IRS is using NSA data now too. Who in town isn’t?

This is no longer an NSA data, or DEA data story. It’s a federal, state and local government data-trafficking story. Your Google-collected, Verizon-collected data seems to very broadly available. How broadly? Way more than you thought. Read on for the grizzly details.

We recently reported, along with others, on how the DEA has been getting data from the NSA to aid in their “war on drugs” — then getting prosecutors and cops (DEA and otherwise) to cover up the source of their tips to protect their ability to prosecute.

As bad as the original Snowden-Greenwald NSA story actually is — and if true, it’s very bad indeed — this is worse. After all, what’s the DEA (and half the cops and prosecutors in the country) doing with all that NSA data at their disposal?

Unlike others, though, we think the NSA-DEA connection as not just a point-to-point story — as in, NSA data–to–DEA database for drug cop use. It’s actually a many-points–to–many-points story, with the special unit within the DEA that keeps the data acting as a convenient one-stop collection place for both data sources and receivers.

The real DEA story, prior to the most recent revelation, is that the DEA acts as a clearinghouse for these data sources:

▪ FBI
▪ CIA
▪ NSA (including Google and Apple and friends)
▪ IRS (meaning all your financial data)
▪ Homeland Security
▪ At least 19 other agencies

And it passes the collected data to these receivers:

▪ “About 10,000″ federal, state and local law enforcement agents
▪ All of their cop and prosecutor friends not on the list
▪ All of their cop and prosecutor friends’ non-cop friends

That’s what we used to think. Now we know more.

Now we know that one of the receivers of NSA (etc.) data is the IRS. (More on that below.) What this means is that, in all likelihood, all of the providers of DEA-collected data are also receivers of DEA-collected data.

Think I’m wrong? What are the odds?

What’s the real picture of data-trafficking at the DEA?

If I’m right, the real picture of data management by the DEA is thus more likely this:

Data sources

▪ FBI
▪ CIA
▪ NSA (again, Google and Apple)
▪ IRS
▪ Homeland Security
▪ At least 19 other agencies

One central collection and distribution point

▪ The Special Operations Division (SOD) within the DEA
▪ DEA-maintained DICE database

Likely data receivers and users

▪ FBI?
▪ CIA?
▪ NSA?
▪ IRS (verified)
▪ Homeland Security?
▪ At least 19 other agencies?

Plus known recipients and “friends who have friends”:
▪ “About 10,000″ federal, state and local law enforcement agents
▪ All of their cop and prosecutor friends not on the list
▪ All of their cop and prosecutor friends’ non-cop friends

NSA-sign

Google seems to like these guys.
Wonder what they’re getting in return?

Again, this is not a DEA story, nor even just an NSA story. It’s a very broad data collection and dissemination story. We now know that the IRS can see what Google collects, if it’s passed to the DEA. Which means that the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security (and all of their friends, and many of their friends’ friends) probably have access to Google, Apple, Verizon data, if it gets into the DEA database as well. Is there IRS data in that database? We’ve been told that there is, and why wouldn’t there be? I can manufacture a justification just sitting here (hint: drugs and money laundering). Can the CIA, FBI and Homeland Security see the IRS data?

And who are those “19 other agencies” with a seat at the data-trafficking table? Anyone we should know about? The FBI is part of the Department of Justice, right? Does that mean anyone high enough in the DoJ can ask the FBI to query the database too?

How about those servants of business in the Dept of Commerce? Can they use the DICE database to get Google or IRS dirt on labor organizers and pass it to their friends at, say, Walmart — or to whatever other company the DC revolving door might land them at?

It’s time Reuters found out (or revealed) those 19 name, don’t you think?

Don’t forget the DC revolving door — take care of your friends and they’ll take care of you

And then there’s the corruption angle. The revolving door is a lifeline to the next overpaid job for almost all higher-up federal employees. If I were conscienceless, I’d use that DEA-collected data to make sure the revolving door treated me well. In fact, I’d use it to make sure the revolving door treated me very well.

Cabaret money

Money makes the world go around

After all, what better job application than to hand, say, McDonalds the online search and download preferences of their top 20 troublesome labor organizers — the behind-the-scenes people they can’t fire who are helping organize the low-wage people they can fire. Would that get you a spot on someone’s board of directors, or an office labeled “VP of Where Can We Golf?”

Could it get their corporate name (and donations) into your client list if you open your own “consulting” shop on Thank You Street (“K Street” to the rubes).

And that’s just the start of the corruption I can imagine. If I were political director for a conscienceless president, I’d make certain that certain reporters knew their habits were known. And I sure could chase a lot of pesky competition from a lot of state-wide no-name political races with a fistful of their google searches and private preferences.

Got more corrupt ideas than these? Post them in the comments. I’d love to see what the bright folks here — were they conscienceless — could come up with. I’ve also got a dozen ways to engage in personal vendettas running in my brain right now. The possibilities multiply themselves.

As I said, folks, this is not a DEA or NSA story. It’s a data-trafficking story. The only thing missing from the data collection are investment records (or is that where the IRS comes in?) and medical histories. With power like this, the world is the oyster of anyone who can get at it, and those who can — bet on it — are mainly corrupt. The least of their sins is being relentless careerist. If you want to find most of the predators, look where the prey — or everything known about them — is gathered.

