Tag: NSA

Jim and guest host Chad Benson applaud China for realizing that insulting all of your neighbors does not garner influence. They are also bewildered by the incompetency of the vote counting in NYC’s Democratic primary which is expected to last until July 6. Lastly, they ponder the merit of Tucker Carlson’s claim that the NSA is spying on his show.


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“I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom, and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building… the NSA specifically targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default… they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behavior […]

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With One Eye on the News…


What’s more depressing: that the normalization of Hillary is entering its 25th year? Or the fact that something called “Evan McMullin” is so stridently insisting that what the nation needs right now is a whole lot more Evan McMullin?

We’re living in a news junkie’s paradise. It’s like the 70s again, except with “developments” instead of heroin. In an effort to carve out an intellectual existence outside the sphere of politics I’ve been only perusing the news, missing out on all but the biggest stories: Brexit official, the Russian hack; the subway attack in St. Petersburg; chemical weapons deployed in Syria and the tangled web we call the “intelligence community.” With regard to this last, I find the relationship between the FBI, the NSA, Justice, the Defense Intelligence Agency and countless similar agencies entirely incomprehensible. All I know is that my philosophy is now “email as if no one is watching.”

I’m only just now finishing the digestion of Trump’s election. But now, with five months to digest the meaning of it all, I think I’m beginning to get a handle on the general forces that landed him his dream job. It wasn’t a Flight 93 election so much as it was my Tahiti Nui Flight 55 with non-stop service to Los Angeles in which my seat failed to recline. (Note to editor: flesh this out for me. Thx!)

Rethinking NSA Data Collection


It’s probably too early to say anything definitive following the revelations of Rep. Nunes yesterday, but I would like to revisit some statements made repeatedly by Prof. @richardepstein on various Ricochet podcasts.

One of his main defenses of the current data collection regime of the NSA and other law enforcement groups was that there seems to be a real security need and that there are enough checks in place to prevent the misuse of that data.

The Good News About the NSA Theft


985px-National_Security_Agency_headquarters,_Fort_Meade,_MarylandAnd it’s a good thing, too. Not because of the exposure of massive hackability (with simple tools provided by the NSA’s coders) of enterprise and private networks; many businesses will likely be hacked in the next few months while vendors like Cisco frantically patch their code, and that’s bad for everyone. Nor is the theft good because of the way vendors will be patching their gear, since more exploits become possible every day and fixing these problems is an un-winnable war now that so much is public knowledge.

The good news is that the NSA must now confront the fact that they aren’t as superior as they think they are. They kept their toys locked up because — in their hearts of cold hearts — they believed that nobody could ever work out the things they worked out, or ever steal it. Maybe, just maybe, the exposure will break their hubris and the world will become a more secure place with those exploits behind patches, where they belong.

Powell Aide: Snowden “Pure as a Driven Snow”


SnowdenSnowden “more helpful than dangerous” says ex-Colin Powell Chief of Staff:

The leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden about US worldwide surveillance have helped rather than harmed America, and the leaks haven’t endangered lives.

Lawrence “Larry” Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell in the last Bush administration, said that he believed Snowden’s assertions that he leaked out of concern for the US breaking both domestic and international law.

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Ok, now, firstly, a caveat: This come from an interview he gave with The Moscow Tribune. I have no idea how reputable this publication is. The only English-language sites I’ve seen where the story’s been picked up are somewhat … I guess “sketchy” would be the word I’d choose? Still, it appears to be a […]

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Snowden in Full


398px-Edward_Snowden-2Ask me the narrow question of whether Edward Snowden did the right thing in revealing the NSA’s metadata collection programs on American citizens, and I’ll answer in the affirmative: such a program strikes me as a blatant violation of the 4th Amendment and — based on admittedly imperfect information — a poor use of the NSA’s skills and resources. Ask what I think of Snowden himself and my opinions have been negative ever since he first ran off to Hong Kong and Russia.

