Who’s Your Buddy? NSA Gathering Hundreds of Millions of Contact Lists and “Buddy Lists” From Americans

President_Barack_Obama200px-national_security_agencysvgThe Obama Administration — with the clear support of Democratic and Republic leadership — has continued to eviscerate privacy in the United States despite recent controversies over NSA spying on Americans. The most recent report details how the National Security Agency is collecting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging accounts, including those of Americans. The reported collection program is a new operation that intercepts e-mail address books and “buddy lists” from instant messaging services. It is the latest effort by the Obama Administration to turn this into a fishbowl society where citizens and their associations are entirely transparent to the government. Once again, the most amazing aspect of this story is the complete lack of response or outcry. President Obama has succeeded, it seems, in changing the expectations of privacy in our society — a change that is unlikely to be reversed to the great detriment of civil liberties in America. It is the latest example of why it is increasingly curious for Americans to refer to this country as “the land of the free” as we construct a massive internal security state and unchecked executive powers.


The report states that the NSA is gathering contact lists in large numbers that amount to a sizable fraction of the world’s e-mail and instant messaging accounts. In single day last year, the NSA’s Special Source Operations branch has reportedly collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers. This includes a daily collection of an estimated 500,000 buddy lists on live-chat services as well as from the “in-box” displays of Web-based e-mail accounts. That would translate to a staggering collection rate of more than 250 million per year.

These programs are creating a government databank system that allows the government to observe and track virtually every contract and association of a person’s life. It is the total awareness system that we thought we had killed under Bush. Of course, it is now Barack Obama creating this security state so Democrats are not just silent but supportive of the effort. He will of course leave office at some point and leave this security system as his legacy. He will be able to claim (if he was willing to admit it) that he left this country less free than he found it. And Democrats will have secured a place of unrivaled hypocrisy if they try to later oppose the same powers in a Republican president.

Source: Washington Post

106 thoughts on “Who’s Your Buddy? NSA Gathering Hundreds of Millions of Contact Lists and “Buddy Lists” From Americans”

  1. On the Prospect of Blackmail by the NSA

    By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:47am, 10/15/13

    https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security-technology-and-liberty/prospect-blackmail-nsa

    Excerpt:

    “Even in 1945, a month after taking office, President Truman wrote of Hoover’s FBI, “We want no Gestapo or Secret Police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex life scandals and plain blackmail.” Two years later he observed, “all Congressmen and Senators are afraid of him.”

    It wasn’t just the FBI. In the 1970s, for example, the “intelligence” division of the Chicago Police Department similarly engaged in widespread institutionalized blackmail efforts. “A principal tactic of this operation was the dissemination of file material for the purpose of doing damage to targets held in disfavor,” writes Frank Donner in his chronicle of Cold War-era police repression, Protectors of Privilege. To take just one example: the police carried out intensive surveillance of the personal life of the director of the Community Renewal Society (CRS), a do-good religious organization aimed at improving inner-city life—as well as hundreds of others involved with the group. The reason? Because the organization had “views and goals diametrically opposed to those of the administration of this city.” A columnist quoted an unnamed insider as saying about one target, “They wanted to see if they could get something on him that was dirty… something out of his personal life that would be used to discredit him…. There wasn’t a move he made that they didn’t know about.” Documents later revealed that at least some of these investigations were ordered directly by the mayor’s office.

    When a coalition of civic, religious, and community groups in Chicago called the AER started a campaign to uncover and litigate against these practices, police fought back. As Donner writes, Chicago’s police superintendent, testifying in 1978, issued a cry that sounds all-too-familiar to our ears today:

    the superintendent charged that the lawsuit had rendered the Chicago Police Department “virtually helpless to protect the city from terrorist activity.” In fact, at the time the charges were made, the [Chicago Police Department’s] generously funded intelligence division was operating eight intelligence squads, including one specializing in terrorism.

    Although Chicago under Mayor William Daley was the worst, Donner shows that these kinds of abuses by “intelligence units” were widespread during the Cold War (and before that, during the labor battles of the early 20th century).

    If we allow the NSA to retain the powers it wants, it’s not at all crazy to worry about how those powers could be used now or in the future to grab even more frightening power through blackmail of ostensible overseers. And it doesn’t require crude, explicit blackmail to affect behavior and confer power through personal information; even the vaguest threat or intimation of eavesdropping and exposure can introduce substantial chilling effects, even on those who may think they have “nothing to hide.”

