NSA, Modern National Security, and Snowden

Regarding NSA and monitoring our communications:

This week, a U.S. Senator expressed amazement that BILLIONS of our phone calls and e-mails between Americans are monitored EVERY DAY.

In casual conversations, people talk about their spouses and bosses where words like 'kill' or 'murder' are mentioned. Out of a BILLION messages every day, certainly at least ONE PERCENT (TENS OF MILLIONS) of those messages include such words. A few of those people actually MEAN such amgry words!

So the question for the NSA is 'Do you have a human read and monitor every one of those tens of millions of such messages every day?'

The answer seems almost certain to be yes. The NSA acknowledges that they employ about 850,000 independent contractors in that system. Why could they possibly NEED that many people if they do not need to examine tens of millions of messages (between Americans) every day? The quantity of their employment seems to confirm that massive numbers of our personal conversations ARE monitored every day. IF they have actually only encountered TEN potential terrorist threats over the previous five years, what have those 850,000 people been doing?

The NSA might then claim that 'only one percent of American people's phone calls are monitored', but they would still be referring to those TENS OF MILLIONS OF PHONE CALLS EVERY DAY.

There seems to be an obvious follow-up question: 'If you have only found 50 credible threats in recent years, only ten of which were in the US, then what do those 850,000 people do? Why are we Taxpayers paying for all of them?'

A bonus extra question now exists regarding that issue. AFTER Snowden's amazing information releases, that is in late 2013, it has now been established that the NSA Executives had lied to Congress about a variety of things, including those alleged '50 credible threats that the NSA has thwarted by having monitored all our phone and e-mail communications, that no more than ONE 'potential threat had been thwarted', and even that ONE alleged example that they justify all the NSA spying on us was apparently tracked down by relatively traditional FBI methods. So we should ask for the actual justification for the NSA to have monitored our billions of personal communications.

A third credible question as well: 'If you therefore actually monitor tens of millions of conversations every day which include words like 'kill' or 'murder' every day, do you then tell local Police about such possible threats?'

Doesn't it seem proper that they MUST alert local Police regarding such matters? If they do not, then why not? THAT activity might save hundreds of lives every day! Probably far MORE benefit than of their finding ten potential terrorist threats over five years.


Do we evaluate the words and behaviors of people by BEING TRUTH or whether they follow rules made by powerful politicians?

It seems that total arrogance exists in the operation of the US government these days. How can our country proceed successfully in that situation?

A lowly soldier in Iraq (Bradley Manning) saw a (Top Secret) video of what essentially everyone agrees was a War Crime where a US helicopter crew made clear that they were really enjoying sending rockets down to kill a group of apparently unarmed people, and then they made clear that they enjoyed even more that they got to kill more people who had come to try to help any survivors. The fact that there happened to be foreign News Correspondents in the victims was only seen as 'inconvenient' by the Military and Government leaders, so they decided to define the incident as 'Top Secret'. It seems to me that it was very appropriate that Bradley Manning was disgusted by the behavior of the US personnel, and he felt it important that the US people should be shown that video. It seems to me that Mr. Manning SHOULD HAVE JUSTIFIED releasing that video, which the US Security people defined as Top Secret. Whether or not ANY US person should or would intentionally hide really obvious war crimes used to be a stupid question. Now, due to the treatment of Bradley Manning and the related treatment of WikiLeaks and the threats against Julian Assange, we KNOW that we are NOT allowed to disclose any bad behavior by our Government or our Military, no matter what they do if there is any chance that such disclosure might make our country look bad. The old ideas of honesty and truth have been abandoned! Amazing!

Now, IF Bradley Manning or Julian Assange actually DID act in any ways that were destructive to our country, fine, Crucify them. But that is NOT the case! They simply DISCLOSED THE BAD BEHAVIORS OF OTHERS who did horrific things (and whom were never punished or jailed for such bad behavior)

Isn't that really bizarre? NOT to arrest or convict the ACTUAL criminals, but instead horrifically punish the people who DISCLOSED the bad behavior? It used to be called Whistle-Blowing and it used to be respected and admired!

So our government kept Mr. Manning inside a tiny cell for nearly every hour of every day for three years. In addition, our government has come up with a bizarre plan where Assange has been accused of a sex crime in Sweden, entirely to get Assange into Sweden so that he will be able to be taken to America to be put in his own tiny cell. The only safety Assange has had for the past couple years is in constantly living inside the Ecuador Embassy building in London, England. If he should ever step outside, British Police would arrest him and immediately sent him to Sweden so he could then be sent to the United States. Who thinks up these crazy ideas?

There are many other examples of these same reactions of America to anything which they think offends them. Recently, Edward Snowden, one of the 850,000 private contractors that the US NSA hired to process security matters pretty much ended his own life in a similar way. Did Snowden actually DO anything to endanger any Americans' safety or security? Did he DO anything that might remotely be considered to be terrorist? Not even close!

