New Snowden Revelations Prove the Obvious: NSA Breaks Codes, Spies on Terrorists

obama_headphones_nsaA blitz of new articles were posted on Thurday based upon the thumbdrive goodie bag filled with top secret documents stolen from the government by former NSA systems administrator Edward Snowden, who defected to Russia back in June. The articles covered two separate stories.

First, the new alliance of The Guardian, The New York Times and ProPublica published articles about an NSA operation code named BULLRUN, and its GCHQ counterpart EDGEHILL. (We’ll nickname this publishing alliance “Team Guardian” for brevity’s sake.) The ProPublica and The Times articles were essentially the same, while The Guardian‘s version of the story, co-authored by Snowden’s media flack Glenn Greenwald, was unique (more on its uniqueness presently). Simultaneously, The Washington Post‘s Barton Gellman covered a top secret NSA document titled “Threats to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” how NSA is surveilling al-Qaeda engineers who are attempting to disable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “predator drones”).

There are so many problems with these posts, some worse than others, so rather than cover everything narrative-style, here are the bullet points.

The Team Guardian Articles

Corporate Tracker Tally via Ghostery:
The Guardian: 47
The New York Times: 15-21 per page (four pages total)
ProPublica: 21
(Trackers are web bugs secretly downloaded onto your computer to track and collect your clicks and demographics.)

1) The upshot: NSA breaks into encrypted files using various methods.

Surprise! NSA cracks codes! Anyone who understands the overarching mandate of NSA since it was formed in 1952 understands that NSA is tasked with cracking codes and interpreting what the encrypted data means via the detection of activity patterns, spikes in chatter and so forth. The fact that these reporters, as well as the ill-informed outrage addicts who retweeted this stuff, are treating this as alarming news shows a disturbingly limited understanding of NSA’s mission.

While The Times and ProPublica mentioned how NSA has “specialized in code-breaking” since its inception, The Guardian doesn’t. But in case anyone missed the “specialized” line and isn’t aware of NSA’s back story, there are volumes of information that have been published over the years about the agency’s history, both benevolent and not-so-constitutional. There’s even a cryptological museum and library run by NSA near its campus in Ft. Meade, Maryland. I know it’s not very hip to visit actual brick-and-mortar libraries in the age of Wikipedia, but anyone can visit this facility and peruse declassifed documents and other reference materials to learn about the ways in which NSA has cracked codes throughout its 61 year history.

This raises an important question. If NSA isn’t allowed to crack codes, what is it supposed to do, exactly? Ask nicely? This would ostensibly leave us with something similar to Robin Williams’ army intelligence character in Good Morning, Vietnam: “We walk up to someone and say, ‘Are you the enemy?’ And, if they say yes, we shoot them.”

2) Team Guardian posted the article and several PowerPoint slides in spite of warnings from government officials who reportedly said that if the articles are published they would cause damage to counter-terrorism efforts.

Buried at the very end of The Guardian‘s article, this appeared:

Intelligence officials asked the Guardian, New York Times and ProPublica not to publish this article, saying that it might prompt foreign targets to switch to new forms of encryption or communications that would be harder to collect or read.

Of course the intelligence officials asked them not to publish the article. Why? Well, obviously, criminal targets will subsequently react by augmenting their encryption methods, making it even more difficult for NSA to decrypt the intercepted communications, thus requiring the development of more powerful methods for cracking the keys. It’s a crypto arms race. Yes, anyone paying attention knows that NSA cracks codes, but to blurt it out with this kind of hair-on-fire reporting, while including details about specifically how it’s being done is simply irresponsible.

So, I wonder who Snowden thinks ought to be “shot in the balls” for this one?

3) The Times and ProPublica versions of the story levied a serious and lede-worthy accusation at the government.

The tandem articles cited “independent cryptologists” who claimed that NSA “probably” hacked into tech company computers in order to steal encryption keys and to discover new back doors into encrypted files. First of all, the few “independent cryptologists” I’ve met were firmly planted in the Alex Jones wing of the cuckoo’s nest. That’s not to say The Times‘ sources are kooks, but it’s worth noting that it’s a subculture rife with paranoiacs. Nevertheless, if these sources are accurate in spite of the “probably” hedge, there could be serious consequences for NSA and the intelligence community. If it’s untrue, it could have serious consequences for the publications injecting it into the debate. One question: why not just ask Snowden if this kind of hacking occurs? If he were to confirm it, they’d at least have a named source.

