Friday, May 30, 2014

SNOWDEN IS RIGHT: SIZE ISN'T EVERYTHING

Last night, NBC News aired another clip from the Brian Williams interview with Edward Snowden. Snowden said something about how our surveillance system metastasized after 9/11 that seems obvious, but clearly isn't to the government:





From the transcript:
... what [the 9/11 Commission] found, in the post-mortem, when they looked at all of the classified intelligence from all of the different intelligence agencies, they found that we had all of the information we needed as an intelligence community, as a classified sector, as the national defense of the United States to detect this plot. We actually had records of the phone calls from the United States and out. The CIA knew who these guys were. The problem was not that we weren't collecting information, it wasn't that we didn't have enough dots, it wasn't that we didn't have a haystack, it was that we did not understand the haystack that we have.

The problem with mass surveillance is that we're piling more hay on a haystack we already don't understand, and this is the haystack of the human lives of every American citizen in our country. If these programs aren't keeping us safe, and they’re making us miss connections -- vital connections -- on information we already have, if we're taking resources away from traditional methods of investigation, from law enforcement operations that we know work, if we're missing things like the Boston Marathon bombings where all of these mass surveillance systems, every domestic dragnet in the world didn't reveal guys that the Russian intelligence service told us about by name, is that really the best way to protect our country? Or are we -- are we trying to throw money at a magic solution that's actually not just costing us our safety, but our rights and our way of life?
It's a macho thing. It's analogous to what we did with torture. Obviously, torture had to be the right thing to do, because it was so badass. Never mind assessing whether the torture would be effective (much less whether it would be consistent with our laws and professed values) -- we were cranking it up to eleven, and every real man knows deep in his groin that louder, more, harder, angrier, bigger is always better.

That's what we're doing with surveillance. Who cares if the program isn't actually preventing terrorist attacks? Who cares if we're collecting more data than we can process intelligently? Bigger is better! The amount of information we collect is huge! That complex in Utah we built to store all the data is massive! Isn't that all you need to know?

On the NBC broadcast, Pete Williams was appalled at what Snowden said:
Well, there's certainly widespread agreement about his first point, that the intelligence agencies missed critical clues about some of the 9/11 hijackers, information, it turned out, that the United States had but failed to recognize its significance. But few have argued, as Snowden does, that the U.S. suffered from too much intelligence in the run-up to last year's Boston Marathon bombing. Two reports, including one from Congress, on the FBI's investigation of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev say, if anything, the FBI was hampered by not having enough information, because of some of the things the Russians did not share in passing along their concerns about the older brother, Tamerlan, well before the bombings....
But the promise of this Panopticon is that the government won't miss anything. Yes, the Russians gave the U.S. only the vaguest hints about Tamerlan Tsarnaev -- but if you're scrutinizing everything and everybody, why isn't that enough? Isn't the point of a maximalist surveillance regime that nothing escapes it?

Instead, as Snowden says, we miss needles in lrger and larger haystacks. Because, to us, haystack size is everything.

4 comments:

peabody nobis said...

It seems that the reaction of most liberals, including myself, to the Snowden/NSA issue is apathy and acceptance. We just don't put that much energy into it because we know there's little to nothing we can do about it. And they're never going to stop doing it on their own.
What energy that is dispensed is usually couched in some form of insult toward Greenwald and Snowden, which doesn't bother me. But it doesn't make me want to click another NSA story and read it, either.

Victor said...

Little silo's on the hillside
Little silo's made of ticky tacky
Little silo's
Little silo's
Little silo's all the same

There's a CIA one
And an NSA one
And an FBI one
And a secret un-nameable one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same

And the people in the silo's all went to the university
And they all get put in silo's, little silo's all the same

And there's doctors and there's lawyers
And business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same

And they all play on the golf course and drink their martini dry
And they all have pretty children and the children go to school
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university
And they all get put in silo's, And they all come out the same

And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family
And they all get put in silo's, little silo's all the same

There's a CIA one
And an NSA one
And an FBI one
And a secret un-nameable one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same

Yastreblyansky said...

Another reason for apathy, Peabody, is if the haystack is unusable for any good purpose, as it seems, it's probably also pretty unusable for evil as well. It's hard to imagine that the system that can't find Tamerlan Tsarnaev becoming a jihadi is somehow going to land on my ill-advised selfie.

Ten Bears said...

(reference to neurotic sex-starved white women throwing themselves at me removed) why the men drive jacked up de-engineered suburban assault vehicles with tires the size of Volkswagons and a hood ornament the perfectrendition of the human femalereproductive system, it's why they have everbigger guns (Dr Black calls them extra penises) and magazines, and why they start chicken shit little wars that benefit only the oil companies, military industrial complex and International Bankers and Insurers. They got no dick. No balls, no courage. They are cowards and candy-asses. All else is compensation.

It's a primordial thing, these neurotic sex starved white women throwing themselves at men of color: the white "race" is a dying breed, and the women know it.

The world is gonna be a whole lot better place without them.

No fear. Whatsoever.