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posted by Woods on Monday April 28 2014, @07:56PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the john-nash-would-not-be-proud dept.

If you thought you were protecting your country, you may justifiably feel betrayed.

For the past 10 months, a major international scandal has engulfed some of the world's largest employers of mathematicians. These organizations stand accused of law-breaking on an industrial scale and are now the object of widespread outrage. How has the mathematics community responded? Largely by ignoring it.

Those employers-the U.S. National Security Agency and the U.K.'s Government Communications Headquarters-have been systematically monitoring as much of our lives as they can, including our emails, texts, phone and Skype calls, web browsing, bank transactions, and location data. They have tapped Internet trunk cables, bugged charities and political leaders, conducted economic espionage, hacked cloud servers, and disrupted lawful activist groups, all under the banner of national security. The goal, to quote former NSA director Keith Alexander, is to "collect all the signals, all the time."

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by lubricus on Monday April 28 2014, @08:05PM

    by lubricus (232) on Monday April 28 2014, @08:05PM (#37373)

    Why shouldn't I work for the N.S.A.? That's a tough one, but I'll take a shot. Say I'm working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, 'cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never met, never had no problem with, get killed. Now the politicians are sayin', "Oh, send in the Marines to secure the area" 'cause they don't give a shit. It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number got called, 'cause they were pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some kid from Southie takin' shrapnel in the ass. And he comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And, of course, the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them, but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And they're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back, of course, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and fuckin' play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy's out of work and he can't afford to drive, so he's got to walk to the fuckin' job interviews, which sucks 'cause the shrapnel in his ass is givin' him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he's starvin', 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat, the only blue plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure fuck it, while I'm at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president.

    --
    ... sorry about the typos
    • (Score: 2) by Sir Garlon on Monday April 28 2014, @08:10PM

      by Sir Garlon (1264) on Monday April 28 2014, @08:10PM (#37376)

      We have a very odd definition of "obligatory" around here. I have never seen it elsewhere used to say "here is a clever reference to something relevant from pop culture." :-) Well put.

      --
      [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
      • (Score: 2) by davester666 on Tuesday April 29 2014, @07:38AM

        by davester666 (155) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @07:38AM (#37549)

        why is this article only about mathematicians? there are a bunch of professions that the NSA depends on to do it's "work" that all pretty much have said and done little to actually stop it.

    • (Score: 2) by hatta on Monday April 28 2014, @09:25PM

      by hatta (879) on Monday April 28 2014, @09:25PM (#37401)

      Right, and this was obvious enough to be a monologue in a popular movie written by complete novices 17 years ago. How are there still people who don't believe the NSA are the bad guys?

    • (Score: 2) by bucc5062 on Monday April 28 2014, @11:52PM

      by bucc5062 (699) on Monday April 28 2014, @11:52PM (#37444)

      In a sad, sorry kind of way, I think you summed up the present (for some) reasonably well. The rest may take a little longer. My one beef, gas at 2.50? What year did you write this in? 2000?

      --
      The more things change, the more they look the same
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by dmc on Monday April 28 2014, @08:57PM

    by dmc (188) on Monday April 28 2014, @08:57PM (#37386)

    Not that I RTFA, but the summary seemed a bit pointless. Out of boredom I'll resummarize- "Snowden leaks revealed massive government corruption and selective enforcement of the law." Perhaps adding "10 months of aftermath of Snowden leaks demonstrate yet further the true scope of government corruption.". Or perhaps even further- "It's 2014, and people complaining about Obama devotees seem to have a terribly short memory about how unusual a non-white-male POTUS is". /boredom

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28 2014, @10:04PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28 2014, @10:04PM (#37413)

      Not sure I've seen anything ANYWHERE about "massive government corruption." Maybe "lots of things I don't like" or "lots of things that make me feel uneasy," but I don't see the corruption angle. The only thing I've seen was some "legal advisory panel" saying the surveillance is "probably" illegal, but that panel of five was split 3-2 on that as well. So many people keep talking about all this "obvious" stuff, but it never seems very obvious when you really start looking at it.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by dmc on Tuesday April 29 2014, @12:01AM

        by dmc (188) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @12:01AM (#37448)

        Not sure I've seen anything ANYWHERE about "massive government corruption."

        Well... it is sort of all in the realm paranoia and nuance. I.e. one can look at the history of slavery and then imagine it is hard to call current government "corruption" "massive" in the balance of history. Does one call the institution of slavery "corruption" because the supreme court justices interpreting parts of the constitution today as being valid for people regardless of skin-color?

        I truly hope that the arc of history bends toward justice, and future SCOTUS rulings interpret the constitution as meaning that recent instances of torture were instances of "massive government corruption" due to the nature of how, even those who aren't tortured, suffer damages from the lack of enforcement of anti-torture inalienable human rights laws.

