Barfa February 26, 2020 6:21 AM

I know it has been said often before, but the blatant newspeak when they named it the Freedom Act…. It’s on DDR level.

K.S. February 26, 2020 7:10 AM

Just line up, empty your pockets, and take your shoes off already.

Oh wait, that is different useless program.

Chris February 26, 2020 7:29 AM

Not to mention how many feed the beast with totally fictional metadata
Its the best thing ever to know you are being watched and pretend not knowing
I just love it, i hope they continue the useless programs for long time

Fazal Majid February 26, 2020 8:40 AM

Just because it is useless at catching terrorists doesn’t mean it is useless for its primary purpose, spying on journalists and exposing whistleblowers. It’s just that now we have an Administration that no longer worries about adverse consequences should malfeasance be exposed, the program is now no longer needed.

Who? February 26, 2020 1:12 PM

The phone metadata program is only five years old and has been running, officially, until last year—it is surprising an study on a young surveillance program has been declassified so quickly. May it be that intelligence community is starting writing fake reports, at least in countries were declassification laws exist, targeted to be declassified, spreading deceiving ideas?

As noted before the phone metadata program is bad for terrorism, it may be better however for political/financial/technological surveillance.

Clive Robinson February 26, 2020 2:14 PM

@ All,

Congress is currently debating whether to extend the authority, even though the NSA says it’s not using it now.

Congress will observe that although it produced nothing of worth, that is it was “seed on fallow ground” they almost certainly will go for the “Onan Option”[1] because that is the way they can gain tribute.

[1] Whilst every member of Congress claims to be a believer in a God, that is a political stance used more as an excuse for their Godless behaviour more than anything else. Not only do they not believe in a God they do not believe in Devine Retribution either. Much the same as Onan believed[2]. So having wasted so much seed on fallow ground already, they will keep the legislation in place so theu can spill yet more at some time in the future. Remember in their eyes the only “bad legislation” is something that might deprive either themselves or their well healed sponsors. Any legislation that can be used to grease that squeaky wheel that is a lobbying party in the future will almost certainly be retained on some excuse.

[2] Onan appears in the Book of Genesis chapter 38, who like his older brother Er was slain by God. Onan’s death came about because of Hebrew custom, whereby his widowed sister in law along with her dead husbands lands were given to Onan. Custom decreed that Onan should treat her like a wife and procreate with her. If she gave issue to a sire then he would inherit the lands, not Onan or any other children Onan might have. God made it clear that Onan should forefill his duty, however Onan decided to forefill it in name only and dishonour custom by instead “spilling his seed upon the ground”. Thus God took retribution for Onan being “evil in the sight of the Lord” and disobeying a direct order…

Ismar February 26, 2020 11:53 PM

This confirms the theory that watching everyone is as useless (if not more so) then not watching anyone, while certainly being much more expensive .

Peter A. February 27, 2020 3:42 AM

Politicians live on slogans, not on the content of any law they enact. How could they repeal a FREEDOM act, or a PATRIOT act? That would be un-American.

Gerard van Vooren February 27, 2020 3:54 AM

@ Barfa,

Remember that they kill on metadata (Soleimani and thousands more) so it’s way worse than the DDR. The problem of the DDR was that the era wasn’t as optimized as it is today but still they “managed” quite okay. Just watch the movie “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” or even better “The Lives of Others”.

Curious February 27, 2020 7:26 AM

I think I remember some US people opining that ‘torture’ doesn’t work (a statement which obviously can’t be true, or wouldn’t make any sense given how torture can’t be a selective characterization as if all things torture was simply based on intent or policy). I am here also skeptical to the very idea of thinking surveillance being useless. I think one can generally say that the idea of useless surveillance programs is by its own merit something of an oxymoron (an idea with inherent contradicitons), given how people actually performed surveillance in the first place. I am ofc not endorsing surveillance programs, but just saying that if somethings’ usefullness is more of an anachronism (something immediately historical, as if lying in the past), then one might overlook what one might describe as being the epitome of a police state, the surveillance. Once a police state, always a police state? I mean, even having a policy (“Patriot act”) for presumably warrantless but limited surveillance, then apparently James Clapper still had to lie to congress about it in having answered “not wittingly” to a question about this surveillance collecting any data about practically any and all people in USA. At the risk of not knowing enough about this subject, it still sounds like the patriot act wasn’t what it was purported to be, ergo, any idea of sanctioned or limited surveillance would be a moot point in that regard if they just did whatever they wanted and maybe surveilled all people.

