[somelist: Questions about the illegal wiretaps]

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Sun Feb 12 03:15:11 PST 2006

At 2/6/2006 04:47 AM, A**** A. G****  wrote:

>Let's face it, there's no way that Bush supporters are going to care
>if the wiretaps are illegal. We have to convince them that they are
>lousy policy. Fortunately, there's one thing about these wiretaps
>that makes it easy to argue that.
>It's fucking stupid.
>Here is a list of questions that I would like to see asked about
>these wiretaps:
>1. How much money have we spent on this program?
>2. How much is that per taxpayer?
>3. According to the Washington Post, we had a backlog of
>   hundreds of thousands of hours of untranslated wiretaps. Do
>   we still have this backlog?
>4. What's the point of conducting wiretaps when we can't
>   translate them?
>5. How many translators could we have hired for the price of
>   this program?
>6. In your opinion, which would make us safer--more translators,
>   or more untranslated wiretaps?

You miss the point.

Money is no object; they can quibble over a dime for an aspirin for a
poor person, but ten billion for a military project is a rounding
error.  This is cheaper than ten billion. Besides, American suck at
math, especially Republicans.

They are not manually listening to the conversations. They are not
mostly conversations in foreign languages.  They are bulk-tapping the
circuits flowing in and out of the United States, and selectively
tapping Americans' phones.  Most of these calls are in English.

To decipher the calls, they use the advanced stored-voice-recognition
technology that BBN developed for them, then so cleverly exposed to
the world in Podzinger.  Treat these stored phone calls as podcasts
and have a roomful of Opterons decode them, then search them for
"interesting" content.  Again, it's all on display on Podzinger,
except that those were meant to be listened to by the public at
large.  AMD probably makes a lot of money at this too.  Maybe even
Intel gets to supply the kit for some of this covert intel.

Finally, because these were not sent to the FISA court, it can be
assumed that they would not have passed the FISA test, which
basically consists of telling a judge what you want to do and not
having the judge die of laughter on the spot.  The FISA court has
rejected six out of 16,000 requests.  So what are they listening for?

I am quite convinced that the primary goal was to collect political
intelligence.  They probably were getting good intel on the Kerry
campaign, on some tight Senate races, and on the overall Democratic
Party operations.  Since the Google-like search technology allows the
system's user to search for essentially anything, and play back just
the calls of interest, they had access to a wealth of political information.

The WaPo apparently claims that the FISA-risky activity was doing
data mining on suspicious patterns of behavior, profiling massive
numbers of callers' activities hoping, with little success, to
uncover real links to foreign enemies.  That was probably the most
benign interpretation.  But with absolutely no oversight, it's pretty
obvious that the wealth of wiretap bulk data so collected could be
used in ways that would impress even the most corrupt tinpot despot.

The way to get the more marginal Bush-symps to oppose this crime is
to suggest that if Bush could do it, so could Hillary Clinton, Al
Gore, Russ Feingold, or some other future Democratic
president.  Yeah, President Al Sharpton, give  him that power;
that'll scare 'em off.


----- End forwarded message -----
Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
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