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Snowden papers allege NSA/GCHQ embedded in WoW, XBL

Snowden papers allege NSA/GCHQ embedded in WoW, XBL

Mon 09 Dec 2013 1:12pm GMT / 8:12am EST / 5:12am PST
PoliticsPeopleOnline

Agencies monitor individuals, recruit players and record conversations

Activision Blizzard

Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Activision Blizzard, Inc. is a worldwide pure-play online...

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An extensive report by the Guardian has claimed that there is evidence that both GCHQ and the NSA are involved in heavy monitoring of online games and networks, including World of Warcraft and Xbox Live.

The piece, which cites unreleased information which came as part of the secret dossiers obtained and leaked to the paper by Edward Snowden, says that the agencies have collaborated heavily on information gathering processes which have targetted online gaming communities. The agencies, it is claimed, have been using them to identify and track suspects, as well as form pictures of their social networks and recruit embedded agents of their own.

"The agencies, the documents show, have built mass-collection capabilities against the Xbox Live console network, which boasts more than 48 million players," the report reads. "Real-life agents have been deployed into virtual realms, from those Orc hordes in World of Warcraft to the human avatars of Second Life. There were attempts, too, to recruit potential informants from the games' tech-friendly users."

According to the 2008 paper acquired by Snowden and seen by the Guardian, titled Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments, no acts of terrorism have been prevented by the monitoring, nor have any criminals been apprehended. The document is due to be released Monday, December 16.

Further to that, the Snowden papers allegedly hold information which shows that some of the companies which run the games and networks affected have been complicit in the process, with Second Life being singled out as being particularly pro-active in the encouragement of espionage. In May of 2007, Linden Lab's Chief Operating Officer is believed to have given a presentation to the NSA in which he eulogised Second Life as a perfect "opportunity to understand the motivation, context and consequent behaviours of non-Americans through observation, without leaving US soil".

"The agencies, the documents show, have built mass-collection capabilities against the Xbox Live console network"

The Guardian

Not only would that provide access to geographically and ideologically remote users, it would also handily circumnavigate international protocols surrounding spying on foreign soil, ameliorating the risk of potentially embarrassing diplomatic incidents.

The article asserts that the agencies, which were recently revealed to have collaborated on a vast network of intelligence gathering operations which has included monitoring the communications of foreign leaders like Germany's Angela Merkel, has established these "mass-collection capabilities" within Xbox Live by utilising biometric data provided by Kinect in addition to more traditional information like email address, messages and IP locations. It's also claimed that various games had private chat channels, both voice and text based, monitored and recorded for future analysis.

Activision Blizzard released a statement claiming that "We are unaware of any surveillance taking place. If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission." Both Linden Labs and Microsoft declined to comment on the allegations when questioned by the Guardian.

However, Microsoft last week posted an entry on "protecting government data from government snooping" on its official blog. In the piece, Microsoft detailed steps it would take to protect the security and privacy of its systems as recent reports had undermined consumer faith in them.

"Indeed, government snooping potentially now constitutes an 'advanced persistent threat,' alongside sophisticated malware and cyber attacks," Microsoft said.

The UK's spy agency had this to offer: "All GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that its activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the Intelligence and Security Committee."

Scant comfort to those who have been involved in the communities of online games in recent years, or to those who feel the beady and ubiquitous red eye of Kinect 2 upon their backs, especially given that other allegations have already emerged regarding email networks and other databases which paint major corporations as all too enabling of the monitoring of citizens' data.

Nolan Bushnell, however, thinks it's unlikely to damage the sales of Xbox One.

Microsoft and Activision's UK representatives have been contacted for further comment.

53 Comments

Jakub Mikyska
CEO

196 1,036 5.3
Popular Comment
Those pre-teens that constantly call me names whenever I even try to log into any XBLA 18+ online game are definitely NSA-level material for recruiting.

Posted:7 months ago

#1

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

1,008 1,396 1.4
So we don't have anything more recent than 2008 on this? I'd like to see what else was being monitored game-related. It's interesting how much of this is used by both the US and UK espionage services as well. It seems like much of these programs were designed for information gathering for both governments in partnership, as well as information sharing between them.

