Know Your Surveillance Programs

The NSA has four data collection programs.  Two collect “metadata,” and they are MAINWAY for phones and MARINA for the Internet.  The other two collect content, and they are NUCLEON for phone calls and PRISM for the Internet.

For more, see “U.S. surveillance architecture includes collection of revealing Internet, phone metadata,” Barton Gellman, WaPo

Shoot the Messenger

So the broad reaction in Congress, both Dem and GOP, to Edward Snowden’s leaks is not that we need less spying on us, it’s that we need less contractor access to classified info.

For more, see “A Promise of Changes For Access to Secrets,” David E. Sanger and Jeremy W. Peters, NYT

Quote of the Day

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) on Edward Snowden:

“First of all, Snowden probably shouldn’t have done what he did.  But the fact of the matter is I don’t see how that compromises the security of this country whatsoever.  And quite frankly, it helps people like me become aware of a situation that I wasn’t aware of before because I don’t sit on that Intelligence Committee.”

That’s pretty much where I am on all this.

Who Is This Guy?

So Michael Moore and Glenn Beck, who probably wouldn’t agree that today is Monday, are both calling Edward Snowden a hero, while Donald Trump says he’s a bad guy.

Over at the White House petition site, tens of thousands have signed a petition asking that Snowden be given a full pardon.  But only five of the 41 slides in the PRISM PowerPoint Snowden wanted released have been made public.  Would these people feel the same way if they saw the rest of the slides?  Apparently neither the Washington Post nor the Guardian believed that publishing those slides was a wise thing to do.

Just as it’s impossible to figure out the merits of our current surveillance programs without more information, I feel the same about judging Snowden.  I know I don’t feel comfortable signing that White House petition, but I wouldn’t sign one calling him a traitor either.

A couple of things jump out at me.  First, that he went to Hong Kong.  Hong Kong may be China with benefits, but it’s still, you know, China.  Second, that he didn’t finish high school.  Look, if you want to drop out of Harvard and start a company, go for it.  I just feel bad for the poor schmuck on the waiting list who would have appreciated your slot.  But finishing high school is kind of a minimum attainment in our society.  Even if you’re some brilliant computer geek, you sit there and get your credits and finish.  That unwillingness to finish high school tells me he sees himself as different, as superior, as not subject to the same rules as the rest of us.  Perhaps someone who should not have had a security clearance in the first place.   Working in anti-terrorism requires creativity, but it also requires a degree of conformity that Snowden clearly lacks.

Quote of the Day

“The possibility of a broad government sweep of domestic telephone data in pursuit of potential terrorists has long been suspected by civil liberties advocates and even hinted at by members of Congress.”

“Documents Point To Effort By U.S. To Get Web Data,” Charlie Savage and Edward Wyatt, NYT

I think anyone who has been paying attention over the years and taken note of the grumbling about Section 215 of the Patriot Act has no reason to be surprised about the release of a specific classified FISA order to Verizon.  Agree with it or not, it’s no shocker.

As for Prism, the program getting Internet information rather than phone records, if it’s true that the government is looking only at communications by foreigners who are overseas, I’d be upset if they weren‘t doing this.  To me, this seems essential to keeping us safe.