NSA Collected Americans' E-mails Even After it Stopped Collecting Americans' E-mails

In 2001, the Bush administration authorized -- almost certainly illegally -- the NSA to conduct bulk electronic surveillance on Americans: phone calls, e-mails, financial information, and so on. We learned a lot about the bulk phone metadata collection program from the documents provided by Edward Snowden, and it was the focus of debate surrounding the USA FREEDOM Act. E-mail metadata surveillance, however, wasn't part of that law. We learned the name of the program -- STELLAR WIND -- when it was leaked in 2004. But supposedly the NSA stopped collecting that data in 2011, because it wasn't cost-effective.

The internet metadata collection program authorized by the FISA court was discontinued in 2011 for operational and resource reasons and has not been restarted," Shawn Turner, the Obama administration's director of communications for National Intelligence, said in a statement to the Guardian.

When Turner said that in 2013, we knew from the Snowden documents that the NSA was still collecting some Americans' Internet metadata from communications links between the US and abroad. Now we have more proof. It turns out that the NSA never stopped collecting e-mail metadata on Americans. They just cancelled one particular program and changed the legal authority under which they collected it.

The report explained that there were two other legal ways to get such data. One was the collection of bulk data that had been gathered in other countries, where the N.S.A.'s activities are largely not subject to regulation by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and oversight by the intelligence court.

[...]

The N.S.A. had long barred analysts from using Americans' data that had been swept up abroad, but in November 2010 it changed that rule, documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden have shown. The inspector general report cited that change to the N.S.A.'s internal procedures.

The other replacement source for the data was collection under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which permits warrantless surveillance on domestic soil that targets specific noncitizens abroad, including their new or stored emails to or from Americans.

In Data and Goliath, I wrote:

Some members of Congress are trying to impose limits on the NSA, and some of their proposals have real teeth and might make a difference. Even so, I don't have any hope of meaningful congressional reform right now, because all of the proposals focus on specific programs and authorities: the telephone metadata collection program under Section 215, bulk records collection under Section 702, and so on. It's a piecemeal approach that can't work. We are now beyond the stage where simple legal interventions can make a difference. There's just too much secrecy, and too much shifting of programs amongst different legal justifications.

The NSA continually plays this shell game with Congressional overseers. Whenever an intelligence-community official testifies that something is not being done under this particular program, or this particular authority, you can be sure that it's being done under some other program or some other authority. In particular, the NSA regularly uses rules that allow them to conduct bulk surveillance outside the US -- rules that largely evade both Congressional and Judicial oversight -- to conduct bulk surveillance on Americans. Effective oversight of the NSA is impossible in the face of this level of misdirection and deception.

Posted on November 24, 2015 at 1:37 PM • 65 Comments

Comments

chomp_chomp!November 24, 2015 1:59 PM

"Meta data" is just another name for domestic spying.

As Snowden pointed out one program's "meta data" is used in other programs to spy on anyone.

For me, this is the best of the year that was 2015. John Oliver's segment with Snowden is brilliant if you haven't seen it already.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEVlyP4_11M

RandyNovember 24, 2015 2:22 PM

@Bruce wrote
In 2011, the Bush administration authorized...

We did not have Bush administration in 2011. We had Obama.

conspiracistNovember 24, 2015 2:26 PM

@Bruce


The NSA continually plays this shell game with Congressional overseers.

And yet they keep getting away with it. Why? Some folks behind the curtain who really pull the strings?

AdrianNovember 24, 2015 3:22 PM

The typo is in the year, not the name of the administration. STELLAR WIND was authorized by Bush in 2001.

Horrified OnlookerNovember 24, 2015 3:38 PM

Just so happens that Michael Mukasey and Jamil Jaffer had a big Op-Ed piece in the WSJ bemoaning the restrictions on such data collection

http://www.wsj.com/articles/time-to-remove-the-surveillance-blinders-1448325763

It's behind a paywall, but one slice:

"In considering how best to balance privacy and civil liberties with the need to protect the nation against terrorism, it is perverse to discourage the government from using an approach that limits the collection of email and phone-call content and instead simply seeks to connect the dots of terrorists’ communications."

Maybe the government's left hand isn't talking to the right or this is just fodder for the sheeple

Another KevinNovember 24, 2015 4:25 PM

@Horrified Onlooker

"In considering how best to balance privacy and civil liberties with the need to protect the nation against terrorism, it is perverse to discourage the government from using an approach that limits the collection of email and phone-call content and instead simply seeks to connect the dots of terrorists’ communications."

