Alexander,a lover of science-fictionmovies, showed offhis data toolson the big screen.

            1. just me

              It’s a Cadillac hubcap, or one of them was.

              I think this is re Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979), and that Lee would be Lee Cole, graphic designer, but it’s loose trivia I have without source:

              “I loved working with Mike Minor,” Lee smiles. “To watch him watching the world is fascinating. He’d take everything and turn it upside down for design value. There came a point where we had to design the ceiling of the Enterprise bridge. I came up with this amorphous gyroscopic design for the middle, but we needed the rest of the ceiling. One day, the two of us were walking through the Paramount parking lot on the way home when Mike suddenly threw himself on the ground and yelled ‘That’s IT!’ He’s on the ground on one shoulder, scribbling on his notepad. A small crowd gathered because I supposed it looked like he was having some sort of seizure. He was copying down the hubcap design of a Cadillac sitting there. Just them, the car pulled away almost ran him over. The finished design of that hubcap is now the ceiling of the bridge set.'”

              (Might be this? http://geektyrant.com/news/concept-art-for-a-star-trek-series-that-never-happened )

          4. anonymous

            You write: “We gave up our privacy, in part, through our love of convenience.”
            “in part” is an essential qualifier which prevents the sentence from being completely false. Even with those two key words, what you say is misleading, or even a distortion. Exactly what part did our love of convenience play? Was it ten per cent, twenty per cent, or more? I am, frankly, appalled at the notion that our loss of privacy is, to any degree, “our fault”.–As if there were ever a serious debate! Or, as if there were a free and fair election about it.
            “Our love of convenience” is a curious phrase that masks the fact that those who have half way decent jobs are overburdened with work duties. Not so long ago I read of studies which said most Americans would like to have more time off and spend more time with their families. I don’t have any reason to imagine that’s changed with the continuing economic “downturn”.
            In any case, use of the internet is often a simple requirement, and there is no realistic alternative. I couldn’t have my current job without having using the internet. And a few years ago, I recall a processed food product had been recalled, and the numbers of the unhealthy boxes or cans were only being made available online. –Unless, perhaps by some sort of special request, one might have gotten a paper answer. But, seriously, that sounds impractical when the question is whether the can or box of whatever I’ve got in my hand might make me sick. To say that was (an implicitly lazy) love of convenience is to misconstrue what’s going on.
            Moreover, your comment ignores the fact that if everybody else uses the internet in job searches or whatever, that alone puts pressure on a lone individual to use it. You can say one is still “free” to refuse to use the internet, but given the social nature of the world, that would be a very unrealistic piece of advice. I don’t doubt for a minute that its misuse was predictable in advance–both because of the nature of the technology and because of the nature of existing power structures– is correct, but at this point pointing that out is not much help in solving the new problems we now have. Like shutting the gate after the cows have gone out.

          5. Keith Ackermann


            I’ve seen you use the term ‘paranoia’ a couple of times related to these discussions. There is nothing paranoid about the discussion. The docs are quite real, and what they say are incredible. Ron Widen himself has all but jumped up and down a waved a flag warning about a secret, extra-constitutional interpretation of certain FISA laws. He’s bound to secrecy, but is clearly disturbed about what is happening and is trying to hint that there things we should know about.

            It’s not paranoid or over the top to want to listen to warnings and pay attention. Have you read the docs, yet?

            1. just me

              Actually, Ron Wyden is bound to support and defend the Constitution.

              I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

              And he would be protected by the speech and debate clause of the Constitution if he just came out and told us the secret crap on the Senate floor or read it into the record, as Senator Mike Gravel did with the Pentagon Papers.

              Specifically, he is bound NOT to protect the unconstitutional crap. As is every other senator and congressperson and president and NSA person and…

      2. Mark P.

        If I may, I’m going to put up Bruce Schneier’s latest post, since he makes the point better than I apparently did. And that point is: it’s not that NSA andT PTB don’t care about terrorism — they do, though many of their definitions of ‘terrorist’ are suspect — nor that mass data surveillance doesn’t work at all — even though at this point PREDICTIVELY it’s been next to worthless.

