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

x z xhzhang at
Mon Jun 10 16:11:40 PDT 2013

I argue that direct access or not is is substantive, not semantic. We have
the following two versions of the story:

*A: The Guardian story alleges that NSA has direct access to user data from
major internet firms, and these firms are willingly cooperating with NSA
for the capability of en masse data pull. It indicates that NSA can pull
whatever data they feel like, and that NSA has such dark power that all the
internet firms have to kowtow.*

*B: On the other hand, NSA and these companies' statement is consistent to
what most of us have already known, that NSA can request data from these
firms on the basis of FISA. And the data pull is quite limited. (By the
way, it doesn't really matter it's US or non-US citizens to me, there's
nothing special about America).*

Do you think the difference between the two is merely semantic? Also, if
you believe in A, then everybody on the NSA/corporation side are liars, and
we are truly living in a police state. This, is, not, semantic.

@Jacob, if your hypothetical FISA API thingy works only on the limited data
the firms knowingly disclose to NSA, then it's not big deal. This "FISA
API" thing is semantic, not substantive, to use your classification scheme.

@Yosem, I always applaud the accurate disclosure of the AT&T and Verizon
cases. That is one thing that we need to change.

Let me stress it again, I am not rooting for B, I think it need more
transparency and FISA need revision. But let's not pretend that the
government is so powerful, that *is* paranoia.

2013/6/10 Jacob Appelbaum <jacob at>

> Yosem Companys:
> > 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.
> Indeed.
> >
> > 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.
> The word stasi comes to mind with this kind of DIRECT ACCESS. The
> server, taps and likely API itself are almost irrelevant details when we
> consider HUMAN INFILTRATION as part of the NSA strategy.
> Land of the free... refill?
> All the best,
> Jacob
> --
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