Still think libertarians are paranoid?
The question isn't if the NSA watches everything. We now know that they do.
Libertarians have been watching this for a very long time. Ever since the Inslaw affair we've known. Rumors have been flying since the days of minicomputers that certain machines were modified to report to the various spy agencies.
So let's talk about the story headlines from yesterday.
Donald Trump and his associates were under surveillance, but not directly. They were incidentally surveilled because of active surveillance on other parties. This may have been taking place for up to a year before the 2016 election. At least one source dates the surveillance to 2011.
This is where we start getting into legalisms. Because Trump and associates were not the direct targets of surveillance, intelligence officials say that Trump was not under surveillance. Technically true and absolutely false.
By American law, the names of American citizens are "masked" in surveillance reports unless they too are under investigation. Or unless an authorized government official orders the names unmasked.
So the NSA spies on everyone but Americans are supposedly shielded and protected by a legal process. Even there the names would have only have been unmasked for that one official. Except President Obama had recently changed the regulations, some intelligence would be shared among 16 different agencies.
Washington is a political town, gossip rivals actual intelligence as trade goods. While it was illegal to share those unmasked names with those who did not have clearence, that's also business as usual.
And so far no one is asking what Hillary Clinton and her associates were doing for the same time period.
So the NSA spies on everyone on the planet.
One government official can unmask the American names in intelligence reports, even if those Americans had done nothing wrong.
And it all could be denied because the denial is technically true while absolutely false.
Your government. Working to protect you.
I'm going to tell you some secrets now.
The NSA can't monitor everything on the internet. They may record it to batch examine later, but there's no computing power that can watch everything in real time.
Despite all the enhanced algorithms, despite the focus on encrypted data streams, and despite the probability matrices, the system is half blind.
I don't remember which one, but when I was a teenager I read a novel about WWII spies. There was a bookstore in the novel, and every couple of hours a certain book was moved. From the noon position to the two o'clock, from the two to the four o'clock, and so on. The first thing that the spy ring did was check the window, if the book wasn't in the right spot they knew their cover had been blown.
So imagine a Facebook page and the picture on the top is a border collie. One day the picture changes to a pinto mare. Two hours later something blows up.
Imagine a reddit about French cooking. One day a newbie signs in and asks about substitutes for heavy cream. The next day a newspaper gets a tip about the L.A. water supply being contaminated.
Do you see?
All this spying can't reliably predict what might happen except by blind chance. It's amazingly good about putting all the pieces together after.
All these intelligence agencies are subject to political corruption.
So, does all this spying really protect you?