4) Internet security expert Bruce Schneier wrote a pair of unhinged side-bar articles for The Guardian explaining how to beat NSA’s code cracking techniques.

You might recall our previous brush with Schneier. He wrote an article for The Atlantic in which he claimed the government had “commandeered” the internet — odd considering that the government indeed created, regulates and finances infrastructure for the internet. This time, in addition to providing a handy-dandy guide (55 corporate trackers, by the way) to encrypting your Wonka memes, he wrote a second article in which he insists the government and corporations have “betrayed” the internet (ironically, 52 corporate trackers on this page). Again, like his post for The Atlantic, it’s wild hyperbole that draws casual readers to infer that the government controls and surveils everything. It doesn’t.

Jogging back to Schneier’s encryption guide by way of a warning: not for nothing but if you’re installing Tor and TrueCrypt to shield your iTunes library or your Game of Thrones fan-fiction from NSA, your cheese is precipitously sliding off your cracker.

5) ProPublica wrote a sidebar article about why it posted the BULLRUN article, which included the line: “U.S. wartime code-breaking was confined to military communications. It did not involve eavesdropping on civilians.”

Quoting a tweet by NSA analyst and U.S. Naval War College professor John Schindler on Thursday: “Wrong!” Until the Church Committee and subsequent regulations imposed on the intelligence community, surveillance had been conducted on civilians, Americans and otherwise, since World War I, during World War II and beyond by the various precursors to NSA, and with zero oversight or warrants. To repeat, there are libraries filled with this information. At the very minimum, Google it.

6) Greenwald made a special point of bragging about how the article proves that the U.S. and, specifically, the U.K. governments are incapable of silencing him.

Sniping from Twitter, Greenwald wrote: “It looks as though the UK Government’s efforts to bully everyone out of reporting on their surveillance behavior weren’t very fruitful #GCHQ”

greenwald_gchq_tweet

He’s still tethered to his original and thoroughly debunked story about how his husband, David Miranda, was detained at Heathrow Airport simply to bully and intimidate Greenwald when, in fact, Miranda was detained because he was transporting stolen Snowden documents to and from Germany on The Guardian‘s dime. By the way, it’s always smart to taunt a government that’s conducting a criminal investigation against your spouse because you’ve irresponsibly looped him into your affairs.

7) And finally, what about warrants?

Usually, The Guardian waits ten or twelve paragraphs before sneaking into its articles a passing mention that U.S. persons can’t be targeted for surveillance without a warrant. This time, both The Times and ProPublica noted that Americans can’t be targeted without a warrant. However, The Guardian didn’t mention it at all. To be clear: your communications can’t be targeted and decrypted without a warrant.

By the way, the argument about secret courts and unchallenged warrants has to stop. No court at any level in America has a public advocate to argue against a surveillance warrant. Likewise, the issuance of such warrants are always kept secret so as to not tip off the criminal suspect who’s being surveilled. Yes, FISA is in need of some basic reforms, but this argument doesn’t hold water.

The Washington Post‘s “Threats to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” Article

Corporate Tracker Tally: 31-52 per page (four pages)

Once again, among the various reporters and polemicists covering this beat, reporter Barton Gellman is proving to be the closest thing to an adult in the room. Even though he’s been prone to some Greenwald-style lapses in judgement, at least he’s, 1) consulted with government officials about the Snowden materials he’s published, and 2) accordingly and appropriately self-censored the areas that could seriously damage U.S. interests.

In this case, Gellman refused to publish information from the Snowden-purloined item that would allow al-Qaeda operatives to learn about various weaknesses in drone technology that would invariably be exploited. And for his prudence I’m sure he’s catching hell on social media from radical transparency purists who feel entitled to know everything about everything irrespective of consequences. Even Greenwald had to beat back a few of those yahoos yesterday.

But this inevitably leads back to Snowden. To repeat: this is an NSA report that goes into exhaustive detail about NSA surveillance of known terrorist targets who are trying to destroy U.S. predator drones. Why on earth would he abscond with a document like this? What does it possibly say about trespasses against the Fourth Amendment? Worse yet, if such a document, not unlike the Black Budget document, were to escape the grasp of various reporters who have a copy, including Wikileaks and clown sieve Julian Assange, Snowden’s theft would provide valuable information to a veritable rogues gallery of enemies. Once again, I tend to shy away from exaggerating the terrorist threat, but terrorists do indeed exist and it’s wise not to, you know, help them.