Wow - the intelligence community goes in for tortured sentences. You have to read that multiple times to figure out what side that's on.

"It is perverse to discourage..." means "We should encourage..."

So "We should encourage the government to use an approach that limits the collection of e-mail and phone call content, and simply seeks to connect the dots of terrorists' communication."

So this statement, when parsed out, says that Mukasey and Jaffer want to limit the government's collection of content.

But it's obviously intended to be read the opposite way.

tyrNovember 24, 2015 5:55 PM

That ultrasonic background whine is Korzybsky getting
up to spin speed. Double plus good.

CarlNovember 24, 2015 6:49 PM

What I have never understood is -why- NSA is so intent on collecting every packet of domestic traffic, be it email, cell data, browsing histories, or whatever. These are not ignorant people; they must know that the stated purpose - to 'protect' us from 'terrorists' is simply not true. What, then, is the real reason?

steveNovember 24, 2015 7:42 PM

@Carl - have you considered the possibility that they know something you don't? Actually, the shell game being referred to is a legacy of the crypto community altogether - insiders and outsiders. This is where we are now. Insiders and outsiders. The crypto community was always contemptuous of the outsiders and you basically needed someone's "permission" to exist. Then came the hackers and now the snotty picnic is over. What you're looking at is the skeleton, fully institutionalized and heavily funded.

CarlNovember 24, 2015 8:21 PM

@steve - I embrace the possibility that they know something I don't...I just can't fathom what 'something' is. The level of surveillance is far beyond that necessary to keep us safe (whatever that is), and every time an event occurs that the surveillance was supposed to prevent, we're told that it didn't. I can only assume there's some other reason for the surveillance than preventing attacks.

I'm not so tin-foil-hat paranoid that I believe in a secret cabal trying to control the world, so what the devil is the reason? Am I thinking too hard? Is it really that governments are morons who think they can protect us by denying our freedoms? There are mind-boggling sums of money being spent on this...there's got to be some rational reason for it.

CarlNovember 24, 2015 8:34 PM

@Cookie_Monster_Want_Data - I've been subject to retaliation for running a TOR node; IP blocked at banks and our state DMV, removed from TSA Precheck, 'totally random' extra screening each time I fly, cell calls jammed, and followed while traveling abroad. I still don't believe that there's some illuminati-style group trying to create a Fascist States of America (although it seems Mr. Trump might be interested in the prospect).

What you describe are tactics, not motivation. I'm trying to understand the motivation.

Mark MayerNovember 24, 2015 8:41 PM

@Carl

Maybe . . .
It's one or more secret cabals trying to control the world or their patch of it. They will never succeed, but they cause a great deal of suffering. The reason they will never succeed is that there are just too many moving parts, too many variables. Ultimately, they can only react. Their plans are always contingent and subject to blowback.

WaelNovember 24, 2015 9:25 PM

@Carl,

there's got to be some rational reason for it.

Data is the new oil. You may start from 11:45 to catch the "data" reference, but I recommend watching the whole Keith Yamashita video. It's fascinating, I think.

RossNovember 24, 2015 9:38 PM

This whole thing is absurd in that global surveillance isn't something that should be perpetrated on everyone but with some exception for being American-born. I understand the strategic value it has for propaganda and stirring revolutions, but I don't think America is on the right side of history here.

CarlNovember 24, 2015 9:56 PM

@Wael - Thanks for the link, it's a pretty good talk and I took a couple of good points from it. If I extrapolate from Yamashita's story about data being the new oil I might come to the conclusion that the US government is collecting and analyzing all of our digital communications in order to understand what it is that we as a nation really need, and to craft a more perfect republic based on that information.

I think that'd be a better cover story than 'because terrorists', don't you?

WaelNovember 24, 2015 10:17 PM

@Carl,

I don't think mass surveillance will stop terrorism, but it will help in postmortem analysis to catch the roots or the network involved.

I think that'd be a better cover story

It definitely would be a much better cover story ;)

FigureitoutNovember 24, 2015 11:04 PM

In addition to the concerns that dragnet surveillance doesn't work to protect us, can we ask what's the goddamn benefit from it all? What is the returns on investment? Why do we pay a bunch of people to stare at screens and write little reports that no doubt *maybe* get read once. Why isn't the intelligence shared w/ the people? I'm not meaning potential plots/investigations, but big data patterns, that would be useful at the least.

WaelNovember 25, 2015 12:43 AM

@Figureitout,

can we ask what's the goddamn benefit from it all?