Now the IRS story — Reuters says they’re using the NSA database too

Reuters says the IRS has had access to DEA database data for a while. And just like the DEA, the IRS is abusing their use of it by lying about the sources of their tips and leads. Here’s a good Common Dreams summary of the story from writer Jon Queally:

Et Tu, IRS? Tax Agency Also Using Secret Spy Data?
Reuters reports IRS manual detailed DEA’s use of hidden intel evidence

Following up on exclusive reporting from earlier this week about how the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency uses NSA surveillance data and tips from a secretive unit called the Special Operations Divisions (SOD) to initiate investigations, Reuters on Thursday reveals that the Internal Revenue Service was aware of and may have also used these “unconstitutional” tactics.

What’s troubling in both cases, according to legal experts, is the manner in which the agencies hide the true source of an investigation’s starting point—never revealing the use of the highly classified sources involved—and then “recreate” a parallel investigation to justify criminal findings.

Additionally troubling is that the IRS and the DEA are only two of the more than twenty federal agencies that work in tandem with the SOD, leading to speculation that the practice of utilizing than hiding surveillance techniques that have not been properly documented or approved could be far-reaching.

From the Reuters story (a good click-through):

Exclusive: IRS manual detailed DEA’s use of hidden intelligence evidence

Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years. …

A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA’s Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.

And from an IRS document Reuters dug up:

“Special Operations Division has the ability to collect, collate, analyze, evaluate, and disseminate information and intelligence derived from worldwide multi-agency sources, including classified projects.[...] SOD converts extremely sensitive information into usable leads and tips which are then passed to the field offices for real-time enforcement activity against major international drug trafficking organizations.”

Adds the writer of the Common Dreams story:

While the documents stipulates that such procedures should only be used for “drug trafficking” investigations, DEA agents told Reuters that the practice has now been used for “organized crime and drug trafficking.”

And that’s the problem, say critics, who note that surveillance operations like those developed by the NSA and the DEA are first said to only be used for counterterrorism, but then the public finds out they’re also being used for narcotics investigations. Next, new disclosures surface that criminal gangs are being targeted. Next, financial criminals. It appears a classic slippery slope.

Of course, they say they’re only involved in the program because they care deeply about drug trafficking. (Only they don’t.) Or financial crime. (Only they don’t.) Or something.

But we know better. We know by now they all just want access to All Data. We also know by now not to trust anything they say … don’t we? After all, if Obama can lie to Leno on national TV, why on god’s earth would any of them ever tell the truth? You’d have to be a whistle-blower to do that. And those people find the revolving door very tightly closed.

GP

To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • dallas1138

    I for one am not willing to watch our rights be broadly stripped away to catch arms smugglers, or even human traffickers. That does NOT equate to me looking the other way. I still want those people to burn…I’m just not willing to turn this entire country into a kangaroo court/police state to get them.
    Maybe (I doubt this but) just maybe the NSA has only been used for ways that only help us all. The problem is that the last two administrations have set a VERY frightening precedent in terms of voiding our rights and acting in a warrant-less dictatorial fashion.
    (if the nsa is so great and only does good things…why’s it gotta be such a secret, and why are contractors martyring themselves to blow whistles?)
    There are legal ways to catch criminals, but our govt has instead decided to become a criminal and liar itself. Should this get the “look the other way” treatment?
    I would rather nobody look the other way with any humanitarian issue, because they can all be fixed safely, and without submitting to a police state so long as the citizens are the people solving the problems.

    Gonna go listen to System of a Down’s “Prison Song” now…this is what they were talking about.

  • reva

    Well this sounds like something right out of a movie! I must admit that I don’t mind surveillance being used to catch the bad guys. It’s just too bad that we’re all being treated like “bad guys” now

    That was an interesting article !!!!
    if thats okay i wanna promote something here ^_^, like If you are interested to make more money try this link
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  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Well done!

  • GaiusPublius

    Thanks, From Mexico.

    I want to point everyone to this excellent comment. Very thoughtful, very informative. My gratitude for reposting it here!

    GP

  • jomicur

    “Edit: Again with the name calling though.”–AGAIN. To be followed shortly, I’m sure, by “Waaah! People are calling me names!”

  • jomicur

    “Edit: Again with the name calling though.”

  • Badgerite

    I think I would blame the drug cartels in Mexico for the dead and disappeared. Last time I checked they were beheading people, if it suited them. It has been speculated that the women who kept disappearing in Juarez for a time were being kidnapped by a drug cartel for their ‘personal use’ and then disposed of later. Who, exactly, do you think is ‘making war’ on the Mexican people? Yeah, its the police who are destroying Mexican society and leaving decapitated dead bodies lying around. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  • Badgerite

    I was just wondering which illegalities you think should get the ‘look the other way’ treatment and which not. Drug trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking. These are all alright with you then or do you think if an analyst should stumble upon any of these they should notify the appropriate agency? Drug trafficking from Mexico, after all, is done by some pretty violent people. The article in Reuters noted that the SOD unit was instrumental in a sting operation in Thailand the took down Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
    What is really being talked about in the Reuters article, when you strip out the hysteria, is coordination between various law enforcement agencies and sharing of information to make them more efficient at catching criminals.
    So which crimes would you like them to look the other way on, or not know about? Because I am assuming that crimes like kidnapping or human trafficking, which certainly does go on here and abroad, you would not mind it the NSA provided information on. Or Would you? Exactly how far does your paranoia go? What or who are you willing to sacrifice to it, and what not? Or do you make no distinction?