I can see how one would want to view a surveillance program as being seemingly ineffective at achieveing something in particular (investigations and maybe prosecutions), but I would question the forgiving sentiment of things involving generic surveillance. I think I like ‘monitoring’ better, as monitoring imo doesn’t imply an interest in any discriminate collection of information, thus a more crude way of surveillance like a camera that is always on. This type of problem where I live has been characterized as “making ordinary people into suspects” (suspects of crimes obviously).

I wonder, how much of any surveillance (rationalized with or without the existence of US Patriot Act) can be said to be perpetual or intermittent, but still being a form of mass monitoring? I guess it would be meaningful to qualify the scope, like recording of car movement in ways, telephone calls obviously, internet use and internet browsing history, friends list, government personal dossiers, video and audio recordings, monitoring of bank accounts, any form of black list, or other lists to categorize types of people and personal activity/interests innocent of crimes,

Another aspect I think would be important to take into account, is expunged or perhaps anonymized records (imagine a technical or a legal loophole of simply anonymizing records and thus avoiding regulations that was intended to control deletions), stemming from monitoring and surveillance. Because, just because such records doesn’t exist today, wouldn’t mean they never did. Weird thought: Maybe anonymized records wouldn’t even qualify as records anymore, as a matter of policy, or epistemology. A potential technical and legal loophole?

MarkH February 27, 2020 8:05 AM


I think I remember some US people opining that ‘torture’ doesn’t work

“some US people” = professionals in law enforcement and intelligence, with experience in or related to interrogation

I don’t recall anybody knowledgeable saying “does’t work” without specifying for which purpose.

What they said was, that it’s a very poor approach to interrogation, and that there are well-established methods of interrogating suspects or other sources which have proven much more effective.

Torture is very popular in some places. It doesn’t work for interrogation, but it is effective as a means of:

• compelling false confessions
• getting the “intelligence” the interrogator wants, instead of what the victim knows
• terrorizing other subjects of the state’s power
• supressing dissent
• gratifying sadistic urges of the torturer and/or superiors in the chain of command

For those purpose, it is at least somewhat functional.

Curious February 27, 2020 9:03 AM


You seem to ignore what ought to be obvious, that torture is still torture. Making instances of torture a relativistic concept as such, so as to negate the possibility of having an intent to torture, really seems wrong, if not something outright criminal by what is blatantly obvious (the torture). I think you instead of being able to evaluate torture, as a means of extracting information based on stated purposes, you would instead attest to committing torture as opposed to simply legalizing acts or policy that would normally be deemed torture. In other words, hermeneutics shouldn’t save anyone from criminality involving torture, especially not attested acts that in turn is normally thought of as torture. Why else would they have this term “enhanced interrogation” if not being another word for torture? I mean, it is tempting to conclude that “enhanced interrogation” is a practical euphemism for torture. I suppose it is entirely possible that ‘enhanced interrogation’ could be synonymous with prolonged interrogation, but I’ve read stories about at least one Iraqi officer dying in Iraq, having been trapped in a sleeping bag with an interrogator sitting on to of him, or, people that are simply water boarded, or tortured if you will. I am sure there are worse stories that I’ve forgotten about.