        Rather, it’s the RETROACTIVE and FORENSIC uses and abuses we should worry about ….


        Web Activity Used in Court to Portray State of Mind

        “Among the details police have released is that Harris and his wife, Leanna, told them they conducted Internet searches on how hot a car needed to be to kill a child. Stoddard testified Thursday that Ross Harris had visited a Reddit page called “child-free” and read four articles. He also did an Internet search on how to survive in prison, Stoddard said.

        “Also, five days before Cooper died, Ross Harris twice viewed a sort of homemade public service announcement in which a veterinarian demonstrates on video the dangers of leaving someone or something inside a hot car.”

        Stoddard is a police detective. It seems that they know about his web browsing because they seized and searched his computer:

        …investigators confiscated Harris’ work computer at Home Depot following his arrest and discovered an Internet search about how long it would take for an animal to die in a hot car.

        Stoddard also testified that Harris was “sexting” — is this a word we use in court now? — with several women on the day of his son’s death, and sent explicit pictures to one of them. I assume he knows that by looking at Harris’s message history.

        A bunch of this would not be admissible in trial, but this was a probable-cause hearing, and the rules are different for those. CNN writes: “a prosecutor insisted that the testimony helped portray the defendant’s state of mind and spoke to the negligence angle and helped establish motive.”

        This case aside, is there anyone reading this whose e-mails, text messages, and web searches couldn’t be cherry-picked to portray any state of mind a prosecutor might want to portray? (Qu’on me donne six lignes écrites de la main du plus honnête homme, j’y trouverai de quoi le faire pendre. — Cardinal Richelieu.)

        1. just me

          Wait a second. You have to have probable cause to get a search warrant, and then you get to search the computer and find all the private stuff. It’s the plain wording of the Fourth Amendment, even though Michael Hayden denied it:


          AMY GOODMAN: This is General Hayden speaking at a rare news conference in January [2006], defending the spy program. He was questioned by Knight Ridder reporter, Jonathan Landay.

          JONATHAN LANDAY: My understanding is that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American’s right against unlawful searches and seizures.

          MICHAEL HAYDEN: No, actually, the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure. That’s what it says.

          JONATHAN LANDAY: But the measure is “probable cause,” I believe.

          MICHAEL HAYDEN: The amendment says “unreasonable search and seizure.”

          JONATHAN LANDAY: But does it not say “probable — ”

          MICHAEL HAYDEN: No.

          JONATHAN LANDAY: The court standard, the legal standard —

          MICHAEL HAYDEN: The amendment says, “unreasonable search and seizure.”

          JONATHAN LANDAY: The legal standard is “probable cause,” General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, “we reasonably believe,” and a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say, “We reasonably believe.” You have to go to the FISA Court or the Attorney General has to go to the FISA Court and say, “We have probable cause,” and so what many people believe, and I would like you to respond to this, is that what you’ve actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA Court by creating a new standard of “reasonably believe” in place of “probable cause,” because the FISA Court will not give you a warrant based on “reasonable belief.” You have to show “probable cause.” Could you respond to that, please?

          MICHAEL HAYDEN: Sure. I didn’t craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order, alright? The Attorney General has averred to the lawfulness of the order. Just to be very clear, okay, and believe me, if there is any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it’s the Fourth, and it is a “reasonableness” standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so, what you’ve raised to me, and I’m not a lawyer and don’t want to become one, but what you’ve raised to me, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is “reasonable,” and we believe — I am convinced that we’re lawful, because what it is we’re doing is reasonable.

          AMY GOODMAN: That was Michael Hayden speaking in January. For the record, the Fourth Amendment says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.”

  3. kareninca

    General Keith Alexander is perhaps the greatest traitor America has ever produced. He WANTS to make America a worse place, by destroying the most basic Constitutional freedoms of Americans. He is a contemptible psychopath who lacks any sense of decency or shame, and our politicians have given him power. BTW, did you see that he is now whoring himself out to the private sector; his asking price is a million dollars a month.