Posted:7 months ago

#2

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,483 1,252 0.8
@ Nicholas

I would be very surprised if Steam chat wasn't being monitored by the NSA/GCHQ nowadays, though I obviously have no proof of it. Given the phase-out of MSN/Live Messenger, and the crappiness of its replacement, the Skype Messenger, almost all my online chat is now done through the Steam client. Considering how pervasive Steam is, there's probably a lot of people like me.

Though I hasten to add, that:

1) I don't believe Valve would willing accede to monitoring of Steam

and

2) I'm not entirely certain how it could be done.

Posted:7 months ago

#3
We need Metal Gear Snooping to tackle on these militarised govt agencies :)

Posted:7 months ago

#4

Keldon Alleyne
Handheld Developer

426 403 0.9
It seems like much of these programs were designed for information gathering for both governments in partnership, as well as information sharing between them.
Our conversations are a goldmine for corporations who need to know exactly what we are thinking and feeling about products and life in general. Then they can be more efficient in every aspect, from how they 'viralise' their marketing efforts and how they can influence user behaviour and decisions without their conscious awareness.

I find it hard to believe that the government are not assisting corporations in this given how much they all favour them over people.

It's easy to get distracted by terrorism and consider the snooping to be a non-issue, unaware that this information can be used to exploit their minds and essentially control them without their conscious awareness.

And for those who think I'm just spewing out conspiracy theories, think first of the real benefit of this and that I just thought of it. It would almost be a crime not to use this information to control and manipulate the population to achieve whatever goals one may have.

Posted:7 months ago

#5

Steven Hodgson
Programmer

77 120 1.6
If I knew this 6-7 years ago when I or anyone I know played World of Warcraft, I would have applied to GCHQ then and there.
I bet you they form the gold farming guilds

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Steven Hodgson on 9th December 2013 3:40pm

Posted:7 months ago

#6

Gil Salvado
3D/2D Artist

32 36 1.1
We can either accept this to become normal or we start to use a multitude of software until it becomes impossible for these groups to track down our social behaviour.

In any case, it's almost clear to me that these platforms have been spied upon with complete knowledge that they would not give any evidence for future terrorist attacks, but for studying foreigners behaviour patterns without leaving your countries soil - just like Linden Lab's CEO is supposed to have said. And I'm sure there is benefit in this for us all - for information is a tool and it's not up to the tool for which purpose it is being used. Nevertheless, no one likes to be spied upon while doing her or his harmless hobby of gaming.

Posted:7 months ago

#7

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,029 908 0.9
We are unaware of any surveillance taking place. If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission.
Secret court says, intelligence agencies neither require your permission and the level of public knowledge you may portray is subject to agency guidelines. Each new document leak seems to aim at hammering in that all the staments of knowing nothing are worth excatly nothing.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Klaus Preisinger on 9th December 2013 3:55pm

Posted:7 months ago

#8
Popular Comment
We should spam the net space with mindless senseless navel grazing comments to befuddle the anaylst for years on end about the gravy consistency of digital soup in mobile enhancements for rhetorical bladderdash commentary concerning a orcish raid in Panderia where no pandas were harmed during its conversation

Posted:7 months ago

#9

Steven Hodgson
Programmer

77 120 1.6
Popular Comment
We should spam the net space with mindless senseless navel grazing comments to befuddle the anaylst for years on end about the gravy consistency of digital soup in mobile enhancements for rhetorical bladderdash commentary concerning a orcish raid in Panderia where no pandas were harmed during its conversation
We must somehow gather enough dried flowers to cover up that terrible wallpaper. If my rich uncle visits he won't understand your complete allergy to seafood.

The internet is pretty much that anyways

Posted:7 months ago

#10

Pablo Santos
Developer

23 18 0.8
It is curious, almost ironic that such a liberal country would get so close to Orwell's vision of absolutist comunism in terms of surveilance.
Oh wait... my phone just rang. =O

Posted:7 months ago

#11
Oh dear, if steam chat is monitored all my global domination plans will be in the hands of the NSA, double drat, mutly fetch the car. :D.