  • from Mexico

    Gaius Pubius says:

    I can manufacture a justification just sitting here (hint: drugs and money laundering).

    [....]

    Of course, they say they’re only involved in the program because they care deeply about drug trafficking.

    I think when it comes to drug interdiction, Mexico offers a stunning example which shows that the sort of security and surveillance state envisioned by the US deep state does not work.

    Thanks to the Wikileaks cables released (from Bradley Manning), we now know that Mexico’s ex-president Felipe Calderon, at the behest of the US state department, mandated in September 2007 that Verint Technology Inc, under the auspices of the Merida Initiative and what journalists now call “Plan Mexico,” be allowed “to monitor and ‘to capture’ every private communication in Mexico (emails, chats, electronic messages, faxes, telephone calls)” of every major communications provider operating in the country: Telmex, Telcel, Nextel, Unefon, Iusacell, Cisco, and Prodigy.
    http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2013/08/05/opinion/023a1pol

    Calderon also authorized the installation of the Bi-national Office of Intelligence, under the control the United States, with facilities located in all the major drug trafficking thoroughfares to the United States: Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez and in the military base in Escobedo, Nuevo León (just north of Monterrey, south of Laredo), to serve as bases of operations for Verint Technology, which operated under the supervision of the US deep state.

    The information gathered was shared with Cisen (Mexico’s civil intelligence and
    counterintelligence service), Mexico’s Secretary of Defense (Sedena), the Mexican Navy, and the PGR (Mexico’s equivalent to the FBI), as well as with the Pentagon, the CIA, the DEA, the FBI, and other US agencies.

    With this intelligence at its fingertips, the Mexican army, navy, and federal police, working side-by-side with the US deep state and “private contractors” of the US security and surveillance state (ex CIA, DEA, and military special forces officers), unleashed Calderon’s now infamous “War on Drugs” against the Mexican people.

    The toll? Amongst others: 1) between 40,000 and 70,000 dead or disappeared; 2) exploding prison populations in Mexico, filled with petty and low-level drug offenders; 3) the complete destruction of
    civil and human rights in Mexico by police, military and US deep state operatives who operate with impunity; 4) a population that is terrorized by its own police, military and US deep state operatives; 5) the volume of drugs moving from Mexico to the US has increased greatly, perhaps as much as two-fold; 6) the availability of drugs on the streets of the US has greatly increased.

  • lynchie

    It starts as a trickle. Little jabs of police action followed by outrage and soon enough we grow used to people being tasered, shot, jailed. We change from outrage to acceptance by thinking well it will never happen to me. I have nothing to hide and then the know on the door with the storm troopers. I grew up in Canada and the couple living next door had survived the Holocaust. Ari told me stories of how it started in Germany how people grew to accept others being disappeared as long as it wasn’t them. When the awareness grew it was too late to turn back the clock. Same here the comments of Morrisey and others spouting the line “if you have nothing to hide” is just that sort of acceptance.

  • lynchie

    There was never any intention to go after the banks. You never bite the hand that feeds you money. They have lots of evidence but no real intention to straighten the situation out. It can and probably will happen again and we the people will be asked to sacrifice to bail these assholes out.

  • lynchie

    My secrets are none of your business and none of the governments and its various departments.

  • lynchie

    Once elected he turned 180 on issues, not that he was ever out front of anything as a senator. When one controls the drones, who spies and on whom, what banker to turned a blind eye to, etc. you can make these totally useless statements. The Congress does not even believe that we buy their lies they just spew them. Like the Dems can’t do anything because the Repubs are so mean. They all go with the flow because it does not require any effort or work. The Dems have a few puppet shit disturbers like Warren but she is good for sound bites and to keep the Progressives chugging along. Our government has largely become a group of elitists and his O’ness one of the best. I am so tired of his say nothing, do nothing speeches where he invokes the issue of the day and says this will help the middle class and poor by doing such and thus but in reality nothing changes. His dream of gutting SS and Medicare may not happen on his watch I think he is softening us up first. Most everyone I talk to has bought the lie SS is bankrupt and Medicare is what put the country in debt. They don’t know or care about the two wars, the bailout of Wall Street, the continuing policy of loaning money at point two percent to the banks and making millionaires into billionaires. Predatory bank practices are not mentioned. I believe we can truly do without this government since they do nothing to represent us anyway.

  • HelenRainier

    That does happen and it’s a hellish situation that can damage a person and then take the affected person years and years to get cleared up — if they can get it cleared up. There was a case just a few weeks ago where a woman received a mega million settlement from the credt reporting agency for not living up to their responsibilities to clear up her record. Automated systems are only as good as the info put into them — GIGO — Garbage In Garbage Out.

  • evan_la

    I’ve been telling folks that for a while now – like, a decade. Sending an e-mail is not unlike dropping a postcard in the mailbox. Everyone along the way can read it if they want.

  • jomicur

    Bot, meet cliche.

  • dula

    So then you are aware of the incremental wearing away of our constitutional rights, and you just don’t give a fuck?

