Monday, June 10, 2013

Morning Twitter Messages -- June 10

I wish I found this story shocking but it's not. Instead it underscored Dwight Eisenhower's warning about an out of control military industrial complex.
Several years ago, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence estimated that almost one in four intelligence workers were employed by contractors. 
The growing reliance on contractors reflects a massive shift toward outsourcing over the past 15 years, in part because of cutbacks in the government agencies. It has dramatically increased the risk of waste and contracting abuses, government auditors have found, in part because the government has repeatedly acknowledged that it does not have a sufficient workforce to oversee the contractors. 
But given the threat of terrorism and the national security mandates from Congress, the intelligence community had little choice. In a briefing presentation several years ago, the ODNI estimated that 70 percent of the intelligence community’s secret budget goes to contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton.
“We Can’t Spy . . . If We Can’t Buy!” the briefing said.
The former director of naval intelligence, retired Rear Adm. Thomas A. Brooks, said in a report in 2007 that private contractors had become a crucial part of the nation’s intelligence infrastructure. 
“The extensive use of contractor personnel to augment military intelligence operations is now an established fact of life. . . . It is apparent that contractors are a permanent part of the intelligence landscape,” he said. 
Since Sept. 11, more than 30 secure complexes have been constructed to accommodate top-secret intelligence work in the Washington area. They occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons, about 17 million square feet.
When family members behave like this it's called incest...
Thousands of people formerly employed by the government, and still approved to deal with classified information, now do essentially the same work for private companies. Mr. Snowden, who revealed on Sunday that he provided the recent leak of national security documents, is among them. 
As evidence of the company’s close relationship with government, the Obama administration’s chief intelligence official, James R. Clapper Jr., is a former Booz executive. The official who held that post in the Bush administration, John M. McConnell, now works for Booz. 
“The national security apparatus has been more and more privatized and turned over to contractors,” said Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit group that studies federal government contracting. “This is something the public is largely unaware of, how more than a million private contractors are cleared to handle highly sensitive matters.”
Here is Daniel Ellsberg on CNN last night

If the Canadians are doing it, too, I feel all better. Don't you?
CSEC [Communications Security Establishment Canada] and the NSA take pains to distinguish between the contents of a communication (which is out of bounds legally, if it involves a citizen) and the surrounding metadata (which is considered in play). 
Mining metadata may never reveal what is said. But phone records, Internet Protocol addresses, and other data trails can reveal who knows whom, and how well. Authorities who suck up signals on a vast scale can use the metadata to create pictures of social networks, even terrorist cells, if they armed with enough raw computing power to sift through gigantic pools of data. 
In Canada, a regime of ministerial directives – decrees not scrutinized by Parliament – have authorized the broad surveillance programs. How the data is obtained has not been disclosed in the documents obtained by The Globe or in comments from CSEC. 
Officials do say that CSEC “incidentally” intercepts Canadian communications, but takes pain to purge or “anonymize” such data after it is obtained. Beyond that, “metadata is used to isolate and identify foreign communications, as CSEC is prohibited by law from directing its activities at Canadians,” wrote spokesman Ryan Foreman in an e-mail to The Globe.
Yeah. We have the same kind of privacy protection. 
This is how it works:

In response to the recent news reports about the National Security Agency's surveillance program, President Barack Obama said today, "When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls." Instead, the government was just "sifting through this so-called metadata." The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made a similar comment last night: "The program does not allow the Government to listen in on anyone’s phone calls. The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the identity of any subscriber." 
What they are trying to say is that disclosure of metadata—the details about phone calls, without the actual voice—isn't a big deal, not something for Americans to get upset about if the government knows. Let's take a closer look at what they are saying: 
  • They know you rang a phone sex service at 2:24 am and spoke for 18 minutes. But they don't know what you talked about. 
  • They know you called the suicide prevention hotline from the Golden Gate Bridge. But the topic of the call remains a secret. 
  • They know you spoke with an HIV testing service, then your doctor, then your health insurance company in the same hour. But they don't know what was discussed. 
  • They know you received a call from the local NRA office while it was having a campaign against gun legislation, and then called your senators and congressional representatives immediately after. But the content of those calls remains safe from government intrusion. 
  • They know you called a gynecologist, spoke for a half hour, and then called the local Planned Parenthood's number later that day. But nobody knows what you spoke about.
Haaretz compares two US presidents under 
similar conditions and finds different responses:

The return of Richard Nixon
Obama, like the former Republican president, faced the embarrassment of revealed intelligence documents, but is dealing with the revelations differently.
By Aluf Benn

Jun.10, 2013
The technology of 2013 doesn't require listening to every conversation with the hope of hearing some incriminating details or gossip on rivals and confidantes. Internet, cellular, GPS and tracking cameras supply much more information on every one of us than the telephone. Forty years ago, America's enemy was a superpower. The enemy today is the lone terrorist, who isn’t necessarily connected to a hostile organization or a country. In this kind of situation, every person is a suspect, and if not for terror activities then for tax evasion. Nowadays, every Israeli who opens a bank account is required to declare that he or she isn't American; otherwise, they will be required to report their income here to the authorities in Washington. 
Obama and Nixon's wariness didn't stem from problematic characteristics. Both of them faced unprecedented leaks both in scope and power. In 1971, The New York Times published the Pentagon Papers, which revealed the great lie behind the American involvement in Vietnam. Several weeks later, Nixon established the "plumbers" unit in the White House basement. He sent them to collect information to embarrass the source for the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg. 
Obama is required to face the embarrassment of Wikileaks and now the revelation of intelligence documents. In all these cases, the damage to national security was negligible, but the administration appears permeable and weak and the president was embarrassed before everyone. 
The difference between Obama and Nixon is their way of dealing with the revelation. When Nixon's men were trapped in Watergate, he tried to obstruct the investigation and that is eventually what brought him down. Obama learned the lesson and quickly took responsibility for the digital tracking program and justified them with legal and national security rationales. Thus, he ducked the first wave of criticism.

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