Posted:7 months ago

#12

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
Popular Comment
HAHA!... Kinect, can never spy on you, its just crazy to think that!!!! RIGHT? People said I was crazy, cinical and said my thoughts on XB1 Kinect were ridiculouse. They said that my thoughts on having an always ON... always online camera... that can detect movement, scan your living room, has voice and facial recognition and the ability to identify differant people... could be used to spy on them. Its rediclulouse to think that... right... RIGHT!?. Then the funny thing is that when micrsoft introduced it, it was mandatory to have these features? Really? To play Killer iNstinct you absolutly need voice and facial recognition or an active camera 24/7... ummm hmmm... And when you have a president like Obama, your supposed to feel safe... RIGHT?

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 10th December 2013 2:03pm

Posted:7 months ago

#13

Rashad Foux
Character Artist

4 10 2.5
This was from 2008. I'm pretty sure that since then, they've expanded to infiltrate almost any virtual gaming space, especially the big ones like League of Legends.

They say they want to stop terrorism, which is a CONCEPT that is noble. But what it actually seems like is that's simply a one-size fits all rubber stamp they use on any questionable action that they want to take.

@Gov: "We need to spy on your games."
@Me: "Umm . . . no? I don't have anything to hide, but generally I wouldn't want some stranger sitting next to my table taking notes of my private conversation, body language, and facial expression while I'm having a drink with some friends. In fact, that would generally earn you a punch in the face. Why the heck would I allow you to do the same thing in the privacy of my own home?"
@Gov: "There are terrorists in your base right now! Killing your dudes. And also everyone you know and love in real life. Slowly. With a butterknife."

At which point I guess they expect my reaction to be blind terror and panic, followed by an overwhelming desire for them to do whatever is necessary to keep me "safe" from the terrorists?

Thanks NSA, but somehow I don't think "safe" means what you think it means. Especially given your propensity to attack political opposition with the information you illegally gathered, or hold the intimate details of their private lives over the head of people you don't like so that they don't disagree with you.

Posted:7 months ago

#14

Rashad Foux
Character Artist

4 10 2.5
Even before all this came to light, I was still pretty iffy about an always on device. Forget the government, I don't even want Microsoft that kind of access into my living room and life.

Posted:7 months ago

#15

Mary Hilton
Community Manager

37 20 0.5
We can all accept this as the status quo, or else not. I'd suggest we start fighting back by suing the companies who enable this to happen as well as shut down the government agencies doing it. MS and Linden Labs would be a good start. If they're not enabling this, they're certainly shutting their eyes from it.
No, it's not illegal, but it is highly invasive, insane and a total waste of money. I doubt that there are a lot of terrorists who go on Wow to trade secrets. I mean, really.
It's just an excuse for some really stupid people to play games on our dime-and invade our privacy while doing it! Lovely.

Posted:7 months ago

#16

Kingman Cheng
Illustrator and Animator

943 157 0.2
We should spam the net space with mindless senseless navel grazing comments to befuddle the anaylst for years on end about the gravy consistency of digital soup in mobile enhancements for rhetorical bladderdash commentary concerning a orcish raid in Panderia where no pandas were harmed during its conversation
Chee. Stop holding my love hostage. My emotions are like a tornado of fundamentalist wildfire.

Posted:7 months ago

#17

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,029 908 0.9
We can all accept this as the status quo, or else not. I'd suggest we start fighting back by suing the companies who enable this to happen as well as shut down the government agencies doing it.
It is safe to assume that this is also the strategy of how the Guardian selects its leaks. One week you target political figures, the next week you try to get public outcry put pressure on political parties, the week after that you get a leak outraging consumers, who then pressure companies, which in turn pressure the government. Rarely is the same group of people targeted two weeks in a row.

This is the surprisingly nasty quality of this scandal. It has not blown over after two weeks like so many of the Wikileaks before. But at the same time, there is not that one big shock which causes the entire political climate to shift. At the moment it seems to be going well for the intelligence agencies. Sure, they are the target of revelatory "scandalous" things, but going forward, the people being spied on seem to get more hardened and more apathetic each time. There is a real chance that in the end, people will accept the current status quo.

