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

Jacob Appelbaum jacob at
Mon Jun 10 12:36:13 PDT 2013

Maxim Kammerer:
> On Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 12:01 PM, x z <xhzhang at> wrote:
>> Occam's razor would give us the following is what has actually happened in
>> the past three days: a semi-clueless whistle blower fed an overzealous
>> journalist a low-quality powerpoint deck, which met the privacy-paranoia and
>> exploded.
> I agree. I also don't understand what's the big deal. It is well-known
> that the NSA (with cooperation with SIGINT agencies of other
> countries) scans all communication channels it can get to. By reaching
> popular communication methods like webmail and social media, it is
> just doing its job. What apparently is at the core of the hysterical
> public reaction is that the NSA spies on Americans, who think that
> they are special, and should be treated differently. The reason they
> think they are special is that the huge geopolitical / economic /
> military-industrial complex influence of the United States elevates
> and accustoms them to a position that's completely out of proportion
> with their actual value to the world — utterly un-democratic, if you
> think about it. Well, your spy agencies are more democratic than you
> guys — they spy on you, too. If that wouldn't have been the case, it
> would mean that your military-industrial complex is not that powerful,
> which would imply that you are not special anymore, which, ironically,
> rejects the original premise. Hopefully someone else can appreciate
> the irony as well (hence writing this).

Occam's razor doesn't work the way that it is presented here. All things
being equal, the multi-billion dollar spy agency really does the spying
and it was really just revealed.

And yes, it really does shatter the idea American exceptionalism - that
is actually the best part of the entire discussion. Americans need this
wakeup call - with our drone strikes that kill people based on their
metadata (eg: signature strikes) surveillance programs and with our
death camp (eg: Gitmo) in Cuba. We as a nation should be ashamed of
these things and the first step to such shame is the inability to deny
what is being done in our name.

It is now the case that it is impossible to deny the dragnet
surveillance order published about Verizon. Our "leaders" have
acknowledged it. It is also impossible to deny the massive surveillance
as a whole - the DNI, the White House and other agencies have confirmed
it. It is also now impossible to deny the existence of specific programs

The open questions are merely about scope. In time, we'll learn the
details - but we need not debate that this is just the tip of the
iceberg - it is obviously the case that we don't have all the details.

To attack Glenn and Snowden is pointless. Without a doubt, if anyone
knows less than them - it is all of us. Unless you hold a TS/SCI
clearance, of course. In which case, please do feel free to speak up -
we'd love to hear some clarifications on the matter! Though overall - we
should all be speaking up - but lets be clear that not all voices here
have access to the same information, or the same understanding even when
presented with the same information.

All the best,

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