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850 Billion NSA Surveillance Records Searchable By Domestic Law Enforcement 207

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the you're-a-criminal dept.
onproton (3434437) writes The Intercept reported today on classified documents revealing that the NSA has built its own "Google-like" search engine to provide over 850 billion collected records directly to law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the DEA. Reporter Ryan Gallagher explains, "The documents provide the first definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies." The search engine, called ICREACH, allows analysts to search an array of databases, some of which contain metadata collected on innocent American citizens, for the purposes of "foreign intelligence." However, questions have been raised over its potential for abuse in what is known as "parallel construction," a process in which agencies use surveillance resources in domestic investigations, and then later cover it up by creating a different evidence trail to use in court.
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850 Billion NSA Surveillance Records Searchable By Domestic Law Enforcement

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  • ICREACH? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2014 @07:20PM (#47752513)
    I always knew Apple was involved in this.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Culture20 (968837)
      ICyREACH. I predict it will have a chilling effect on free speech, etc
      • Re:ICREACH? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by aralin (107264) on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:39PM (#47753027)

        No, it won't. The US govt. figured out something that the Russians still didn't. Talk is cheap, actions are rare. You can let them talk and talk and talk, you just make up some excuse to arrest or harass the few who act. There won't be so many so you can usually hide it under drug arrests or something else innocent looking. With enough laws on the books, everyone is guilty of something and since you know what everyone is doing, you can arrest pretty much anyone for a legitimate on the books crime. And if you cannot arrest them, maybe their family or friends did something illegal. You can blackmail, bargain, ... That is the power of NSA.

        • Re:ICREACH? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:48PM (#47753105)

          You don't seem to understand what a "chilling effect" is.

          Simply knowing that your every word and every movement is recorded and available for inspection at any time is extremely chilling. When you constantly have to worry about how your words and actions might be misconstrued, either accidentally or deliberately, then by definition you can't speak freely anymore and you no longer have freedom of association.

          • Re:ICREACH? (Score:5, Informative)

            by aralin (107264) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:10PM (#47753237)

            I lived through it in a socialist state on the other side of the iron curtain, so don't tell me I don't understand it. I've experienced "Chilling Effect" or "auto-censorship" as we used to call it first hand.

            But I am telling you that this is not going to happen here, because the government is making extra sure that it doesn't. First amendment violations are simply sacrosanct, because the first amendment is the best tool of population control. There is an extremely powerful lullaby in effect: "We still have free press and if something really bad happened, the government would first have to stomp on the free press. As long as that is there, we are safe."

            What I am telling you is that a total population control can be reached without affecting the free speech in any way whatsoever, which is so much worse than any chilling effect.

            • by houghi (78078)

              The problem with the free press is that it is not an independent press. The press that matters is owned by companies that are often the cause of the problem.
              Furthermore the press is a marketing tool for their customers. That are the companies who buy advertisement places or times. And those

              The people are the product that is being sold.

        • every time I come across a top secret NSA I memo I tweet it just for the lulz.
    • When you hit that page the large graphic makes people believe they've been directed to a potentially malicious site. They need to shrink it a bit so people that follow the link curious about what's happening don't think that they have hit the site itself.

    • No, if Apple did it, it would be called 'iWatch'

  • Told ya... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by houstonbofh (602064) on Monday August 25, 2014 @07:23PM (#47752531)
    So all that "slippery slope" shit from 10 years ago doesn't seem so stupid now, does it?
    • Re:Told ya... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by redeIm (3779401) on Monday August 25, 2014 @07:46PM (#47752689) Homepage

      It never seemed stupid to anyone with even a tiny bit of knowledge about history.

      • Re:Told ya... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:07PM (#47752795)
        It sure was said to be stupid by a boatload of people on Slashdot when the rest of us tried to say it really was a slippery slope.

        I have a feeling a lot of people will be looking back at what many of them call "crazy conspiracy theory" today when some of those things turn out to be real, too.

        Of course many of them really are just crazy conspiracy theory. But not all of them. Real conspiracies can exist and have existed throughout history.

        But there's another thing that some people don't account for: a lot of people, operating under the same (often but not always) erroneous assumptions or misinformation, can make it look like there is a conspiracy when it's really not conspiracy at all. Just a lot of people making the same mistakes.
        • Re:Told ya... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:58PM (#47753169)

          But there's another thing that some people don't account for: a lot of people, operating under the same (often but not always) erroneous assumptions or misinformation, can make it look like there is a conspiracy when it's really not conspiracy at all. Just a lot of people making the same mistakes.