Posted:7 months ago

#18

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

1,008 1,396 1.4
@ Klaus I don't think there's any question that both Snowden and The Guardian are using the scandal for the attention (money, in the case of The Guardian) rather than any public good. If they were, it would have all been released at once, relevant information available to anyone. Instead they continue to milk this.

Posted:7 months ago

#19

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,130 1,038 0.5
Ugh. As predicted back in 2004-2005. NOW can we get MORE damned OFFLINE ONLY games to play?. Seriously. I'm about up to ere with 24-hour monitoring and people who think they have "best interests" at heart when it's nothing but mining every bit of info for any number of reasons.

Feh, I'm two shakes from nuking all my social accounts and moving to Paranoid Plaza anyway... X^P

Posted:7 months ago

#20

Christian Keichel
Journalist

565 775 1.4
Popular Comment
@ Nicholas
If they were, it would have all been released at once, relevant information available to anyone. Instead they continue to milk this.
Releasing all information at once would have resulted in an Information Overkill, that would have burned incredibly bright within the media, but also incredibly short. We wouldn't still be talking all around the globe about the US surveillance if the documents would have been released at once.
The stretched release was necessary, because it puts goverments all around the world under constant pressure to react to the permanent breach of the citizen's privacy.
Released all at once, goverments all over the world would have said Snowden is a lunatic and they would have been successful in destroying his reputation in no time.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christian Keichel on 9th December 2013 8:15pm

Posted:7 months ago

#21

Keldon Alleyne
Handheld Developer

426 403 0.9
@ Klaus I don't think there's any question that both Snowden and The Guardian are using the scandal for the attention (money, in the case of The Guardian) rather than any public good. If they were, it would have all been released at once, relevant information available to anyone. Instead they continue to milk this.
That's presuming he sees the world as you and shares the same belief you do about how one should release information.

As for the Guardian, of course they're milking it, they're a profit making entity not a charity.

Posted:7 months ago

#22

Paul Johnson
Managing Director / Lead code monkey

799 996 1.2
They can't get me, I have my trusty tinfoil hat.

Posted:7 months ago

#23

John Bye
Senior Game Designer

478 443 0.9
"The article asserts that the agencies .. established these "mass-collection capabilities" within Xbox Live by utilising biometric data provided by Kinect in addition to more traditional information like email address, messages and IP locations"
Actually the Guardian article doesn't mention Kinect, and the main document it's based on is from 2008, several months before "Project Natal" was announced and two years before Kinect finally launched. All the Guardian says is that "given that gaming consoles often include voice headsets, video cameras, and other identifiers, the potential for joining together biometric information with activities was also an exciting one", but there's no specific reference to that in the document they posted alongside the article.

Having said that, I'm sure the NSA would love to have access to a video camera that's always on, connected to the internet, sits in millions of living rooms around the world, and can identify people's faces and voices and associate them with an online ID.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Bye on 9th December 2013 9:53pm

Posted:7 months ago

#24

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,029 908 0.9
Snowden does not look like a winner right now, American intelligence is seeing to that. Although the question arises if victimizing him is the narrative producing the desired outcome. Which is still running tabs on everybody, remember?

The Guardian tries to play this as the TED offensive of the 21st century war on terror. Taken by face value, it is an attack with questionable results that did not benefit the attackers at all. But amidst the chaos is an undercurrent, a subtly written hint of realization that the war of terror has now finally been lost. The western culture was afraid enough to build Babylonian tower sized monuments to its paranoia. Just as carpet bombing the jungle was no way to win a guerrilla war, Orwellian surveillance, against the own population no less, was not the way to stop people from trying to scare you. In the end, all terrorists did was nudge people a bit and then watch them scare themselves for the rest of the way. Either because of their own stupidity or cynical attempts at gaining power.

Remember around 2001? When every angry talk radio host would not stop raving on about terrorists hating our freedom? Turns out, we did not like it enough to properly protect it either.