  • dula

    The fact that the NSA operates in secret even from congress, I would say things are pretty dire…unless the American people decide now that it is unacceptable. The problem is that people like YOU think it’s acceptable.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    But you’re completely original! Why don’t you go cry over your downvotes. I just gave you one for the road.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    I was here in NYC when they rounded them up. I saw what happened.

  • ezpz

    In effect, you were mugged. We ALL were. And the perps not only got away with it, but they were encouraged to continue their crimes as they were in essence given immunity from prosecution for them.

  • Ford Prefect

    Outstanding post! I’m wondering why Fusion Centers haven’t come up in all this. That would be the logical hub for distributing illicit “intelligence” rather broadly without any accountability or chain of custody whatsoever. They’re also widely seen as being wholly politicized, which Occupy and all those bogus busts showed.

    An additional thought is this type of nefarious “evidence” production should make it easy to fabricate evidence. Since the source is secret, there’s no chain of custody, or any other rules of evidence. Nor can it be challenged by the defense: State Secrets! If they’re not doing that already, they certainly will, simply because they can.

    I’m also interested in the corporate protection racket aspect. Parties that are plugged in can use the dragnet to ruin competitors, steal intellectual property or ruin the credit/finances of unsuspecting victims. Front running markets is an obvious plus. Booz Allen can whore itself as corporate mercenaries, laying waste to potential competitors on behalf of their clients. They can also run a protection racket scheme whereby one pays not to be harmed. It’s one helluva business model and its guaranteed to succeed by the hollow state, which will provide needed muscle and legal cover whenever necessary.

  • RepubAnon

    They probably did uncover lots of illegal conduct – all that correspondence with the London Whale was international traffic, so the NSA undoubtedly copied it. However, “too big to prosecute” means never having to worry whether you’re being monitored.

  • RepubAnon

    You’re only paranoid if your belief that they’re monitoring your every move is unreasonable.

  • RepubAnon

    Ever hear of the “plain sight” doctrine? If the NSA has a warrant to snoop around in all e-mail traffic crossing the border (plus any purely domestic e-mail traffic that is “accidentally” scooped up), and they happen to see something that they think might be illegal, they can pass it on to the appropriate law enforcement agency. The only real constraint is their desire to keep the program secret.

    Knowing that the government is looking over your shoulder 24/7/365 has a chilling effect on your activities. Planning on having an intimate conversation with your partner that is out of the country on business? The NSA may be listening (and giggling) – which may put a damper on things. Thinking about e-mailing a friend in, say, the Sierra Club? Better think twice, you might end up being 6 degrees of separation away from an Earth First! activist. The resulting investigation might get you fired – and who knows where else that data would end up? No fly list, perhaps?

    P.S.: It may take a warrant to obtain legally admissible evidence, or tap a particular phone line – but not to open up an investigation and snoop around in the NSA’s databases. That’s what the “parallel investigation” trick is for – the investigation starts with information that may not have been obtained legally, so someone phones in an “anonymous tip” and triggers some activity that allows the evidence to be discovered in a purely accidental manner.

    Plus, that’s just for the folks that are trying to play by the rules. Imagine someone who wants to supplement their government salary with some insider trading – or by supplying stock tips to Wall Street types? From the sounds of things, there aren’t too many controls on who can see what.

  • ezpz

    A mistake like that can be fixed, but once you’re on a govt watch list, there’s no getting off of that one.

  • nicho

    And I got a downvote from my own, personal “downvote bot,” who follows me everywhere. It’s really kind of flattering. “AmericaBlog, where anything goes — and the downvotes don’t matter.”

  • nicho

    I’d “had” live there also. And how the hell do you know what my “world” is? You claim to “have your own mind,” but everything you post comes straight from Obot talking points. I haven’t seen a clue of original thought.

  • nicho

    You really need to do some research. Look at all the people they rounded up for speaking their minds during the RNC in New York. These people were peaceful and nonviolent and were held for days in pop-up concentration camps on the piers.

  • nicho

    I think it would be good if “Candidate Obama” were president, instead of “President Obama.” They don’t seem to be related to each other in any way except looks.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    I’m not “hear” to trash the Constitution. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they want the complete opposite as you. There are shades of gray and different opinions. Nice “with us or against us”mGWB attitude. I’d had to live in your black and white world.

  • trinu

    The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court issued general warrants (carte blanche) for the entire Verizon server, in blatant defiance of the 4th amendment which requires both probable cause and that the warrant be specific about what is to be searched.

  • condew

    A credit agency could make a “mistake” that will prevent you from ever getting a mortgage or a car loan, raise your insurance rates, and make it nearly impossible to get a job. No need to prosecute.

  • condew

    I know, and yet I hope. I feel like I was mugged in 2008 and nobody will believe it.

  • condew

    Flattering that they attack, or narcissistic that you think they care enough to attack?

  • condew

    My concern with the people on this site is that they are so sanguine about corporations collecting data on us and using it, but as soon as NSA asked for a copy of what Verizon already had, that was an outrage.

    What credit reporting agencies and insurance companies collect on me, and possibly get wrong, could impact me far more than anybody reading my emails or tracking my phone calls. I don’t know what may result from the current trend of retailers to keep a record of every purchase I ever made; I suppose it could get me on some list if some terrorist finds a way to use something like what I bought destructively. Thankfully, I’ve never purchased a pressure cooker :)

  • condew

    True, because Republicans generally won’t let things come to a vote.

