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Comment Correct. Including the US government. (Score 3, Insightful) 36

And two former DIRNSAs agree.

So does ADM Rogers -- except that every interpretation of various US officials' arguments on encryption wildly conflate multiple issues (such as domestic law enforcement, which can and does sometimes have a foreign intelligence connection, and foreign signals intelligence purposes), or utterly misunderstand the purpose, function, and targets of foreign intelligence.

Yes, I know you (not OP, the "royal you") think you know it all, because you have taken things you think of as "proof" utterly out-of-context with zero understanding about things like foreign SIGINT actually works, and have seen 3-4 unrelated pieces of a 1000 piece puzzle, with some of those pieces actually parts of different puzzles, and believe you have the full picture.

People continually and willfully seem to want to forget or ignore that actual, no-shit foreign intelligence targets also -- gasp! -- use things like iPhones, Gmail, Hotmail, WhatsApp, and so on. And, when foreign intelligence targets use these modes of communication, amazingly, we actually want to target them.

If you're an American (or frankly, any innocent person) anywhere in the world who isn't an active member of a foreign terrorist organization or an agent of a foreign power, the Intelligence Community DOES NOT CARE ABOUT and actually DOES NOT WANT your data. Sounds crazy and bizarre for foreign intelligence agencies to care about things like foreign intelligence, I know, but it's true. Weird!

I guess it's easier to believe that functioning democracies* all are constantly looking for ways to illegally spy on their own citizens who have done nothing wrong, rather than to believe that intelligence work in the digital age where the only distinction is no longer the physical location or even the technology used, but simply the target -- the person at the other end, is actually extremely complicated, and not fun.

* If you don't think the Western liberal democracies of the world are worth a shit, or laugh at the term "functioning democracies" when used in reference to the US, warts and all, that simply means you have lost all perspective of reality, and are part of the problem. And it will be to our peril, because there actually are governments in the world who do spy on their own citizens, and wherein the people don't have anywhere NEAR the level of freedoms we have, no matter how terrible you think we are. And guess what? It's our national security and intelligence apparatus that we use to defend ourselves. If you're now so jaded that you don't actually believe the US and its allies, and their principles, are something worth defending and fighting for, then everything I have said here means nothing to you anyway. Just be advised that your perception of history and reality is fatally skewed.

Comment Re:No one ever thought it was an actual bomb (Score 1) 662

None of which required that he be handcuffed, fingerprinted, suspended... etc... etc...

The police were called, and they are compelled and required to investigate once called. They don't just show up and say, "Eh, whatever," and leave. I don't think they police should have been called at all, but they were. And during the course of their investigation, they choose to transport him for questioning, and handcuffs are, rightly or wrongly, standard procedure nearly any time anyone is detained or transported for any reason, even if they didn't do anything wrong.

The issue isn't whether they thought it was a bomb or not - the issue is their overreaction and it's racist overtones.

The issue is exactly that. Even if race or religion was on the mind of one or more of the people involved, you can't know that. People are using the fact this happened to him and "wouldn't happen if he was white" as proof that it has to be racism. But white kids are arrested and suspended for similarly innocent, or even more innocent, things all the time. That fact alone dismantles the position that "because this happened, it must have had a racial element." It MAY indeed have had a racial element, but the facts of the situation aren't what demonstrates that. That would be only in peoples' minds.

(As for one of the cops ALLEGEDLY saying "it's who I thought it would be", we have no way of knowing 1. whether that was even actually said, or 2. IF it was said, whether it referred to Ahmed personally (i.e., did he have any brushes before because of his interests), or because he was "brown" and Muslim -- the conclusion that everyone who desperately wants to attribute this to racism wants to rush to. And, on that point, if that was the motivation, wouldn't that cop have already felt that upon seeing his name was "Ahmed Mohamed", instead of making an allegedly racist remark right to his face, and only upon seeing him? In short, that allegation doesn't stand up to scrutiny as definitive proof that there was anything racial involved on the part of police in this case, either.)

I am ignoring the rest of your fallacious attacks that don't speak to the facts of the situation, which I have shown that you have ignored. You're the corrosive one, here, because you have already decided that this simply must be racism when the facts and evidence don't support that conclusion, and ignore all other considerations.

Comment No one ever thought it was an actual bomb (Score 4, Informative) 662

TL;DR: No one ever thought it was an actual bomb.