Posted:7 months ago

#25

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,483 1,252 0.8
Remember around 2001? When every angry talk radio host would not stop raving on about terrorists hating our freedom? Turns out, we did not like it enough to properly protect it either.
This is true enough. In reality, these NSA/GCHQ headlines are just the gaming/entertainment sector after-effect of The Patriot Act, and 9/11. Anyone who pays attention Wired's Threat Level knows that there's been massive attacks on personal freedoms and a number of issues relating to Probable Cause and warrantless surveillance. The headline from three days ago is
NSA Wrongly Says Warrantless Mobile-Phone Location Tracking Is Legal
Did anyone really think that the gaming industry would escape this? Please.

Regardless of all of that... Anyone curious how many Mumble and Teamspeak conversations are being monitored?

Posted:7 months ago

#26

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,130 1,038 0.5
@Morville: It's safe to say that if it's online at all, SOMEONE is/has been monitoring. I'd gather someone will step up with proof, but I'd be shocked if there were a place NOW out there that wasn't being poked for info...

Posted:7 months ago

#27

Bruce Everiss
Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
This isn't going to help Xbone sales.

I have said on here before that webcams are watching you. Perhaps now that will be believed.

Posted:7 months ago

#28

Donald Dalley
Freelance writer

49 28 0.6
A few thoughts:

Five eyes share the knowledge, so this spying has been done for commercial gain. For example, the Canadian spying on Brazil during economic negotiations. You can bet that, if Microsoft gave their permission to access their databases, they got something in return. My first thought when reading this was about them tracking TeamSpeak and other VoIP users. Also, since they collect mountains of data each month, I understand that it isn't retained for more than 30 days, otherwise they wouldn't' have enough storage space.

Posted:7 months ago

#29

Keldon Alleyne
Handheld Developer

426 403 0.9
@Donald
Five eyes share the knowledge, so this spying has been done for commercial gain.
My thoughts exactly (see above #5).

Posted:7 months ago

#30

Jeffrey Kesselman
Professor - Game Development

30 52 1.7
" In May of 2007, Linden Lab's Chief Operating Officer is believed to have given a presentation to the NSA in which he eulogised Second Life as a perfect "opportunity to understand the motivation, context and consequent behaviours of non-Americans through observation, without leaving US soil".

While eulogized is an appropriate word for Second Life, I think you meant "evangelized." You typically only give eulogies for things that are dead.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jeffrey Kesselman on 10th December 2013 12:46am

Posted:7 months ago

#31

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

1,008 1,396 1.4
@ Christian I totally disgaree. If their goal was just to make sure the information was spaced in digestible bits, they could have dropped it over the course of 3-4 weeks. Here we are 4 months later, and they're still milking this. I would even go as far as to argue this is journalistic travesty. This is clearly profit motive outweighing actual integrity and social justice.

Posted:7 months ago

#32

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,483 1,252 0.8
@ Nicholas

I'd argue it's a bit more complicated than that. Stretching the Snowden story means that its issues are highlighted across a vast amount of time. This serves not only to force governments and companies to acknowledge what is happening, but also (and I'd argue this is more important), serves to remind citizens of the egregious abuse of power that's occured. News outlets inform, but they also, tacitly, try to press-forward their agenda. The Guardian's agenda is, generally speaking, to hold those in power to account (whether it be politicians, spy agencies, or power companies, etc.). A good way of doing this is to foment discontent amongst the people; and what better way to do that, than to continually remind the people of what's being done in their name?

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 10th December 2013 8:41am

Posted:7 months ago

#33

Alfonso Sexto
Lead Tester

765 574 0.8
I think from now on, when I'm alone at home playing game I'm just going to say into the mic "I know you are there listening". It will surely have no effect, but with some luck I scare the hell of some random NSA agent...

Posted:7 months ago

#34

Dan Pearson
European Editor

92 177 1.9
@Jeffrey In the UK eulogise has a wider definition which, although associated with eulogies, actually means to praise highly, either in text or speech.

Posted:7 months ago

#35

Keldon Alleyne
Handheld Developer

426 403 0.9
@Nicholas: if they released a 1,000 page document do you really think the public would read any of it?