  • condew

    Please. It would be cheap to trash comments that are rarely read after a week. I don’t know anybody who goes back to check their votes unless they happen to revisit a thread for a discussion that does drag on for a few days. I don’t know that Disqus even keeps the comments around for a month.

  • condew

    I’d say smile or smirk; if you are really out of line there is “Flag as inappropriate”, if you can find it.

  • ezpz

    Pity that with all this information floating around, we still haven’t uncovered the web of corruption and insider trading on Wall Street, and still not one bankster has gone to jail…

    You assume that the powers that be actually WANT to ‘uncover’ corruption and prosecute and punish accordingly. Au contraire! Our so called ‘democratically elected’ govt is complicit in these crimes. The one percenters are well above the law.

  • condew

    Pot, meet kettle.

  • ezpz

    …Oh, right, that’s private industry reading your email, so that’s OK.

    Are you saying that since private entities have our info because of a business relationship we have with them, that makes it okay for the govt to spy?

    The glaring difference is that ‘private industry’ cannot prosecute us, whereas the govt can.

  • condew

    As security people say, never put anything on the internet that you would not want to see as a newspaper headline. Email is much more like a postcard than a letter, the owner of every system it passes thru could read it if they gave a damn.

    Oh, right, that’s private industry reading your email, so that’s OK.

  • condew

    A voice of extreme paranoia.

  • condew

    There is no statement that will satisfy your paranoia. Just like the tea baggers who are so paranoid about their guns, no reassurance that Obama isn’t planning to take them will satisfy them.

    It takes a warrant to spy on Americans. Period.

    What are your deep, dark secrets that you are so terrified might come to light?

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    I couldn’t agree more. I spent time in East Europe in the 60’s and if that wasn’t the essence of ‘police state’ I don’t know what is. Our raise of alarm over militarization and abuse of police powers is warranted and based on experience.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “I don’t think many of you know what a real police state is like” You would be wrong in that assumption and those of us who do are genuinely raising the alarm in recognition of unfolding events in America.

  • Indigo

    We’ll know we’re well past that high water mark if and when the government changes to a cash policy for retail and even wholesale rather than credit. Won’t that be interesting? I don’t think that’s likely to happen because without our plastic credit, our economy would have long since slogged down to nearly inactive.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Funny, isn’t it, how their interest in what concerns us regular folks evaporates as soon as they’re “inside the government”?

  • trinu

    As much as I dislike Ron Paul’s stance on laissez faire economics, I
    do remember he opposed this sort of thing even when Bush was doing it. I don’t know about Rand though.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Sorry, but I assumed it was another “Ron Paul would be an awesome President” video.

    I’m no fan of Obama either.

    But thank you for the congrats, I appreciate it.

  • nicho

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama made clear Friday that he has no intention of stopping the daily collection of phone records from millions of Americans, but he promised ‘‘appropriate reforms’’ to how such surveillance is carried out.

    In an afternoon news conference, the president acknowledged the domestic spying has troubled Americans and hurt the country’s image abroad. But Obama blamed the damage on misinformation stemming from leaks to the news media.

    ‘‘Understandably, people would be concerned,’’ the president said. ‘‘I would be, too, if I weren’t inside the government.’’

    Oh, for heaven’s sake Barry. Reforms and oversight? Like the reforms and oversight of the banksters? Bwahahahahahahahaha! What a mealy-mouthed douchebag.

    I wouldn’t be concerned either, if I were the one doing the spying and not the one being spied on. Just as I’d feel better if I were the one ordering the drone strikes, instead of the innocent women and children on the other end of them.

  • nicho

    “There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they
    say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that;
    there never is.”

    –Ari Fleischer, 2001

    And we thought he was exaggerating. He was warning us.

  • caphillprof

    Safety was never the issue.

  • nicho

    Because you’re hear defending the destruction of the Constitution and the construction of a police state.

  • caphillprof

    Except the airlines and others no longer accept cash regardless of the currency laws.

  • caphillprof

    How soon we forget J. Edgar Hoover who through illegally acquired information and the constant threat of blackmail held Official Washington in thrall for almost a half century. How soon we forget Richard M. Nixon and CREEP.

    This is just like torture abroad. Eventually, the torture comes home. So will the warrantless eavesdropping and surveillance.

    What I wonder is how many minions in the security contracting business are getting rich on insider trading?

  • jared

    You didn’t watch the video. The video in the link above is of BO, not RP.
    Congrats on your marriage.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    As a woman who just got married in a civil ceremony early this week and now enjoying a broad range of civil rights I didn’t have while DOMA was in force, and knowing Ron Paul’s opinions about homosexuality, including his support for DOMA and DADT, and against any kind of hate crimes laws, I think it’s a very good thing he’s nowhere near the White House and never will be.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    You mean like all those floor speeches from Republicans claiming to care about the deficit?

    Get real.

  • mirror

    Seriously, if you aren’t a sock puppet and already know this, take out a piece of paper make a table or graph estimating how much content one person could put out. I know you have the capacity to do this. As long as one types fast and doesn’t try to think of new content or vary the subject too much, a person could really crank out the comments, certainly more than the 10 personas described in the guardian article nicho posted. The sock puppets described there are really more like spy infiltrator sock puppets. But I think you can probably get WAY more bang for your buck with something less sophisticated.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    I don’t think this is a bot I think this is nicho or jomicur! ;)

  • mirror

    If you take a minute to price it out, what it would cost to have an operative running 10 to 20 personas on targeted comment threads of the 30 to 40 top websites (of all stripes), it really wouldn’t be that expensive relative to the PR benefit. And for a Billion dollar operation like the Koch brothers or something like that it would be a drop in the bucket of their PR costs to run trolls, concern trolls, mole trolls, and other sock puppets on 50 blog and other media sites.

    When you price it out, its almost too cheap to not do it. Especially since you don’t really need to convince anyone to change their mind. Mostly you just need enough regular comments to give readers a lifeline not to abandon their preconceived ideas, or the interpretations that feel safer to them.

    If I was the military or the Koch brothers or Monsanto or whatever, I would definitely do this. Cheap thrills! Plus, it would feed your ego knowing you were doing secret shit, messing with people’s heads.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    I have no idea. I know on reddit if you get downvoted enough you have to wait before posting again. I don’t think it does anything on Disqus but I don’t know. My guess is that it’s used to look up profiles to see how people are rated. But either way it’s obviously a source of pride for some people on here.

  • jared

    Somehow this guy never seems to squirm when pressed. It’s too bad we don’t have a guy like him in the white house.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-Rdi_RNRpdk

  • jared

    Ron Paul, everyone’s favorite punching bag until he’s proven right.

    See this speech made on the congressional floor in 1984:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=G87jOx1VJ3o

    And this one on CNN:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9gqIPJgN_E

    There are hundreds more like it. Speeches on the campaign trail are one
    thing, but speeches and votes on the congressional floor are what we
    call putting your money where your mouth is.

  • mirror

    BTW: Does down or up voting do anything? Or is it sort of the the equivalent of a smile or a smirk in conversation?

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    That is disturbing and from a reputable source.

    Edit: Again with the name calling though.

  • nicho

    I wouldn’t expect that you, being a troll, would use actual facts, but just in case:

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-operation-social-networks

  • nicho

    A voice of treason.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    You’ve been pretty nasty to me, I’m not being nearly as nasty back but you are pushing me.

  • jomicur

    This from the guy who was bleating yesterday that comments shouldn’t be nasty. LOL!

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    No, you haven’t been listening to what I’ve been saying. No surprise there. Why don’t you go speak into a recorder, say what you want to hear and then just play it back to yourself all day over and over? Because that’s all you seem to be doing anyway.
    Edit – also you won’t have to count your down votes and get all upset. BONUS!

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    First off did you live in them or were you visiting or spending time as a student. There’s a big difference. A huge difference.
    My old boyfriend was cuban. He knew what a police state is like, so I’ve only heard second hand accounts.
    Your above accounts are gross exaggerations and based only partially on truth.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    Police states happen both ways. Historically speaking they have not typically happened over night in more stable countries, but they have toppled quickly in the banana republics the US set up, for example.

    I see what you’re getting at and you have a good point.

    My issue with the people on this forum is that they’re screaming “the sky is falling,” when it’s not falling (yet). Instead, (IMHO) they should be saying “look out.”

    Of course we have to watch what our government is doing and we should always question them, but what I’m hearing/reading here is that WW3 is over an we’ve lost, we already live in a police state, and our civil rights are completely gone. And *maybe* those will happen if we don’t act up and make noise, but they haven’t happened yet and screaming murder is just gonna make it worse when it does happen because like the boy who cried wolf – no one will listen.

  • jomicur

    And in the meantime you’ll keep defending their right to come for you. Brilliant, just brilliant.

  • trinu

    There doesn’t need to be any evidence, since they can hold people without charges or any kind of judicial process at all.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Having spent time in East Germany, Russia and Czechoslovakia during the 80s, I do have a pretty good idea what a police state is like. Of course there are degrees… but when we allow constant and continued erosion of our system by letting them get away with things they should not be allowed to get away with without significant, strict oversight, the slope gets more and more slippery. We’re already rounding up illegal immigrants in “detention centers”. We’re already suppressing dissent with military-grade police forces. We’re now monitoring communications of anyone who makes a call outside the country on the presumption that they could be a terrorist. Not even covering the wide sweeping speculation that is the DEA and IRS involvement that generates far more questions than answers. Congress seems to have no control, much less oversight any of these activities. So, at what point does their reach become overreach? When you, personally, are impacted?

  • dula

    Will it just suddenly become a police state or do ya think maybe there will be significant red flags along the way?

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    That’s not defending them. I said I don’t care if they are OPEN and honest about it and what they need to do to keep us safe. The way they are doing it now IS wrong. You hear what you want to hear. You’ve made up your minds, you don’t want to listen to anyone else who has another point of view, obviously.

  • trinu

    I saw you say you didn’t care if they read people’s private emails with NO reason for suspicion. That’s defending them.

