NSA: "We Kill People Based on Metadata"
By Dennis Loo (5/15/14)
In response to some of the comments on this article, see a December 2013 article reposted at the end.
David Cole writes in the current issue of the New York Review of Books:
As NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker has said, “metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content.” When I quoted Baker at a recent debate at Johns Hopkins University, my opponent, General Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, called Baker’s comment “absolutely correct,” and raised him one, asserting, “We kill people based on metadata.”
Metadata is who is calling whom, how frequently, how long, and when. Their email and websnooping is similar: tracking who and what people associate with and how intimately and frequently.
Metadata, according to the NSA, is what they're collecting, not the actual content of the calls and emails. Obama and the NSA have said that it's "only metadata" in order to make it seem less invasive and less Big Brother. They are lying about it being only metadata because they are also collecting the content of our communications. Nonetheless, it's interesting, isn't it, that Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, volunteered that metadata is still enough for the US government to be using it to kill people.
Think about the gall that Hayden is displaying here. "It's only metadata. But it's enough for us to kill you based on it."
Due process, the rule of law, transparency, checks and balances, First, Fourth, and Eighth Amendment rights, all of these sacred principles that Obama constantly talks about safeguarding, while knowingly and ruthlessly sabotaging that which he claims to be upholding. Why talk about these principles unless it's to mislead people into accepting that which they would otherwise resist?
Doesn't that make you feel safer, now that you know this?
As I have previously written, actual anti-state terrorists like al-Qaeda are not so foolish as to still be using cell phones to plot their attacks and are undoubtedly using the Internet with devices such as TOR which masks your ISP address. The smarter ones at the NSA have undoubtedly figured this out. Their collecting of metadata on all Americans and much of the rest of the world, therefore, isn't useful for tracking al-Qaeda and other groups like it.
If you were a member of al-Qaeda, would you be using cell phones or the Internet to speak to anyone who you were associated with in planning your terrorist activities? As I wrote in June, 13, 2013, in “Those Who Cry Treason,”
We know from none other than the CIA that in the hunt for bin Laden that al-Qaeda communicated with bin Laden through courier and not through cell phones, email, or landline phones because they already knew the U.S. was monitoring electronic communications. As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2008, for example, “Bin Laden was known not to use phones after 1998, when the U.S. had launched missile strikes against his bases in Afghanistan and Sudan in August (Operation Infinite Reach) by tracking an associate's satellite phone.”
If you were using the Internet at all, would you not use coded language that appeared to be innocuous?
And if many young people and others in the US know about using TOR, a free downloadable program which prevents anyone from tracking your ISP address by constantly changing the ISP address that you are using, relying on a large number of host computers around the world volunteered for this purpose, then do you not think that someone in al-Qaeda must have also discovered the benefits of TOR? Would not any al-Qaeda or similar terrorist group who was actually using a computer for whatever reason use TOR, in which case the NSA’s universal warrantless surveillance would be rendered ineffective against such individuals and groups?
The NSA continues to try to crack TOR but so far it’s been unable. As PC World reported on October 4, 2013:
Another day, another revelation revealed by Edward Snowden’s leaks. Friday, The Guardian reported that the U.S. NSA and its British equivalent, the GCHQ, have been actively trying to defeat the encrypted protection provided by the popular Tor anonymity software.
But amazingly, it appears the attempts have failed. The latest Snowden leak suggests that Tor has actually withstood the brunt of the NSA’s efforts thus far.
“We will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time,” according to a leaked presentation titled ‘Tor Stinks,’ the Guardian reports. “With manual analysis, we can de-anonymize a very small fraction of Tor users.”
If the NSA can’t at least for now crack TOR, and since terrorists’ lives depend upon not being discovered by the NSA et al and so using either TOR or something equivalent to it, then what does this do to the NSA’s surveillance over the Internet over the very individuals that they claim they’re specifically after? It makes it useless and renders the NSA and Obama’s continuing claims that they must continue their warrantless universal surveillance over all of the rest of us a massive deceit. It underscores Fact #2: this massive warrantless surveillance isn’t intended to avoid anti-state terrorist attacks. It’s intended to be used against us. We are the enemy.
Why then is the US government surveilling us all? Hint: it's not what they're saying.
Addendum May 21, 2014:
“I have nothing to hide”: This is not about you. It’s about us.
By Dennis Loo (12/22/13)
In response to the news that the US government is in fact spying on all of our electronic communications, movements, habits and associations, and literally much of the rest of the globe’s activities, and thus exceeding even the fictional dystopias of authors’ imaginations, many Americans say that they “have nothing to hide.”
What I want to hone in on this time is from a different angle – the fact that “I have nothing to hide” is a rather sterling example of individualism in the face of a truly massive collective threat. You cannot deal with a collective threat by treating it as if it’s merely an individual issue.
What the “I have nothing to hide” retort misses entirely is that ubiquitous warrantless surveillance, the gathering, storage, and analysis of the entire contents of all of our electronic communications, silently destroys the ability of every one of us being able to think and act privately and without interference from Big Brother. If the government can gather up all of our communications – what we write in emails, in social media, in publications such as books, articles, and so on, our comments on threads, our cell phone and landline conversations, what we read online or check out from libraries, our financial transactions, and so on – then it has at its indefinite disposal the ability to crush any dissenters and resisters and silence through intimidation or direct repression free thinkers and whistleblowers of any kind.
Even if you are one of those people who thinks of themselves as utterly apolitical and therefore believe that you have nothing to fear from the government, now or ever, do you think that you will never have anyone in your family or among your friends, or any of your descendants, who will ever find themselves at odds with something that the government is doing? And what about all of those who are supposed to be the watchdogs over the government? Members of Congress, Judges, journalists, scholars, scientists, health care providers, military and police, and so on, are all charged with either being monitors of what the government and other authorities such as corporations and other private interests are doing, carrying out the orders of those in authority to use force against those who authorities have designated as “threats,” or whose jobs involve acting on behalf of the public good. What happens to those peoples’ ability to do that and act as guardians for the public interest if no one is any longer safe from the implied and explicit exercise of coercion by authorities? Do you think that your taking an “I have no problem with this” attitude should extend to everyone else now and forever? If that principle had been the principle governing society in the past, would Galileo - or any of the others - who broke with conventional thinking and what authorities such as the Church, monarchs, emperors or bureaucrats deem correct, have been able to advance humanity’s greatest interests - which run up against authorities’ desires to control what goes on and what people think and believe?
In other words, the very notion that one can deal with a collective threat by everyone making their own individual decisions about whether this bothers them as a single individual or not, is completely wrong and exceedingly dangerous.
For more on this, see Dave Eggers’ article “US Writers Must Take a Stand Against NSA Surveillance.”
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