    Every police officer should be videotaped at every moment that he is on the job. So should ALL government employees. Employees at regular jobs are constantly watched; so should those who are being paid by our taxes. We should have access to video cams that show us what OUR government employees are doing, at all times during the work day. To be fair, we should be able to watch them 24/7 (like the NSA tries to watch us), but since they are only paid for the work day, that would suffice.

  4. John

    The nation’s infrastructure is falling apart at the seams but the priority is spying on make believe bad guys. In reality, spy budgets are undercover ways to funnel money up to the 1%. Infrastructure is not a priority but Wall Street bottom-lines are.

    Keep people in fear and your rich buddies get that much richer.

  5. Christopher D. Rogers

    Can we have a “badge of honour” minted/created to wear with pride announcing the fact that we honourable few, that being concerned global citizens airing our opinions and fears, are now deemed terrorist threats by the US government and its security agencies, together with the UK and its security agencies.

    It fills me with pride to now be labelled a “terrorist” as a law abiding democratic socialist by our masters and overseers – as someone who fervently believes in freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religious choice and a more equitable and sharing global society, I’m glad the forces that be now consider me a threat.

    What irks me though is the fact that as someone who actually upholds the principles of “rule of law” for all, that in doing so I’m considered an enemy of the state. SO. let’s be clear, I’m an enemy of globalisation on steroids, an enemy of those who destroy our environment, an enemy of those who subscribed to failed neoliberal policies and an enemy of the much vaunted 0.3% global elite who despise all I believe in.

    Do these baboons not realise that by labelling so many decent persons as probable terrorists that they are not only undermining their own claims to any legitimacy, but radicalising those who believe in a decent society. I wish them well in their endeavours for sooner or later all those put upon decent global citizens will rise against these bastards, and I for one will be honoured to join with them.

  6. Eureka Springs

    Who created TOR? Who used it first? And who is known to subvert human rights organizations as well as journalists to deceptive, even terroristic ends? Who is obviously the most paranoid, most invasive, least trust-worthy, and most violent? Who is always the first to call literally everyone on the planet, including the most peaceful people around, a terrorist? What is the one entity which should have zero privacy/secrecy itself, zero warrantless invasive authority?

    All of the above questions/answers point to the US Government. An entity which must be greatly diminished if not outright abolished as the Declaration of Independence foresaw.

    As an aside I asked several of my friends and family members who use Facebook frequently if they had read the stories on fb experiments/manipulation of them this week…. not a single one of them knew what I was talking about.

  7. docg

    I’d like to think Tor was set up by the govt. specifically as a mousetrap to catch potential terrorists eager to operate under the radar. What a great idea. Instead of filtering through billions of messages, just concentrate on messages sent by individuals going out of their way to operate in secret. How naive to simply swallow the govt. line and see Tor as some kind of Libertarian project.

  8. Working Class Nero

    The NSA obviously has a marketing problem in who they identify as their target. If they only switched away from the foreign terrorism excuse, it is after all a bit 2000-and-late. Instead if they claimed a lofty, feel-good, crusade against, for example, domestic racists and homophobes, they would find much less resistance to their massive information collection schemes. Who could object to an anti-racist Stasi except a dirty racist? And it is probably not far from the truth – look at some of the recent public shaming examples of wayward celebrities. This is all great blackmail bait which is typically the reason for data collection – not stopping terrorism. It used to be the FBI searched out the hidden homosexual and then threatened him with exposure if he didn’t work with them. Now they can find someone important who calls something “gay” in an email or whose support for gay marriage is less than solid and use this information to get their way by threatening to permanently place a scarlet H for homophobe on his public record.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Bingo, Nero: ” This is all great blackmail bait, which is typically the reason for data collection — not stopping terrorism.”

