Gossip Through the PRISM: The NSA’s Shenanigans

Pink_floyd_-_dark_side_of_the_moon

“Truth, through the lens of gossip” or “What is legal, through the lens of Law” (Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon Album Cover)

When pressed to think about clandestine organizations, I’m often lead down the thought path towards action/sci-fi secret outfits such as Nick Fury’s S.H.I.E.L.D., James Bond’s MI6 (though this is actually a real government organization), and George Orwell’s dogs from Animal Farm. Often times I’ll even muse about how awesome it would be if one of these such organizations existed in real life.

In the last few days, these musings seem to have come to fruition with the recent uproar in regards to the awesomely named “secret organization” called PRISM.

I used quotes for two reasons. The first reason is that PRISM is hardly a secret. The plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months. By “local planning office,” I mean to say the internet and by “nine months,” I mean to say 5 years.

The second reason for my implicative use of quotation marks is that PRISM is a tool used by the National Security Agency (NSA).

PRISM is a kick-ass GUI that allows an analyst to look at, collate, monitor, and cross-check different data types provided to the NSA from internet companies located inside the United States.

So the NSA uses PRISM -my instinct here is to complain about acronyms. I’ve decided not to as my name is one of them- PRISM is a tool that collects data and this data is collected from internet companies.

Tech companies are legally required to share information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa). Those requests have to be made via a Fisa court …. The companies are not obliged to make the process easier for the NSA.

From the Director of National Intelligence’s June 8th memorandum (please read this):

Under Section 702 of FISA, the United States Government does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers of U.S. electronic communication service providers. All such information is obtained with FISA Court approval and with the knowledge of the provider based upon a written directive from the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence.

Most importantly the information used cannot and I mean cannot:

be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, or any other U.S. person, or to intentionally target any person known to be in the United States. Likewise, Section 702 cannot be used to target a person outside the United States if the purpose is to acquire information from a person inside the United States.

So if all of this is true, where is the scandal? Why the uproar? Nobody in the US is being targeted without a reasonable tie to an international terror institution. Well, let’s have a “chat” with Edward Snowden to find out.

Recently Edward Snowden took it upon himself to disclose practices and policies used by the NSA. Practices and Policies which, in Edwards opinion, were immoral and inappropriate.

What I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

In his recent revelation as the NSA whistle blower, Edward speaks out about the injustice he has witnessed.

The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,”

Supposing that the world was naive enough to believe that everybody followed the law as they should, there would be no problem with the NSA’s use of tools like PRISM.

The problem with this is that the NSA bends the laws to their own purposes. Just as lawmakers, cops, and even people avoiding speeding tickets do. Our legal system is a cacophony of loopholes and short cuts. When you work for the government, the law changes from “what shouldn’t I do” to “what all am I allowed to do” and “how far can I go with this.”

How can we challenge the gross misuse of United States Law?


Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRISM_%28surveillance_program%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data

http://gizmodo.com/what-is-prism-511875267
http://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Facts%20on%20the%20Collection%20of%20Intelligence%20Pursuant%20to%20Section%20702.pdf

http://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/1fx8zs/what_is_prism/

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-57588253-83/what-is-the-nsas-prism-program-faq/

http://theweek.com/article/index/245360/solving-the-mystery-of-prism

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance

Note: When sifting through information concerning current events, I’ve found that the “facts” seem to change on a daily basis. These changes come from all sides. It seems that the need to be first has far outweighed any sort of journalistic integrity and this is very, very disconcerting. The government, the people, and the generally unconcerned all have constantly changing opinions and sources of info. I would just like to ask everybody to please use their best judgment when spreading information. Gossip is the worst (out of all the things). Remember we are all in this life together. The only way to Be Always Growing is to be doing this together. That being said: I welcome any and all corrections that you may have. Thanks for reading-JR

Open Access Journals Suddenly Open to the Public

Last week, my personal frustration with finding sources lead to an anger-filled article on open access journals and the apparent lack of them. The President, who most likely reads every article on Wondergressive, has been forced to tell somebody else to act.  In response to a whitehouse.gov petition regarding increasing public access to research, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), John P. Holdren, has issued a memorandum to any federal agency making more than $100 million dollars.

The logic behind enhanced public access is plain. We know that scientific research supported by the Federal Government spurs scientific breakthroughs and economic advances when research results are made available to innovators. Policies that mobilize these intellectual assets for re-use through broader access can accelerate scientific breakthroughs, increase innovation, and promote economic growth. That’s why the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that the results of federally-funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community.

Federal agencies have been given one year to organize all of their data and provide an easy way for public researchers to access. From the memo:

To the extent feasible and consistent with law; agency mission; resource constraints; U.S.
national, homeland, and economic security; and the objectives listed below, the results of
unclassified research that are published in peer-reviewed publications directly arising from
Federal funding should be stored for long-term preservation and publicly accessible to search,
retrieve, and analyze in ways that maximize the impact and accountability of the Federal
research investment.

 

So providing that Homeland Security or the Department of Defense does not stamp “Plebeians Should Not Read” in dark red and all of the information is in scientific journal format, we should expect to see a lot more results from our dear Aunt Samantha. The memo requires agencies to make archives readily available as well. Supposing that our government steers clear of the 1984’s Department of Truth, this new policy might actually be a good thing.

But wait, $100 million dollars is a heck of a lot of money? What about the agencies that don’t meet this mark? This Federal R&D Budget Request outlines how much money is allocated to different agencies. The chart, picture below, tells us plainly that almost all of the federal funding goes to agencies receiving more than the Doctor Evil-inspired mark. You’ll probably also notice that the DoD research request accounts for just under half of the total budget with a whopping $71 Billion.

Besides not being able to properly understand the vast amount of money, It’s hard to understand why we spend so much of it on defense. I mean, why are we being so defensive? We don’t need to yell. It doesn’t take somebody who sees octarine to realize that there might be a problem with that. As this article is about Open Access Journals, I will stay this point until a later date.

It should come as no surprise then that the Department of Health and Human Services has been actively sharing their findings for a couple of years now. They are so healthy and fresh over there and all they want to do is take care of us. Well good for them. Even bureaucrats can have a heart, or at least know where to find one in a pinch.

 

 Sources:

www.whitehouse.gov: Increasing Public Awareness

Memorandum to Departments and Agencies

Federal Research and Development Funding

HHS.gov: Open Government Partnership