    In many ways such fears, although often unspoken, lie at the core of what so many people find objectionable about allowing government agencies such vast eavesdropping powers. The understanding that personal information about people can confer leverage over those people is at the heart of the privacy issue.

    And again, even in the absence of any actual malfeasance, suspicion of such is itself a problem.

    If there’s a silver lining to this, it’s the fact that (as I wrote about here) when it comes to privacy, good policy often emerges only when politicians and other policymakers start to feel personally threatened by its violation. Maybe as members of Congress and others start to live their lives under the cloud of (even theoretically possible) NSA surveillance, will we see the strong response that is needed.”

  2. randyjet,

    I am very sorry to hear that the ACLU would ban contrary posts by you. I think that is wrong. I also believe it is wrong for the USG to censor posts.

    You have a strange idea of what is fair. What is fair is for your posts to be accepted on the ACLU site and my posts to be accepted on this site.

    From what you are saying, you would like revenge and lack of free speech. I hope that is not your actual positition.

    1. Jill, I am all for free speech for all It is a little ironic that an organization dedicated to this does not practice it.

  3. Let’s try again on this one.

    “Even in 1945, a month after taking office, President Truman wrote of Hoover’s FBI, “We want no Gestapo or Secret Police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex life scandals and plain blackmail.” Two years later he observed, “all Congressmen and Senators are afraid of him.”

    It wasn’t just the FBI. In the 1970s, for example, the “intelligence” division of the Chicago Police Department similarly engaged in widespread institutionalized blackmail efforts. “A principal tactic of this operation was the dissemination of file material for the purpose of doing damage to targets held in disfavor,” writes Frank Donner in his chronicle of Cold War-era police repression, Protectors of Privilege. To take just one example: the police carried out intensive surveillance of the personal life of the director of the Community Renewal Society (CRS), a do-good religious organization aimed at improving inner-city life—as well as hundreds of others involved with the group. The reason? Because the organization had “views and goals diametrically opposed to those of the administration of this city.” A columnist quoted an unnamed insider as saying about one target, “They wanted to see if they could get something on him that was dirty… something out of his personal life that would be used to discredit him…. There wasn’t a move he made that they didn’t know about.” Documents later revealed that at least some of these investigations were ordered directly by the mayor’s office.

    When a coalition of civic, religious, and community groups in Chicago called the AER started a campaign to uncover and litigate against these practices, police fought back. As Donner writes, Chicago’s police superintendent, testifying in 1978, issued a cry that sounds all-too-familiar to our ears today:

    the superintendent charged that the lawsuit had rendered the Chicago Police Department “virtually helpless to protect the city from terrorist activity.” In fact, at the time the charges were made, the [Chicago Police Department’s] generously funded intelligence division was operating eight intelligence squads, including one specializing in terrorism.” from Jay Stanley’s blog at ACLU.

    James Risen has been ruled against. Here’s what a police state looks like: A “government” which rules by crisis. A people easily whipped up to believe propaganda, unable to see reality for being confused. Austerity, poverty, enemies external and internal, constant war, mass spying on the people. That is everything we have now.

  4. I can’t post a comment which contains information from the ACLU. I’ve tried twice, didn’t put in any link to make it get thrown out. It’s not a long comment. There are no banned words in it, just banned ideas.

    1. I think that is only fair since the ACLU bans any posts that are contrary to their positions, and they do not allow free discussion of the policies dictated by the national office. I tried to answer some of their positions on their web site and was told that I would not be allowed to post.

      I used to be a member of the ACLU, but I left because of its undemocratic nature and its top down dictatorship.

  5. “Even in 1945, a month after taking office, President Truman wrote of Hoover’s FBI, “We want no Gestapo or Secret Police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex life scandals and plain blackmail.” Two years later he observed, “all Congressmen and Senators are afraid of him.”

    It wasn’t just the FBI. In the 1970s, for example, the “intelligence” division of the Chicago Police Department similarly engaged in widespread institutionalized blackmail efforts. “A principal tactic of this operation was the dissemination of file material for the purpose of doing damage to targets held in disfavor,” writes Frank Donner in his chronicle of Cold War-era police repression, Protectors of Privilege. To take just one example: the police carried out intensive surveillance of the personal life of the director of the Community Renewal Society (CRS), a do-good religious organization aimed at improving inner-city life—as well as hundreds of others involved with the group. The reason? Because the organization had “views and goals diametrically opposed to those of the administration of this city.” A columnist quoted an unnamed insider as saying about one target, “They wanted to see if they could get something on him that was dirty… something out of his personal life that would be used to discredit him…. There wasn’t a move he made that they didn’t know about.” Documents later revealed that at least some of these investigations were ordered directly by the mayor’s office.