Simply referencing things like false confessions and the rest you listed, makes your statement disingenuous and false, because such things as you indicate, obviosly are things that by your own statement would conclusively make torture not work for interrogation (what you wrote), so that, you can’t really argue the way you do, that torture doesn’t work for interrogation in this way by statistics, by using a word like “effective” but also implied as having the opposite meaning. You are obviously doing this type of argument, but it is disingenuous, because of how you are obviously referring to real torture as recent past events, it happened. Whatever idea one has of ‘effectiveness’ of torture is thus for all practical purposes (no pun intended) something wholly arbitrary and irrelevant to whether or not they would torture anyone in the first place. I will argue, there is NO reason to think that torture won’t happen again, just because policy and ‘theory’ changed. This type of theory talk is imo just bs, and isn’t convincing for much if anything to do specifically for how effective or ineffective torture is. I also suspect an obvious failure of such type of theory, is that imo one can easily see how by torturing lots of people, you can get to work with cross checking the feedback (presumably, interrogators are neither in the business of asking questions in liue of chinese proverb of only asking questions you already know the answer to, nor necessarily fact checking everything, and presumably anyone resisting some torture aren’t treated better becasue they appear unaffected). I think torture this way, torturing lots of people, might as well be thought of like working a slot machine over and over again, just waiting for when certain things match up among serveral people questioned by torture or otherwise.

I think I have this “doesn’t work” part from the media opining on “enhanced interrogatinos” and torture. The important thing is the general idea, the opinions of whoever does or support any torturing is of no interest to me, because their opinion just isn’t interesting given that: 1) torture already happened 2) torture might as well happen again 3) Torturing someone is despicable to say the least.

Clive Robinson February 27, 2020 9:16 AM

@ Curious,

I think I remember some US people opining that ‘torture’ doesn’t work

As a method of gaining valid information, torture is faily pointless. No doubt you’ve heard,

    You can’t get blood from a stone.

Whilst true, you can however,

    Turn the heat up on the rocks till they crack

By which time the rocks are useless, because all you get out of them is hot air not blood.

Because it does not take long for a tourture target to work out that the length of their life is dependent on not talking about what the tourturer is asking. However they have to make up something to stop the pain etc.

But by this time the tortured target has learnt enough from the torturers questions to work out how to lie. The thing is even if the lie is revield as a lie it generally just confirms to the torturer that the target is trying to hid the truth. So the tortured target survives another day.

And that is the point that most forget, pain is all in the mind, and given time the mind can over come most things, what it depends on is the persons will to live for whatever purpose, the simplest often being revenge.

Curious February 27, 2020 10:09 AM


I supposed you don’t want another explanation from me, but basically, I would say you are apparently referring to real things (the practice of questioning and also torture), but in form of a theory (how to understand and explain and also a practise), this should give a clue as to how I find it very inappropriate to sort of defending or even understanding such a theory, but obviously it being based on real events, not being simply something academic (teachings) and thus would be clearly void of realities of morality for anybody other than people involved or supporting torture.

I have an example to perhaps better illustrate how wrong it is to trying to argue for something to be basic knowledge: Consider a man on tv, attributed with the title “professional bank robber”, no idea if he is in jail or not or what he ever gained from working in his profession, now imagine him saying “bank robbery isn’t an effective way to get rich”. Would you really believe that statement, or find it sincere, or even meaningful given the potentially dire aspects to bank robbery in general?

Curious February 27, 2020 10:12 AM

My typo above, prob.happened during editing: Sentence should have been:

“(…)but in form of a theory (how to understand and explain and also a defending a practise),(…)”

MarkH February 27, 2020 1:42 PM


Consider a man … attributed with the title “professional bank robber” … saying “bank robbery isn’t an effective way to get rich”.

  1. I would think that an interesting datum, because if the attribution were valid, and he were speaking honestly, his perspective would be anchored in experience. However …
  2. If I understand the use of this analogy in context, it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding. Let’s make the algebraic substitutions:

Consider a man … attributed with the title “professional torturer” … saying “torture isn’t an effective way to interrogate a prisoner”.

However, the people who denounced torture in that manner had (to my knowledge) never participated in it themselves1 … so the analogy breaks down.

Here’s an actually relevant analogy:

Consider a woman … attributed with the title “professional cryptographer” … saying “keeping the design of a cryptosystem secret isn’t an effective way to ensure its security”.

If the source really is a professional cryptographer, then it’s nearly certain that she has never in her career violated the Kerckhoffs principle by relying on mere obscurity to guarantee the strength of a cryptosystem intended for wide or consequential use. She doesn’t speak from immediate experience, but rather from a store of knowledge in cryptographic science: it’s been tried before, it failed, and the reasons for its failure are well understood.