      Yes, control, not prevention, is the primary purpose — securing the wealth, privilege, and power of an undeserving, pathological elite. Just as casino capitalism is now wholly rigged by the house (the Criminal Reserve syndicate and its captive federal regulators), which could be considered the Politburo’s Central Committee, so too, the vast intelligence bureaucracy is akin to the infamous KGB. This aims to fulfill the Neocon obsession for “full-spectrum dominance” as expressed by Rumsfeld’s imperial command to: “sweep it all up, things related and not”. Preventing terrorism is incidental, merely a convenient political excuse for gutting the Constitution and revoking fundamental human rights.

      Making the haystack comprehensive (Total Information Awareness) ensures leverage over anyone (legislators, judges, presidents, etc.) who may pose a threat to imperial power. It affords coercive power (blackmail) as well as more insidious forms, as Ulysses says, including mind control thru fear, division, peer pressure and seduction, leading to paralysis and self-censorship. The US is gradually(?) morphing into the USSR.

      1. just me

        “These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.” Edward Snowden

        And I left a comment earlier about William Binney that might go here as well. When the FBI broke in his house and held him at gunpoint in his shower, they told him: “Tell me something that will implicate somebody in a crime.” So he did: Bush, Cheney, Tenant, Hayden…

  9. Ron Williams

    Guys the wrong approach is being taken –

    First most if not nearly all communications are caught up in the dragnet.
    Second even though recent terrorist actions – Boston and Times Square went undiscovered though in both cases the authorities had direct warnings from both close associates (parents in one case) and the travels to hotspots were odd, And note both actions used rather odd materials.
    And note that even though nearly all communications are caught up there is a ever increasing flow of heroin to the homeland.
    One must come to the conclusion that the purpose of the dragnet is not to stop terrorism nor drugs nor other criminal activity.
    What then is the purpose ? To control and direct the public.

    1. docg

      Oh yes. Part of Obama’s nefarious plan to extend his presidency indefinitely. I can read it in his eyes.

  10. Ulysses

    The most insidious result of the invasion of our privacy is the self-censorship that so many people now practice. An informed citizenry, capable of self-government, is impossible when nearly everyone is afraid to discuss anything other than sports, weather, or celebrity gossip.

    Sadly, the surveillance state has pretty much already created the dystopia described by George Orwell in the first chapter of 1984:
    “There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. but at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You have to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

  11. jfleni

    To paraphrase Mr. Goldwater of many years ago: “Extremism in the defense of Privacy is No Vice”, fanatical “Nut-boy” bureaucrats to the contrary not withstanding!

  12. Insiderthreat000164619325491545

    This extremist been using Tor for 15 years and for most of that time no one tried to scare us off it, for one simple reason: US spooks used it, and if nobody else uses it, then Tor use is proof of espionage. Now the government is targeting Tor, in several ways: not only with intensified surveillance but with threats to send you FBI’s kiddy porn over hidden services, and by prosecuting privacy and freedom-of-association rights defenders (e.g. tormail) as pornographers, frauds etc.

    Question is why.

    Possibility 1: NSA doesn’t give a shit about clandestine services. Interesting prospect because it puts them at odds with real intelligence agencies that do HUMINT.

    Possibility 2: The spooks have moved on and they don’t need crowd cover at Tor. Interesting, because then if you move with them to the next thing you are helping them hide so that will be condoned. Funny how you don’t see the government wringing their hands over i2p or Retroshare or Crypto-cat or Infotomb.

    Possibility 3: They’re losing control and they know it. A student invented FREENET. One guy wrote i2p in a month. A kid developed Crypto-cat. Mailtor popped up as soon as Tormail got taken down. Tor is great, but really you have a burgeoning toolkit with which to yank NSA’s balls. Ultimately, the attack on Tor with its big user base is just cost-benefit analysis applied to NSA’s hopeless battle.

  13. jagger

    If the Navy funded this TOR system, wouldn’t the funding be conditional on a backdoor entrance just for the Navy and any other governmental agency that asks the Navy nicely for access? This is beyond my depth but even without funding the projects, it seems the government can get any backdoors they want.

    So how do we really know TOR is secure? I have no idea myself.

  14. TedWa

    I think what it boils down to is – if you’re against the corporate takeover of Amerika – you’re a terrorist. It’s really that simple.