    When a coalition of civic, religious, and community groups in Chicago called the AER started a campaign to uncover and litigate against these practices, police fought back. As Donner writes, Chicago’s police superintendent, testifying in 1978, issued a cry that sounds all-too-familiar to our ears today:

    the superintendent charged that the lawsuit had rendered the Chicago Police Department “virtually helpless to protect the city from terrorist activity.” In fact, at the time the charges were made, the [Chicago Police Department’s] generously funded intelligence division was operating eight intelligence squads, including one specializing in terrorism.” from Jay Stanley’s blog at ACLU.

    James Risen has been ruled against. Here’s what a police state looks like: A “government” which rules by crisis. A people easily whipped up to believe propaganda, unable to see reality for being confused. Austerity, poverty, enemies external and internal, constant war, mass spying on the people. That is everything we have now.

  6. LeeJ,

    I’d love to agree with you totally…. But when you expand the laws when congress has set limits….. Who is at fault…. Congress or the executive….. I think the executive…. But hey…. They should just abolish all of these stupid intrusions….

  7. It is on them all, Youcan try to make this just about the president but there are 2 parties and 2 houses in congress. Why have they not stepped up.
    Is this the magician (the government, congress/president) distracting us while they further intrude into our private lives and business?

  8. Even if you wanted to “do something,” the govt does not currently function, and hasn’t for some time. How do you get it to respond to the “having done something?”

    What is sickening is at least 50 U.S. Attorneys have had access to this information, to say nothing of torture and the ultra vires powers asserted by the President.

    They are all cowards today. But tomorrow is not yet written. Start seating grand juries and watch tunes change.

  9. Exactly where did Bush’s policy stop and Obamas start? I don’t see a distinction….. Heck, he’s even expanded the Special Ops to historic levels… Exceeding Bush…. As well as tripled the national debt…..or is that crippled….

  10. I am astonished at the ignorance and ashamed at the stupidity of so many of my fellow Americans. There is such a thing as a right to privacy. The invasion of the right of privacy is a crime. As if the government spying & data collection programs are not outrageous enough, now comes an even more intrusive and diabolical device. The Obamacare application forces applicants to volunteer sensitive personal information that the government would have no other way to collect. Under Obamacare, citizens are being forced to disrobe for the government before being allowed to be examined by a physician.

  11. Be the Judge… Who’s winning the argument with the People vs. the MIC?

    Pt 1
    A debate on impeaching Bush w/ Obama advisor-1/4

  12. It’s unbelievable and even more unfortunate that there are still people out here clinging to the notion that barry sotero is going to save them. I have to say of all the atrocities the elites have committed against the people their putting him in the devil house is the best of all their terror attacks no one is yelling, screaming, kicking up dust about anything barry does. had it been clinton, bush ,mccain or romney ww4 would be going on right now. And its the apologists like randyjet who are alright with this happening. because thus far as they know it hasnt affected them or anyone close to them YET! so for the apologists here’s what REAL SECURITY EXPERTS SAY!!!!

    Independent security experts have long suspected that the NSA has been introducing weaknesses into security standards, a fact confirmed for the first time by another secret document. It shows the agency worked covertly to get its own version of a draft security standard issued by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology approved for worldwide use in 2006.

    “Eventually, NSA became the sole editor,” the document states.

    The NSA’s codeword for its decryption program, Bullrun, is taken from a major battle of the American civil war. Its British counterpart, Edgehill, is named after the first major engagement of the English civil war, more than 200 years earlier.

    A classification guide for NSA employees and contractors on Bullrun outlines in broad terms its goals.

    “Project Bullrun deals with NSA’s abilities to defeat the encryption used in specific network communication technologies. Bullrun involves multiple sources, all of which are extremely sensitive.” The document reveals that the agency has capabilities against widely used online protocols, such as HTTPS, voice-over-IP and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), used to protect online shopping and banking.

    The document also shows that the NSA’s Commercial Solutions Center, ostensibly the body through which technology companies can have their security products assessed and presented to prospective government buyers, has another, more clandestine role.