          That is a very important fact. These things happen not because of deliberate malevolence - something that only exists in movies and fairy tales - they happen because "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." The people who create these systems are too ignorant of history and human nature, too focused on catching bad guys and take their own righteousness for granted.

          There is a famous quotation from Friedrich Nietzsche that goes, "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." It took me many years to fully grasp the depths of that aphorism, but I see it at the heart of everything that is wrong with US government's response to 9/11.

      • Re:Told ya... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:22PM (#47752913)

        It never seemed stupid to anyone with even a tiny bit of knowledge about history.

        Oh come on. I know a guy with that same attitude at work. You're normalizing the situation with this nonsense fantasy that you knew all along. You didn't know all along... you worried about it, you feared for it, but you didn't know Now you do, and you should be surprised... shocked... outraged... But to sit back in your lazyboy, burp, and say "yea, I figured!" is freaking ridiculous. Write you God damned congressman. Get a picket sign. The house is on fire, just because you told the kids not to play with matches doesn't mean you don't need to grab a bucket now.

        • by redeIm (3779401)

          You didn't know all along... you worried about it, you feared for it, but you didn't know Now you do

          This isn't the first time the NSA has done something like this. When the Patriot Act came around, and even before that, anyone with a brain knew that they were at least spying on citizens. If you give the government the power to collect all this information on people, that's what it's going to do. Plus, there were news stories long before Snowden that dispelled all doubts. What I did not know was the details of the programs, and that was what information Snowden provided.

          • by redeIm (3779401)

            The existence of the slippery slope was just too obvious. Again, we have all the government abuses throughout history to attest to that.

          • Re:Told ya... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by rtb61 (674572) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:42PM (#47753373) Homepage

            Of course no one would guess what the NSA is 'really' up to by providing this database. The NSA are creating another database, who searches what when. They are tracking every search, who did it, how it associates with other searches made by that person over time. Nothing like being able to extort the guys with guns in uniforms or which county mounties to feed to the feds, or which feds to gain control of. Using this NSA database would have to be a seriously dangerous thing, best left to an assigned clerical officer to conduct all the searches prepare a report and thus obfuscate the nature of the individual searches. The database is bait and also a means by which to attempt to legitimate criminal acts, the initial with out warrant invasion of privacy.

            Just to remind people what privacy really is all about. Slaves have none, no privacy of person, all of their body was accessible to their master for what ever abuse their master was inclined too, the slave had no right to private property and the slave had no right to private thought or expression. Privacy is all about ceasing to be a slave, a right to privacy of person, privacy of possessions and privacy of thought. The more rights to privacy you lose the more you become a slave. The more they take, the more they will want to take, until you are fully enslaved. That is the real reason to fight for as much privacy as possible to keep the threat of slavery as distant as possible.

        • by cdrudge (68377)

          Write you God damned congressman. Get a picket sign. The house is on fire, just because you told the kids not to play with matches doesn't mean you don't need to grab a bucket now.

          Grab a bucket and do what? Using your fire/bucket analogy, it's a multi-alarm raging inferno billed as a "fire fighter training exercise" to give them practice should a "real" fire happen in the future. The Congresscritters are the government officials that signed off on the approval to run the training opportunity. There's no am

        • You didn't know all along... you worried about it, you feared for it, but you didn't know

          Only retarded idiots like yourself do not KNOW the inevitable will occur.

          It affects all other choices you make, which is sad for you.

        • It never seemed stupid to anyone with even a tiny bit of knowledge about history.

          Write you God damned congressman. Get a picket sign. The house is on fire, just because you told the kids not to play with matches doesn't mean you don't need to grab a bucket now.

          Why do people continue to perpetuate the myth that writing to* your Congressman will actually have any effect on their decisions? First off, if your letter is read by a human, it is most certainly not your Conressman who reads it, it is a staffer. Second, their decisions are negotiated and paid for by the system of Lobbying that is prevalent throughout the US government.