    1. TedWa

      So goes America, so goes the world. The NSA is blackmailing of high level politicians and military leaders and corporate espionage – they really are too busy to find real terrorists. They missed 9/11, Boston Marathon and others. They can not prove they thwarted 1 planned attack.

      The crazy thing about the NSA is that their job security depends on not finding terrorists. IF something happens then the government perceived need for NSA expansion increases. Yes? That’s great job security for private contractors. Private contractors bottom line is not our safety, it’s profit and aligning themselves with the 1%, all down the line.

      1. bh2

        “Private contractors bottom line is not our safety, it’s profit and aligning themselves with the 1%, all down the line.”

        Perhaps. But I can think of one person who recently proved himself a distinct exception.

  15. TedWa

    BTW, I’m using Firefox and the little circle in the tab at the top of the page is always circulating saying “connecting”. Strange. NSA?

  16. Banger

    As I’ve been saying for awhile, we have to get to the heart of the problem here and that is the whole scam called the GWOT. This is an Orwellian war based on lies. The Cold War itself was extended, in my view, by both the USSR and USA in order to ensconce the security services in power indefinitely. One of the main threats to this regime occurred when Khrushchev and Kennedy were moving towards ending the Cold War based on their correspondence and “bonding” after the Cuban Missile Crisis–one has only to read the touching correspondence between the two men appreciate the passion for peace both men had in spite of elements within their respective military establishment to keep tensions stable.

    During the 1980s it was clear to intelligence analysts that the Soviet system was withering on the vine–the corruption and incompetence in the crony-communist system was unsustainable and thus started the “terrorist” meme and the CIA and agents in the media and academia went to work to plant the seeds of a future terrorist “threat.” The idea was built up of irrational, craven people who were evil and/or crazy–the motivations seemed to me to always be obscure and, at best, unrealistic. Very seldom was anything said about where these people got their funding and support. But evidence seems to point to the Saudi royals and Pakistani ISI both close to the CIA and various security contractors. The conventional story on terrorism, particularly, Al-qaida and their derivatives to me is irrational because it would be much too simple to infiltrate those groups particularly since they were so closely associated with U.S. allies and, second, it would be far to easy to turn members of these groups through bribery and threats to their families–there is no intel service with both the tradition of brutality and ability to operate almost everywhere with unlimited funds as the CIA.

    Which brings us to 9/11 the DIRECT cause of the GWOT. Strangely, all reference or discussion regarding the events of 9/11, if it deviates even slightly from the official government/media narrative, is considered verboten. Like the assassinations of the 60s for which I’m prepared to prove without a shadow of a doubt did not occur as per the government/media narrative, the “left” essentially banned all “conspiracy theories” from discussion. In exactly the same manner, from the git-go, all leftists were discouraged from discussing the issue even though there was no way, at the time, to clearly look at the evidence about what happened on 9/11. Every political faction agreed without benefit of ANY investigation of the events that day that the mainstream narrative was accurate in every instance. All the alleged terrorists were clearly identified within a day or a couple of days and all the particulars were given to us pretty quickly just like Oswald was arrested instantaneously.

    Again, based on no forensic evidence of any kind all agreed on everything concerning 9/11 based on government assurances that they knew everything. In fact, no one questioned why, if the government knew exactly what happened then why didn’t they stop it? This seems obvious to me. Over the years leftist info outlets displayed much interest in the stunningly obvious anomalies of the official story. DKOS officially banned any discussion that deviated even slightly from the official narrative. Dissent on the issue was largely limited to libertarian sites which is one reason I have much more respect for the libertarian political movement than the vast majority of the left that appears to be little more than a “Stasi” opposition. When the 9/11 truth movement was at its height major leftist figures wrote almost hysterical polemics against the movement making those of us who question the official narrative appear to be mentally ill simply because, in my view, most people accept the official quasi-religious narrative of American Exceptionalism that posits that conspiracies by those that crave power are impossible in the U.S. despite the fact than it has always been a key feature of the politics of major powers throughout recorded history.