  • trinu

    You’re the one who needs to get a grip. They aren’t just monitoring the connections to terrorists. Furthermore, even if you believe their “just the metadata” claim, it only applies to the phone records. PRISM looks at the content of your emails, Skype chats, Facebook messages (yes Facebook does have privacy settings and a private message system), etc. XKeyscore looks at your websurfing habits.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    Don’t tell me what I was doing or not doing. I was not defending them. I just didn’t agree with most of the people on here, there’s a difference you know. If someone doesn’t agree with you that doesn’t mean they agree with the other person either.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    If you are right and I’m wrong, then yes I will scream and cry if they come for me. Who wouldn’t?

  • trinu

    The Chinese secret police do it, so it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if the NSA did the same.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    Yes, that horrible shit does happen. But you are comparing two very big extremes here. I don’t think many of you know what a real police state is like (me included).

  • trinu

    You were defending the NSA, and to respond to your previous comment, I doubt anyone on this forum would obejct to spying on terrorists or suspected (by probable cause) terrorists. The objection comes to the NSA reading the emails and listening to the skype chats of people with no reason to be suspicious at all. Even if you believe the ends justify the means, the money would save more lives if it were devoted to medical research.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    People are arrested, tased and pepper sprayed for speaking their mind on a regular basis. Just because they’re not yet actively knocking on doors, doesn’t make it any less disgusting considering that whole peaceable assembly thing.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    A voice of reason!

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    My mind is not closed. I think our government does a lot of shitty things. Wars in the middle east come to mind. The way we exploit our immigrants is another. The banks robbing the people blind, another. Local governments extorting money out of citizens by making bogus arrests, yet another. But I also have a bullshit meter for certain things and a website called stopfbi sets off those alarms.

  • jomicur

    Nah, your ignorance is much to willful and impregnable for that.

  • Indigo

    We’re living inside corporate-occupied territory, partly terrestrial, partly cyberized. It’s like being a character in a Gibson novel. ‘Pattern Recognition’ is a good place to start and, lo and behold, here we are.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    I don’t down vote that much on here. I think people should be able to speak their mind whether or not they agree with me. I mostly upvote (actually a lot), and I occasionally downvote when I think someone is just being too ridiculous.

  • jomicur

    When it does become his door, he’ll wail like a stuck pig and wonder tearfully why none of his fellow bots will come to his defense. And gee, wouldn’t that be just too bad?

  • Bill_Perdue

    The sound of a closed mind again snapping shut.

  • Indigo

    In a way, it’s almost flattering that the GvmntBots are targeting AmBlog.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Democrats do a lot of the down voting.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    Sorry, but it’s going to take more than a link to a propaganda site to convince me.

  • Bill_Perdue

    The US government and the political parties that administer is for the rich are the only bad guys we have to worry about.

  • Bill_Perdue
  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    Seriously? Where’s evidence of the government arresting people for speaking their mind? You are scared of living in a police state, and we may end up there, but we’re not there now.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Government should be spending its resources going after the bad guys. Yes. They shouldn’t be wasting ridiculous amounts of resources, time, manpower, effort going after absolutely everyone, just in case a bad guy might be in their midst somewhere, somehow.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    No, he’s just making the argument that it’s not his door, so why should he care? Of course, if it ever does become his door, and there’s no one left to defend him… then what?

  • Badgerite

    Oh lord! What Obama said on Jay Leno is that there is no program to spy on American citizens. The program talked about in the New York Times article does not target Americans. It targets communications in and out of the country. And if you didn’t know about that program and the fact that it can also sweep in communications of American citizen communicating with people abroad or visa verse, I don’t know what planet you have been living on. The ‘proof’ that Greenwald provided that that is not the case, that American citizens are targeted is slides that provide for searching by phone number or by email. What the NSA is looking for is frequent connections between people with frequent connections to known or suspected terrorists abroad. I would think they might indeed search a phone number or email that had turned up more than once in communications with targets. They start with the known or suspected terrorist and cast a net outward based on frequency of communication. Get a grip.

  • Drew2u

    Well sure; though it’d be fun to see them squirm when pressed.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    You guys seriously need to take your meds if you think that NSA has bots coming here and down voting your comments. Your egos are just so big you think everyone agrees with you 100% and thinks you are as genius as you think you are.

  • Abney Weeks

    Well this sounds like something right out of a movie! I must admit that I don’t mind surveillance being used to catch the bad guys. It’s just too bad that we’re all being treated like “bad guys” now.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I think we all know what the real answer to that one is: They don’t object to the existence of The Machine. They object to the fact they’re not the ones currently running it.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Some of the point is to discourage and stifle dissent, but much of it is to make certain positions seem to be either much more popular or unpopular than they really are.

    We humans are somewhat herd-ish and can be influenced by what we perceive to be preferred or socially popular positions.

    One thing I’ve noticed with this whole NSA situation is they seem to be pulling out all the stops to normalize the idea that (1) it is a proper and necessary function of government to conduct constant and universal surveillance on everybody, citizen and foreigner alike and (2) the performance and extent of this surveillance is to be so secret, that revealing any portion of it to anyone, including the citizens whose government is spying on them, is tantamount to an automatic conviction of treason.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Beware of Big Brother with a gun.

    Memeorize these names, all American citizens and all victims of racist kill orders direct from Obama:
    Anwar al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, ‘Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqi and Jude Mohammed.

  • Drew2u

    Have the Pauls (Ron and Raynd) said anything about the NSA data collection program? Certainly coming out and saying, “The program is Big Government and needs to be scaled back or done away with!” would certainly play to the libertarian crowd, wouldn’t it?

