A fantastic reader sent me the link to an English-language transcript of Snowden’s interview last Sunday, provided by NDR. As a public service, I’m posting the link below ASAP. Thanks again, Hubri5! People like you make blogging great!
Wow- having read the interview, I really recommend it. Snowden continually impresses me with his poise and dedication to doing the right thing. He’s a national treasure.
So, down to the nitty-gritty. Snowden explains the weasel-words that the US president and apologists for the NSA use to confuse the public about the nature of domestic spying programs– this explanation applies to other governments collaborating with the NSA too.
In many countries, as in America too the agencies like the NSA are not allowed to spy within their own borders on their own people. So the Brits for example they can spy on everybody but the Brits but the NSA can conduct surveillance in England so in the very end they could exchange their data and they would be strictly following the law.
If you ask the governments about this directly they would deny it and point to policy agreements between the members of the Five Eyes saying that they won’t spy on each other’s citizens but there are a couple of key points there. One is that the way they define spying is not the collection of data. The GCHQ is collecting an incredible amount of data on British Citizens just as the National Security Agency is gathering enormous amounts of data on US citizens. What they are saying is that they will not then target people within that data. They won’t look for UK citizens or British citizens. In addition the policy agreements between them that say British won’t target US citizens, US won’t target British citizens are not legally binding. The actual memorandums of agreement state specifically on that that they are not intended to put legal restriction on any government. They are policy agreements that can be deviated from or broken at any time. So if they want to on a British citizen they can spy on a British citizen and then they can even share that data with the British government that is itself forbidden from spying on UK citizens. So there is a sort of a trading dynamic there but it’s not, it’s not open, it’s more of a nudge and wink and beyond that the key is to remember the surveillance and the abuse doesn’t occur when people look at the data it occurs when people gather the data in the first place.
What could you do if you would sit so to speak in their place with this kind of instrument [XKeyscore]?
You could read anyone’s email in the world. Anybody you’ve got email address for, any website you can watch traffic to and from it, any computer that an individual sits at you can watch it, any laptop that you’re tracking you can follow it as it moves from place to place throughout the world. It’s a one stop shop for access to the NSA’s information. And what’s more you can tag individuals using “XKeyscore”. Let’s say I saw you once and I thought what you were doing was interesting or you just have access that’s interesting to me, let’s say you work at a major German corporation and I want access to that network, I can track your username on a website on a form somewhere, I can track your real name, I can track associations with your friends and I can build what’s called a fingerprint which is network activity unique to you which means anywhere you go in the world anywhere you try to sort of hide your online presence hide your identity, the NSA can find you and anyone who’s allowed to use this or who the NSA shares their software with can do the same thing. Germany is one of the countries that have access to “XKeyscore”.
The BND basically argues if we do this [spy on innocent citizens], we do this accidentally actually and our filter didn’t work.
Right so the kind of things that they’re discussing there are two things. They’re talking about filtering of ingest which means when the NSA puts a secret server in a German telecommunications provider or they hack a German router and they divert the traffic in a manner that let’s them search through things they’re saying “if I see what I think is a German talking to another German I’ll drop it” but how do you know. You could say “well, these people are speaking the German language”, “this IP address seems to be from a German company to another German company”, but that’s not accurate and they wouldn’t dump all of that traffic because they’ll get people who are targetes of interest, who are actively in Germany using German communications. So realistically what’s happening is when they say there’s no spying on Germans, they don’t mean that German data isn’t being gathered, they don’t mean that records aren’t being taken or stolen, what they mean is that they’re not intentionally searching for German citizens. And that’s sort of a fingers crossed behind the back promise, it’s not reliable.
What about other European countries like Norway and Sweden for example because we have a lot of I think under water cables going through the Baltic Sea.
So this is sort of an expansion of the same idea. If the NSA isn’t collecting information on German citizens in Germany are they as soon as it leaves German borders? And the answer is “yes”. Any single communication that transits the internet, the NSA may intercept at multiple points, they might see it in Germany, they might see it in Sweden, they might see it in Norway or Finland, they might see it in Britain and they might see it in the United States. Any single one of these places that a German communication crosses it’ll be ingested and added to the database.
I have to stop myself from just quoting the whole interview. Snowden devotes time to explaining the problems inherent in outsourcing intelligence, which is something many of his detractors will heartily agree on.
One of the really admirable things about Snowden is that he is polite; he respects the secrecy oaths he took which don’t violate his conscience; and he has none of the hateful bitterness I’ve come to expect from his intelligence-affiliated detractors. At the end of the day the angry shills who call him a “traitor”, or the psychopaths who threaten to use their spook super-powers to kill him, aren’t just fuming about a ‘rogue’ co-worker. Snowden has put a mirror to their faces and shown them something substandard about themselves. Deep down, these shills don’t like themselves very much, and it’s easier to project those bad feelings onto Edward than face the reality about their own character. Snowden’s actions are beautiful in a way theirs will never be, at least, will never be without a personal paradigm shift.
NSA apologists: disengage. You don’t have to be whores forever; there’s a better life on the outside.
Anyway, for the rest of us, what do we do in the meantime?
One reaction to the NSA snooping is in the very moment that countries like Germany are thinking to create national internets an attempt to force internet companies to keep their data in their own country. Does this work?
It’s not gonna stop the NSA. Let’s put it that way. The NSA goes where the data is. If the NSA can pull text messages out of telecommunication networks in China, they can probably manage to get facebook messages out of Germany. Ultimately the solution to that is not to try to stick everything in a walled garden. Although that does raise the level of sophistication and complexity of taking the information. It’s also much better simply to secure the information internationally against everyone rather than playing “let’s move the data”. Moving the data isn’t fixing the problem. Securing the data is the problem.
If Snowden ever has the time, it would be great to know how he secures his data– I mean programs, browsing habits, connection choices. Learning from a trusted source how best to protect oneself would be very valuable.