Explaining What the NSA Does from the Inside


Mon, Dec 16th, 2013 20:00 by capnasty NEWS

On the Loren's Blog, Loren Sands-Ramshaw explains his experience working as an "NSA employee and impart my thoughts on the policies in place, my former coworkers, and the current cyber war." It should not come as a surprise that he'd be in favour of the NSA's role, but his view is refreshing:

Many are concerned about the NSA listening to their phone calls and reading their email messages. I believe that most should not be very concerned because most are not sending email to intelligence targets. Email that isn?t related to intelligence is rarely viewed, and it?s even less often viewed if it?s from a US citizen. Every Agency employee goes through orientation, in which we are taught about the federal laws that govern NSA/US Cyber Command: Title 10 and Title 50. We all know that it's illegal to look at a US citizen's data without a court order. I use the term "look" deliberately: the Agency makes the distinction that looking at data is surveillance, while gathering it from locations outside the US is not. We gathered everything, and only looked at a tiny percentage of it. I am okay with this distinction both because I don't mind if my emails are copied to an Agency database and likely never read and because from a technical standpoint it would seriously impair our ability to spy if we couldn't gather everything.* The Agency is an intelligence organization, not a law enforcement agency.

The NSA copy of my emails won't be viewed by police or FBI investigating me about marijuana use, for instance. Law enforcement might get a search warrant and retrieve a copy from Google, but not from the NSA. FBI employees don't even have SI (communications intelligence) clearance, and all NSA-collected data is classified Top Secret//SI. The NSA copy of my emails will only be viewed if the Agency can convince a judge that I might be a foreign agent. And the judges aren't pushovers. I remember that one time a judge ordered the Agency to suspend a certain type of operation because it had mistakenly generated a report that included US person data. The system had to be reprogrammed to preclude that type of mistake before it could be used again. This was not a trivial decision: not being able to use that system for a time had a serious impact on our ability to get the job done.

In that same tone, here is what the NSA has to say about Snowden and what they're doing (promptly debunked). Also amusing, this article on Forbes, where an NSA coworker remembers Edward Snowden as a genius among geniuses.

Meanwhile, not everyone is impressed with the revelations: shareholders have filed a lawsuit against IBM for concealing their involvement with the cyber-surveillance, leading to a decline in loss of sales and stock price.

In a complaint filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court, the Louisiana Sheriffs' Pension and Relief Fund accuses the company of defrauding investors by concealing its involvement in the agency's PRISM program led to a dramatic drop in sales in China. The program, which was revealed in classified documents leaked to the press by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, allowed the agency to collect and process foreign intelligence that passed through servers belonging to US tech companies.

The disclosure of the program led China to sever its business relationship with IBM and a handful of other companies, resulting in IBM reporting a 22 percent drop in sales in China for the third quarter. The lawsuit also accuses IBM of lobbying for Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which would allow IBM to share customer data with the NSA.

"The company knew but misrepresented or concealed from investors that the disclosures of its lobbying and its association with the Prism and NSA spying scandal caused businesses in China as well as the Chinese government to abruptly halt doing business with IBM, leading to an immediate, and precipitous decline in sales," the pension fund said in its complaint.



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