President Obama finally took a sit-down interview on the National Security Agency scandal and we’ve pasted a partial transcript below. Disappointingly, most of it is (very) generic and defensive. But, there is one important takeaway: President Obama couldn’t answer whether oversight courts (FISA) have ever rejected a single NSA spying request.
PBS’s Charlie Rose asked, pointedly, “has FISA court turned down any request?”
The president appears to bumble through the answer, “The — because — the — first of all, Charlie, the number of requests are surprisingly small… number one. Number two, folks don’t go with a query unless they’ve got a pretty good suspicion.”
This is problematic, since leaker Edward Snowden has claimed that the FISA courts are essentially a “rubber stamp” for any NSA investigations. As a result, they routinely exploit legal and technical loopholes to spy on Americans with direct and indirect ties to foreign suspects.
The rest of the partial transcript shows Obama defending the program, claiming that it doesn’t permit broad spying on U.S. citizens, and touting his civil liberties record.
Transcript below (via BuzzFeed):
Barack Obama: Well, in the end, and what I’ve said, and I continue to believe, is that we don’t have to sacrifice our freedom in order to achieve security. That’s a false choice. That doesn’t mean that there are not tradeoffs involved in any given program, in any given action that we take. So all of us make a decision that we go through a whole bunch of security at airports, which when we were growing up that wasn’t the case…. And so that’s a tradeoff we make, the same way we make a tradeoff about drunk driving. We say, “Occasionally there are going to be checkpoints. They may be intrusive.” To say there’s a tradeoff doesn’t mean somehow that we’ve abandoned freedom. I don’t think anybody says we’re no longer free because we have checkpoints at airports.
Charlie Rose: But there is a balance here.
Barack Obama: But there is a balance, so I’m going to get to your — get to your question. The way I view it, my job is both to protect the American people and to protect the American way of life, which includes our privacy. And so every program that we engage in, what I’ve said is “Let’s examine and make sure that we’re making the right tradeoffs.” Now, with respect to the NSA, a government agency that has been in the intelligence gathering business for a very long time —
Charlie Rose: Bigger and better than everybody else.
Barack Obama: Bigger and better than everybody else, and we should take pride in that because they’re extraordinary professionals; they are dedicated to keeping the American people safe. What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your emails … and have not. They cannot and have not, by law and by rule, and unless they — and usually it wouldn’t be “they,” it’d be the FBI — go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause, the same way it’s always been, the same way when we were growing up and we were watching movies, you want to go set up a wiretap, you got to go to a judge, show probable cause….
So point number one, if you’re a U.S. person, then NSA is not listening to your phone calls and it’s not targeting your emails unless it’s getting an individualized court order. That’s the existing rule. There are two programs that were revealed by Mr. Snowden, allegedly, since there’s a criminal investigation taking place, and they caused all the ruckus. Program number one, called the 2015 Program, what that does is it gets data from the service providers like a Verizon in bulk, and basically you have call pairs. You have my telephone number connecting with your telephone number. There are no names. There is no content in that database. All it is, is the number pairs, when those calls took place, how long they took place. So that database is sitting there. Now, if the NSA through some other sources, maybe through the FBI, maybe through a tip that went to the CIA, maybe through the NYPD. Get a number that where there’s a reasonable, articulable suspicion that this might involve foreign terrorist activity related to Al-Qaeda and some other international terrorist actors. Then, what the NSA can do is it can query that database to see did any of the — did this number pop up? Did they make any other calls? And if they did, those calls will be spit out. A report will be produced. It will be turned over to the FBI. At no point is any content revealed because there’s no content that —
Charlie Rose: So I hear you saying, I have no problem with what NSA has been doing.
Barack Obama: Well, let me — let me finish, because I don’t. So, what happens is that the FBI — if, in fact, it now wants to get content; if, in fact, it wants to start tapping that phone — it’s got to go to the FISA court with probable cause and ask for a warrant.
Charlie Rose: But has FISA court turned down any request?
Barack Obama: The — because — the — first of all, Charlie, the number of requests are surprisingly small… number one. Number two, folks don’t go with a query unless they’ve got a pretty good suspicion.
Charlie Rose: Should this be transparent in some way?
Barack Obama: It is transparent. That’s why we set up the FISA court…. The whole point of my concern, before I was president — because some people say, “Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney.” Dick Cheney sometimes says, “Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.” My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances? So, on this telephone program, you’ve got a federal court with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program. And you’ve got Congress overseeing the program, not just the intelligence committee and not just the judiciary committee — but all of Congress had available to it before the last reauthorization exactly how this program works.