Of course you can ask! Here are the benefits:
1- Creats jobs
2- Good big data research
3- Speach to text transcription
3- Neural networks and artificial intelligence research
4- Instant translations
5- Find out how many hops exist between you and a person of interest. If he's in trouble, then you're screwed :)

terribleNovember 25, 2015 3:01 AM

@Carl:

Obviously, one purpose of the mass surveillance is to let the intelligence community find, monitor and track political dissidents (which might be "future threats" to the government).

Another purpose is to provide intelligence about domestic criminal organizations (mafia, drug smugglers, and other more petty operators) that can be given to LEO's who use "parallel construction" to conceal the actual source of their intel (in other words, they lie in court and to the world, about how they caught the crooks).

Yet another purpose is to discover private, intimate details about many powerful people that can be used to blackmail them into cooperating with the shadow powers of the intelligence community. Certain politicians (Feinstein comes to mind) seem to be a little too shrill in defending the excesses of the NSA and harping on about the "dangers" of encryption, etc. There are many possible explanations for their behavior, but the most plausible to me is that the NSA knows the skeletons in their closets and/or has threatened to ruin their lives in some way if they don't play ball.

And that is the scariest thing about mass surveillance: information is power, and mass surveillance concentrates far too much power in the hands of a small number of unaccountable government organizations. It is a grave threat to a supposedly democratic nation, to allow secretive and unaccountable organizations to collect so much information about entire populations, most of whom are law-abiding citizens. I don't believe they can be trusted not to abuse that information today, but even if they could, how can we possibly know who will have control of those databases five or ten years from now? How can we possibly trust them not to abuse that power.

Clive RobinsonNovember 25, 2015 5:55 AM

@ Carl, Figureitout,

I can only assume there's some other reason for the surveillance than preventing attacks.

Firstly the premise for your assumption in that there is some kind of reason may be wrong.

A General is only a General if he has men under his command. Like wise the head of a federal agency has to have people in their agency to be head of.

The self esteem of such people in charge is measured not in their function or effectiveness, but in the numbers of men, equipment and size of budget. Likewise it's not measured in the function these people are tasked with or the effectiveness with which they carry it out.

But there is a new game for the aspiring head to gain status and aclaim by... The size of the outsourcing contracts they can asign and to whom. And the recipients of such largesse know how to be properly gratefull, not just now but in the future.

Thus the entropy of power has devolved some of it from the political core to the heads of the Military and Federal agencies. This benifits the "I" of the MIC and their ability to "kickback" is beyond that of the directly government funded agencies. But importantly not only does the commercial industry have much greater freedom to kickback in a myriad of ways not otherwise possible it also has much greater levels of secrecy as well.

So your first question should not be how much of the tax pie an agency is spending, nor what it buys, but who it buys it from.

Having found that out try and find out what the core competency of the organisations is, and importantly for how long they have existed.

As for the people and equipment, as in many "clasified" operations few get to see the frame let alone part of the picture, and only a select unaccountable few the whole picture.

Look at it this way, the guy that makes bolts on a production line, does he even need to know who's buying them let alone what they are being used to fasten together or what the finished system does? Simple answer is no, even if he was told would he be able to check? Simple answer NO, what about his boss? Again NO, the boss of the company? Again NO. So they could be told nothing or nonsense and in either case they would be non the wiser. The advantage of telling them nonsense is it stops them wondering, and can also give them a sense of patriotism / pride, that they might not have if they knew the real function.

All they realy know is the firm bids for business, if it's lucky it gets a contract, the contract has a specification for what the bolts should be made of and how and how they should be tested. The bolts get made they get shipped a cheque arives money goes in the bank, the guy making the bolts gets his money for the week and he or his wife spends it.

Nearly every job works in this way, even intelligence work, the "real know" is always "above your pay grade". You can make assumptions based on the information you actually have direct contact with, but that's it. As long as what your boss tells you to "stroke your ego" matches then you don't have reason to speculate beyond that.

And that is the beauty of the system work gets done money gets spent but only a tiny few know if the work has real purpose and worth. Project budgets may be mentioned but rarely is the worth of it. Even audit reports only talk about the processes not the products of the processes.

But better still when it comes to intangible information products how do you determin their worth, and to whom?...

Thus the information collected, collated and indexed, does not have to have a worth especially with the definition of "collected" these people use. It just has a cost of the process, storage, and search.

The "search" is the "Chinese Wall" behind which the real worth is hidden. And it is easy to hide what information is realy sort in amongst other similar but otherwise worthless searches.

Because information has a near zero cost to copy, some search results may end up in another storage system where other searche act as Chinese walls to the generation worth. Thus several apparently unrelated secondary stores may be recombined to generate worth.