    It is used by the NSA to “to leverage sensitive, co-operative relationships with specific industry partners” to insert vulnerabilities into security products. Operatives were warned that this information must be kept top secret “at a minimum”.

    A more general NSA classification guide reveals more detail on the agency’s deep partnerships with industry, and its ability to modify products. It cautions analysts that two facts must remain top secret: that NSA makes modifications to commercial encryption software and devices “to make them exploitable”, and that NSA “obtains cryptographic details of commercial cryptographic information security systems through industry relationships”.

    It is used by the NSA to “to leverage sensitive, co-operative relationships with specific industry partners” to insert vulnerabilities into security products. Operatives were warned that this information must be kept top secret “at a minimum”.

    A more general NSA classification guide reveals more detail on the agency’s deep partnerships with industry, and its ability to modify products. It cautions analysts that two facts must remain top secret: that NSA makes modifications to commercial encryption software and devices “to make them exploitable”, and that NSA “obtains cryptographic details of commercial cryptographic information security systems through industry relationships”.

    http://www.atrueott.com/

  13. Anon Posted,

    I read that about Greenwald also. We have few places for an authentic voice of truth in the US. I really look forward to seeing a press which stops being the transmission belt of this and other powerful govts./corporations.

    People in the US, left and right, are woefully uninformed because we do not have a free press. Let’s hope we’ll have one now!

  14. Also OT:

    Greenwald wants to return to US, but not yet

    By Robert Mahoney/CPJ Deputy Director (Committee to Protect Journalism)

    http://www.cpj.org/blog/2013/10/greenwald-wants-to-return-to-us-but-not-yet.php

    Excerpt:

    Greenwald says he has more revelations from Snowden, who ended up with temporary asylum in Russia after leaving Hong Kong–where he first went public with a trove of documents about NSA snooping on private citizens both inside and outside the U.S.

    He is careful not disclose just what further exclusives on surveillance he might be preparing, but when asked if he has more material he answers: “Oh, yeah. Lots.” And he intends to use it.

    He says he is in “almost daily” contact with Snowden. “We speak through encrypted chat technologies.”

    Obviously Greenwald would not go into detail about his contacts with the former NSA contractor but he feels comfortable that his communications are “reasonably secure.”

    “It helps having NSA documents that discuss what they are able to do and what they are not able to do…so that you can use the things they are not able to do,” he said.

    All the same, Greenwald is cautious and convinced that he and those around him are under surveillance.

    He also believes the Obama administration’s vigorous pursuit of whistleblowers and leakers has chilled journalism and highlighted “the massive gap between the rhetoric of the United States and the reality of the United States when it comes to press freedoms.”

    The U.S. is not Greenwald’s only problem. He believes he dare not set foot in Britain either.

    “The U.K. is literally a country that doesn’t have any pretense of constitutional protections for a free press They have already said there is an ongoing criminal investigation and they have already detained my partner…the chances are quite good [that] my going to the U.K. will result in my detention if not arrest.”

    Canada and Australia are not on his must-visit list either. “And I would probably think twice about visiting certain EU states that are particularly subservient to the United States as well.”

    Despite all this, Greenwald still wants to go home: “I absolutely intend to return to the United States. I refuse to be exiled or excluded from my own country because of doing journalism. I was a constitutional lawyer, I take the constitution seriously, I believe in the First Amendment and I intend to insist upon its protections. I just want some greater sense of what the risks are and what the situation is before I do it.”

  15. OT:

    Glenn G. is leaving the Guardian.

    http://ggsidedocs.blogspot.com.br/2013/10/my-statement-and-guardians.html

    Oct
    15

    Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian’s statements

    Statement of Glenn Greenwald:

    “My partnership with the Guardian has been extremely fruitful and fulfilling: I have high regard for the editors and journalists with whom I worked and am incredibly proud of what we achieved.

    “The decision to leave was not an easy one, but I was presented with a once-in-a-career dream journalistic opportunity that no journalist could possibly decline.

    “Because this news leaked before we were prepared to announce it, I’m not yet able to provide any details of this momentous new venture, but it will be unveiled very shortly;”

    Statement of the Guardian’s Jennifer Lindauer:

    “Glenn Greenwald is a remarkable journalist and it has been fantastic working with him. Our work together over the last year has demonstrated the crucial role that responsible investigative journalism can play in holding those in power to account. We are of course disappointed by Glenn’s decision to move on, but can appreciate the attraction of the new role he has been offered. We wish him all the best.”

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