She doesn’t need to be an offender, to know that the offense is harmful.

Videmus lumen?

1 For the sake of precision, none of them had participated (to my knowledge) in the infliction of torture, but one of them had been a victim of torture.

bigmacbear February 27, 2020 2:24 PM

As I understand it, the assertion of the fact that torture doesn’t work (for the purposes for which attempts are being made to justify it) is intended precisely to remove any shred of such justification for its use. The fact that it works for other equally unjustifiable reasons such as suppression of dissent makes it all the more imperative to say never, under any circumstances, is this justifiable.

Curious February 28, 2020 3:28 AM


I already explained the problem of the inappropriateness of having abusers or those that support abusers, dispense institutionalized knowledge about a practice that also is basically something criminal if involving torture, and thus shouldn’t be trusted or be even be deemed meaningful when one would be getting your information from basically criminals or those dispensing forms of abuse/violence. The bank robber metaphor was meant to show that. This is ofc not a game of logical word substitution and wasn’t intended to be a trivial analogy. Context rules.

Curious February 28, 2020 3:59 AM


Noam Chomsky after a presentation, after being asked by the audience if maybe one should speak truth to power, he commented something like, that people in power already knows the truth, and as a general statement I find that notion appealing, as if having to assume that such probably is true in the general sense.

It seems reasonable to say that torture isn’t a novel idea, at any time the last few hundred years, not even for the purpose of questioning, and so given how torture still happened (ref. Obama’s statement on the matter) even though it probably was already illegal, they apparently still institutionalized the practice of torture with waterboarding for example, imo making arguments that such sentiments of anti-torture false because such knowledge just isn’t believable/credible, unless ofc being subject to wishful thinking, but then it would be more like something idiotic or idiosyncratic if you will. What you like to think of ‘assertion’ there, is imo next to worthless unless ofc you youself would consider taking up the profession of being an interrogator, but ofc, the thought of torture being bad is a nice thought, but ofc such I am sure was already something illegal. I fail to see how anyone at all can feel good in simply concluding that torture isn’t effective in questioning. A particular idioim comes to mind: Do as I say, don’t do like I do.

I think with the notion of torture as a result of policy, but then the arguments that appear to be against that, the latter being basically a fallacy of reasoning in a philosopical sense, because you would rely on knowledge as theory (i.e theory as bureaucratic practice), or the things that come with anything institutionalized, like selective epistemology (like with the phrase “enhanced interrogation” presumably) given the particular US setting.

MarkH February 28, 2020 8:05 AM


To my knowledge, none of the current or former officials whose condemnations of torture I saw, had at any time committed or condoned any such conduct. Unless ALL of them were contaminated by such complicity, the predicate of the reasoning you posted above is invalid, and accordingly so are all of the ensuing inferences.

No number of repetitions of a false statement — in this case, that the denouncers were complicit — renders it true.

I can sustain any argument I please by relying on assertions contrary to fact. I choose not to do so, because


I didn’t address questions of morality or legality, because I was responding to your own words:

“opining that ‘torture’ doesn’t work”

Anyone willing to invest a few minutes in internet search, can easily find public statements by American critics of “enhanced interrogation” which condemned it as immoral and illegal, in addition to being useless.


Constitutional Calling February 28, 2020 10:53 AM

Re: Uselessness of NSA’s Phone Metadata Program …

This program is legal due to the USA FREEDOM Act, which expires on March 15.

I beg to differ.

Warrantless surveillance by law enforcement is illegal pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

General surveillance warrants — issued without probable cause of particular crimes — are likewise illegal.

Probable cause inferred by mere “information” — without the sworn testimony of witnesses to the particulars of the alleged crime — is likewise illegal and inadequate to support the issuance of a warrant for wiretapping a suspect’s cell phone or land-based telephone line.

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 Warrants 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.

Oh. That’s right. I forgot. Congress by its own authority, without the ratification of the States, has long since repealed the Fourth Amendment along with the Second. We can’t have guns anymore, and the cops are free to shake us down for papers, cell phones, jewelry, and other valuables, and run us out of our houses and homes, into the mental hospitals and gas chambers.

