[Cryptography] An NSA mathematician shares his from-the-trenches view of the agency's surveillance activities

ianG iang at iang.org
Wed Sep 18 03:16:30 EDT 2013

On 18/09/13 00:56 AM, John Gilmore wrote:
> Forwarded-By: David Farber <dave at farber.net>
> Forwarded-By: "Annie I. Anton Ph.D." <aianton at mindspring.com>
> http://www.zdnet.com/nsa-cryptanalyst-we-too-are-americans-7000020689/
> NSA cryptanalyst: We, too, are Americans

Speaking as a non-American, you guys have big problems concerning the 
nexus of cryptography and politics.

> The rest of this article contains Roger's words only, edited simply for formatting.

I really, really doubt that.  I don't really wish to attack the author, 
but the style and phraseology is pure PR.  Ordinary people do not write 
PR.  Nor do they lay out political strategies and refer to their 
commander-in-chief as the supreme leader.  Nor indeed are employees of 
military and intelligence *permitted to talk to the press* unless 
sanctioned at high level.

> ...  Do I, as an American, have any concerns about whether the NSA is 
illegally or surreptitiously targeting or tracking the communications of 
other Americans?
> The answer is emphatically, "No."

Of course, Americans talking to Americans might be one debate.  But then 
there are Americans talking to the world, and people talking to people.

It should be remembered that espionage is illegal, and the activities of 
the NSA are more or less illegal *outside their borders*.  I give them 
no permission to monitor me or mine, and nor does any of the laws of my 

The fact that we cannot stop them doesn't make it any less legal.  The 
fact that there is a gentleman's agreement between countries to look the 
other way doesn't make it any less palatable to us non-gentlepersons 
excluded from the corridors of powers.

And all that doesn't make NSA mathematicians any less a partner to the 
activity.  Any intelligence agent is typically controlled and often 
banned from overseas travel, because of the ramifications of this activity.


> A myth that truly bewilders me is the notion that the NSA could or would spend time looking into the communications of ordinary Americans....
> There's no doubt about it: We all live in a new world of Big Data.

In two paras above, and the next two paras below, this 'mathematician' 
lays the political trap for Americans.  The collection by the federal 
government of data is almost certainly unconstitutional.  Yet, everyone 
acts as if that's ok because ... we live in the new world of Big Data?

> Much of the focus of the public debate thus far has been on the amount of data that NSA has access to, which I feel misses the critical point.

Unless one subscribes to the plain wording of your (American) 

> In today's digital society, the Big Data genie is out of the bottle. Every day, more personal data become available to individuals, corporations, and the government. What matters are the rules that govern how NSA uses this data, and the multiple oversight and compliance efforts that keep us consistent with those rules. I have not only seen but also experienced firsthand, on a daily basis, that these rules and the oversight and compliance practices are stringent. And they work to protect the privacy rights of all Americans.

ditto, repeat.

Although, to be honest, we-the-world don't care about it;  the USG's 
temptation to rewrite the constitution in the minds of its subjects is 
strictly a domestic political affair.  For most other countries, the Big 
Data genie is truly out of the bottle, and there's precious little we 
can do about it.

> As this national dialogue continues, I look to the American people to reach a consensus on the desired scope of U.S. intelligence activities....

Good luck!

> .... The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Security Agency/Central Security Service.

I seriously doubt that.


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