          Even voting wont make a real difference, there are only two Parties to choose from, and they are not much different from each other at the

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You're not wrong. 850 billion records? The Stasi would have wet themselves. It took a lot less for the people of the GDR to storm buildings.
      • Except the Stasi would not have had the capability to sift through 8 billion records, much less 850B. That's what's even scarier, they can search through this stuff so fast. In all the shit I've written over the years, I'm sure there's something to indict me on. And I'm a pretty clean-cut guy.
    • NSA surveillience used by domestic LEOs function as writs of assistance, the traitorous general search warrants expressly forbidden by the Founders and a major cause of the American Revolution. No matter what title they have, some officials need to be tried then shot and/or hanged.
    • by ATMAvatar (648864)
      I wouldn't call it stupid, but it is a logical fallacy [yourlogicalfallacyis.com]. Given what we knew 10 years ago, it was only logical to point out the fallacy of assuming that everything you said or did was monitored, because there was little/no public evidence of such. That it turned out to be true does not make the past arguments any less fallacious.
      • Slippery Slope is just something everybody should ban from use or simply learn what it is before bringing it up. Parent is correct to cite one when bringing it up. Skipping steps in the chain is invalid logic; however, people should be allowed to summarize and imply in an online posting and not create a long detailed formal syllogism every time they want to gloat... Besides:

        As far as characterizations and predictions; that stuff is never logical. If you want to stick to deductive logic (real logic) then you

    • Re:Told ya... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:59PM (#47753451) Homepage Journal


      So all that "slippery slope" shit from 10 years ago doesn't seem so stupid now, does it?

      The biggest lesson learned is that when Congress passes a law, to kill a program like Total Information Awareness, all NSA will do is change code-names and reassign the workers to a different team.

      When NSA says "we have not done X in program Y", it means they have done X in program Z. When it says it has not conducted illegal activity under Authority Z, it has done it anyway, under some other contrived interpretation of a different authority.

      To quote Robin Koerner on every new NSA disclosure: "Of course they did."

      Now then, who thinks we still live in a functional Republic?

    • So all that "slippery slope" shit from 10 years ago doesn't seem so stupid now, does it?

      As one of those sheep 10 years ago.. I would like to apologizes.


      After Snowden my view of US intelligence efforts changed dramatically.

    • At what point is there too much information? We all have TB of storage at home with shit we never watch or read again, yet we still keep it. I can only imagine the cost of all this data hording and question at what point is the cost of all the infrastructure to maintain it, no longer worth the effort?
  • This shows how incredible out of control the CIA is.
    I could almost accept that the CIA keeps this data to help with "foreign intelligence" in mind but if this data is available to both the FBI and DEA it is a clear violation of the CIA charter and should result with the director's head on the chopping block.
    • by Indy1 (99447)

      Wrong agency - CIA and NSA are different agencies with (somewhat) different missions.

      That said, the entire NSA, and along with anyone who enabled them, needs to fired / jailed / etc for blatant and unending violations of the Bill of Rights and federal law in general.

    • by msauve (701917)
      Uh, NSA != CIA.
  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Monday August 25, 2014 @07:24PM (#47752541)
    I find it reassuring that there's no danger this can be abused. Ahem.

    Our worst fears are now realized.

    The Snowden revelations regarding ubiquitous data collection have caused so little civil turmoil that the information is now to be shared with every Sheriff's Department from Bangor to the Bay Area.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      It gets and keeps the funding. Binney: 'The NSA's main motives: power and money' (19.08.2014)
      http://www.dw.de/binney-the-ns... [www.dw.de]
      "When you do the things that they do - dictionary select, like a Google query, you throw a bunch of words in and get a return. And if you do that for terrorism, you get everything in the haystack that has those words. So now you're buried - by orders of magnitude worse than you used to be. So you don't find them."
      .... "Money. It takes a lot of money, you have to build up Bluffdal
    • by mcrbids (148650)

      I find it interesting your choice of cities... you must be North Cal

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I want to see every record that they have.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I want to see every record that they have.

      Sorry, National Security exemption.....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2014 @07:28PM (#47752575)

    If you have voted for a republican or a democrat in the last 30 years or so, this is your fault.

    YOU.

    The signs were all there, you ignored them, and kept voting the same jokers in, perpetuating the same power structures, letting the same people get away with gross violations of the law that would get any one of us thrown in prison.

    Now, welcome to the surveillance state. I hope you're happy with the results. But it gets better. It doesn't end here. We've seen, in other societies, where this goes. It doesn't end well.

    But you don't care about that, do you? Because Emmy Awards! Because Jellyfish stung 250 people in one day!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by HiThere (15173)

      Do you really think voting for a third party, or refusing to vote, makes any difference?