Importantly you can not tell, nor can 99.999% of the workers, if you can ever find out who all the workers are...

Thus any reason no matter how distopian could be the real purpose, hidden behind other ineffective "make work" carried out by "drone workers". This distillate then passed to "guard labour" to show some worth to those given the task of oversight...

joshNovember 25, 2015 7:47 AM

@ Clive Robinson

Thus the information collected, collated and indexed, does not have to have a worth especially with the definition of "collected" these people use. It just has a cost of the process, storage, and search.

It's illogical to assume such system en mass does not have a worth placed on datum, because worth is applied to any type of prioritization. This is true of the process, storage, and search, not just search. The collection process upfront, IMHO, is where real worth is placed, they must be constantly tweaked in a feedback loop, otherwise those looking at what came out of the pipe have no idea they're being fooled, or not. There must be a way to formally verify otherwise there is no endgame in sight.

Clive RobinsonNovember 25, 2015 8:27 AM

@ Josh,

Perhaps you better identify what you mean by worth, and how you would define the sunk and continuing non recoverable cost of "collect everything" when in theory only about 1 in 10,000,000 of the records at best are going to fall in the scope of the publicaly stated intent of "anti-terror"...

NOT [FATE] A = NOT ANovember 25, 2015 5:34 PM

Sometime before 2009 I posted some graph theory notes in a blog of my. Everything I knew and figured out about graph theory and linear algebra, but nothing new or unknown. In late spring 2009 I was contacted by someone who identified himself by name as a physics graduate student from Sharif University in Tehran. He said he had reviewed my notes and had a question. I was a bit startled and flattered that anyone ever looked at it. I hesitated to respond, but feeling cavalier I answered his question as best I knew. Later I received two more emails, just with cute photos from some site I guess being on his mailing list. The second set was http://binscorner.com/pages/h/howtomakeolympicsmoreattractive.html , Then later a linkedin in request which I accepted. I was aware that international communications especially with a foreign nation of interest...any way one friend of mine's sibling was a language translator at Fort Meade learning a new language, playing language tapes when I made acquaintance. Another friend was once a Russian translator for the Army I believe, my cousin's husband I knew worked for DOD and an uncle told me at some point he was highly placed in Satellites and Surveillance. I had worked for a defense subcontractor...

What is my status?

John UnderhillNovember 25, 2015 5:37 PM

The bottom line is simply this; how much power should a government have?
History is our best teacher here, and history is rich with examples of political machines devolving into tyranny, always beginning with the appeal; 'we want to protect you'.
Less than 40 years ago the world was nearly engulfed by communism.. what did we learn? Very little it seems, if people believe that a government recording every thing we say and do, cradle to grave, that this is a reasonable consequence to keeping us safe.
The Paris attacks were beyond tragic, the people behind it are vile, that is indisputable.. but in 5 years from now, ISIS will be a footnote, and we will be facing some other threat, and we will live on..
If we allow governments the ability to track and record everything we do, surrender our most fundamental right of privacy, what will be the next right they take from us? The right to assemble? Free speech? Certainly a case could be made that we would be safer with out those rights as well, where will it end? Of course, the inevitable consequence to this is a world none of us want, one where the only place you will find freedom, is in the history books..

JustinNovember 25, 2015 11:30 PM

@NOT [FATE] A = <CHANCE> NOT A

Starts out with basic graph theory which seems all well and good, and then, well, I don't follow all that math and programming, but you have some provocative examples, an apparently unreferenced figure of a Kabbalah tree of life on p.80 and some sort of mind-map of political stability in Afghanistan p.89 or thereabouts.

It's not clear what these have to do with what the rest of the paper is about.

What do you mean by "NOT [FATE] A = <CHANCE> NOT A"? So if "A" is some logical or philosophical proposition that is not determined by "fate," then there is some chance that "A" is not true, (or that "A" did not or does not come to pass...)

Yes in modal logic that does make sense,

¬□A=◇¬A

Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I can find a suitable reference for the philosophical interpretation of the modal necessitation operator □ as "FATE" and its dual possibility ◇ as "CHANCE." (For a basic reference, see Varieties of Modality, or in more detail The Epistemology of Modality.)

;-)

NOT [FATE] A = <CHANCE> NOT ANovember 26, 2015 12:16 AM

The figures were just for fun, examples of graphs, those notes always in a state of being unfinished. Tree of Life has a planar dual graph. The Afghanistan diagram looked like it was the diagram a mathematical model, markov continuous time or discrete to project the proportions of the Afghan population favorable to Coalition vs the Taliban based on Coalition strategy. To little data/parameters can be gleaned from the diagram to guess the form of the model. Haven't looked at any of it in a while. I do thing fate and chance are modal dual operators, but I could be wrong.

