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[liberationtech] Boundless Informant: the NSA's secret tool to track global surveillance data

x z xhzhang at
Mon Jun 10 01:30:19 PDT 2013

(was away for the day, then saw this long thread).

First of all, I don't feel offended by Jacob's reply to my email at all,
probably because I know and expect his style of wording. So far I think the
discussion is still pretty civil.

Now to the main point, which is on the main point of "direct access to
servers". The following is why I still think it's untrue:

- The PRISM slides do not prove such "direct access" (as we interpret it)
exists. The PRISM slide's reference to "direct access" can have alternative
explanations. For example, it is likely that when the firms hand over
information to NSA, they store the requested information on a, say, FTP
server for NSA to download, hence "collection directly from the servers of
these U.S. Service Providers". Remember that these slides are rather
amateurish, and quite clearly they are not written by technical people.

- The firms (Apple, Google, Facebook, etc) do not have any incentive to
participate in such a program to offer "direct access" to NSA. That is
quite obvious. Then, what kind of power do people think NSA possesses that
can secretly coerce these firms into cooperation?? Remember that Patriot
Act/FISA do not require the firms to offer "direct access" at all. Will
these firm's CEO or Chief Legal Officer go to jail, for not providing
"direct access"? Or DOJ retaliates the firms somehow? Or IRS threatens to
tax them at higher rates? Or they all have some sex video to be exposed?
The government doesn't really have that much power actually.

- If all these "participating" firms have built such a system to feed NSA's
request automatically, many people would have got involved. This is not a
trivial task, the executives need to find engineers to make it happen. And
the number of engineers won't be small, given the diversity of data
mentioned here. When the CEO's are making their "blatant" denials, aren't
they afraid of their own whistle blowers? Or all these engineers are bought
out? This feels more like a movie script now.

- I don't know how some people on this list can get the conclusion that the
firms are hiding something from they all having similar "carefully worded
denials". They all deny "direct access", that's the most crucial part.
Several of them stated that all NSA requests are reviewed manually, that's
also a crucial part. If these two bits are true, nothing else really
matters. Yes, they do comply with NSA requests, which is not glorious, but
it's not what Glenn Greenwald's sensational headline is about.

I think many people on this list have been hoping or waiting for something
like this, because it reinforces their beliefs and helps their agenda, so
they readily fall for it. I expect more rigor from geeks.


2013/6/9 Nadim Kobeissi <nadim at>

> It seems Europe isn't safe either from data mining, due to overreach:
> NK
> On 2013-06-09, at 1:22 PM, Jacob Appelbaum <jacob at> wrote:
> > Nadim Kobeissi:
> >>
> >> On 2013-06-09, at 1:02 PM, Jacob Appelbaum <jacob at>
> >> wrote:
> >>
> >>> Nadim Kobeissi:
> >>>> Jake, I don't agree with x z (and rather agree with you), but
> >>>> I'm really tired of just how aggressive and rude you always are
> >>>> on Libtech. And it doesn't appear to just be towards me. I'm not
> >>>> the only person who feels like this.
> >>>>
> >>>> Even if you're right, tone your ego knob down already. Be nice. I
> >>>> can barely read through threads anymore. Thank you.
> >>>
> >>> Dear Nadim,
> >>>
> >>> I'm sorry that your felt that I was aggressive and rude. It wasn't
> >>> my intention. Nor do I think that my last email had anything to do
> >>> with my ego.
> >>>
> >>> I was defending Glenn's reputation and his findings - which seem
> >>> absolutely solid from where I'm standing.
> >>
> >> What a nice thing to say! Thank you! :-) I think Glenn Greenwald is a
> >> wonderful journalist who really revealed a hugely meaningful story.
> >> Maybe not the story of the decade overall, but perhaps the story of
> >> the decade when it comes to computer and information security and
> >> privacy.
> >>
> >> The thing is, I agree with you almost all the time. But you alienate
> >> me (and I think others too) because of the ruthlessness in which you
> >> express yourself. Even well-known members of a community do not
> >> obtain a license to talk down to others.
> >>
> >
> > I'm sorry that you think I am rutheless. I feel that I actually have
> > quite a lot of compassion and I regularly express it. I do not generally
> > feel pity - to feel pity, generally one must place oneself above others
> > - which isn't useful or productive.
> >
> >> I think it's super nice of you to be this considerate and I think
> >> this is a solid contribution to improving the mood of this list. I
> >> hope "x z" also appreciates this clarification! Hurray for Jake!
> >>
> >
> > Do you suppose you might reply to the points that I made?
> >
> > You asserted that I was aggressive and rude. I contested it. Did you
> > decide that my previous emails were not so, after clarification, or what?
> >
> > All the best,
> > Jake
> > --
> > Too many emails? Unsubscribe, change to digest, or change password by
> emailing moderator at companys at or changing your settings at
> --
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