MarkH February 28, 2020 12:57 PM


The third instance — “Probable cause inferred by mere ‘information'” — is contrary to U.S. legal tradition.

The 4th amendment is interpreted as requiring an oath from the officer requesting the warrant, NOT sworn testimony from witnesses.

Essentially, the officer swears that to his or her knowledge, the information submitted in support of the warrant application has no false or intentionally deceptive content, and that none of that information has been offered in reckless disregard of the truth.

Sworn testimony from other persons (informants, witnesses) is not required.

Curious February 28, 2020 2:17 PM

I would think that nowhere in what I wrote did I say, discuss, or mean what you say, that “that the denouncers were complicit” (presumably, you mean complicit in torture specifically or something criminal in a similar fashion). I would have to also assume that, denoucers weren’t themselves invovled in torture at all (which you would be if you were a sympathetic bystander that did nothing other that growing a bad conscience, or being a sympathetic guard, or I guess maybe even things I haven’t thought about yet). I am obviously not saying that anyone not involved in tortue is guilty of torturing people as a logical conclusion. b>Is that what you thought I wrote?

Unless you can find an example that shows me saying something like “that the denouncers were complicit”, don’t expect me to reply back later on. I am extending good will to understand you, and I expect the same in return.

I think you might be concerend with an entirely different thing, which I pointed out in ways. Note, anyone’s sentiment per se about anti-torture isn’t interesting here, it certainly isn’t what I was discussing, so your point about thinking there are people that have anti-torture opinions, just isn’t interesting in this regard. Also, it was me that brought up this subject, so any a new discussion that is about how torture is wrong isn’t interesting to me, it would be beside the point of what I am complaining about. What is interesting is how there is this claim of torture not being effective for questioning. I think everybody knows that torture is illegal and wrong. What is of interest to me, and should worry everybody else, is this type of rationale or forms of expression that risks glossing over a nation’s history, and which come across as something factual, or as wisdom even, but obviously seeking:

1) To conclude that torture isn’t effective in questioning. What should be interesting about others making such types of claims, is the general unreasonableness of it all. There is ofc the logical claim, this type of generalization about torture being ineffective in questioning, so as to not only inspire I would think a false sense of confidence of torture not becoming another motivating factor of nation states, especially US which got involved in torture, even though everybody must had known waterboarding was torture and thus generally illegal and wrong.

2) To pretend something along the lines of, there were just a few “rotten apples” doing torture (limiting myself to intended torture here, which is also what I have been discussing as particularily interesting). If one want to distance onself from the practice of torture, one can obviously do that without involving this kind of postuate of torture not being effective for questioning, as I already pointed out, it doesn’t seem reasonable if one would also have to acknoweldge that sometimes torture will work for questioning (which it probably does). This example seems fairly reasonable for many many type of questions: . I would argue that such a rationale of claiming that torture isn’t effective in questioning, but knowing that torture sometimes work, would be as obscene like if discussing the effectiveness of rape for questioning somebody and concluding it isn’t effective. Basically, the methods of torture, is not relevant in a discussion about morality, and given that it is probably implicated that there also is the motivation or at least the conceptual idea of “torture as annoyance”, makes such proclaimed wisdom or fact about torture to be ineffective at questioning, to be disingenuous and thus false when also belonging to “team torture”. The general idea is that even if one pretends to be believe torture to be wrong because it doesn’t work, one would be “wrong”, unless ofc one also thinks of telling half truths to be totally ok, and factual. Btw, I think the idea that facts “matter” would be true regardless of the merit of the argument, because oddly enough facts would ONLY matter, as facts aren’t necessarily relevant or convincing, because ‘facts’ would be primarily used to actualize ideas, but oddly enough, not prove their own truth value or risk being tautological or ending up begging the question, and so ‘facts’ are more like statements than being argumentative. It is unreasonable that “team torture” would make authoritative claims of the effectiveness of torture, or maybe as a form of idealism that would have the effect of glossing over the past by believeing there was just “a few rotten apples”. I think telling half truths is disingenuous and for obvious reasons wrong, especially when referring to pt. 1 above which involves a non-trivial type of event like torture. As for a discussion of morality which I have hinted at, an damning conclusion to such a discussion, could be to affirm people’s beliefs to be amoral when preferring a half-truth type of reasoning about such a serious event like torture.