So the clock has started on the 24 Hour Rule. I wonder what bits of mitigating information will we learn about over the next day or so. Time will tell. But I suspect the lack of “there, there,” as well as outrage fatigue will slowly suffocate the impact of these stories.

What’s next?

CORRECTION: This article originally referenced the GCHQ program with the code name “MANASSAS.” It was actually called “EDGEHILL.” MANASSAS is the NSA predecessor to BULLRUN.

Bob Cesca is the managing editor for The Daily Banter, the editor of BobCesca.com, the host of the Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show podcast and a Huffington Post contributor.

  • ssp

    Edge Hill – a hill on the outskirts of Cheltenham, England where GCHQ is located. I guess naming it for a civil war battle sounds better though…

  • http://norwegianshooter.blogspot.com/ Mark Erickson
  • reanimate

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll trust Bill Schneier, a respected computer security expert since the early 80s, over Bob Cesca, who according to his Wikipedia bio is “an American director, producer, writer, actor, blogger and political commentator.” Notice what’s missing from that list: expert on technology or surveillance. What authority does Cesca actually have on this subject at all, over than being the guy who writes a column predictably belittling each and every story about the NSA?

    • Schneibster

      So you missed the Atlantic article. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/08/the-nsa-is-commandeering-the-internet/278572/

      Or you don’t know enough about networks to understand the diagram that starts his article.

      I have a question. Suppose the FBI gets a valid warrant for a known drug dealer for whom there is plenty of probable cause for an email tap. How exactly do you think they do it?

      Go ahead. This should be amusing.

      • reanimate

        The fact that you would question whether Schneier is an expert on computer security shows how little you understand about all this.

        “Don’t know enough about networks” really? The diagram actually doesn’t have much bearing on the larger point of the story, which is about the more general practice of secret collaboration between corporations and the government, resulting in the corruption and weakening of encryption technologies and open standards.

        But none of that answers my question, which was why anyone should listen to Cesca when he has no background in technology and we have security experts with decades of experience in the industry, not to mention journalists in the New York Times, Washington Post, Der Spigel and The Guardian all reaching a different conclusion.

        • Schneibster

          The fact that you think I’m questioning Schneier’s credentials proves you didn’t read my post.

          • reanimate

            You’re babbling about network diagrams and FBI warrant procedure when the Atlantic article was all about governments and corporations weakening security standards. I think you’re the one that might want to do some more reading here. People that understand these issues generally don’t rely on Bob Cesca as a source.

          • Schneibster

            The conversation is about networks.

            Network diagrams are essential to the conversation.

            Without them there is no way to visualize what we’re talking about.

            You know nothing about them which is why you’re trying to dismiss them.

            This conversation is useless, and is over. Please try to stick to subjects you know something about. Thanks. Good bye.

  • http://norwegianshooter.blogspot.com/ Mark Erickson

    You characteristically avoided mentioning the most important aspect of the stories. NSA spends 250 million a year influencing the security industry to introduce vulnerabilities into all basic encryption technologies. That’s not decryption, it’s cheating. And this occurs after a public debate was settled that the NSA should not do this. Here’s a long quote from this article: http://m.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/google-encrypts-data-amid-backlash-against-nsa-spying/2013/09/06/9acc3c20-1722-11e3-a2ec-b47e45e6f8ef_story.html

    “Security experts say the time and energy required to defeat encryption forces surveillance efforts to be targeted more narrowly on the highest-priority targets — such as terrorism suspects — and limits the ability of governments to simply cast a net into the huge rivers of data flowing across the Internet.

    “If the NSA wants to get into your system, they are going to get in . . . . Most of the people in my community are realistic about that,” said Christopher Soghoian, a computer security expert at the American Civil Liberties Union. “This is all about making dragnet surveillance impossible.””

    In every story about the NSA, the key phrase is “collect it all.” If the NSA was about targeting (in the actual sense of the word, not the NSA one) terrorists, the. No one would have a problem with that. But that isn’t what they’re doing.

  • http://www.prospectctucc.org/ Michael Powe

    Probably the worst aspect of this mess is that you’re so eager to shoot the messengers, evidently for personal reasons, that you don’t care about the long-term implications of what is going on with NSA spying. The Snowden Affair has just become a lever for you to get up on your hobby horse and have a go at people you don’t like.

    Secrecy and security aren’t the same, even though it may seem that way. Only bad security relies on secrecy; good security works even if all the details of it are public.
    (Dr. Bruce Schneier, co-developer of the Blowfish, Twofish and Threefish cryptographic algorithms, author of Advanced Cryptography and Cryptographic Engineering, et al)

    “The secret to strong security: less reliance on secrets.”
    (Whitfield Diffie, co-inventor of public key cryptography, author of Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption.)

    And really a shame you can’t give people the respect they deserve. You could learn a lot about this issue from Schneier and Diffie, if your learning button wasn’t stuck in the off position.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      I’m not criticizing Schneier’s crypto expertise. However, I have serious problems with his analysis of this specific issue.

  • http://www.prospectctucc.org/ Michael Powe

    If you can’t find a conspiracy theory to debunk, then just make one up, eh, Big C? I went over to that “sloppy-wet” article at the Atlantic, expecting to encounter some tin-foil hat, second shooter on the grassy knoll stuff. Instead, I read an article exhorting the heads of the big corporations like Microsoft and Google to fight back against the gov’t in its “all your data are us” campaign. Yeah, pretty crazy. I suppose that is why you refer to Dr. Schneier as “Bill” Schneier, even though he’s been “Bruce” Schneier, since, well, since they made out his birth certificate 50 years ago. I know, Bill, Bruce, what’s the difference? They both start with “B.” And it’s not like he’s anybody who deserves the respect of getting his name right — eh? It’s important to convince your readers that he’s nobody worth bothering about.

    After all, he’s the author of two textbooks on cryptography, the co-designer of two of the top contenders for the gov’t encryption standard that eventually became AES; CTO for security firm that he founded; and has published numerous articles bringing to light cryptanalytical attacks on important aspects of the AES standard encryption.

    And then, over on his blog, he writes

    I’ve recently seen two articles speculating on the NSA’s capability, and practice, of spying on members of Congress and other elected officials. The evidence is all circumstantial and smacks of conspiracy thinking — and I have no idea whether any of it is true or not — but it’s a good illustration of what happens when trust in a public institution fails.

    Talk about tin-foil hattery! Downright crazy. “Trust in a public institution fails”? Well, it is only failing for people who aren’t over here reading your explanation of how Dr. Schneier is a kook, Greenwald is scum and Snowden is a traitor. Because you just can’t take people like that seriously! Now, can you?

    Meanwhile, you don’t know the difference between “breaking code,” successful cryptanalytical attacks on ciphers, and introducing vulnerabilities into systems — aka “back doors” — in order to ease system penetration — aka “hacking.” I don’t know, Big C, it kind of seems like you don’t actually know what you’re talking about. Sorry, but on the subject of data security I’m going to have to go with “Bill” Schneier . Not only does he know what he is talking about, he has a cool beard.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      Wow. You got me. You win. So, Typo Nazi, you write 5,200+ words per week and get back to me when every word is flawless and error-free.

      Adding: NSA has been working with backdoor access since before it was even called NSA (see World War II sigint and Swiss-built decrypters). I suppose I need to debunk every single line of every single article — only, on second thought, I’m not allowed to because it’s clearly a personal attack against Greenwald whenever I do.

  • Schneibster

    They dragged Schneier out for this one, huh? Yeah, I’ve seen his stuff. He’s a nut with a Paulbot- or Chumpskybot-like following.

    Of course they’re still lying about warrants; there wouldn’t be a story if they didn’t.

    I am extremely disappointed in ProPublica. Extremely disappointed. I might not believe it if it weren’t you. We can only hope the infection is limited and will soon be excised.

    Keep it coming, Bob. This NSA stuff is really turning out to be a litmus test for who you can trust; damn near every time you guys do one of these articles I find out about another organization that used to be reliable.

    • http://www.prospectctucc.org/ Michael Powe

      That’s right, Bob, keep it coming for all the people who are just too busy to do their own reading. They’ll just take your word for it. Of course, the one organization that we know is reliable and trustworthy is the NSA. Big C says so.

      • Schneibster

        Unfortunately one side is lying and one isn’t.