They don't even read the summaries of the political party's manifestos when they vote for them, and that's something that directly affects them. In fact most of the public don't even read the small print and checkboxes on forms when they are signing a legally binding contract.

So small and digestible has its merits.

And secondly, of course they're going to milk this. Who wouldn't?

Posted:7 months ago

#36

David Serrano
Freelancer

298 269 0.9
@Keldon Alleyne

I don't think you are spewing out conspiracy theories, this is a very real and legitimate concern because it represents an escalation of what's already taken place.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act has blurred the line between where corporate IP rights should end and personal property rights should begin. In the US, there are organizations like ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) who hold conferences so "pro business" politicians can meet with multinational corporations to literally write the legislation being turned into laws. Since 2011, we've had two incidents where employees and representatives of multinational corporations have accompanied state and federal law enforcement agencies to executed search warrants of private residences so the corporations could retrieve IP. And we have an ongoing nationwide campaign by the corporate friendly right wing to repress the voting rights of any group of people who are likely to vote against them.

So you don't need to be a historian or sociologist to understand where all of this will inevitably take us if we allow it to continue. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. ~ George Santayana

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Serrano on 10th December 2013 1:33pm

Posted:7 months ago

#37

Thomas Dolby
Project Manager / Lead Programmer

328 277 0.8
@Keldon
I agree, if it was all released at once there would be a massive outcry about several key details which would die down after a few weeks. Keeping it on a slow drip means that each piece of information is actually digested, and keeps everything in the public concious. It also means that they haven't revealed their full hand, which in a slightly blackmailing sort of way means they can apply more pressure on governments. I won't deny that it's better for the Guardian's bank account as well, but I see it as positives outweighing the negatives.

Posted:7 months ago

#38

David Serrano
Freelancer

298 269 0.9
I wonder if the agents assigned to monitor WOW questioned their career choice after it became their job to read inane guild and party chat for thousands of hours lol?

Posted:7 months ago

#39

Steve Wetz
Reviewer/Assistant Editor

163 367 2.3
99% of the people who read this article have missed the point of collecting on WoW or Second Life.

Firstly, none of this information suggests that this collection was conducted against US citizens. Since it's easy to isolate those servers which service overseas customers, that's an easy argument to defeat, and would fall within the scope of the NSA's mission.

Second, what is taking place in WoW or XBL or any online service which is worth collecting on? Given that the second oldest profession evolves with the times, is it so hard to believe that these services we use for fun or to socialize are also being used for other, more nefarious reasons?

I think our chat logs are relatively safe. No one cares that Leroy Jenkins fucked up your raid (AGAIN). I would question that this information collection was worthwhile to have been going on for so long, if I didn't also know that the U.S. government wastes money in far more ridiculous methods. The point here is that a spy agency conducting spying on foreign persons is not exactly news so much as it is their job.

Posted:7 months ago

#40

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,483 1,252 0.8
Firstly, none of this information suggests that this collection was conducted against US citizens.
Yet the NSA and GCHQ have been collecting data wholesale from domestic US as well as foreign citizens from other areas of the internet, so why would WoW/SL be different? Here's another story that focuses on data collection from US citizens:

Cops and Feds Routinely ‘Dump’ Cell Towers to Track Everyone Nearby/

Given that, why would you think WoW chat-logs from a US server would be off-limits?
I think our chat logs are relatively safe
Of course... I mean, I'm obviously innocent of all wrong-doing. And GCHQ know that. Because they've read my chat-logs. :p
The point here is that a spy agency conducting spying on foreign persons is not exactly news so much as it is their job.
It's their job to spy on Heads of State? Embassy Espionage: The NSA's Secret Spy Hub in Berlin. Perhaps it is. But to allow evidence of it to fall into the wrong hands? Incompetence. I'd rather smarter spies were employed. :p

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 10th December 2013 3:46pm

Posted:7 months ago

#41

Steve Wetz
Reviewer/Assistant Editor

163 367 2.3
I'm not arguing that NSA wholesale collection against US persons is not illegal - of course it is (ref. E.O. 12333 as amended for the categories of collection which are allowed against US persons). The laws governing such collection are very strict and designed to protect US persons with a reasonable expectation of privacy. (To stem the inevitable tide of comments concerning reasonable expectation of privacy, let me be clear in my meaning. Your reasonable expectation of privacy extends primarily to activities you conduct in the privacy of your home when you are not under investigation for a specific crime, the process of which involved procuring a warrant from a court to conduct a specific type of surveillance to investigate said crime. Your actions in public are NOT subject to a reasonable expectation of privacy, which is why things like license plate scanners are legal).