Long version:

Since no one ever actually thought it was a bomb, the fact that the school and police took no action as if it were a bomb does not somehow "prove" it's racism and/or Islamophobia. That isn't to say one or more of the people involved had something in that vein in their minds, but their lack of treating it as a bomb doesn't demonstrate it, since numerous accounts of this story indicate the school and police never thought it was an actual bomb.

Some people thought it "looked like" a bomb, and wondered why he would bring it to school, because they don't understand why kids who like things like science and electronics do what they do.

And there are laws dealing with what are called "hoax devices". Many people have gotten into trouble for such things before. Hoax device statutes have been around for many, many years, long before 9/11.

Here is the Texas statute:


The only thing that matters in the hoax device statute is intent â" a feature that is not unique. For example, intent matters when someone is killed. Was it an accident? Was it negligence? Was it premeditated? That is the difference between someone having done nothing wrong, and murder. And it is interviews and investigations and evidence that determine intent.

Even in the original Dallas Morning News article that broke this story â" before it went viral and Ahmed got invited to the White House, JPL, MIT, got scholarships, and become the hero of Silicon Valley â" the only thing the police officials said was that they knew it wasn't a bomb, that Ahmed never claimed it was anything but a clock, and that they were trying to determine WHY he built and AND brought it to school. Once it was determined there was no intent to alarm, scare, or deceive, it was further determined there was no wrongdoing.

Steve Wozniak got in trouble for using a hoax device (with intent to scare), and was arrested and spent a night in jail. I got in trouble with authority figures â" school, police â" for things similar to what Ahmed did several times, when doing nothing wrong. Maybe a little borderline, maybe a little, "What on earth are you doing?" but not illegal. And frankly, some of those came down only to intent as well.

So this little trope misunderstands what happened. Could racism or Islamophobia been an element in anyone's mind? There is no way to know, as much as people desperately want to come to that conclusion. When people say, "What white kid would have gotten in trouble for doing nothing wrong?"

Plenty. Ignore the title, read the article (for those who haven't already):

His English teacher overreacted by getting the principal's office involved. The school overreacted by calling the police. The school bears almost all of the responsibility here â" not "post-9/11 America", racism, or police. If the police had not been called, none of this would ever have happened â" and Ahmed wouldn't be a celebrity, either.

When police are called for a situation where any of the parties involved are not in perfect agreement, and there is no controversy, even if nothing illegal occurred, I would submit that there are not many times that results in a more positive outcome. The police are there, in part, to investigate and to determine if there was any wrongdoing, which they did. I wish they would have simply handled it at the school, but what I really wish is that the school would not have called the police in the first place.

Comment "Correct" Is Subjective (Score 4, Insightful) 154

Having worked my way up through every level, the biggest thing I've learned is "correct" is amassively subjective concept, based on value statements people at other levels don't see.

To take a deliberately simple case:

I would have declared a manager insane for buying Office365 licenses. After all, you can buy copies outright for less.

Except, as that manager, any savings I get are dwarfed by the pain in the ass of keeping licensing info. Some idiot loses the info and you're out far more than the difference when you have to re-buy. Or you don't re-buy and you're vulnerable to huge fines. Or you have someone dot every i and cross every t and you pay more for their salary than you save. Or Office365 keeps everyone licensed and demonstrably so.

Same goes for commenting.

Earlier in my career, commenting was slow. I could understand my code just fine without it. It was clearly readable after all. What idiot manager wants less productive code after I jumped through hoops?

Now I've paid the price of countless devs who write code no one else can follow. If watched countless more declare they have to rewrite everything because the previous guy who swore his code was readable wrote something the next guy swears is not. My perspective is completely different. I'd now rather each person codes a little slower so the company moves faster overall.

Who's right? Everyone has a good perspective but each is colored by the values that they weigh in.

I know my devs often think my calls are "wrong" because they assign different values to those I do... But I also know I've been put in the position exactly because I have the perspective I do. The best I can do is try to explain and help them understand, listening when they genuinely see something I've missed.

Comment My First Death (Score 1) 363

"The first cause of death for New York City children under 13"

How many deaths do children get in New York?

First cause of death: Traffic.
Second cause of death: Silver bullets.
Third cause of death: Staking.
Fourth cause of death: Beheading.
Fifth cause of death: Kill it with fire.
Sixth cause of death: Exorcism.
Seventh cause of death: Dream Warriors.

Comment No, they are categorically NOT doing that... (Score -1) 164

...and your comment represents the absolutely fundamental misunderstanding that pervades this discussion.

