Thursday, November 28, 2013

Latest Snowden leak: The NSA's plan to discredit 'radicalizers' with data on Internet porn use

A new leak of top-secret documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has emerged. In this case, it shows one of the tidbits of information that the NSA hoped to glean from its Internet surveillance: Late Wednesday night, the Huffington Post reported that the NSA has been gathering data regarding people's online sexual activity and visits to pornographic websites as part of a proposal to discredit "radicalizers."

The document, dated Oct. 3, 2012, identifies six "targets," all Muslims, as typical examples of how “personal vulnerabilities” can be gleaned through electronic surveillance, and then be used to erode a subject's reputation, authority, and credibility. The specific individuals were not named in the report, however, the report added that none of the six is accused in the document of being involved in terror plots. The NSA accused two of the targets, however, of promoting al Qaeda propaganda.

The Director of the National Security Agency -- described as "DIRNSA" -- is listed as the "originator" of the document. Beyond the NSA itself, the listed recipients include officials with the Departments of Justice and Commerce and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Ahead of the story's publication, Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for National Intelligence, told The Huffington Post in an email on Tuesday:
Without discussing specific individuals, it should not be surprising that the US Government uses all of the lawful tools at our disposal to impede the efforts of valid terrorist targets who seek to harm the nation and radicalize others to violence.
It is, of course, not the use of this information against specific and known radicalizers that causes alarm among ordinary civilians, but the possibility that John and Jane Q. Public may be affected. How low will you go, in other words. Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said
It's important to remember that the NSA’s surveillance activities are anything but narrowly focused -- the agency is collecting massive amounts of sensitive information about virtually everyone.

Wherever you are, the NSA's databases store information about your political views, your medical history, your intimate relationships and your activities online. The NSA says this personal information won't be abused, but these documents show that the NSA probably defines ''abuse'' very narrowly.
Stewart Baker, one-time general counsel for the NSA and one of the Bush administration's top Homeland Security officials, said that the idea of using potentially embarrassing information to discredit targets has some merit, and is perhaps more humane than bombing in target.

Baker analogized the practice as "dropping the truth" --- rather than a missile -- on them.
If people are engaged in trying to recruit folks to kill Americans and we can discredit them, we ought to. [While any system can be abused] On that ground you could question almost any tactic we use in a war, and at some point you have to say we're counting on our officials to know the difference.
The document does not indicate whether the NSA either carried out or was going to carry out its plan to discredit these six individuals. It also does not indicate if the NSA planned to expand the program.



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