It's also a joke that the Attorney General claimed to have no knowledge of the collection against U.S. Persons and claimed it must have been authorized by someone lower in the chain in the Justice Department. That is an extrordinary claim considering this particular power of the Attorney General cannot be delegated (and again, this is a specific matter of law). So by making such a claim, he is either lying or claiming to have broken the law. Which of these people do you want to be?

As for their job to spy on Heads of State? Of course it is. The joke of that situation is Merkel's supposed outrage, like this was not standard procedure for all first-world countries to attempt to spy on prominent persons in countries they have dealings with. This is something that has been going on for (literally) thousands of years in some form or another.

As for letting the evidence fall into the wrong hands - Snowden was an employee of said agency and is culpable in their actions. His hands were wrong once he became disgruntled and decided to take his information to the Guardian, but what is his motivation? He worked at the NSA for years, yet only now decided to give up the goods? That's my interest. Someone doesn't decide all at once to give up a lot of classified information they've known for years without some kind of event occurring in their life.

Posted:7 months ago

#42

Keldon Alleyne
Handheld Developer

426 403 0.9
Firstly, none of this information suggests that this collection was conducted against US citizens. Since it's easy to isolate those servers which service overseas customers, that's an easy argument to defeat, and would fall within the scope of the NSA's mission.
The exact words used are unfortunately not quite what they appear to be. See Mikko Hypponen: How the NSA betrayed the world's trust -- time to act for more info.

Posted:7 months ago

#43

Keldon Alleyne
Handheld Developer

426 403 0.9
He worked at the NSA for years, yet only now decided to give up the goods? That's my interest. Someone doesn't decide all at once to give up a lot of classified information they've known for years without some kind of event occurring in their life.
Who said that he gave it all up at once?

Posted:7 months ago

#44

Steve Wetz
Reviewer/Assistant Editor

163 367 2.3
Who said that he gave it all up at once?
I was referring to his leaving the NSA with the information, not the strategically planned release of the data in chunks. The point being, Edward Snowden, having known about the NSA's activities (and likely participated in them) for years, made a seemingly abrupt decision to leave his long-time employer. It sorta screams "life-changing event" to me.

Posted:7 months ago

#45

Keldon Alleyne
Handheld Developer

426 403 0.9
The point being, Edward Snowden, having known about the NSA's activities (and likely participated in them) for years, made a seemingly abrupt decision to leave his long-time employer. It sorta screams "life-changing event" to me.
That's what I meant. Who said the decision was abrupt?

I only say that because the video I posted above suggests otherwise.

Posted:7 months ago

#46

Paul Shirley
Programmers

173 147 0.8
I remember some years back an effort to kickstart discussion of terrorist use of online games to evade monitoring. It had signs of an organised campaign, simultaneously turning up in several places. It all fizzled out almost immediately, no-one interested enough to give it momentum.

In hindsight it looks very like someone either trying to create justification for bugging games OR assessing likely public reaction if they did it. Complete apathy would be a big greenlight that they'd get away with it.

Posted:7 months ago

#47
Look, TPTB just want information. Information on EVErYTHING. what they use it for, who knows but they just want every lil juicy tidbit, that could potentially be leveraged at some opportune moment. So, everything that moves, breathes, interacts or procreates has to probably be monitored, tagged, ID and uploaded to a virtual global brain.

Posted:7 months ago

#48

Steve Wetz
Reviewer/Assistant Editor

163 367 2.3
I only say that because the video I posted above suggests otherwise.
I'm not sure Mikko's opinion of Snowden is relevant to the situation I'm suggesting. Snowden's decision to leave the NSA and disclose their actions (again, things he knew about for years AND participated in) - what precipitated that? Are we talking about the typical disgruntled employee thing here? Is there some sort of lack of appreciation/denied promotion motivator?

My point is that making Snowden out to be some kind of knight in shining armor exposing the evils of the NSA is disingenuous. He knew about the NSA's actions (and participated in them) for too long to be considered so pure. Yet this is what he is being made out to be - some kind of savior to us poor uninformed folk that the U.S. Government is violating our rights and snooping on our private lives. He isn't less culpable because he's exposing it now. No one considers anyone who turns state's evidence, for example, to testify against his former associates, to be an "innocent person."

I'm just interested in the event that made Snowden come forward, is all.

Posted:7 months ago

#49
@steve
Snowden witnessed the NSA flat out lying to congress: (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/12/16/131216fa_fact_lizza?currentPage=all&mobify=0)

" In March, 2013, Wyden had his dramatic encounter with Clapper (NSA head) but, at the time, the public didn’t know that Clapper hadn’t told the truth. Despite Wyden’s victories, any momentum for intelligence reform seemed dead.

But there was one person who was troubled by Clapper’s testimony. “Seeing someone in the position of James Clapper baldly lying to the public without repercussion is the evidence of a subverted democracy,” Edward Snowden said later, in a Q. & A. on the Guardian Web site. At some point during this period, Snowden also came upon the N.S.A. inspector general’s secret report about the history of the President’s Surveillance Program and stellarwind. It was rich with details: the secret computer servers that were delivered under police escort, Hayden’s dealings with Cheney’s staff, the facts about the Justice Department’s rebellion, the decision to take the legally dubious programs and fit them under the umbrella of the Patriot Act. Snowden later told the Times that, after he read the report, he decided that he would release it—and thousands of other documents—to the press. “If the highest officials in government can break the law without fearing punishment or even any repercussions at all,” he told the paper, “secret powers become tremendously dangerous.”

Posted:7 months ago

#50

Paul Jace
Merchandiser

868 1,272 1.5
So I guess I should stop discussing my plans for world domination so freely while actively seeking recruits for my minions and henchmen while in XBL lobbies. And I should probably wear more than a bathrob while Kinect is plugged in.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 11th December 2013 3:20am

Posted:7 months ago

#51
I'm just interested in the event that made Snowden come forward, is all.
Really? with all this confirmation of our civil rights being shredded, with all the information pertaining to how nothing is what it seems, You concern is what motivated Snowden? really? My god talk about missing the big picture here.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 11th December 2013 1:54pm

Posted:7 months ago

#52

Steve Wetz
Reviewer/Assistant Editor

163 367 2.3
Perhaps my previous posts didn't reveal my knowledgablility on the topic (referencing executive orders from the Reagan era is apparently not a sign of knowledgablility). And for those of you who are curious as to how these types of surveillance are authorized, feel free to research the Church and Pike commissions and the FISA Act, along with the revisions the Patriot Act imposed.

All this to say that "privacy" as it existed before things like the Internet became common usage among people outside DARPA doesn't really exist anymore. It's as mythological as a unicorn. And this is just information you can find in open source documentation - without looking at the "revelations" that Snowden has been periodically releasing through the Guardian.

So being well aware of our civil rights having long ago been shredded, yes, my only real interest in this was Snowden's motivation. As for his supposed conversion after Clapper's testimony to Congress, there's a long and storied history of such figures making false statements to Congress and the public at large. Again, hardly a considerable motivation - anyone with access to Google and an eye for credible sources (or even common sense) would know that James Clapper could hardly cop to the activities of the NSA in open session with Congress without exposing multi-million dollar, highly-classified intelligence collection efforts.

Again, I don't agree with the NSA collecting information en masse against the American public - something that is clearly both against the law and endorsed by presidential nominees (and by extension, the current administration for whom "openness" was a pillar of their campaign). But I don't buy that Snowden was motivated by Clapper's testimony - that's akin to admitting he knew it was happening, but his beef with Clapper was that he lied about it! Not really convincing me that he was concerned about the privacy of average Americans.

Posted:7 months ago

#53

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