        In general the lawlessness of the U.S. government in recent times seems to have really snowballed from the point at which the government first lied about torture for years, then continued to cover it up instead of transparently allowing the victims (all of us) to have due process of law, right to representation, right to confront our accusers, etc, etc. Have you heard about the Guantanomo Bay detention facility that for years has been colloquially reported on as a "legal black hole". When there are such naked legal singularities floating around in our political space, the very fabric of democracy suffers. Even if I have not personally been persecuted, the fact that the government persecutes others boxes me in. It removes various avenues of free choices that I might otherwise have made were I not in fear that the government might one day take it's justification for holding itself to be above and unnaccountable to the law to cover some aspect of my rights that, again, I hope some future SCOTUS rules that I had every right to take free of government persecution.

        I know I know, you aren't even reading this far, but if you want less lofty talk, and more specific examples- (After watching HBO's documentary "ghosts of abu ghraib", and Bill Moyer's excellent PBS documentary from the 80's titled "the secret government, the constitution in crisis)-

        check out this Snowden leaked document about the PRISM project.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Prism_slide_5.jp g [wikipedia.org]

        Personally I would call hack attacks that were 100% illegal under U.S. code against Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Youtube, Skype, AOL, and Apple spanning many years to be "massive government corruption". These programs violated the privacy of the users of those services, and have now also damaged those companies reputations (though rightfully so as even if there was no complicity, there was by definition a great deal of network-security incompetance).

        Or how about this story-

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp /2013/06/11/james-clapper-nsa-and-the-l-word/ [washingtonpost.com]

        I consider the fact that the NSA not only broke the law, but lied about it under oath, and remains that far above the law to be "massive government corruption".

        Now yes, I also happen to believe that these spying programs were also used for truly vast economic espionage. I also believe Google and most search engines do the same thing. I.e. I strongly suspect that many of these services have, through criminal intent, or technical incompetence, allowed the intellectual property of countless of their users to be absconded. I know you'll think I'm paranoid, but I do believe that Google and Microsoft are capable, and very likely to have stolen good ideas from their users that thought that their search terms or email contents could not be harvested in that way. I'm sure it's also a gray line where some of those ideas were so brilliant, one can imagine a borderline ethical defense that the NSA snoops felt they needed to abscond the ideas in the name of national security. But at the same time I'm sure the practice spilled out to outright indefensible massive government corruption. I believe constitutionally there is some concept about how if your government needs your cow bad enough, they can just take it from you, but they have to give you proper compensation. I strongly suspect that if we had the kind of system of justice idealized by our constitution, and everyone could truly know the secret ways they had been spied on, and how that information had been used, that the government would be massively liable for it's corruption. But we don't live in such a world. It's a dog eat dog world where the titans of silicon valley treated the engineers as serfs that they could own. These titans are not nice people. It's a brutal world out there. There are lots of organized criminal groups exploiting all the angles, all the time. Go back to Snowden's June 6th 2013 interview that started it all. Ask yourself if- absent massive government corruption- the history since then makes sense. Or ask yourself if the history since then makes more sense, in the presence of massive government corruption. Ask yourself if artistic history of the nation makes sense absent massive government corruption. Or if the popular movies we see make more sense in the presence of massive government corruption.

        Maybe I'm paranoid. Maybe time will tell. Or maybe, there is a different kind of explanation for the cultural context that led to, for instance, this piece of web-art that I made earlier this year-

        http://cloudsession.com/dmc/stuff/gallery/fb2k14fi jaw/ [cloudsession.com]

      • (Score: 2) by dmc on Tuesday April 29 2014, @01:36AM

        by dmc (188) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @01:36AM (#37462)

        Not sure I've seen anything ANYWHERE about "massive government corruption."

        Oh, and I forgot to mention the financial crisis and stimulous a few years back, as well as stories of billions of dollars of *cash* unnaccounted for during W's iteration of the Iraq war. I'm pretty sure you can netsearch and find firsthound accounts of "football sized bricks of hundred dollar bills" being tossed around in Iraq. And *Billions* of dollars that literally disappeared unaccounted.

        Now, in the modern historical context of the NSA spying revelations, ask yourself if the above evidence of simple money inspired corruption, makes more or less sense in the presence or absence of "massive government corruption".

        The NSA's modern wet-dream of spying infrastructure would be a lot more defensible if, for instance, it could have noticed and prevented the *MMMMMMMassive* corruption that led to the 'mortgage bubble melt down'. Does anyone really believe that inner circle party members did not use that spying infrastructure to get away with their share of that booty? Really?