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    I hope they arrest you for being a dumb-ass.

    Edit – Just for the record, I only down voted you once today, not even one time yesterday. I don’t know who is. I’ve been down voted a bunch but for obvious reasons.

  • jomicur

    So we’ve identified at least one bot.

    If you don’t think the various government agencies that use the NSA’a “metadata” are pounding down people’s doors and arresting them, you’re simply not paying attention. Not that that’s any surprise.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I see you collected a Like from Gaius, so clearly he’s now in the loop on it. :-)

  • HolyMoly

    The good thing is that a down vote doesn’t stop anyone from saying what they will, nor will it stop anyone from reading what they will. I don’t believe anyone on this site would think, “Hmm…this particular post has 15 down-votes. It must be bunk, so I won’t read it” or “I just got 15 down-votes for what I said. I think I’ll keep my mouth shut from now on.”

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    One big difference is that you typed that and no one is banging down on your door and taking you off to jail. I’m sure you’ll reply with “not yet” so I’ll save you the trouble and just add that on here.

    Edit: I was not defending the NSA yesterday. I am one who believes a government has to do what it has to do sometimes, but should be open and honest with the people about it to the greatest extent possible. But apparently, that makes me a supporter of their current actions.

  • jomicur

    That was pretty clear. I just wanted to take the opportunity to re-emphasize the point, that’s all.

  • condew

    Pity that with all this information floating around, we still haven’t uncovered the web of corruption and insider trading on Wall Street, and still not one bankster has gone to jail. I’d think phone call data would be ideal to track who got the inside scoop just before they made an amazingly profitable trade.

    FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, and the IRS are the government agencies whose job is to spy on Americans who are breaking the law. I’m really surprised it wasn’t the FBI demanding data from the phone companies.

    In the end, if the phone companies were not legally permitted to retain this data, there would be no data to pass around.

  • nicho

    I think I posted it in a response here, but I can’t remember where I saw it.

    On Edit: Aha, here it is.

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-operation-social-networks

    US Spy Operation manipulates social media

    Military’s ‘sock puppet’ software creates fake online identities to spread pro-American propaganda

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I’d recommend sharing that story with Gaius. I’m sure he’d find it interesting fodder for a future column.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    As near as I could tell, there were just one or two people speaking in defense of the NSA data-mining-and-warehousing operations. Although the discussions were occasionally heated, for the most part they remained civil.

    Yet there were barrages of down-votes, especially if a certain politician’s name came up, yet with no comments made.

    That says to me it was bots and/or sock puppets. It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened here.

  • nicho

    So, we are finally waking up to the fact that World War Three is over. They didn’t use bombs — well sometimes. They used phony financial instruments, toxic mortgages, crushing debts. They used “terrorist attacks” as a pretext for implementing openly a spy program unparalleled in human history. They coprporatists have won. It’s just that most people are unaware of it.

  • nicho

    I read a story about it just the other day. They have bots that go to sites and either spread the propaganda or just disrupt conversations.

  • Indigo

    I hadn’t thought of that but it makes sense.

  • Indigo

    We can stop tracking the sources now. What we’ve got on our hands is a vast data base built up from many sources with more information than ever previously available. Kewl, huh? I don’t think so, actually, but reversing this trend is on a par with reversing climate change. It ain’t gonna happen. So here we are. Coping tactics include: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance. Moving past acceptance (in the sense of here-we-are) the question becomes Now What? The aluminum foil hat has been around for many decades but is, whether actual or metaphorical, ultimately foolish. Ditto the UFO-ologist response.

    So we adjust, we change our personal filing systems, we lower our profile where possible (Google allows a semi-ritual drop out option), we pay cash rather than card, and we get about our little lives the way we always have. For further hints on living the life in a totalitarian surveillance state, read any of the astonishing novels of Garcia Marquez or the delightfully deceptive short stories of Borges. South American literature is miles ahead of us in talking about the wonders of life under a dictator. We have much to learn. Meanwhile, the anti-gay pogrom in Russia continues to be ignored by our Betters.

  • Hue-Man

    I think they are more like the East German Stasi – everybody spies on everybody else, co-workers, kids on parents, people in the same apartment building, etc. The NSA/Stasi gets your porn-searching history and threatens its release unless you supply information on their targets – DEA, FBI, state and local police, mega-business. Lawyer/client privilege flies out the window, ditto doctor/patient, etc.

    Instead of the Stasi’s 1960s snooping technology and paper files, the NSA has massive investments in high speed computers to make the process nearly automatic (unlike Veterans who die because the TRS80s don’t have enough vacuum tubes).

    I like to imagine today’s Snoop Industrial Complex with J. Edgar Hoover in charge in order to get some sense of the abuse that can be – and presumably is being – brought on ordinary citizens. (No, I’m not paranoid and have never worn an tin-foil hat. This story goes from one unbelievable revelation to another.)

  • nicho

    I think many of the downvotes are just bots (real bots). They can’t and won’t explain anything. The NSA has developed bots that create phony personas to post on sites like this.

  • jomicur

    Could someone who gave all those down votes to my comments yesterday please explain why the NSA is NOT the American version of the KGB? I’ve tried, and I can’t see much difference.

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