JustinNovember 26, 2015 2:41 AM

@NOT [FATE] A = <CHANCE> NOT A

More questions about your modal formula:

I do thing fate and chance are modal dual operators, but I could be wrong.

I don't see why not; you are using them as such, after all. There are many different modal logics and many interpretations of modal logics. You seem to be saying that that which is necessitated is necessitated by fate; perhaps a point of view of fatalism, or rather determinism. Chance on the other hand is a form of indeterminism.

So with "fate" and "chance" you have the dual notions of determinism and indeterminism. It cannot be wrong at all to use these as dual modal operators.

(A slightly different modal logic in mathematics uses the dual notions of "provability" and "irrefutability." That logic is restricted in certain ways, by Gödel's theorems of incompleteness, and is called the Gödel-Löb logic of provability.)

So anyways, what are the rules of your logic with "fate" and "chance"? Which of the axioms do you accept, assuming your "agent" is "fate"?

NOT [FATE] A = <CHANCE> NOT ANovember 26, 2015 7:57 AM

I hadn't considered which axioms beyond necesitation and distribution would be appropriate with chance and fate. Modal and temporal logic intrigue me now, but I've not devoted time to it other than to ponder other possible modalities, maybe like always and sometimes. I have to think about it. Modality (a square peg) is deep or nuanced in that mostly we always think of synonym/antonym pairs (a round hole). Perhaps modality could also be applied to yin and yang... Is modal and temporal with boolean and predicate calculus accounted for in natural language processing I wonder? Alas there's too much to know.

For some reason I was unconvinced by fuzzy logic for non-integral truth values (degree of membership), converting boolean polynomials into probability polynomials has my interest at the moment, https://sites.google.com/site/snaexample/home/logic-puzzles-2

tyrNovember 26, 2015 7:54 PM


Having read a lot of history, I seriously doubt that the
world was ever in danger of being engulfed by communism.

That doesn't mean that the western chant about it going to
occur at any moment wasn't swelling to a crescendo at times.

One part of that mythological fairytale was the absorption
of the mystical Tsarist dissidents of the Gehlen Apparat in
to western IC who had no way to determine if they were being
fed a crock of shit by loons who had been recruited by NSDAP.

Once the spy apparatus started to get a real look the huge
bommber fleets evaporated in a puff of Faery dust. We pushed
Ho into the arms of the communists and almost every gain they
made in the so-called third world was similar. Given a choice
no one wanted to enlist with Stalinist types who had already
betrayed the whole enterprise of international communism. So
what was their choice, USA was in bed with the absolute scum
of the earth. That's hardly the role model to guide anyone
serious about bettering their local conditions.

Since most people don't dig into the actual track record of
what goes on past their borders they live in an insulated
mythical bubble of how benign and wonderful their government
is to others. Most communists are the grimmest types of tedious
dumbass around but they lack the maniacal character attributed
to them by the myth. Both sides of the conflicts have adopted
the worst possible method of solving an ideological dispute
killing people who disagree with the mad scheme proposed.

What is truly funny is that anarchism has produced more of
the tangible benefits to ordinary people and helped both the
communists and capitalists to create reasonable societies
than either of the so-called forces of progress. Does it get
any credit, of course not, that would be admitting someone
else had a good idea once in awhile.

[FATE] NOT A = NOT <CHANCE> ANovember 27, 2015 1:05 AM

Anyway aside from the 2009 email exchange with the Iranian physics grad in Tehran, I think it was not all long that after that I was approached awkwardly by reasonably clean cut fellow in the parking lot where I worked while I smoked a cigarette. He lurched at me somewhat to begin a conversation. He smoked. He showed me his Zippo which as I remember had a navy or marine emblem. I showed him my El Diablo Zippo, candy apple red with a gold devil relief. He mentioned that he was in open source intelligence. I forget what we chatted about, but it stuck me odd.

JustinNovember 27, 2015 2:16 AM

Sounds like those guys that hang out at a bus stop or parking lot or somewhere like that, and they're taking a cigarette out of their shirt pocket, and tucking it behind their ear, or just holding it between their fingers and waving it around or else they don't have a cigarette and they ask everyone in sight for a smoke, and then they take a lighter out of their pocket, start fiddling with it, opening and closing it a few times, or flicking it with their fingers, or else they don't have a lighter or it's out of butane, and they're asking strangers for a light, and finally they put that cigarette between their lips--"Oh, do you mind if I smoke here?"--light up with it and proceed to blow a big cloud of smoke right in your face.

I have no idea if it's the nicotine or the whole ritual of it, I really don't care, but if Obama can quit smoking, so can you, because Obamacare sure won't help you with any smoking-related health issues.

Get a 99-cent Bic if you have to smoke and don't talk to guys like that. Goes without saying.

Leonidas W. SmileyNovember 27, 2015 11:15 AM

Data is data, information is information I reckon' and voracious appetites for data ain't nuthin new. It got me to thinkin' a whiles back having worked for an outfit, one of three doing the same thing at the time, which made products for defense. The technology weren't classified, and ther wern't no security at all at this particular company an' a lot of international employees werked there. The number of products ordered and shipped correlated strongly with the particular weapons systems being produced. Info that might have been useful to Jane's or whoever. Didn't think about it at the time, being to stressed out with the job, but later reflection. Some folks want to collect as much info as they can't being useful to paint a picture of what's goin on. This outfit hadn't caught on to email then, but now I s'pose corporations bein people an all, their international communications are fair game too.

FigureitoutNovember 27, 2015 5:38 PM

Wael
--Huh, didn't mention anti-terrorism lol. Well maybe those jobs aren't the most empowering, the research remains classified, and the data can be poisoned too, ruining the research (that many never consented to). Still think it's not a good value, put the money in more hard science, lay off the lazy people.

WaelNovember 27, 2015 10:14 PM

@Figureitout,

put the money in more hard science, lay off the lazy people.

That was a long time ago.

FigureitoutNovember 30, 2015 11:52 PM

Wael
--Good, I think I can find a bit more fat to trim out. By a bit I mean a lot. One thing I definitely support cutting is federal legislator's "carte blanche" healthcare, put them and their family on Obamacare.

Clive Robinson
Firstly the premise for your assumption in that there is some kind of reason may be wrong.
--Wasn't mine. I'm assuming that there isn't much worth to it to the public (they'll be military-based so stealth aspect won't be very good, in civilian atmospheres...) and that we should cut back their budget significantly and if they want they can take up criminal actions to continue it. And your description of worthless makework backs it up (from experience, perhaps..?). I know some people who "want out" or one snide comment of mentioning someone going to work at one of these places was sarcastic "have fun...". It's funny b/c this person's job is to do financial oversight, of a program that he can't even have access to what they're working on...so that's bullsh*t and makes the employee feel like their work is bull too...and if the costs go way over budget then the blame goes the employee that can't get access to the different colored badges lol...

Clive RobinsonDecember 1, 2015 3:44 AM

@ Figureitout,

Both you and Carl were asking the same sort of "what is the worth" question, and I tried to answer you both with one reply (blaim @Nick P, he used to joke about the length and number of my replies, and I'm a sensitive soul ;-)

As for Empire building and make work, yes I've seen it and experienced it in both sides of "tax funded" work. That is not just in Gov depts but Mil Manufacturing. The joke about the "six hundred dollar hammer" is no joke. By the time you add all the "makework" to bulk up an Empire in industry and the mirroring "makework" of Gov auditors etc who are trying to ensure "best value" you get a massive inflationary spiral of paperwork abd it's attendent costs. Outside of overly obvious fraud, there is no greater price inflator than mandatory audit...

The thing is there is now a new "off books" game. First put forward back in the time of "Mad Maggie" Thatcher and Ronnie "Spacewars Ray Gun", called "Public Private Finance Initiative" (variously PPFI / PPI / PFI). Even "Mad Maggie" had the good sense to say "no way" to that little wheeze. However with Tony "Blair faced lier" and his "spend spend spend" mania, the attraction of "off books debt" PFI, was just way way way to attractive.

So we now have backdoor government borrowing not at the few percent Bonds might cost but at over 25% per year for thirty or fourty years. But worse they get to do maintenance on the buildings they build and we are back to charges of 250GBP or more just to change a light bulb. Worse as the buildings were knocked out on the cheap they are starting to fall apart in years not decades so repairs that should be under the builders guarantee are being put through by the builder as maintenance "kerching". Oh and then there are the costs for plans and architects fees, all charged as "bespoke" but are actually used over and over and over again. The same with legal fees and advice...

To say the list is endless is untrue, but the PFI companies have massive legal departments working out all sorts of new permutations of what's on the list, so it might as well be endless...