        It’s pretty obvious when you get down to it; always pretending they don’t need a warrant, making up stories about being “held incommunicado” when they’d been offered a lawyer and refused and the wait was due to their own lawyer taking hours to show up, and on and on and on.

        Cheaters never prosper.

        • http://www.prospectctucc.org/ Michael Powe

          And gov’t never lies. And some people believe just what the gov’t tells them. Gov’t says hey, we got warrants; oh, by the way, they’re secret warrants and you don’t get to know what we’re looking for or when we’re doing the looking. And if you tell anyone what was said in this room, pack your bags for Leavenworth. Oh, and you don’t get to challenge the warrants in court, either. How can you challenge them? They’re secret.

          What makes this whole Big C campaign to protect Obama’s reputation ridiculous is that this latest kerfluffle with NSA and public cryptography is just another in a long series of such, going back at least to the 1970s. The difference between then and now is that, back then the business community and public refused to roll over and give the NSA access to all their data. Now you’re like a bunch of pups rolling on your back to have your bellies scratched.

          You who don’t read history are doomed to continue arguing about it.

          • Schneibster

            I have an anti-trolling policy. I only answer the first lie. You can avoid trouble with this policy by not lying. Good luck.

            “And gov’t never lies.”

            Strawman. That means you lied about what I said, because I never said the government never lies.

            Next?

  • http://norwegianshooter.blogspot.com/ Mark Erickson

    And the Cesca rule applies: gratuitous guilt by association to Alex Jones – check – any reference to ACLU or other respected civil libertarians – not a chance in hell.

    I’ll dig in later, but there is an obvious error in the second graf, the US programs are Bullrun and Manassas (one suceeded the other) and the UK version was Edgehill, an English Civil War battle. Obviously this mistake ruins all credibility you have on this topic.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      Honest mistake and it means nothing in terms of any point I was or wasn’t making. Corrected.

      • Christopher Foxx

        But you made a grammatical error in one place, Bob. So your whole article is clearly invalid.

        • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

          HA!

          Where was the grammatical error?

          • Christopher Foxx

            None I’m actually aware of. I was just being satirical.

      • http://norwegianshooter.blogspot.com/ Mark Erickson

        It was obviously a parody of your nitpicking.

        Your admission that you took a couple hours to post this makes an interesting comparison to the journalism you are riffing on. To stick with the Guardian collective: six writers backed up by three large media organizations, with editors and lawyers and fact-checkers, took weeks to write their articles. They contacted the relevant organizations for comment and feedback. They contacted experts for their opinions. They provided extensive quotes of the material. They cited previous reporting and historical facts. You know, serious journalism.

        You read the articles and whipped this up in a couple of hours for a tiny web site, a step above a personal blog. Oh, yeah, you copied a couple urls into a web site and claimed what it told you were secrets. Nice job.

  • CL Nicholson

    Here’s the thing – if the NSA weren’t capable of breaking codes why are we paying billions in tax money in the first place? That’s like saying “The Army Shoots People”. Uh, yeah, dumbass, its an army.

    Also, this is a classic example of conflation. Just because the technology exists doesn’t mean the government is using it and certainly doesn’t conclude nefarious purpose. Our country has one of the largest stockpiles of Saran, but unlike Syria, Obama’s not contemplating spreading nerve gas in Arkansas.

    • Kitty Smith

      I think you mean Sarin, as Saran is what I use to wrap food.

      • CL Nicholson

        Valid, will correct.

    • Schneibster

      On the 29th of April 1997 the US signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention which makes it illegal to stockpile Sarin (among other chemical weapons).

      It’s also worth keeping in mind that Sarin itself is highly unstable. It’s usually kept in warheads as precursor chemicals, mixed at deployment, because it only lasts months on the shelf otherwise.

      Chemical weapons are also very expensive, much moreso than nuclear weapons (at least once you already have the infrastructure). The US elected in the 1950s to stop making new Sarin, and late in the 1970s to cease re-refining existing stocks and stop using it. It’s one of the decent things Nixon did, one of the very few.

  • trgahan

    …well, if anything, I think we can put the original outrage thesis of “The Government is illegally spying on YOU! And they are going to use this power take away your civil liberties in 3…2…” to bed. They just haven’t been able to prove anything substantial on that front.

