Monday, June 17, 2013

Snowden-chat

After all the accusations and hysteria, most of what Edward Snowden leaked turns out to be one big nothingburger. Over a week ago, I quoted the analogy used by Mark Ambinder to demonstrate what's actually going on.
One official likened the NSA's collection authority to a van full of sealed boxes that are delivered to the agency. A court order, similar to the one revealed by the Guardian, permits the transfer of custody of the "boxes." But the NSA needs something else, a specific purpose or investigation, in order to open a particular box...

In the government's eyes, the data is simply moving from one place to another. It does not become, in the government's eyes, relevant or protected in any way unless and until it is subject to analysis. Analysis requires that second order.

And the government insists that the rules allowing the NSA or the FBI to analyze anything relating to U.S. persons or corporations are strict, bright-line, and are regularly scrutinized to ensure that innocents don't get caught up in the mix.
Today in his on-line chat, Snowden basically said the same thing.
More detail on how direct NSA's accesses are is coming, but in general, the reality is this: if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want. Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on - it's all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time.
So the restrictions that keep the government from listening to your private communication are policy based rather than technically based - DUH. I'm sure there are lots of things the government could "technically" do - but they are prohibited by policy.

If you want to freak out about what the government MIGHT do if the policies changed, you can go join Snowden in the crazy corner. Otherwise, lets call in the fat lady to sing...this one is OVER by Snowden's own admission.

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for being one of several people who kept your head amidst the hysteria and against the mob. Bob Cesca noted this very quiet walk back of Snowden's/Greenwald's claims as well.

    Seems like this story was rushed to print, and Snowden's motivations to me are as yet unclear. But no way was this guy or his claims properly vetted, particularly considering the extraordinary nature of his allegations. For shame.

    --gn

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  2. Snowden's motivations are quite clear, as he is a type familiar to many of us: he wants to be a hero, to feel important about the secrets he has access to. The REAL issue here is the fact that we don't have a better security clearance vetting/review process.

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  3. "...they can enter and get results for anything they want. Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on - it's all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time."

    And the guy in my job's HR dept. can use my info to open credit card accounts; the nurse in my doctor's office can make flyers out of my medical records and post them all over town. The restrictions against these acts are only policy based, as are probably greater than 90% of such restriction.

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  4. Snowden is getting played for China PR. He serves no other purpose to them for the simple reason he's not telling them anything they did not know years ago. His 15 minutes are fading and after it's over he still is going to get frog marched.

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