      If nothing you do makes any difference, is it really your fault? There might have been something that would have made a difference, but voting isn't on that list. That became quite clear when they refused to even count the votes for Pat Paulson. (I suspect he would have won, but there's no way to tell.)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Every story I've seen like this, for the past couple of years, I always wonder about the cost. I don't work at the large-scale when it comes to IT, so I never know what those sorts of budgets and cost infrastructures ramp up to. Can someone who DOES do that, chime in here?!?

    I'm genuinely curious, and interested. What would the math look like on this?

    What requirements, from bare metal to user interface, JUST for this system, are we talking about here!
    Figure every FBI, DEA and 'above' Federal enforcement/inte

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Posting anon (I hope) But I work with data on sort of this scale.
      I've got about 1 petabyte of data, 5 billion records, saved for 7 years.
      It takes a team of 5 DBAs to keep the database working (patching, reorgs, dumping the 7 year +1 month data, idiot developers causing SQL deadlocks, etc)
      About 50 people are required to deal with new feature requests, performance tuning, hardware failures, fuckups, etc,

      850 billions records, if they were each 1 byte is 850 gb.
      If they were on the size of my records, 170 petaby

    • by AHuxley (892839) on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:19PM (#47752883) Homepage Journal
      You saw the DEA do it with phone call records.
      http://arstechnica.com/tech-po... [arstechnica.com] Sept 4 2013
      ".... to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.""
      Thats just one tiny project with once set of data.
      Water news http://arstechnica.com/tech-po... [arstechnica.com]
      Power news http://www.zerohedge.com/news/... [zerohedge.com]
      Thats just for one classic storage site thats in the news a lot.
      Re So what would it really take to put this sort of thing together?
      "The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control" 11 July 2014
      http://www.theguardian.com/com... [theguardian.com]
      "At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US, says whistleblower William Binney – that's a 'totalitarian mentality'"
      Should give an average reader an idea of the US internal scale to store, track, index, search, voice print, call to, call from, other numbers, work back from hops surrounding people of interest.
      ie well funded, all of the USA, over years, aspects of calls stored for years ready to be found in storage if seen at a protest, near a protest or near a person who was near a person at a protest.
      ie you just need a lot of tame Room 641A like access https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    • by Anonymous Coward

      guestimate 1 trillion records, perhaps 10kb compressed each (lets say they're long wide records with textual info, etc.), that's 10k terabytes. Imagine a rack holding say 200 drives, each average 5T that's about 10 racks---or about the size of a small sized data center. With some hashing and/or partitioning scheme, the software to search all that in parallel isn't that complicated (or install something like Pivotal on it). Limitations would include non-equality joins.

      the actual data center would likely be s

  • by Anonymous Coward

    However, questions have been raised over its potential for abuse in what is known as "parallel construction," a process in which agencies use surveillance resources in domestic investigations, and then later cover it up by creating a different evidence trail to use in court.

    In any legitimate court this is known as perjury. Unfortunately, most US courts look the other way if it is law enforcement or government officials doing the lying.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is how it always plays out with law enforcement, once the Data is there, it'll get in the hands of everyday officers. Thankful they can be trusted not to abuse the system, because it is rife for abuse.

  • by jcrb (187104) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <brcj>> on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:04PM (#47752779) Homepage

    Oh sure they have a wonderful system for searching what they want to search and can't be troubled to search what they should be able to but don't want to..

    http://www.judicialwatch.org/p... [judicialwatch.org]
    "Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service told Judicial Watch on Friday that Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe. The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search. "

    The saying "Laws are for the little people" used to be funny, now, not so much.

    • by HiThere (15173)

      The saying "Laws are for the little people" used to be funny, now, not so much.

      Was only ever funny if you still had your eyes closed. OTOH, it *is* getting worse.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When it comes to subversion, it is more important to watch and monitor those in power, correct?

    So, the government should be doing this too all their own damn employees, aka preventing and monitoring people like Snowden and Co.

    So, I for one, call for the government Implant Program For Researching Eavesdropping on Employee Logistics for You, IPFREELY will revolutionize government because we the people will know which asswipe and asshole needs to have their butt kicked out of the government and put into prison

  • Parallel BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LessThanObvious (3671949) on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:13PM (#47752845)
    ( "Parallel Construction" = Lying = Prosecutorial Malfeasance = A Crime ) It makes my skin crawl knowing that these guys are so out of control that we have an official term for lying to the judge and defense counsel about the source of evidence. If the NSA hears about a delivery of 500 Kilos of drugs and they intercept it, I'm fine with that, but unless the actual source of the information is disclosed it should be a crime to fake the investigation process to get it into court. If they can't prosecute, oh well, seize the drugs and call it a win.
    • Re:Parallel BS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by redeIm (3779401) on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:17PM (#47752873) Homepage

      If the NSA hears about a delivery of 500 Kilos of drugs and they intercept it, I'm fine with that

      I'm not. The NSA should have nothing to do with drugs, and shouldn't be collecting all this 'metadata' on people in the first place.

    • by onproton (3434437)
      I think the most frightening thing about parallel construction is how few shits the officers appear to give about it (from the article). "But two senior DEA officials defended the program, and said trying to "recreate" an investigative trail is not only legal but a technique that is used almost daily." or "Parallel construction is a law enforcement technique we use every day," one official said. "It's decades old, a bedrock concept." - since when is my question.
  • admission of guilt? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ebonum (830686) on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:27PM (#47752949)

    The NSA is supposed to only collect information on foreigners. Right? So how could their DB be of any use to domestic law enforcement? Or perhaps I'm a little naive.

    • by onproton (3434437)
      There hasn't been much of an "admission" of anything from these agencies, let alone guilt or wrongdoing. The surveillance practices currently employed, as shown by documents leaked by Edward Snowden and others, take a "collect it all" kind of approach in which they assert that they must have the proverbial haystack before they can find the needle. In fact, data on innocents is far more abundant than even the data stored on targeted individuals [washingtonpost.com], and this includes many, many American citizens.
      • by symbolic (11752)

        Why do we accept this argument that they must have and abuse the haystack so that they can find the needle? It was discredited the day that it became known. Now what we have is a completely corruption of our justice system.

        • by onproton (3434437)
          My opinion? In short - because we as a society have completely lost touch with reality. Many either 1. don't care, 2. don't know, or 3. are complicit. The conversation is going on, but not everyone wants to get up off the couch to come to the table. It's a complex issue that requires more than 140 characters; it requires thought about consequences and compromise - I've found that not many people are really interested in thinking deeply about these things.
  • by Walter White (1573805) on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:39PM (#47753031)

    A "Google-like" search engine? Does that mean they are serving ads to the law enforcement agencies that use it?

    • by Nyder (754090)

      A "Google-like" search engine? Does that mean they are serving ads to the law enforcement agencies that use it?

      I don't know, but I wonder if they honor DMCA takedown requests....

  • We The People (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nyder (754090) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:02PM (#47753187) Journal

    We The People need to take our government back. Our leaders have failed us, our politicians have failed up. Time for them to be removed and place. The NSA needs to be removed and dismantled in it's current form.

    Our government is the terrorist problem, as it refuses to obey the constitution and puts corporations over the people.

    I am not saying we need to do this violently, but we have to do this, no matter how it goes down. Our government won't fix itself, it's up to WE THE PEOPLE.

  • What's with the first link? BS? The second link is about DEA. We all know DEA is chasing marijuana crime because the legislative branch needs to pass better pot sale laws. Do I think the DEA is tracking my political opinions? No. Could they with this software? Yeah. But let's fix the marijuana laws before we freak out and tell the government to stop tracking "crime".
  • And here we go ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:58PM (#47753445) Homepage

    When they start these things, they say "oh, this will only be used for this, under strict controls and nothing else".

    People who say that they'll eventually abuse it are dismissed as ridiculous, but then eventually since they have all of this information they might as well use it for something.

    And if they have to lie about how they did it to conceal what they have, so be it. Because, after, they're the good guys, right?

    This is a complete and utter undermining of the fourth amendment and the notion that a just government doesn't spy on you "just in case".

    The US has been transformed into a police state. Worse, they've helped turn the rest of the world into one too.

    Congratulations, America, you've pretty much killed off free societies around the world, and brought in your own special kind of fascism.

    Your spy agencies and law enforcement are truly living up to all of the scary imagery people have been decrying for years.

    Papers please, comrade. If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      People who say that they'll eventually abuse it are dismissed as ridiculous, but then eventually since they have all of this information they might as well use it for something.

      Whenever a controversial law is proposed, and its supporters, when confronted with an egregious abuse it would permit, use a phrase along the lines of 'Perhaps in theory, but the law would never be applied in that way' - they're lying. They intend to use the law that way as early and as often as possible.

      - Meringuoid's Law [slashdot.org], first

  • The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.

    SO the FBI, CIA, NSA, IRS, and DHS all work together to stop drug [wikipedia.org] trafficers [cfr.org]. There's a conspiracy theory if I ever saw one...

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