    Oh, and I am still waiting for an answer to why a security apparatus built, run, and known about since at least 2006 is suddenly the worst threat facing mankind.

    • Horace Boothroyd III

      It’s December already and this issue is still swirling around the toilet.

      Your second paragraph is what bothers me, and has puzzled me since the storm broke in June: why are so many self-styled leftists freaking out as if this were the WORST THING EVER!!!!!? I’ve been concerned about the NSA and its practices since the mid nineties, with the CyberSabre campaign and the suspicion that the NSA deliberately weakened the Data Encryption Standard. So none of this is new, and none of it is especially disturbing given the context and the history.

      On the one hand it’s “welcome to the party, what took you so long?” and on the other hand it’s “stop screaming and lend a hand, there’s work to be done.” Except that the newly shocked and enraged have shown no interest in actually doing anything to fix the situation, to use this pulse of enthusiasm to force Congress into enacting effective and well-ordered oversight so that the next Bush will not be able to use the NSA for his nefarious partisan schemes. Instead it’s all about expressions of moral superiority, dumb shows to advertise one’s purity, the burning of witches and heretics and the settling of old scores.

      Seriously, it looks like some people are secretly happy about NSA surveillance because it enables them to play the victim and it validates their little OBAMA IS WORSER THAN BOOSH EVEN!!! affectations.

  • Norbrook

    I am eagerly awaiting Greenwald’s breathless revelations that rain is water, snow is frozen water, the oceans are salty, and the sky is blue.

    • FlipYrWhig

      And the government _regulates_ that water! How do we know what they’re doing with it? They have the CAPABILITY to put LSD in it and make a bunch of people hallucinate and create a mass panic about sinister things the government is probably doing! It’s coming FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!

  • Gorilla Cookies

    If there is a coherent US/UK strategy here, and I’m not sure there is, they seem to be pretty keen on getting the Guardian/Greenwald out of the equation. I would guess they figure (as do we) that the WP/NYT will be much more responsible in handling this material, and at least take into account the government concerns.

  • EbZh

    The hand-wringing hysteria of the Greenwald fan club is hilarious. I think my favorite reaction to this “news” was from one person who said that they were “gobsmacked” by the fact that the NSA works to decrypt encrypted communications. I mean, seriously, “gobsmacked?????” Do these people not know that one of the primary responsibility of NSA and GCHQ is to break codes? Can you really call this news?

    Thanks for the great work, Bob.

    • Gorilla Cookies

      Yes, they apparently think that is how a spy agency should work.

      “Well that message is encrypted. Well, okay then. On to something else!”

      • EbZh

        Bwahahahaha… Four upvotes. No downvotes. About what I expected.

        You wanna know who was “gobsmacked?” BRITISH INTELLIGENCE ANALYSTS, that’s who.

        According to the Guardian article that most of you probably haven’t read but that all of you are sure is very, very bad, “An internal agency memo noted that among British analysts shown a presentation on the NSA’s progress: ‘Those not already briefed were gobsmacked!'”

        But this must not be news, since Bob Cesca isn’t impressed. And Bob Cesca is friends with John Schindler on twitter, so there you go…

        Hilarious.

        • ThePanicMan

          You wanna play the guilt-by-association game, boy? Here you go: CATO INSTITUTE LIBERTARIAN GLENN GREENWALD.

          I win.

    • http://www.prospectctucc.org/ Michael Powe

      Way to totally take Big C’s word for everything and not do your own thinking. I mean, seriously, do you not know the difference between cipher and code? I know Big C doesn’t. But you? I’m gobsmacked that you’re even talking about something about which you know nothing. Well, okay, not really gobsmacked.

      • Schneibster

        Actually the NSA breaks both codes and ciphers.

        And if you really knew anything about it you’d know that traffic analysis can break a code if the code words or phrases are used more than once.

        • http://www.prospectctucc.org/ Michael Powe

          Way to miss the point. Actually, if you knew anything about it, you wouldn’t be just talking sideways like this. Obfuscation supreme — Big C appoints you as his Minister of Contradiction.

          • Schneibster

            “I mean, seriously, do you not know the difference between cipher and code?”

            ?

  • missliberties

    The truth just doesn’t matter any more. Drip drip drip. I fear that the strategy of lies to promote cynicism is working.

