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[liberationtech] US NSA's Snoop Factor Is Shocking

Yosem Companys companys at
Fri Jun 7 12:04:54 PDT 2013

MAY 13, 2013

Kotarski: The snoop factor is shocking


In October 2008, a 39-year-old former U.S. navy linguist who worked at
a National Security Agency (NSA) centre in Georgia went on ABC News
and blew the whistle on himself and his fellow NSA operators for
listening in on the private conversations of hundreds of American aid
workers and soldiers calling home to the United States from Iraq.

“Hey, check this out,” David Murfee Faulk says he would be told.
“There’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this
call, it’s really funny, go check it out.”

Another linguist, 31-year-old Adrienne Kinne, told ABC that the NSA
would listen to calls made by military officers, journalists and aid
workers from organizations such as the International Red Cross and
Doctors Without Borders, listening to “personal, private things with
Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with
anything to do with terrorism.”

“We knew they were working for these aid organizations. They were
identified in our systems as ‘belongs to the International Red Cross’
and all these other organizations,” Kinne told ABC News. “And yet,
instead of blocking these phone numbers, we continued to collect on

How far has this spread since then?

Earlier this month, Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent,
revealed on CNN that details from a private telephone conversation
between one of the Boston bombing suspects and his wife could be
retrieved at will.

“We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find
out exactly what was said in that conversation,” he said. “It’s not
necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in
court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to
questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.”

When pressed by the shocked news anchor whether “they can actually get
that,” Clemente was adamant.

“Welcome to America,” he answered. “All of that stuff is being
captured as we speak, whether we know it or like it or not.”

What has happened to our American cousins? And what has happened to
the rest of us? This is not North Korea, Saudi Arabia or Soviet

This is the United States, where according to the constitution, “the
right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be

This is also Canada’s biggest and most important security partner, our
closest military and intelligence ally, and the country where our
government continues to strive for “harmonization,” even as the U.S.
is revealed again and again to have abandoned the American citizen’s
right to basic privacy.

Just last week, the New York Times’s Charlie Savage reported that the
Obama administration is on the verge of backing an FBI plan for new
surveillance laws that would force companies like Facebook and Google
to build a capacity to comply with wiretap orders into their
instant-messaging systems.

In an April 2012 interview with Democracy Now, another NSA
whistleblower, William Binney, estimated the NSA assembled 20 trillion
“transactions,” which likely included copies of almost all e-mails
sent and received by those living in the United States.

What does this mean for Canadians?

Once upon a time, it was obvious that we would not tolerate our
governments trawling through everyone’s mail or installing a tape
recorder or a video camera in every room of every home. So why are we
so complacent about our electronic data, our phone calls and our

Almost all of us use some kind of American-based online infrastructure
to communicate with each other, but privacy concerns do not seem to
interest our government very much. The old “if you’ve got nothing to
hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” trope is nonsense. We all have
something to hide.

There are intimate thoughts shared between spouses and lovers. Family
quarrels, fears, hopes, family photos and business ideas.

These are all things that can be used to intimidate and abuse us, and
government analysis should not be listening to them, even if they say
that it’s for our own good.

Kris Kotarski’s column appears every second Monday.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

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