Regardless, one could plausibly argue that Snowden did the right thing in leaking the information, while still holding his self-preservation in contempt; he did the right thing for a while … until he started doing the wrong thing to cover himself. Well, Snowden’s not done leaking and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify his behavior at all:

American and British Intelligence secretly tapped into live video feeds from Israeli drones and fighter jets, monitoring military operations in Gaza, watching for a potential strike against Iran, and keeping tabs on the drone technology Israel exports around the world.

The NSA: Not as Smart as They Think They Are …


JuniperLast week, I posted a link to an article about the breach at Juniper Networks — and said it was bad news.

Today, Wired released an article that describes in great detail how the breach affected Juniper’s network gear. For the layfolks in the room, let me summarize the nature of the breach.  Then I’ll point out how this breach was caused, probably intentionally, by the NSA, and how the NSA has, in this case, made us all more vulnerable.

To understand the breach, you need to first have a rudimentary understanding of how a virtual private network, or VPN, works. Anyone who works for a company and connects remotely to their company’s network will have heard the term. A VPN is a private network that uses a public network (usually the Internet) to connect remote sites or users. A VPN creates a “tunnel” through the Internet between two points — usually a laptop and a company firewall. Or the two points may be two firewalls, one at the corporate headquarters, the other at a remote branch. The data that flows through this tunnel is encrypted by the VPN software at one end, then decrypted at the other. Theoretically, while the data is in transit, it’s safe from prying eyes. While the process for encrypting data is generally complex, the idea is quite simple. The software simply runs the data through a set of instructions (known as an algorithm) that scramble it all up like an egg. It does this based upon an encryption key. So long as the other end has the same key, and the same algorithm for encryption, it can basically reverse the steps and unscramble the data.

The Libertarian Podcast with Richard Epstein: “Responding to the ISIS Threat”


This week on The Libertarian podcast, Professor Epstein considers the public policy questions stemming from the San Bernardino attack: do gun control efforts have a new currency after yet another mass shooting? Does the US need to seriously constrict immigration? Did the USA Freedom Act’s restrictions on the collection of metadata leave the country needlessly vulnerable? Find out Richard’s take on those questions and more below or by subscribing to The Libertarian via iTunes.

The NSA and our Allies


480px-National_Security_Agency.svgAsked how the United States could better undermine good will from our allies — particularly, among commercially successful, technically savvy nations with small-l liberal values — one would be hard-pressed to find a better answer than to cite (essentially) unlimited powers of surveillance, coupled with the stated belief that technology companies should be encouraged/required to provide our intelligence services with backdoor access to their databases. For good measure, emphasize that we consider these methods to be in accordance with the fairly radical demands of the Fourth Amendment as it relates to our own citizens. Then, add that our supposed good judgement and self-restraint did not stop us from tapping the personal phone of the head of state of one of our closest allies, who just happens to have grown up under a government infamous for tyrannical surveillance.

Unfortunately, that is precisely the situation we find ourselves in and — unsurprisingly — it has consequences:

Judges at the European Union’s top court struck down the so-called safe-harbor accord after an Austrian law student complained about how U.S. security services can gain unfettered access to Facebook Inc. customer information sent to the U.S. Other U.S. companies, including Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc., may also be effected.

America: More Evidence of the Fall


shutterstock_94224787Ever since Adam, descents from grace, innocence, or paradise have inspired poets, artists and writers. The ongoing fall of our nation has — sad to say — called forth more prosaic reflections. The latest decline of our former nation of laws has barely induced a ripple in the ocean of betrayal in which we are immersed. I refer, of course, to the Iran treaty … which is somehow not a treaty. Doublespeak writ large. Regardless of its dubious merits, does anyone care that its implementation diverges completely from Constitutional requirements (like the redefinition of marriage, come to think of it)?

