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Evening Open Thread | Main | Overnight Open Thread (7 Jun 2013)
June 07, 2013

Prism: Background Info [ArthurK]

In "The Day of the Jackal" a mole high inside the French govt. is supplying info to the assassin. Det. Lebel ferrets out the mole.

Afterwards, a minister asks him about the investigation.

Minister: ... one thing: how did you know whose telephone to tap?

Lebel: I didn't, so I tapped all of them.


The Prism revelations blew my mind yesterday and I went on a twitter rant. Ace asked me to flesh them out for an info post.

Why listen to me?

I was trained in Communications Intelligence when I was in the Air Force. I worked at NSA while in the AF. I worked for a civilian NSA contractor after I left the AF. And this field is a reading hobby of mine. Other than reading, not involved since 1980. I probably know more about it than most journalists writing on it.

Executive Summary:

Holy. Crap.


Here's the main article. It goes to the despised WaPo but they deserve THESE hits.

Note that a huge amount of non US data flows through the US because the US has so much internet equipment.

Here's what caught my eye as the BIG DEALS from the story

"President’s Daily Brief cited Prism data in ***1,477*** articles last year."
(of course, Obama doesn't read the daily brief all that often...)

4 articles a day in the PDB have some or all of their sourcing from Prism.

NSA relies on Prism as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The only reason I stopped at 27 "!" is the 140 char limit in Twitter. Most people don't understand what a massive intelligence agency NSA is. After Pearl Harbor, the US vowed not to get caught by a surprise attack again. After nuclear weapons a surprise attack isn't survivable. Simply put, NSA has had as much money as it wanted (often not shown on the budget) since the early 1950s.

So it's big and collects all sorts of electronic data in all sorts of ways. That ONE SOURCE could generate 1/7th of all reports... I can't describe how much that blows me away!

Remember NSA is supposed to collect FOREIGN intelligence. Prism is supposed to be 51% likely to be foreign - not that anybody checks.

Twitter is supposed to be Prism free. (that just means NSA will take stuff and not say anything) (It's A Secret)

It's legal for you to be scooped up by Prism if you're 1 or 2 connections (Kevin Bacon style) away from a legit foreign target.

SKYPE? Sure, given the limitations I'm guessing most of the time Prism will let legally them listen to those calls.

(Before WW2, the Feds would go to the ATT office and collect all the overseas telegrams they wanted*. I don't think there was any enabling legislation - ATT and the Feds just came to an understanding.)

(*they mainly wanted diplomatic traffic. But I don't know that ATT ever said no to a request for anything else.)

(The NSA has excellent working relationships with other country's, similar, intel agencies. If you think the NSA doesn't see intel from the UK's GCHQ that the NSA can't legally collect...)


What do I think?

1. It should be possible for the Feds to do this.

2. If the Patriot Act allowed it, there are certainly quite a few congresscritter who are surprised by that. We had to pass that bill to find out we were going to do this?!

3. It looks like the current oversight is abominable and a new law to allow this sort of data collection should be debated in Congress.

4. CBS says Prism info stopped a 16 backpack bomb attack in the NY subways a couple of years ago. We need a debate in Congress on whether the drawbacks of Prism* are worth these rewards.

*an amazing boon to tyranny.

(follow ME! @ComradeArthur)

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posted by Open Blogger at 09:49 PM

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