    • condew

      I think it only works for those who were predisposed to accept Greenwald’s hype. Those with libertarian rants seem to be gone. TPM has an article about release of more FISA courty documents and it only got 3 comments. I think the general public is convinced there is oversight and NSA is generally doing its best to fight terrorism within the law. Only sad part is that now that the news is about there being no vast conspiracy, people have become bored and moved on. When government does bad, everybody wants to pile on; when government does good, nobody cares.

      • nathkatun7

        “When government does bad, everybody wants to pile on; when government does good, nobody cares.”

        Excellent observation, condew! I also think that, other than the sensationalist media and the loud “holier than thou” emoprog activists, most Americans understand that to fight terrorism, you have to do what you have to do.

        Speaking for myself, as an average citizen, I just never understood the hoopla about the NSA violating my privacy when, every time I fly, my privacy is routinely violated – all in the name of security. May be it’s because I am old and don’t use the phone, e-mail, etc., all that much to communicate information that would interest the government. But I find so stressful, though understandable after 9/11, in terms of government intrusiveness in my personal privacy, with all the security checks I have to go through whenever I fly or enter government buildings, like Court Houses.

  • js hooper

    Also this tweet by Greenwald in response to one of his idiotic self righteous cult followers is INSANELY IRONIC…and it proves this fool has ZERO self awareness.

    Greenwald’s tweet responding to @X70

    “Sorry, but it’s really easy to sacrifice other people’s well being in pursuit of political principles…”

    https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/375729510278127619

    • PostSurgeOperative

      Does he mean he doesn’t want to upset Mr. Snowden’s sense of “well being,” by dumping all the documents all at once, against Snowden’s wishes that they be slowly leaked out to the public for maximum political effect? Or, is it because there are so many documents that they haven’t even read through them all, and dumping them might expose additional wrong-doing by Mr. Snowden?

      • PostSurgeOperative

        GGs comment makes more sense to me now, after being reminded in another comment here regarding the trove of docs in the ‘deadman’s switch’ should Snowden be disappeared or killed.

  • js hooper

    Seriously WTF…

    Is this what it’s come to with these MF’ers…we are supposed to be OUTRAGED (thunder clap) about the NSA spying on Al-Qaeda?

    Explain to me how Snowden / Greenwald etc aren’t TRAITORS for stealing and releasing these documents.

    • nathkatun7

      “Explain to me how Snowden / Greenwald etc aren’t TRAITORS for stealing and releasing these documents.”

      Exactly my sentiments, Js hooper! Does Snowden, Greenwald and their enablers think we are fools not to realize that Putin gave Snowden asylum because he (Putin) benefited from all the classified U.S. information Snowden gave him? For me, the greatest disappointment has been the U.S. mainstream media who have enabled these traitors by treating them as heroes; just because the media have this visceral hatred of President Obama.

  • dbtheonly

    Have you guys seen Pro Publica’s article on why they published this story?

    They contrast it with the Chicago Tribune’s publishing the fact that the the US had broken the Japanese codes in 1942. The NSA they assert is cracking the codes of civilians. A huge difference.

    As if terrorists aren’t civilians. And just for it, I’ve got no problem is Organized Crime of Drug Cartels are disrupted either.

    Bob,

    Hugely approve of your noting how much tracking the companies are doing while complaining of the tracking the NSA might be able to do.

  • BlueTrooth

    Definitely observing The Cesca Rule, however there is a question that is gnawing at me regardless of the “truth factor”. Where are Glenn and his merry band of “perception creators” headed with this? Is it just the perception that we’re all under surveillance? Why is that perception useful? I repeat the word perception because Poitras has been very clear that her life work is the “art of creating perceptions”. She has repeated this a number of times as a mission statement of sorts. I understand why Glenn is so ga-ga over her handling of this project. It has been very effective in turning the not-so-shocking or frightening or revealing into a “buzz” in some circles. There is a perception that collection is spying, that minimization is massive search engine, that archiving is watching your every internet keystroke, that encryption is a Constitutional barrier of privacy that must not be breached regardless of warrant or criminal intent. Mind you, this perception has been created WITHOUT the really “good stuff” or any real life examples of invasion of privacy in real or recent time. So Poitras has done a good job at her life’s work. The perception is there…now what? The perception saturation level is pretty much at peak, if not in decline due to desensitizing, so what happens now? The indication seems to be that an arrest or some confrontation with authorities is a possibility. The Miranda stunt seemed to fall short of anticipated drama and now Glenn is taunting again. Anyway, it’s a gnawing question. I’m also anxiously awaiting Scahill’s point of entry into the project.

    • JarekAF

      Miranda stunt? Are you one of those who think that GG purposefully wanted the UK to detain his partner?

      • PostSurgeOperative

        I would consider Mr. Greenwald’s blatantly misleading distortion of the facts of Miranda’s detention to be a ‘stunt’.

        • Scrimple Gruff

          You’ll have to enlighten me, I didn’t read his own pieces. Are you implying that Miranda *wasn’t* held as a suspected terrorist by the UK at the behest of the US for nothing more than being in possession of a journalist’s notes and materials?

          Or was there some mischaracterization of that? It seemed pretty outrageous enough without trumping up the other details.

          • PostSurgeOperative

            Nothing in my previous comment implied the claims you’re asserting.

            Troll harder next time.

          • FlipYrWhig

            He was not “held as a suspected terrorist.” He was held for questioning under the authority of a UK law that gives port and airport security personnel the right to detain people at whim without suspecting them of involvement in terrorism. So while the law is part of the Terrorism Act, he was not detained as a suspected terrorist, any more than the provisions of the Patriot Act that tightened up monitoring of large bank transfers mean that people with scads of money in the bank are being treated like terrorists.

            IOW, you can complain that the law is over-broad, or that it was wrong to hold him. But he was not “held as a suspected terrorist.” That phrase itself is not accurate.

          • PostSurgeOperative

            Miranda was not detained “at the behest of the US govt”. UK authorities notified US officials that Miranda would be detained, but the US did not request his detention.

          • dbtheonly

            Not that I followed it closely, but, “nothing more than being in possession of a journalist’s notes and materials?”

            No. Classified Documents.

          • Schneibster

            “mischaracterization” would be characterizing what Miranda was carrying as anything but stolen property.

      • Gorilla Cookies

        I think the key question is why did Miranda need to carry those
        documents that, presumably, Greenwald already had (or has) access to. In fact, in his Anderson Cooper interview, Greenwald made that assertion. So why did Miranda need to carry them?

        That said, I don’t think this was meant as a stunt, as insane as these people are. You’d have to be completely nuts deliberately put your significant other in the line of fire, even to prove something as a stunt. Once you are in the cross-hairs of justice, it’s tough to get out.

    • missliberties

      He wants to destroy the current world order, to create a new one. Each man for himself.

    • Badgerite

      Very good comment. I remember how this all started. It was supposed to be all about the NSA violating the law and the Constitution. None of that has panned out. Maybe the NSA bulk collection of phone records exceeded its legislative grant but that was almost an afterthought as the story was originally reported and that will likely end up before the Supreme Court and be about the proper interpretation of legislative intent. At least for the last month or more the attacks have focused on the overall intelligence capabilities of the United States vis a vis the rest of the world. Are they looking for an excuse to release information that damages the US intelligence capabilities? Snowden and Greenwald have made it clear that such information is in their possession. And they have previously threatened to release it as a ‘dead man’s’ switch. Are they looking for an excuse to release this information regardless and to somehow illicit sympathy for doing it?

      • http://www.facebook.com/felonious.grammar Felonious Grammar

        It seems that the NSA is probably also in possession of a lot of information about how other nation’s spy agencies spy. Russia, China, and other less democratic governments have the advantage of being blatantly authoritarian, but surely they have a lot of secrets about how they operate that they’d rather not be published.

        Cyber-warfare may be in its adolescence now. Assange, Snowden and Greenwald are perfectly representative of juvenile delinquents playing spies.

    • condew

      How does “creating perceptions” differ from “producing propaganda”?

  • muselet

    The tale being told by Team Guardian would only make sense now, in the internet age, when nothing happened before yesterday. And I still don’t understand what any of it has to do with the Fourth Amendment rights of US citizens.

    Also, if the US or UK wanted to bully Glenn Greenwald properly, a Hellfire through his front window would seem to be far more effective than inconveniencing his husband.

    Thanks for staying on this ongoing saga, Bob.

    Incidentally, Godfrey Cambridge had a very similar, much longer, much better (with all due respect to Mitch Markowitz) joke from the Vietnam War.

    –alopecia

  • Gavin B. Smith

    Let’s wait and see how much of this holds water.