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

Nadim Kobeissi nadim at
Mon Jun 10 15:30:11 PDT 2013

On 2013-06-10, at 6:26 PM, Yosem Companys <companys at> wrote:

> The distinction between direct or indirect access is semantic, not substantive, and likely irrelevant to most Americans.  What Americans want to know is whether there is access to their personal data, and I would bet focus groups would show that's the key takeaway of this incident.

Hear hear. And not just Americans want to know this — due to the fact that most Big Data is centred in the US, these secret programs affect the privacy of world citizens as well, just as much, and in the same way, as they affect Americans


> As I said, a recent NY Times article spoke specifically of the embedding of NSA employees at US tech firms via firms' corporate legal departments, and we know how it happened at AT&T, with the employee getting cart blanche to do whatever he wanted at the firm and take as much data as he wanted with no questions asked.  
> On Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 3:09 PM, Jacob Appelbaum <jacob at> wrote:
> x z:
> > @Jacob, I agree with your points regarding American exceptionalism.
> > @Eugen, to prepare for the worst scenario is one thing, to advocate some
> > shady rumor as fact is another.
> > @Rich, those are good movie scripts :-). But it does not work for 9 firms,
> > and hundreds of execs all with diverse values and objectives.
> > @Nadim, when you say "we all always 'knew' this was happening", I don't
> > know what "this" refers to. Is it NSA surveillance, or is it the "direct
> > access" bit?
> >
> > To me, the crucial point is the "*direct access*", and also Guardian's
> > claim of these firms "willingly participating" in PRISM. I argued that
> > "direct access" is untrue in my previous email, but none of your replies
> > (except Rich's) are relevant to my arguments.
> What would you call a FISA API for government agents to query a system
> and return data on a target? Would you call that direct access or an
> indirect access? If Google runs the FISA API server, does that make it
> more or less direct than if the FISA API server is a blackbox run by the
> NSA?
> >
> > The "direct access" bit is what made this story sensational. Without this
> > bit, the story would be much less juicy but more true. In the long run,
> > truth gives more power than lies. Washington Post has backed down to
> > reality, for which I applaud their judgment. Guardian has not, and keeps on
> > defending their misinformation and bad reporting, for which I resent deeply.
> >
> You don't know the truth and you seem to think you do. The story that is
> important is that Google makes one claim, while the NSA slide makes
> another. Note that the law doesn't allow Google to even tell the press
> the whole truth.
> > If Snowden and Greenwald do not mislead the world on 'direct access" and
> > just report it rationally, I'd applaud their courage. Now I think Snowden
> > is not more than a self-aggrandizing douche.
> >
> I'm sorry, did you watch his video interview? On what grounds to you
> call him a self-aggrandizing douche exactly?
> > I hope internet freedom can advance with accurate awareness, not by public
> > paranoia.
> You take issue with a very weird semantic bit of the larger story. How
> does such semantic nitpicking, where you don't actually even know the
> facts behind your speculations, help advance any cause, anywhere?
> All the best,
> Jacob
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