    1. TimR

      I think it is psychological terror that the mass public feels at approaching verboten topics. They recognize that the Cognitive Dissonance would be too much to bear, and hence wrap themselves in the reassuring propaganda myths and lies. Perhaps at some level they have inklings of darkness behind the curtain, which is safely handled in their dreams, or while viewing “dark” cinema, even superhero movies and such that go into this terrain in a safely fictive way that can be quarantined from their daily life. It is also that these Lies were taught them from a very young age, even with the unwitting complicity of their deluded parents, and so they are deeply, deeply enmeshed in the personal psychology of each individual. To attempt to tear them down, essentially by themselves (without the “approval” of mainstream opinion, or at least the mass media as symbol of Mommy & Daddy, and of Society) is more than most can handle. It is probably easier as the information has spread online, for those of an analytic and coldly realistic persuasion, to figure it out. But that does not describe many or most people, who have also been damaged by public schooling. The “Stasi opposition” apparently is just clever, amoral fools, who will play to any regime, suck up to power — though they may be in for a rude awakening this time around, as “this time may be different.”

      And/or: They may also “love their slavery.” Civilization is just one pyramid building scheme after another, and the people get a lot out of their submission to the State(s), and being absorbed into the Whole; partaking of the Immortality of Mr. Big and his cronies.

      1. Banger

        Very cool comment–people do, always, crave security and order and that has a lot to do with what we see. I don’t think that impulse is all negative.

    2. Christopher D. Rogers


      When you keep referring to “leftists”, could you please extrapolate a little on your reference point, i.e., are you referring solely to alleged “leftist” groups in the USA, or utilising “leftist” in a more generic sense, which would extend to folks like myself.

      I ask this question as its clear as the nose on my face that the USA has not had what I’d term a “leftist” political grouping for some considerable period of time, by my historical reckoning, the take over of the Democratic Party by non-left forces during WWII with the coronation of Truman as VP – an exception to this would be MLK – quite a radical – but this was more single issue politics for most (civil rights), rather than a comprehensive leftwing grouping.

      Anyway, each time I see you refer to “leftist”, it seems to me you are referring to supposed “progressives”, who on the whole would be considered Conservatives from a European left-of-centre perspective.

      Apart from that, as a Brit, and as someone who’s been privy to serious conversations with former representatives of the “deep state” within the UK, the true left is well aware of its existence and its machinations, particularly when we consider that sections of the UK’s security forces and extreme rightwing fruit cakes were actively planning to dispose of an actual elected UK Prime Minister in the early 1970’s with plans against the then Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson – many of these forces eventually aligned themselves with one Mrs. Thatcher.

      So actual conspiracies and the “deep state” are real in my humble opinion and a given from a European leftist perspective.

      1. Banger

        You’re right the left in America does not appear to be the same as the left in Europe so I’ll be very general. The left consists of those in America who generally have a secular social conscience. There are lots of sub-groupings but they chiefly exist among intellectuals and tend towards a vague (very) neo-Marxism and it’s variants. Anyway, it would take quite a tome to fully answer your question and I don’t have time tonight.

  17. TedWa

    Here’s another thing to consider. The NSA/CIA new mega-data-center in Utah will store 5-zettabytes of storage and will be completed this fall. All of the known digital information in the world is believed to be only about 2.7 zettabytes, so the NSA has much bigger plans. And what if funding is cut, say in a few years. How will the NSA make up the funding short-fall? That’s when that 5 zettabytes of storage will be gone over with a fine tooth comb and that data will be used against you. There are so many laws nowadays that you might not even know you’re breaking one. For all I know this post might be breaking the law in this over-reaching “state secret” environ. Didn’t a reporter (Risen or Rosen) go to jail recently for speculating that N Korea would launch nuclear tests after they got disrespected? N Korea always does that when they get disrespected. And yet that info was labeled state secrets and the author charge with espionage. Even intelligent speculations in the press are a crime.

