Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Another Mathematician Responds to the NSA Mass Surveillance

Having already discussed at length the reaction of a former NSA mathematician, Keith Devlin of Stanford University - appearing in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society (Vol. 61, No. 6, p. 624)-  to the Edward Snowden leaks on NSA overreach, e.g.

It is interesting to examine another, this one appearing in Notices of the American Mathematical Society (Vol. 61, No. 8, p. 902.) The author, William Binney, is a former NSA Technical Director, now retired.   After giving his considerable background, including co-founder of the Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center (SARC), he notes that what made it possible to "smartly select data" was none other than "building relationships between entities".

In other words, the persistent protection of sound professional relationships was the cornerstone to smart collection and storage of data - ensuring there was no problem of maximum overload - and hence - adding more and more 'hay' to find the proverbial "needle in the haystack".

What is most telling, are Binney's takes on what's going on now with the indiscriminate NSA surveillance as revealed by whistle blower Ed Snowden. He makes specific reference to the formidable technological power now at the hands of the NSA as he writes (p. 903):

"Unfortunately, all this power to capture data, graph social networks, and index collected data to the relationships in the graph was directed initially inward, toward U.S. citizens. This automatically produced a profile of the activity of everyone. This profile was available on request from analysts. Also in the process, the NSA removed the privacy protections for U.S. citizens and decided to collect and store as much data as it could ingest. No one has privacy from the government anymore,

I, of course, objected, as in my mind these actions were at a minimum, a violation of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments to our Constitution."

And, of course, he's absolutely correct as can be ascertained by anyone who reads the words of the referenced amendments. Prof. Binney clearly has since he explains where each violation occurs, e.g.

First Amendment:

This is violated because "the graphing of social networks (enhanced by other knowledge bases) would show the people you are associated with. The First Amendment says you have the right to peaceably assemble, and the Supreme Court has held (in NAACP vs. Alabama) that the government does not have the right to know with whom you are assembling.

Fourth Amendment:

"The collection of your email, chatter and phone calls (recorded or transcribed) is a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be secure in you affairs."

One can validate this take simply by reading the statement of the 4th amendment itself:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

What we see then is that the NSA mass surveillance, mass warrants that Ed Snowden revealed, discloses a rejection not only of citizens’ fundamental right to privacy but any right to be secure in one’s person, papers, effects.

Fifth Amendment:

"Using content data to search for criminal activity can also be a violation of the Fifth Amendment, which gives the right not to be a witness against yourself. An example of this is the 'parallel construction' techniques used by the FBI and the DEA's Special Operations Division, to find evidence to submit in court proceedings when they use data collected by the NSA."

Thus does Prof. Binney make a sound case of how the Constitution is being violated. He also has words for those who have the naïve impression all this NSA data grabbing is innocuous:

"Some have claimed the NSA collection is innocuous  because for those who are not terrorist suspects or associates, the NSA collects only metadata- such as phone numbers, the date, time and duration of calls. Evidence that this claim is untrue can be found, for example, in the testimony of two NSA transcribers who worked at Fort Gordon in Georgia: Adrienne Kinne and David Murfee Falk, They have testified that after the invasion of Iraq, they transcribed in full, calls made by U.S. citizens in the Green Zone- members of the military, NGOs, journalists etc.  Kinne and Murfee were disturbed at having to transcribe these intimate, personal conversations between family members. This transcribing was done without warrant and thereby violated both USSID -18 and FISA - and of course, the Constitution."

He doesn't mention that subsequently, a rat-faced bunch of congressional weasels ok'd the warrantless wiretapping, and thereby saved them the trouble of prosecuting the Bushies who initiated it. The same congress then made the unlawful, lawful in a re-interpreted FISA law - which most of us 4th amendment "zealots" take as bogus.

Sad, but if this doesn't get every citizen off his or her butt and screaming, I don't know what will.

No comments: