USA Today has a great interview with three former top NSA officials, who were also Whistleblowers (it’s worth reading the whole thing):
Binney: What it is really saying is the NSA becomes a processing service for the FBI to use to interrogate information directly. … The implications are that everybody’s privacy is violated, and it can retroactively analyze the activity of anybody in the country back almost 12 years.
Daniel J. Solove, for The Washington Post (I no sooner criticize this paper for crappy content, then they start churning out great stuff):
When privacy is compromised, though, the problems can go far beyond the exposure of illegal activity or embarrassing information. It can provide the government with a tremendous amount of power over its people. It can undermine trust and chill free speech and association. It can make people vulnerable to abuse of their information and further intrusions into their lives.
Bruce Schneier on why and how, he now believes it plausible/possible that the NSA is actually keeping the content of all calls:
I believe that, to the extent that the NSA is analyzing and storing conversations, they’re doing speech-to-text as close to the source as possible and working with that. Even if you have to store the audio for conversations in foreign languages, or for snippets of conversations the conversion software is unsure of, it’s a lot fewer bits to move around and deal with.
That’s smart, just store the text of the call — any transcribed conversation with less than 80% certainty (just throwing out a number) you save the audio too. That reduces the data store dramatically — fascinating idea.
And, of course, despite seemingly overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and a metric ton of smoke billowing out of the NSA, President Obama still insists:
What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your emails … and have not.
Who’s he lying to, the U.S. Citizens that elected him, or himself? At this point I am not sure he even knows. What’d be great is for personal emails and call content from Obama to a friend to leak out, man that would be epic.1
For one moment, let’s go back to that interview with former NSA employees:
Q: Do you think President Obama fully knows and understands what the NSA is doing?
Binney: No. I mean, it’s obvious. I mean, the Congress doesn’t either. I mean, they are all being told what I call techno-babble … and they (lawmakers) don’t really don’t understand what the NSA does and how it operates. Even when they get briefings, they still don’t understand.
Radack: Even for people in the know, I feel like Congress is being misled.
Radack: I call it perjury.
And I don’t typically ever use the word ‘epic’. ↩