  18. Banger

    I question the whole basis of national security policy particularly the GWOT which I believe is, to put it simply (I have a longer comment in moderation…) is a fraud at heart. I’m not questioning the professionals who have believed they were fighting something dangerous–but I do believe their masters have cynically manipulated the situation to insure the we will be living in what appears to be a police-state for some time to come.

  19. Bubba Nurth

    One commenter guessed that the NSA doesn’t really care about terrorism. This was insightful. They are primarily interested in intimidating ordinary Americans, and anyone else, everywhere else they spy on us. This seems to me to be the best way they could have chosen to anger people and create more enemies of the US government and ruling class. It is self-fulfilling and self-serving for the NSA scum.

    1. ian

      I think your missing a much simpler explanation: they are a huge bureaucracy with lots of well paid employees and an enormous budget. As such, they need a “mission” – both to justify what they currently have and to expand further. Keeping us safe is only a secondary consideration.

  20. TedWa

    I think we can all agree that the Global War on Terror is a scam created by the MIC to insure their survival after the cold war. We are in middle east countries where their government is their religion, theocracy. Here we come saying that we’re bringing them democracy which in our terms means capitalism as god. We are trying usurp their religious beliefs and surprised they’re angry? The more corporate America tries to take over the middle east laws and governments the angrier they get. I wouldn’t want anyone interfering with my beliefs. Theirs is a way of life that they feel is guided by their God – a life they’ve been living for thousands of years.

    NATO and the Taliban had poppy production in Afghanistan down to them supplying 10% of the worlds opium. Soon after invading those figures shot up to reach 90% of the worlds supply, insuring more drug money laundering and a steady supply of addicts worldwide. If we had left them alone we’d be at peace. Hussein was horrible but he was a stabilizing influence. Same with Ghadaffi – who was going to be awarded a global humanitarian award by NATO before he died.

    This is what he himself established years earlier. “The Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights was an annual human rights prize founded by the Libyan People’s Congress in late 1988, in “indebtedness and gratitude for Muammar Gaddafi and in appreciation for his role in firmly establishing the principle of direct democracy, his persistent struggle, his distinctive inspiration and continuous instigation for the consolidation of human liberty and for issuing the Great Green Document in the era of the masses, for the purpose of bestowing tribute upon symbolic figures of struggle and faith in the values of freedom to all humans, nations, groups and individuals” He had no say in who got the award. This is a man that needed to go?

    1. Banger

      I think we can all agree that the Global War on Terror is a scam created by the MIC to insure their survival after the cold war.

      I don’t think we “all” agree in fact most people here would disagree with the both of us based on comments I’ve seen over time–only a handful will touch the implication of what you are saying. If we are right then the issues are not a question of NSA/CIA abuse as if these agencies were somehow merely over-zealous in protecting us from real threats but, rather, a matter of criminal fraud.

  21. jgordon

    One point that hasn’t been mentioned yet: many of the people working at the NSA are human beings, and therefore have enough self-reflection to understand that what they are participating in is blatantly criminal and unethical.

    And thanks to the Snowden example, I’m utterly convinced that many of these decent people have a strong inclination to expose the criminal misdeeds of their superiors and the regime. In that sense, utterly egregious and horrific criminal activities like those exposed in this recent story are overall beneficial–since they will be a powerful motivation for courageous whistle-blowers to redeem themselves and do the right thing.

  22. Charles Duran

    The NSA/CIA may very well be filled with incompetents and run of the mill mindless patriots, but in one area they have exceeded all expectations and that is in producing paranoid readers like the poster to this article in Naked Capitalism. Somehow I had expected N.C. posters to be more sophisticated than what I have found here.
    It should be common knowledge that all bureaucracies will attempt to grow beyond their usefulness and in these times of continuous wars and threats of terrorism it is only natural for security agencies to take advantage of this environment to justify expanding their reach and even violating our basic civil rights. It has always been the nature of police establishments everywhere to transgress on freedom. The solution to the problem is simple, elect leaders that will protect your rights. If we can’t do that, than we must except the results of having incompetents and repressive yahoos as part of your life.