Because of his position and access to information, Snowden KNEW that the American people were being lied to regarding their personal civil rights. Specifically, whether or not anyone in the American government was listening to their personal phone calls or reading their e-mails or postal mail. The US Constitution seems quite clear about such things, especially its Fourth Amendment. We Americans are supposed to have A RIGHT OF PRIVACY.

So when Snowden was aware that the NSA which he worked for DAILY MONITORED EVERY ONE OF OUR BILLIONS of personal phone calls and e-mails, he was rightfully troubled. He made a personal conclusion that the American people HAD THE RIGHT TO KNOW this fact.

So he let the world know!

Immediately, everyone in the US government started calling him a terrorist and worse. All Snowden actually did was to STATE A FACT that he was a part of and which he thought the American public had a right to know.

Within a day or two, the US Congress was having Meetings and Hearings about how they all want to punish the guy. Virtually no one ever mentioned the fact that HE had not made the decision to LISTEN IN on everyone's calls! I was amazed that virtually no one even noticed when ONE OF THE SENATORS made a comment where he said that he had not realized that BILLIONS OF OUR DAILY PHONE CALLS AND E-MAILS were being recorded! Everyone else seemed to be totally comfortable with that situation!

A few days later, the Head of the NSA decided to offer proof of why what they were doing was so great. He made a public announcement that the monitoring of the phone calls and e-mails 'had stopped dozens of terrorist threats' (in the past several years).

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Do YOU see the problem in these recent PUBLIC statements? And the Head of the NSA even said that the majority of the terrorist threats that were stopped were not even in the US, that about TEN OF THE POTENTIAL THREATS THAT HAD BEEN STOPPED had been in the US. He was very vague regarding details, but it seemed that he was implying that in a FIVE YEAR PERIOD, his Agency had stopped TEN possible terrorist threats in the US. About two per year or one potential threat in every six months, which he seemed to imply was due to Section 215 of their ferocious effort at monitoring ALL OF US! Remember that that Senator said he was surprised to hear that they listen in on BILLIONS of phone calls every day (in the United States).

See? The two statements seem to describe that they felt it necessary to listen in on MORE THAN 200,000,000,000 phone calls among us Americans, in the process of concluding that they (may have) thwarted EACH SINGLE POSSIBLE TERRORIST THREAT.

Many critics have suggested that in their spending hundreds of billions of dollars in their 'security activities', they certainly would have used their advanced techniques to have learned about each of those ten possible threats in far better ways.

Or are they implying that their talents at finding terrorist plots are without value, that the ONLY way they can find anyone who might consider doing any bad things is to listen in on ALL of us, all day and every day?

The President keeps claiming that NO ONE listens into ANY of our phone calls. He clearly does not have all the facts, and he HAS BEEN TOLD that computers analyze all the contents of all those billions of phone calls, and so he probably really believes that NO HUMAN ever listens to any of our billions of conversations.

Clearly, that is ridiculous! In the billions of phone calls of every day, there are trillions of words. How many hundreds of millions of times does someone make a rash statement like about wanting to kill a wife or husband, or about wishing he could shoot or bomb a terrible boss or job.

I would have one additional question for our recent Whistle-Blower. It would be about what happens when a computer detects such a word in those hundreds of millions of phone conversations every day. Clearly, a HUMAN then needs to LISTEN to every one of such conversations.

YES, I agree that it COULD HAPPEN that the human might then happen to hear AN ACTUAL THREAT. DO THEY THEN MAKE THOSE MILLIONS OF PHONE CALLS TO ALERT POLICE OF EACH OF THOSE THREATS? I find that extremely unlikely! They know that the local Police would never be able to follow up on such huge numbers of warning threats. I suspect they simply ACCEPT that A FEW THOUSAND AMERICANS WILL BE KILLED (each day) related to such threats.

See the new perspective here? Assuming that actual humans LISTEN to those many millions of daily phone calls which contain comments which might actually be death threats, they have to know that there would be no point in trying to follow up on such enormous numbers of potential crimes. INSTEAD, they invade our individual privacy IN THE HOPE THAT IN 200,000,000,000 phone calls of ours that they monitor, they might find ONE potential terrorist threat, where a few dozen people might be in danger.

So, if anyone will ever actually EXAMINE what they are doing, it will be seen that their activities are totally foolish. First, they SPEND hundreds of billions of dollars every years to listen in to all of us. Second, they invade the privacy of 200,000,000,000 or more 'private' phone calls between us, horribly watering down the Fourth Amendment that we want to believe in. And they PAY 850,000 private security personnel impressive amounts of (taxpayer) money. All so that they can claim to have stopped ONE POSSIBLE TERRORIST THREAT.

It is hard to believe that ANY American actually believes it is all worth what they do!

YES, I recognize the value in monitoring FOREIGN conversations, and especially between powerful individuals. I am sure that they DO sometimes overhear some comments which get them started toward finding a Spy or someone else who is very bad.

It just seems logical that RESTRAINT be considered in such pursuits. Just because someone comes up with some new technology, it is NOT necessary to spend spectacular amounts of Taxpayer money to totally invade EVERYONE'S privacy (just because they CAN).


This presentation was first placed on the Internet in June 2013.

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago