June 17, 2013

What "PRISM" Is and What You Should Know About It

After getting sick and tired of hearing things political, I decided to plug my ears 10 days ago when the revelation was made that the NSA is spying on American’s communications. There is a significant point to be made here though in an age where privacy is being threatened. 

Remember, whether your communications are private or public, if it is a data stream flowing through major companies like Verizon, AT&T, Google or Microsoft (as examples), in some cases the NSA has complete and utter control on monitoring those communications and storing them in a computer database, often because the corporations allow them to. In this article, we’re going to skip all of the polarized, political and pundit bullshit that political parties feed to their sheeple to scare or motivate them. I’m an independent with no party affiliation and a 51/49 liberal/conservative lean. I most associate with the Libertarians.

The revelation came to light 10 days ago when an ex-contractor for the US government leaked documents about a project PRISM and its surveillance efforts by the National Security Agency. Reactions are mixed internationally as well as nationally- my father thinks he is a traitor that should be locked up for life. I’m not so sure about that, given that he did not release any critical national security information. I’ll come out and say it- if you were naïve enough to believe the US government wasn’t spying in some way, shape or form on communications- you're a fucking dolt. I won't apologize for that statement. The leak only confirms the existence of the program, and now puts a spotlight on what the government does in secret.

Why are people complaining about this program? Well, in order to conduct surveillance, privacy is breached. Privacy and “rights to effects” are recognized by the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution. There is one thing that must be made clear.

Upon court order, it is legal for the NSA, FBI, CIA, or any government entity to request information pertaining to your communications so long as they get a warrant.

It’s in the Constitution. If you don’t like it, I’m not sure what to say to you. Here is the problem. Well; problems.

1)      The NSA has ordered companies to “hand over information” without a court order. One of these orders was approved by judge Susan Illston, who should be removed from her duties immediately if found she purposefully intended to allow the NSA to violate the 4th amendment on US citizens.

2)      The NSA has backdoor access to major servers of companies such as Facebook. Facebook has modified their servers so that the NSA can easily have access to everyone’s information. Companies that negotiated and met with the NSA on modifying their networks include Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, Apple and Paltalk.

3)      Congress has allowed this program to run itself with little congressional oversight.

In the name of national security, the White House is willing to defend the spying program, as is the majority of Congress. It was discussed, at large by the US government that PRISM was a legal program for data collection on foreign targets, and that private citizen data was not being recorded. However, in leaked documents there are very loose practices on the handling of private consumer data, with the words “don’t worry about it”. Major companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google only say that they are providing data that was ordered by the NSA, assumed on good faith that there was a court order. The NSA claims that it is not collecting information from servers themselves. They are lying. As stated above, they are in contact with companies, trying to get them to modify their servers so that the NSA can just have a peek whenever it wants to.

The president strongly defends the program, and said something akin to “as a society, you can’t have 100% security and 100% privacy. A man by the name of Benjamin Franklin once said:

“He who wishes to sacrifice liberty for security deserves neither”.

Despite the NSA saying that Congress knew about the program, many Congressional people did not know about the program or declined to talk about it, but confirmed its existence, on the grounds that the information as classified. Strike two versus the NSA. People like Diane Feinstein, who believes every American citizen needs to be disarmed, stated that “human intelligence can’t do the job”. Is she insinuating that an AI controls the computer program in the NSA facility?

Another problem is that the president, since 2008 has called for transparency. Yet, FISC, the secret court that grants warrants for data snooping is completely secret and allowed to operate autonomously. What connection FISA has to the NSA getting warrantless information is unknown. What’s worse is that the companies being used by the NSA for surveillance know of the existence of the secret court, as they are allowed to appeal to them. Corporations, such as the ones listed above continue to negotiate with the NSA about allowing easier access to user data. Companies like Facebook denied the existence of PRISM, as did all of the companies mentioned above. They lied, because in their connections with the NSA they had the option of appealing to FISC.

Worse, there is a report of an NSA agent being sent to a major tech company’s headquarters to install government data onto the server so that it could be collected. Strike three against the NSA. In addition, the NSA seeked real-time transmission of data. Strike four against the NSA. Companies are cooperating with the NSA, and when they say they are protecting private information, they are not telling the entire truth- as the NSA is allowed to request information without a court order and has been revealed to snoop around in major networks by installing government software or having backdoor access.

Certainly, if you want to get a big picture on everything you need to approach the issue from an undecided view. There are a couple of facts known, and they should be listed here:

*The fourth amendment to the US Constitution protects privacy and protects against search and seizure without a warrant.
*The NSA has backdoor access to companies such as Facebook, and undisclosed tech giants.
*The NSA has installed government programs into major networks to syphon and collect targeted data.
*Congress has not had the program on a leash, letting it run autonomously without oversight.
*Major tech companies such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook have lied; saying they want to protect customer data, but they continue to negotiate with allowing the NSA easier access.
*The NSA contacts American companies outside of the USA to collect the information.
*The government, or at least the NSA, believes Americans lose their rights once they leave American soil.
*Snowden’s revelation is that PRISM accesses the servers of companies such as Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Facebook. Companies and the NSA deny this. Major companies and the NSA are lying.
*Microsoft was the first corporation to cooperate with PRISM and the NSA.
*PRISM grants immunity to parties who allow the NSA access to their servers.
*The government declines to comment outside of lying.
*The NSA is capable of taking information, despite rules against it. It has already shown that it is willing to break the Constitution in the name of “security”.
*Companies indicate that only a fraction of accounts are monitored for National Security purposes. However, with the condition that they were told beforehand that they couldn’t even acknowledge the program before the leak, the information is trivial at best, as the operation is Clandestine and continues to be defended by the United States Government.

You must reach your own conclusions. Do you have anything to hide from the government? I certainly do not. In fact, monitoring this blog post, or my online life for that matter is a huge waste of time for the NSA, as I have no connections to any terrorist or anything like that.

The NSA has the capability, under an administration that has attempted to disarm American citizens and violate the US constitution by targeting enemy political groups, then this; collecting an undisclosed amount of information and to store it on NSA servers for use and dissection. It is impossible for Dianne Feinstein’s “AI” to exist to sort through this mess, it’s impossible to hire enough people to dissect every single bit of information transmitted through the United States, but it is certainly alarming that the NSA, and the government at large has grown too big for its breeches in violation of the Constitution.

Will it affect you personally? Probably not. But you should know that companies, the government, the NSA, and other related parties like Congress have lied to you, are lying to you, and will continue to lie to you. It’s a complete breakdown of trust. I officially dumped my trust of our own government when MAIG (mayors against guns), Congress and the White House began trying to disarm US citizens, and when they couldn’t do that- hassle them over their 2nd amendment rights.

Healthy skepticism of the government should be the standard. I don’t think Uncle Sam and I will ever see eye to eye on the level of healthy skepticism so long as the government is willing to lie and sacrifice liberty for security. It goes against the very founding principles of our nation. Clean the god damn program up and get the NSA on a god damned leash. And these people call themselves “Americans”.

My personal view? this isn't liberty. This is disgusting.





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