Sunday, March 09, 2014

As The Project to Reform the FISA Courts

And instigate a great debate among the American public regarding domestic surveillance takes another step forward.

From The Intercept (emphasis added):
The NSA Has An Advice Columnist. Seriously.
By Peter Maass
7 Mar 2014, 9:06 AM EST

What if the National Security Agency had its own advice columnist? What would the eavesdroppers ask about?

You don’t need to guess. An NSA official, writing under the pen name “Zelda,” has actually served at the agency as a Dear Abby for spies. Her “Ask Zelda!” columns, distributed on the agency’s intranet and accessible only to those with the proper security clearance, are among the documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The columns are often amusing – topics include co-workers falling asleep on the job, sodas being stolen from shared fridges, supervisors not responding to emails, and office-mates who smell bad. But one of the most intriguing involves a letter from an NSA staffer who complains that his (or her) boss is spying on employees.

In the letter, which Zelda published in a column on September 9, 2011, the employee calls himself “Silenced in SID” – referring to the Signals Intelligence Directorate, the heart of the NSA’s surveillance operations. Zelda’s column, headlined “Watching Every Word in Snitch City,” offers an ironic insight into a spy agency where the spies apparently resent being spied upon.
So now, thanks to Edward Snowden and the greatest heist of American surveillance secrets in history, we know the NSA had an advice column.

I bet they had cookbooks too. And a barbecue. And signs on the office freezer warning people not put soda in the freezer because is 'splodes.

But wait! There's more.  We also have "Zelda"'s resume:
Who is Zelda? And who is “Silenced in SID”? The document provides no information about the identity of the letter’s author; he or she could be almost anybody at the agency. In a previous column, Zelda explains that Ask Zelda! was initially intended as a forum for supervisors in the Signals Intelligence Directorate, but that non-supervisory workers began submitting questions, too.

A bit more is known about Zelda. Her introductory column, in 2010, identifies her as serving for approximately 20 years as “a first-line and mid-level Agency supervisor.” At the time her column began, she was also an adjunct faculty member of the agency’s National Cryptologic School. Her column was part of a regular NSA bulletin called “SIDtoday” that is distributed on the agency’s classified NSAnet. According to traffic statistics, in fact, Ask Zelda! quickly proved to be among the bulletin’s most popular features.
Which is all very amusing and light and fluffy...until you consider the provenance of the trove of stolen secrets from which it comes.  

Until you consider that Mr. Snowden spent years stealing American surveillance secrets -- going so far as to change jobs for the expressed purpose of stealing stuff he could not access any other way --  in order to carefully amass a documentary arsenal.  And the purpose of creating that digital doomsday device, we have been assured over and over again, was that is was the only means Mr. Snowden had at his disposal to rouse the American public to action regarding the secret and probably illegal liberties the NSA was taking with regards to spying on American citizens, and the dangerous weakness of the oversight body -- the FISA court -- which was supposed to keep such activities within the bounds of the Constitutional protections every American has a right to expect.

Because only an enterprise of such deadly seriousness of purpose could possibly justify the greatest theft of American state secrets in history and the compilation of a trove of documents containing (according to Glenn Greenwald) “...enough information to cause more damage to the US government in a minute alone than anyone else has ever had in the history of the United States”.

This is the trove of stolen secrets which Mr. Snowden had with him when he fled his country.  This is the trove to which Mr. Snowden apparently still has access to even as he continues to enjoy the hospitality of the liberty loving Vladimir Putin and his Russian government.

"These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world."
-- Edward Snowden
And that is the trove through which  Peter Maass pawed in order to bring the readers of Pierre Omidyar's new online magazine the trivial news that the NSA has some mild lunch-theft and B.O. problems.

As a writer, the only clever back-story I can come up with to explain why Mr. Greenwald and the rest of the crew at First Look who have work so hard to establish a reputation for Utterly Humorless, Remorseless Jugular Ripping would go out of their way to use the only capital they have -- access to Mr. Snowden's  cache of stolen documents -- in such a utterly frivolous manner is that they are sending the NSA this message:  Fear us, because Mr. Snowden has stripped you so bare that we have everything, right down to your Post-It notes and three year's worth of NSA Jokes of the Day.

Of course, Mr. Omidyar remains perfectly free to use his resources -- both digital and financial, both earned and purloined -- as he chooses with fearing that he will hear jackboots kicking in his door and rushing up the stairs of his luxurious Hawaiian residence.  

After all, this isn't Russia.  


Anonymous said...

Actually, I remember this bit of pointless trivia being released a while back.
It makes me think that they have basically "shot their wad" so to speak.
After a year of releasing redacted, misleading and internationally harmful tidbits of foreign spying technique, they have yet to release any instance of U.S. law being violated or any U.S. citizen's rights being trampled.
Then, with much fanfare, the launch of a website, which looks like another blog..with very light posting and they are back to breathlessly revealing the same trivia they started with.
What a fucking scam...
but then, look at their followers.
The Dupetarians

Horace Boothroyd III said...