The result is the Gov can say it's keeping "public sector spending down" whilst mortgaging up our grand children on a masive debt that can not be repaid. But the chickens are "coming home to roost" the debt in the UK NHS due to PFI is killing people as front line medicak staff are cut to pay not just the PFI debt/costs but also employ armies of paper pushers and lawyers to try to limit what the PFI companies are exploiting....

So yes I've seen makework in action and felt the pain it causes, and it's not enough to say Tony Blair "has blood on his hands" over Iraq, he is so drenched in it from PFI, it is better to say he is one giant "clot that has turned into a scab". Unfortunately he has also perverted a whole generation of worthless politicos who's only real thoughts are for their own pockets and nests to feather. Puting them up against the wall and "Hilti gunning" them there to rot as in gibbets of times past is not going to be sufficient to cleanse "The body politic", and unfortunately Hercules and the Agean stables was a myth...

FigureitoutDecember 1, 2015 4:07 AM

Clive Robinson
--Well, sorry you're a sensitive soul, the world tends to encourage heartless psychopaths in a battle of "survival of the fittest". This kind of hit me watching a bird dicing up a poor worm into pieces for some reason...mostly because survival temporary and is agnostic to the species...if the entire earth dies then all the history dies...

I can't stand the whole political worthlessness (I wasted 5 years of my life believing I could "change" it being some little naive "hero"...) and to hell w/ all of it; it just puts me in a rotten mood and then I waste my time on such toxic people that "I just can't even". I used to advocate revolution and to get all entirely new people as representatives but that got me on the terrorist list so now I just don't give a f*ck and enjoy seeing the politicos power dwindling more and more. Like everyone else, they can't prevent their bank accounts from being hacked. There's no point to many of them these days, and that trend will continue until they're seen as such worthless dead weight they get cut off from welfare and hopefully direct democracy takes hold.

Gerard van VoorenDecember 1, 2015 9:21 AM

@ Figureitout,

> I can't stand the whole political worthlessness...

Vote for Bernie Sanders. Of all the candidates I think he is the most integer. And he has, by far, the most interesting campaign. If you don't vote, others will. You can't change todays political climate but maybe the future.

One advice. Don't listen to what they rave about but look at what they do.

NOT [FATE] A = <CHANCE> NOT ADecember 2, 2015 9:17 AM

@Justin

Now I remember that OSINT guy in the parking lot was recommending some crack pot website/blog with lots of misspelled words devoted to Ayn Rand. I think it was Ayn Rand maybe it was something else. I once read all her writings when I was young, but realized later she was full of hot air, at least 3/4 full.

I did learn later that HR wasn't pleased with some criticism I had made in my personal blog about security guards not knowing their jobs and mishandling an altercation and for some reason asking lowly me what to do instead of the manager...that or I was complaining about Microsoft...

NOT [FATE] A = <CHANCE> NOT ADecember 2, 2015 8:05 PM

@Justin

Again in regard to that OSINT guy maybe I should mention I was working at a local library tending the public workstations and helping patrons use them. The library at some point, maybe 2007, had all the librarians and me at least take a "course" on how to use new features of the internet in order to show patrons. They had us create blogs on blogspot, facebook accounts etc for ourselves to learn how to use them. Maybe they decided to keep an eye on the blogs. Someone was looking at some point.

They never listened to me, though, when since they printed library card numbers on the receipts for book checkout, when I told them that you could pickup discarded receipts on the floor or as bookmarks in returned books, go to a barcode website or download a barcode program, create a codabar with the card number, then use self-checkout for books or sign up for public computers. It took them a few years to stop printing those receipts. Whatever.

JustinDecember 2, 2015 9:42 PM

Three, actually four, posts in a row directed at me. That's oddly persistent. For one thing, fate, chance, and cigarette lighters don't go together. Not in my life, at least.

that OSINT guy

So you work for Big Data, and he's after your data. Or he's just some random dude rambling incoherently about Ayn Rand, and he happened to be addicted to tobacco. Neither of you has any connection to me in any case.

The security guards were outsourced.

Ok, sure, if you run a jewelry store, and all you care about is that people don't steal dollar-value tangible stuff, then by all means outsource your security. But if you do some type of intelligence work, and you have your own HR department, shouldn't you hire your own security guards? Do your own background checks on these guys, and make sure they don't present a security risk to your particular line of work? Make double sure it isn't someone you happen to know is after your data or intelligence?

I was working at a local library tending the public workstations and helping patrons use them.

If OSINT guys are interested in what I'm looking up at the library, they probably also know what I'm looking up on the internet in general, especially if I don't make any special effort to hide it. All the advertisers know what I'm looking at, despite ad-blockers galore. If they try to draw conclusions based on what I look up and what I don't look up, they can run around in circles and shit themselves, because I don't fit their psychological consumer profile.

What I read, online or off, doesn't necessarily correlate with my opinion of what I read.

Modal logic is a kind of curiosity of mine, so that was interesting to me, but ick, I hate cigarette smoke. So unless you have something of more general interest to say, or want to get more on topic, I'm not sure how any of this concerns me in particular or any of my posts. Moderator feel free to weigh in, but I thought the general discussion belonged more in the Friday squid posts.

FigureitoutDecember 2, 2015 9:58 PM

Wael
--I watched enough of those types of documentaries in those 5 years I wasted. I love the "we lost $10 billion" stories too, yeah bullsh*t someone just robbed the public again.

Gerard van Vooren
--1 person won't change it, won't do any actual "real" work; just wall street style "shuffling money around" work. All the real leaders see this immediately, get spooked probably b/c they know they'll fail too, and go off to other things to do things that matter.

This is oversimplifying (not mentally hard, just a lot of busy work) an unapproachable problem that will get worse as more worthless wrong people for the job float to the top. I don't want to spend anymore time on it personally, just warn naive people before they waste their lives on it, it just sucks. Get a real job w/ marketable skills doing things that matter.

ThomasDecember 3, 2015 1:20 PM

Bruce,

It would interesting to capture whether or not any of these apps have received funding from Open Technology Fund (OTF).

GDecember 5, 2015 3:04 AM

Best comment thread I've read in a long time. Jesus, so much going on too. Clive is always a treat, but I loved the responses to the motives behind all this spying. Then Justin took the bait and apparently was harrassed by Mr fate = chance reciept picker upper guy. Couldn't have ended much better. I'm the edge of my seat, but I don't think I want or can take anymore rabbit hole. I assume most are aware of the elephant in the room at this site, but I had no idea how real it was. Whew... Thank god cats have nine lives, last time I'm coming here sans vpn.

Church of the SubgeniusDecember 5, 2015 3:52 AM

@G

Best comment thread I've read in a long time. Jesus, so much going on too. Clive is always a treat, but I loved the responses to the motives behind all this spying. Then Justin took the bait and apparently was harrassed by Mr fate = chance reciept picker upper guy. Couldn't have ended much better. I'm the edge of my seat, but I don't think I want or can take anymore rabbit hole. I assume most are aware of the elephant in the room at this site, but I had no idea how real it was. Whew... Thank god cats have nine lives, last time I'm coming here sans vpn.

Are you joking or being sarcastic.

"Mr Fate", whatever, was talking nonsense, and sounds like a woman to me.

I literally read your response from the 'last 100 comments', and thought there would be something interesting. Only to see Justin and Mrs Fate were playing some game together.

Wat on earth is the "gorilla in the room".

Justin is not a spy or something, if that is what you are insinuating, and certainly neither is Mr/Mrs Fate....

Probably some covert counterintelligence agents working here, though.

*squinty eyes*

Workin at fake companies with fake backgrounds.

But, it certainly would not be some dude talking about baltimore and cig baiters.

The real money is the sons of bitches that grew up in covert training programs.

The US Directorate S monsters.

Never been caught. Unicorns of fantasy. Bigfoot.

Do not exist.

Please do, however, visit the truth of SLACK: http://www.subgenius.com/

-- Poor, anonymous, humble, genuine servant of BOB


JustinDecember 6, 2015 4:18 PM

@G, Wael, Church of the Subgenius

About this fate/chance dude. I have the impression he works for Big Data in San Francisco, (nowhere near Baltimore, although that could be the wrong guy.) Anyways, in California. Which reminds me about a couple of weeks ago, before the guy even posted, I got a couple of strange phone calls from California. Guy talked way too much for a wrong number. I thought from something he said on the phone maybe he hacked into my computer and saw my notes on modal logic I happened to be studying out of curiosity, but most of my notes on that subject were hand-written...I think I must have recycled most of them by now or else they disappeared. (He probably has a buddy that lives in my town.)

Comes on like he's queer or something like that (as if his cigarette lighter has any relevance to this forum,) and he's going to "out" me, as in "Justout" vs. "Justin".

Sorry, dude, you're just not as cute as Cate Blanchett.

The NSA has LOVEINT, what is this, GAYINT? Maybe he can get away with that in California, but if he ever come around my town, I hope he meets some of the white supremacist skinhead paramilitary types. And you wonder why people become extremists.

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