    1. kareninca

      What exactly is your argument? What has GW written that you disagree with, specifically? And who said that we shouldn’t try to elect better politicians? If you are claiming GW is paranoid in a way that doesn’t match reality, please show how with examples; if you think the posters here don’t plan and hope to improve who is elected, please cite. Your post is not a real response to what proceeded it; it was a lazy dismissal of real problems.

    2. TedWa

      Hi Charles : I think that was directed at me so I apologize if I offended yours or anyones else sensibilities on NC with my passionate urgency about the NSA and the crimes it’s committing.
      I agree with your comment and I would like to add to also keep in contact with your representatives in Congress if you want things to change.
      Have a nice day.

    3. Keith Ackermann

      You sound pretty young, so you are probably not aware or this, but Richard Nixon (a former president) ordered the break in of a political opponent (paraphrasing here) in order to find out what can be used against this opponent. The only reason he had to resort to the actual breaking in and bugging of an office was because he didn’t have programs such as Prism at his disposal.

      If you think for one minute that having holistic total information awareness will not be used for nefarious purposes… then you too might just be a fascist :-)

  23. Let's Roll!

    Don’t despair TedWa, people have to assimilate painful knowledge at their own pace. For many, it could take years for all this to sink in. I can recall ribbing 9/11 panel staff about Flight 93 six years ago (as you might expect, they don’t take it well, precisely because they’ve got nothing to say.) Flight 93 was maybe the most hilarious in-joke of the whole official fairy tale. The complete and abject failure of NORAD and the NCA are pretty funny too, when you think about it, but I didn’t think about it, not without prompting by those masters of the obvious Paul Craig Roberts and Peter Dale Scott. The concurrent release of illegal US government biological weapons under secure government control is another big Duh.

    The evidence is overwhelming. Operation Gladio is home.

    Not everyone is ready for that lesson. Take Charles Duran still trusting in… electing leaders. Elections, the subject population’s busy box. Even after the accumulated electoral adjustments of Bush v. Gore, Kerry taking a dive in ’04, and Nov. 22, 1963, Charles Duran thinks he’s allowed to elect candidates. Spin that bright plastic hexagon, Charlie, whee!

  24. Roland

    Carolinian admits that mass surveillance is not useful for the purpose of protecting the public, but at the same time Carolinian refuses to admit that mass surveillance has any other purpose.

    The mass surveillance programme is expanding rapidly right before Carolinian’s eyes, the definition of what constitutes a “threat” grows wider and wider, but Carolinian prefers to think that the people who organize such a programme are mere bumblers. All Carolinian wants is for people to stop complaining about the secret police. Carolinian never calls for the secret police to be disbanded.

    BTW it doesn’t matter whether the secret police are bumblers or not. They just get their money, build up dossiers, and arrest people. They don’t need to be efficient. Their professional competence may be minimal.

    Remember, the secret police never pay for their mistakes. When they get it wrong, that just means somebody else gets hurt.

    In other words, even if one were quite convinced that the secret police are nothing but a bunch of nitwits, one would still be quite properly frightened of them.

    1. Questor

      Isn’t the Global War on Terror a matter of criminal fraud?

      Everyone in government is lying to someone to ensure their power and source of wealth is constant, using the excuse of ever increasing safety against terrorists, and thereby have become terrorists of everyone they have access to the records of.

      The Global War on Terror given by the Powers that Be to justify the complete documentation of every persons thoughts, habits, movements, commercial transactions, use of funds, and communications is a breach of constitutional law, and therefore criminal. It is a lie made for gain, so it is fraud.

      Worse still, everyone is breaking an oath they made to uphold the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic, by becoming an enemy to the people of the United States of America…which is treason.

      I don’t mean to be unkind about it, but why is any of this thought to be news?

      Control of the populace is the first duty of any government to itself, and it exists for hardly any other reason. No politician is elected without money changing hands, and influence being applied. The desire to win, and hold power is the most corrupting influence mankind faces.

      Did none of you take history in college, or is that out of fashion too, along with civility, honesty, and honor?

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