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

Morals or More Rails To Guide Us: Science Vs. Religion

The virtues of right and wrong have been around since the first creature felt what would be later called pain and responded to it. When something hurts, you try not to do it again. It is a relatively simple concept that has evolved unobstructed for one life time (one life time being from the start of all life, until now). There are many different sources of morality. Each of these sources share one major thing in common: They all believe that they are the most right. I’m not here to call your god a shape-shifting molester of women (unless you pray to Zues) or tell you how to live your life but rather, I would like to examine a few schools of moral thought. I’ll leave the conclusion making to you, our Wondergressive readers.

Science

Before I begin I would like to address a euphemism. You see, There are No Morals in Science but what science lacks in morals, it makes up in “ethical concerns” which if you ask me, is a science’d up way of saying that even scientists have morals.

Science believes, whole-mindedly, that the answers to everything are measurable. Using analysis, a scientist decodes the world. There is nothing that cannot be measured. The things that are not yet measured are only not yet measured because we haven’t found a way to measure them yet. Science will find a way to answer every question through precision measurements. From What is Science:

Science is continually refining and expanding our knowledge of the universe, and as it does, it leads to new questions for future investigation. Science will never be “finished.”

Logic is the pride of science. Every decision must be logical. Since I’m in the habit of asking google what things are, I decided to ask “What is Logic?”

Briefly speaking, we might define logic as the study of the principles of correct reasoning. This is a rough definition, because how logic should be properly defined is actually quite a controversial matter.

Basically logic is the refinement of thinking in order to achieve perfectly scientific results.

 

Fables, Fiction, and Fantasy:

Guided by both the imagination and the wisdom of everyday life, invented stories are another means of instilling morality. This time, when I searched the rules of fiction, there is nothing concrete. There are limitless ways of expressing good/evil dichotomies when you use your imagination. There are a few guiding points in writing a good piece of fiction. Each work must have elements of plot, setting, character, conflict, symbol, point of view, and some sort of a theme to tie it all together.

That is just from the standpoint of the author. The great thing about these three ‘F’s is that the infinite imagination of the reader is coupled with the infinite imagination of the author to create unparalleled sharing of ideas. Reading fiction challenges the morals, or-if you prefer-ethical concerns, through vivid imagery. A good author is capable of projecting feelings through the work that has been created in order to engage the reader in a decision making process. Did things turn out the right way? But what happens when you pair both science and these three ‘F’s?

Religion

Unlike any of the aforementioned morality boosters, religion deals primarily with what happens after you die. Some philosophies approach the matter more scientifically and some choose to use time-tested stories in order to explain the whatnots and whyfors of morality. Religion asks its followers to fully believe that there is no other way than the path that they are on. Relying on a sense of community to herd the masses into doing what is right, religion gives security to the faithful.

 

Secular ethics and the World Around You

Speaking as somebody who has a terrible time deciding what class to choose in RPGs (I often choose the druid or shape shifting class), I think that we all have a responsibility to find our own moral code. Religion, Science, and Fables/Fiction/Fantasy all give us ways to learn something new, or really.. really old. It is up to us to decide to be kind and charitable to each other whether or not we share the same values. At the core, we all want to be happy and that is all that matters.

In closing, as Kurt Vonnegut puts it best:

God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.

Source List:
What is Science?
What is Logic?
There are No Morals in Science
There are a few guiding points in writing a good piece of fiction
This is a great part of Monty Python’s Life of Brian

Morality In Animals

Morality in Animals is a TED talk that documents some very interesting findings regarding how animals exhibit what we think of as morality.

It is so interesting seeing animals behave in ways that philosophers have always imagined to be strictly ‘human.’ This information may help end the sordid ways we treat other species, and our own.

Why do we have zoos again?

*Update*
Here is another article continuing the discussion of morality in animals.  It also remarks that “chimpanzees, who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others. Given the chance to get food by pulling a chain that would also deliver an electric shock to a companion, rhesus monkeys will starve themselves for several days.”

These animals sound even more moral than many humans I know.

Morality In Animals: Chimpanzees That Risk Their Own Lives

morality

opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

Morality in Animals is a TED talk by Frans de Waal that documents some very interesting findings regarding how animals exhibit what we think of as morality.

It is so interesting seeing animals behave in ways that philosophers have always imagined to be strictly ‘human.’ This information may help end the sordid ways we treat other species, and our own.

An article from The New York TImes continues the discussion of morality in animals with their article on primate behavior.  It also remarks that

chimpanzees, who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others. Given the chance to get food by pulling a chain that would also deliver an electric shock to a companion, rhesus monkeys  will starve themselves for several days.

These animals sound even more moral than most humans I know.

 

Why do we have zoos again?

 

Sources and Resources for Morality in Animals:

TED talk: Moral Behavior in Animals

Living Links Center for the Advanced Study of Ape and Human Evolution

The New York Times: Scientists Find the Beginning of Morality in Primate Behavior

Biology and Philosophy: Wild Justice and Fair Play: Cooperation, Forgiveness, and Morality in Animals