Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why I do not fear Big Brother, the NSA - FBI edition

I have repeatedly said that the nature of bureaucracy serves to prevent any concerted Big Brother event from happening. Conspiracy theorists imagine that Mossad and the CIA and Dow Chemical are all plotting against us from an underground bunker in Brussels, but the truth is that organizations don't want to cooperate with each other.

The New America Foundation, which doesn't really care for this NSA spying stuff, has made the following statement about the challenges facing government security agencies:

[T]he overall problem for U.S. counterterrorism officials is not that they don’t gather enough information from the bulk surveillance of phone data and emails, but that they don’t sufficiently understand or widely share the information they already possess that is derived from conventional law enforcement and intelligence techniques.

The Foundation even cites a specific example, which happens to be the example that justifies bulk surveillance in the first place:

The analysis also shows that the plot the government uses to justify the importance of the bulk collection of phone metadata program – that of a San Diego cabdriver who provided money to and al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia – calls into question the necessity of the Section 215 bulk collection program. In that case, after using the NSA’s controversial database to link a number in Somalia to Moalin, the FBI waited two months to begin an investigation and wiretap his phone. Although it’s unclear why there was a delay between the NSA tip and the FBI wiretapping, court documents show there was a two-month period in which the FBI was not monitoring Moalin’s calls, despite official statements that the bureau had Moalin’s phone number and had identified him. This undercuts the government’s theory that the database of Americans’ telephone metadata is necessary to expedite the investigative process, since it clearly didn’t expedite the process in the single case the government uses to extol its virtues.
blog comments powered by Disqus