The truth no one wants to hear:

The distinction is no longer the technology or the place, but the person(s) using a capability: the target. In a free society based on the rule of law, it is not the technological capability to do a thing, but the law, that is paramount.

Gone are the days where the US targeted foreign communications on distant shores, or cracked codes used only by our enemies. No one would have questioned the legitimacy of the US and its allies breaking the German or Japanese codes or exploiting enemy communications equipment during WWII. The difference today is that US adversaries -- from terrorists to nation-states -- use many of the same systems, services, networks, operating systems, devices, software, hardware, cloud services, encryption standards, and so on, as Americans and much of the rest of the world. They use iPhones, Windows, Dell servers, Android tablets, Cisco routers, Netgear wireless access points, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Gmail, and so on.

US adversaries now often use the very same technologies we use. The fact that Americans or others also use them does not suddenly or magically mean that no element of the US Intelligence Community should ever target them. When a terrorist in Somalia is using Hotmail or an iPhone instead of a walkie-talkie, that cannot mean we pack our bags and go home. That means that, within clear and specific legal authorities and duly authorized statutory missions of the Intelligence Community, we aggressively pursue any and all possible avenues, within the law, that allow us to intercept and exploit the communications of foreign intelligence targets.

If they are using hand couriers, we target them. If they are using walkie-talkies, we target them. If they are using their own custom methods for protecting their communications, we target them. If they are using HF radios, VSATs, satellite phones, or smoke signals, we target them. If they are using Gmail, Windows, OS X, Facebook, iPhone, Android, SSL, web forums running on Amazon Web Services, etc., we target them -- within clear and specific legal frameworks that govern the way our intelligence agencies operate, including with regard to US Persons.

That doesn't mean it's always perfect; that doesn't mean things are not up for debate; that doesn't mean everyone will agree with every possible legal interpretation; that doesn't mean that some may not fundamentally disagree with the US approach to, e.g., counterterrorism. But the intelligence agencies do not make the rules, and while they may inform issues, they do not define national policy or priorities.

Without the authorities granted by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), the United States cannot target non-US Persons who are foreign intelligence targets if their communications enters, traverses, or otherwise touches the United States, a system within the United States, or, arguably, a system or network operated by a US corporation (i.e., a US Person) anywhere in the world. FAA in particular is almost exclusively focused on non-US Persons outside the US, who now exist in the same global web of digital communications as innocent Americans.

Without FAA, the very same Constitutional protections and warrant requirements reserved for US Persons would extend to foreign nations and foreign terrorists simply by using US networks and services â" whether intentionally or not. Without FAA, an individualized warrant would be required to collect on a foreign intelligence target using, say, Facebook, Gmail, or Yahoo!, or even exclusively foreign providers if their communications happens to enter the United States, as 70% of international internet traffic does. If you do not think there is a problem with this, there might be an even greater and more basic misunderstanding about how foreign SIGINT and cyber activities fundamentally must work.

If you believe NSA should not have these capabilities, what you are saying is that you do not believe the United States should be able to target foreign intelligence targets outside the United States who, by coincidence or by design, ever utilize or enter US systems and services. If you believe the solution is an individualized warrant every time the US wishes to target a foreign adversary using Gmail, then you are advocating the protection of foreign adversaries with the very same legal protections reserved for US citizens -- while turning foreign SIGINT, which is not and never has been subject to those restrictions, on its head.

These are the facts and realities of the situation. Any government capability is imperfect, and any government capability can be abused. But the United States is the only nation on earth which has jammed intelligence capabilities into as sophisticated and extensive a legal framework as we have. When the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress, multiple executive agencies under two diametrically opposite Presidential administrations, armies of lawyers within offices of general counsel and and inspectors general, and federal judges on the very court whose only purpose is to protect the rights of Americans under the law and the Constitution in the context of foreign intelligence collection are all in agreement, then you have the judgment of every mechanism of our free civil society.

Or we could just keep laying our intelligence sources, methods, techniques, and capabilities bare to our enemies.

âMany forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." - Winston Churchill (1874-1965), Speech in the House of Commons, November 11, 1947

"The necessity of procuring good Intelligence is apparent and need not be further urged â" all that remains for me to add, is, that you keep the whole matter as secret as possible. For upon Secrecy, Success depends in most Enterprises of the kind, and for want of it, they are generally defeated, however well planned and promising a favourable issue.â â" George Washington, our nation's first spymaster, in a letter to Colonel Elias Dayton, 26 July 1777

Comment The ultimate "man made earthquake" (Score 3, Interesting) 166

Russian analyst urges nuclear attack on Yellowstone National Park and San Andreas fault line

A Russian geopolitical analyst says the best way to attack the United States is to detonate nuclear weapons to trigger a supervolcano at Yellowstone National Park or along the San Andreas fault line on California's coast.