My “team torture” monicker seems fairly reasonable I would say, knowing that Obama seemed to admit as much in public, using the proverbial “we” when saying “We tortured some folks”.

@Clive Robinson

I think your thoughts about torture rely on this imaginary rosy picture, as if using torture to have somebody solve serious engineering problems, or do all of your taxes correctly. I think your way of reasoning is something of a straw man argument by setting idealized goal posts that seeems obviously purely fictional, or, as if intending to introduce paradoxical type of problem. It seems like thinking of exaggerations, that aren’t even warranted, or probably cannot be made into a generalized statement, but instead maybe a specialize statement whenever it fits a particular narrative that “begs the question” (the fallacy of needing to rely on a foregoing conclusion).

Finally, heh, I happend to hear about the RSA Conference 2020 today, with the hugely interesting “Cryptographers panel”, and as I understand it Whitefield Diffie opined about international espionage being about being successful, I think it was. I have a thing or two to say about that, because his notion of ‘fair’ is problematic, or so I will argue, but it will have to wait a little. I didnt’ watch it yet, I only saw the panel discussion discussed in an article.

Curious February 28, 2020 2:25 PM

Correction: The fallacy I referred to is actually known as “Begging the question”, not “Begs the question”. People tend to say this other thing often, and I got things mixed up unfortunatly.

Wesley Parish February 28, 2020 7:43 PM

@all debating torture question

I might have a few words to say on this matter. You can read some of them at:
Prelude To The Coronation: Some Assembly Required

I’ve never liked waterboarding. I almost drowned as a kid, so it brings back memories. Then, it also trivializes it, so that a President’s daughter can ask in all due seriousness, if the Winter Olympics has snowboarding, why can’t the Summer Olympics have waterboarding? It was obviously only anti-American jealousy stopping it, because we Americans excel in waterboarding as in everything else.

(I obviously don’t believe in euphemisms.)

He templed his hands, looked sternly at me over the tops of his glasses. “As I have already stated, people tell the truth when they are close to death. They’ve got no reason not to. Now Salim Mohamed’s confessed to being the deposed Queen of England, it’s time — and our duty — to depose the current Pretender and restore him. You’ve got to see the larger picture, you see — restored Monarchs are always very grateful and I want to retire early with millions.”

Neurologically, torture “works” by breaking down inhibitions, by infliction of severe pain. The problem with breaking down inhibitions that way is that it also breaks down sequential thought, thus intelligible answers. The torturer is thus responsible for everything confessed by the tortured; thus if the tortured is considered to merit the death penalty, the torturer doubly warrants that death penalty because he put those confessions in the tortured person’s mouth.

The Truth Test

“But it occurs to us that the statements made confirming the reliability and validity of statements obtained under torture were not themselves made under torture and thus may be untrue, unreliable and invalid. So, at no extra cost, we will torture you to remedy this defect in your election platform.”

Morally of course, torture is on the same level as child abuse, slavery and other forms of such inhumanity. Now I come to think of it, it’s on the same moral level as cannibalism – and not the opportunistic cannibalism which involves eating a dead enemy to consume and gain his strength – I’m talking about eating slaves. The strong preying on the weak.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

The lieutenant talked about the history of the cannibalism threat and the uselessness of the conventional responses to it: putting a group of cannibals together in a prison meant little more than providing the strongest with a smorgasbord. Once a cannibal had tasted human flesh, they could not be trusted. So cannibals would have to be kept from ever tasting human flesh. Cannibalism was the growing threat.


She smiled at me. A decidedly condescending smile, a goddess of the inner realms and greater realities to a hick from the sticks, a mere yobbo. “No, you’re mistaken, that’s a cannibal. We in the Pentagon concluded that the only way to win the Global War On Cannibalism was to eat the cannibals.”

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