That's quite a tell you have identified.

If they anything to work with, anything of substance that could back up their lurid victimization fantasies, you can bet that the hysterical ninnies over at would be running around like a coked up troop of howler monkeys. Bobswern might pop an aneurysm, he'd be so happy.

But no, just another tasteless nothingburger from the pissypants bridage.

Coldtype said...

Let's not confuse the trivial content released thus far with the much bigger picture here which is the massive overreach of Obama's National Security State that has made a mockery of the Bill of Rights and the Fourth Amendment. While I'll have to belatedly agree with Tarzie that GG hasn't acquitted himself well here as the Leak Keeper™ that in no way changes the actual equation.

Pinkamena Once More said...

that has made a mockery of the Bill of Rights and the Fourth Amendment.

And you wonder why we think you're right-wingers...

What is it you keep saying, DG? "Argue the facts; when the facts are against you, argue the law; when the law is against you, pound your fist on the table"?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mr. NSA Glass. Your check will be in the mail directly.

Kathleen said...


Obama's National Security State indeed.
Yes. Obama was responsible for establishing the NSA in 1952. He was also involved in overthrowing governments in Iran, Nicaragua, Haiti, just to name a few. He wrote the Patriot Act and voted for it when he was a US Senator. One of his most famous quotes is "Be careful of what you say". Thank goodness someone understands how nefarious the Blah Guy has been all these years. So there, Drooling Obots!

Neo Tuxedo said...

Thanks, Kathleen. Yes, the National Security State is a shit Twinkie, and yes, we could all wish Obama would burn that fucker down and salt the ground of Fort Meade, but blaming him for its existence is even more absurd than blaming him for the global financial meltdown, which makes it, I don't know, aleph-one absurd or something.

Coldtype said...

Maybe it's just my imagination but has there been an administration in the history of the republic that has more aggressively persecuted whistleblowers than the Obama administration? If so kindly name one.

bluicebank said...

Are we still arguing about personalities over the substance of the revelations? Revelations which, by the way, weren't news to those of us paying attention, at least not generally. We already knew that the NSA had physically jacked into the telcoms. A tech from AT&T spilled. We already knew from long ago that the government spied on citizens, especially of the hippie variety.

Oh but now we have Snowden revealing the details. And one of the reporters from this revelation being an ass. Oh by all means, lets focus on Snowden and Greenwald. Oh yes, we must "consider the provenance" of this shit. Uh huh.

The big picture. Anyone?

Monster from the Id said...

True, Obummer didn't invent the Warfare State (I like that term better than "National Security State; it's pithier), or its master, buccaneer capitalism.

Rather, the buccaneers chose him to put a "progressive" face on their depredations.

Omidyar is perhaps a maverick buccaneer, after the fashion of Ross Perot.

Rarely will the buccaneers allow one of their own to be punished significantly, although they do throw us envious peasants a victim from their own ranks once in a while--Milkin, Helmsley, Boesky, Lay, Madoff, a few others I don't remember--who has offended his/her peers in some way. This helps maintain the all-important illusion that The System is fair.

Perhaps a similar fate awaits Omidyar. Or a different fate--the "accidental" light plane crash or the "lone nut" with a gun.

Lumpy Lang said...

Droneglass: "After all, this isn't Russia."

So true. Russia incarcerates a much smaller percentage of its citizens than the "land of the free."

Monster from the Id said...

NICE one, Lumpy. Inconvenient facts FTW! ^__^

I am so jealous I didn't think of that one first. xD

Pinkamena Once More said...

They never listen, no matter how many times you tell them. Are you convinced yet, DG, that these are Pig People, as hopeless as the average Limbaugh Junkie?

Oh, and do you two Klansmen up there think maybe you could get a room?

Monster from the Id said...

OK, has Russia once again surpassed the "Land Of Freedumb" in its percentage of incarcerated citizens?

Not that Putin is anyone's saint.

But he's not Sauron.

Neither is Uncle Sam.

Capital is Sauron.

Uncle Sam is merely the Lord of the Nazgul.

The UK, France, Germany, and Israel would be four of the other Nazgul. I leave it to others to choose the remaining four.

And Putin, and other leaders like him? They are so many Sarumans (Sarumen?). They're not nice guys, either, but they insist on being independently evil rather than serving Sauron.


Owl said...

This is a truly absurd post. Drifty loops this one Snowden quote he likes, evidently to show us how bamboozled the guy is. There's kind of a neo-cold-warrior tone in an envelope of trivialization. Well, if you spend about five minutes at The // Intercept, it isn't hard to figure out that Drift has the context for the item he's picking on all wrong, as does he the entire milieu the fledgling operation is trying to address. Go check for yourself and see if you come to the same conclusion I have--there is a lot of important stuff over there.