The president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems based in Moscow, Konstantin Sivkov said in an article for a Russian trade newspaper on Wednesday, VPK News, that Russia needed to increase its military weapons and strategies against the "West" which was "moving to the borders or Russia".

He has a conspiracy theory that NATO - a political and military alliance which counts the US, UK, Canada and many countries in western Europe as members - was amassing strength against Russia and the only way to combat that problem was to attack America's vulnerabilities to ensure a "complete destruction of the enemy".

"Geologists believe that the Yellowstone supervolcano could explode at any moment. There are signs of growing activity there. Therefore it suffices to push the relatively small, for example the impact of the munition megaton class to initiate an eruption. The consequences will be catastrophic for the United States - a country just disappears," he said.

"Another vulnerable area of the United States from the geophysical point of view, is the San Andreas fault - 1300 kilometers between the Pacific and North American plates ... a detonation of a nuclear weapon there can trigger catastrophic events like a coast-scale tsunami which can completely destroy the infrastructure of the United States."

Full story

Comment And why not? (Score 4, Insightful) 227

Considering that nuclear power is the safest form of power the world has ever known, I'd say it's worthy of recognition for offsetting carbon more than anything else. To borrow a phrase, "It's the energy density, stupid."

There's a reason why China has 30 nuclear plants under construction, while the US just approved its first new plant in 30 years.

Comment Re:Facts not in evidence (Score 1) 406

Your (and my, and any individual citizen's) personal interpretation of the Constitution is not the measure. It is the interpretation and implementation by our three branches of government. I realize that some reading this believe they have all been compromised, or that they think some particular thing is "obviously unconstitutional" (even though the judicial, legislative, and executive branches say otherwise), but the fact is we have the system of government we have. So how about you consider the alternative: one where you don't assume that everyone working at every/any level of government, e.g., NSA, doesn't have the worst motivations and is actually trying to do their best to honorably, legally, and Constitutionally, protect our nation and its people instead of the opposite. How about that?

Comment Re:Facts not in evidence (Score 1) 406

If you would actually like to have a discussion, I am more than happy to engage. I have articulated these views (not on this specific topic, of course) long before I ever served in uniform, and they have nothing to do with a "paycheck" -- in fact, it's the inverse: the reason I chose to serve is because of my personal desire to do what I can to support things I believe in, and believe are important for our nation and my family and fellow citizens, not the other way around. Yes, our system of government is imperfect...grossly so -- but I choose to support it over any and all alternatives, warts and all. (And that is not to say that there are not things that cannot be improved.)

And again -- and I sincerely mean this -- if you are actually serious about engaging in a dialogue, I am happy to.

Comment Re:Actually, ADM Rogers doesn't "want" that at all (Score 1, Flamebait) 406

Yes, where to even begin...

Do you realize that over 70% of FOREIGN internet traffic enters, traverses, or otherwise touches the US?

Do you understand that an individualized warrant is required to target, collect, store, analyze, or disseminate the communications content of a US Person anywhere on the globe, and that the current law on the issue is stronger and more restrictive with regard to US Persons than it has ever been?

Do you understand that the FOREIGN communications we are going after are now intermixed with the communications of the rest of the world, including that of Americans?

Do you understand that when terrorists use Gmail, Facebook, Yahoo, WhatsApp, Hotmail, Twitter, Skype, etc. etc. etc., or Windows, or Dell computers, or Android phones, or Cisco routers, and so on, that there is no technical distinction between your communications and theirs, yet -- surprise -- we still would like to access those communications, and have legal, policy, and technical frameworks to do so, even if you have not personally inspected them yourself?

If you are a US citizen, and not covered by any warrant, no one cares about your communications. And almost by definition, no foreign intelligence agency (NSA, CIA, DIA) remotely gives a shit about your communications, and would greatly prefer to avoid it altogether, unless you have some kind of connection with foreign intelligence targets -- in which case any collection or monitoring of your communications would require an individualized warrant from FISC or another court of competent jurisdiction. I realize you think this isn't the case, and that all of your communications are being mined and monitored (illegally, no less), and since proving a negative is impossible, I won't be able to help in that regard.

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"