As though executive orders are not enough, we see — at the very highest levels of governance — complete disdain for the Constitutional requirement that the Senate ratify treaties. Ho-hum. By legislative legerdemain, the requirement of a two-thirds majority for ratification has magically transmogrified into a need for a two-thirds majority to stop it. Perhaps, we may yet be saved by a special interest group asserting that that the non-treaty will cause global warming.

As with the latest lawsuit against the NSA, no one will have “standing” to challenge this blatantly unconstitutional maneuver. In the NSA case, the individual suing lacked standing precisely because could not prove that his data was seized by the NSA; he could not obtain proof because the data are “secret.” How very convenient for tyrannical government. Ordinary citizens are disabled from asserting that their rights are being trampled by a judiciary which has all but abrogated its responsibility to protect individual rights.

Snowden: Hero or Villain?


398px-Edward_Snowden-2The reverberating headline, it seems, is “Without Snowden, there would be no Freedom Act.” Snowden leaked all of the stuff about the phone records that created the public outrage. This ultimately applied the appropriate level of political pressure to put a stop to much of the things we all seem to find objectionable about the NSAs domestic spying activities. Thus, Snowden is a hero, and a deal should be struck to allow him to come home.

That seems to be a fine line of reasoning. But I can’t get past one simple thing: what Snowden did was illegal, and as near as I am aware, remains illegal. I’m not convinced he should be stood up before a firing squad, but shouldn’t he face some consequences? Maybe his two-year exile to Russia is enough? What do you say?

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With all the bad press on domestic spying and such, there is one way the NSA can redeem itself, perhaps even endear itself in the hearts of the American people:  track down the sources of all these annoying robocalls, then turn their names and addresses in to the IRS for thorough audits (all you have do […]

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The Libertarian Podcast: Epstein on the NSA Ruling


On this week’s installment of The Libertarian podcast, we’re diving into the Second Circuit’s recent ruling on NSA Metadata collection. Was the court right to hold that the program exceeds the authority given by the Patriot Act? Should Americans be concerned about an intrusive intelligence apparatus? Is Edward Snowden a hero? And what does Richard think of Rand Paul’s views on the tradeoff between security and liberty? Listen in below (or by subscribing through iTunes or your favorite podcast player) to find out.

The Conceptual Difficulties of the NSA Case


shutterstock_160092761Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an exhaustive opinion in which Judge Gerard Lynch held that the bulk collection of metadata by the National Security Agency (NSA) was not authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act. That provision provides in so many words that the Director of the FBI or his designated agent may:

…make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.

At issue in this decision was whether this language was sufficiently broad to permit the vast collection of the metadata and, further, whether and when the individuals who claim grievances for those collection activities are in a position to challenge the standard practice of the NSA under these sections.

What the Second Circuit Got Right


1154px-National_Security_Agency_headquarters,_Fort_Meade,_MarylandI agree with much of what John Yoo says in his recent post about “the blindness of the left… to the dire threat of foreign terrorism that has appeared again on our shores.” Although I disagree with his conclusions, John does an excellent job of laying out the policy reasons why he thinks the federal government should engage in bulk data collection.

But the policy arguments should be irrelevant to our analysis of the Second Circuit’s decision in ACLU v. Clapper. The question before the Court was simply whether the bulk data collection program is authorized under statutory and constitutional provisions. Surely, conservatives don’t want judges substituting their own policy preferences for the plain language of the law. And on the basic legal question before it, the Second Circuit got it right.

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act allows the government to seize “any tangible things” but only when the FBI can establish that the “things” sought are “relevant to an authorized investigation.” The bulk data collection, however, is not connected to any ongoing investigation: it is data that is collected in the event that it may come in useful in some future investigation (and, in the meantime, is shared with other law enforcement officials to make arrests that they couldn’t make if they had to get warrants). So, on the plain language of the statute, the government’s program fails, as has been argued by Randy Barnett and Jim Harper, not exactly wild-eyed liberals.