Now, one last point I want to make, because what you’ll hear is people say, “Okay, we have no evidence that it has been abused so far.” And they say, “Let’s even grant that Obama’s not abusing it, that all these processes — DOJ is examining it. It’s being renewed periodically, et cetera — the very fact that there is all this data in bulk, it has the enormous potential for abuse,” because they’ll say, you know, “You can — when you start looking at metadata, even if you don’t know the names, you can match it up, if there’s a call to an oncologist, and there’s a call to a lawyer, and — you can pair that up and figure out maybe this person’s dying, and they’re writing their will, and you can yield all this information.” All of that is true. Except for the fact that for the government, under the program right now, to do that, it would be illegal. We would not be allowed to do that.
Charlie Rose: So, what are you going to change? Are you going to issue any kind of instructions to the Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Clapper, and say, “I want you to change it at least in this way”?
Barack Obama: Here’s what we need to do. But before I say that — and I know that we’re running out of time, but I want to make sure I get very clear on this. Because there has been a lot of mis-information out there. There is a second program called the 702 program. And what that does is that does not apply to any U.S. person. Has to be a foreign entity. It can only be narrowly related to counter-terrorism, weapons proliferation, cyber hacking or attacks, and a select number of identifiers — phone numbers, emails, et cetera. Those — and the process has all been approved by the courts — you can send to providers — the Yahoos or the Googles, what have you. And in the same way that you present essentially a warrant. And what will happen then is that you there can obtain content. But again, that does not apply to U.S. persons. And it’s only in these very narrow bands. So, you asked, what should we do? …What I’ve said is — is that what is a legitimate concern — a legitimate critique — is that because these are classified programs — even though we have all these systems of checks and balances, Congress is overseeing it, federal courts are overseeing it — despite all that, the public may not fully know. And that can make the public kind of nervous, right? Because they say, “Well, Obama says it’s okay — or Congress says it’s okay. I don’t know who this judge is. I’m nervous about it.” What I’ve asked the intelligence community to do is see how much of this we can declassify without further compromising the program, number one. And they are in that process of doing so now so that everything that I’m describing to you today, people, the public, newspapers, etc., can look at because frankly, if people are making judgments just based on these slides that have been leaked, they’re not getting the complete story.
Number two. I’ve stood up a privacy and civil liberties oversight board, made up of independent citizens including some fierce civil libertarians. I’ll be meeting with them. And what I want to do is to set up and structure a national conversation, not only about these two programs, but also the general problem of data, big data sets, because this is not going to be restricted to government entities.
Charlie Rose: Let me just ask you this. If someone leaks all this information about NSA surveillance, as Mr. Snowden did…. Did it cause national security damage to the United States, and therefore, should he be prosecuted?
Barack Obama: I’m not going to comment on prosecution…. The case has been referred to the DOJ for criminal investigation… and possible extradition. I will leave it up to them to answer those questions.
Microsoft today announced it will be killing off support for linked accounts for Outlook.com in late July. The company will be moving users to aliases instead.
By definition, linked accounts meant having multiple accounts that were linked together. Aliases mean having multiple email addresses (for receiving and sending) connected to a single Microsoft account.
Microsoft’s reasoning for picking the latter over the former is that “a lot of things have changed since we introduced linked accounts” back in 2006. The main reason, however, is security.
Many people now want to have one Microsoft account to access all their devices and services (from Windows to Xbox to Office365 to Outlook.com), including email inboxes, calendars, people, files, gamer scores, and so on. Microsoft believes linked accounts are not only less robust, but also less secure than aliases since they let you sign into Outlook.com and then switch to any other linked account without entering a password:
We’ve found that quite often, people who use linked accounts keep their primary account’s security info (including password and proofs) up to date, but don’t lavish as much care on their secondary accounts. It’s easier for a malicious party to compromise one of those secondary accounts, which gives them full access to your primary account. Note that if we detect suspicious activity in your account, we automatically unlink accounts to try to help prevent this abuse, but we think we need to go further.
On the other hand, since aliases are tied to a single Microsoft account, they all have your latest and most up-to-date security information. Microsoft actually began the process of delinking linked accounts and encouraging people to move to aliases a couple of years ago.
There were issues, however, and the company is now adding two new features based on this feedback:
Mail forwarding – you can now forward all email from a secondary account to your primary. It’s easy to set up a folder structure to keep email as separate as you like.
Send email from another account – you can configure the secondary account as a “send-only” address. When combined with email forwarding, it means you can both receive and send email from that email address, all within your primary Microsoft account.
Microsoft also hints that it will soon let users “move an alias” – move the email address and email from one account to another. The company wouldn’t say when this will be available though, aside from “in the future.”
The axing of linked accounts should naturally only affect users who have more than one email address and want to manage them from Outlook.com. If you don’t use linked accounts, there’s nothing you need to do in advance of the change.
If you do use linked accounts, however, Microsoft is asking you to make sure each account has updated security information and that you know the password for each one. You should do this as soon as possible as the company says “it’s much easier to do this now while they’re still linked.”
To consolidate email, you can set up email forwarding, so you can read and write all your email from one account. Normally you have to sign in to an account every 365 days to keep it active, but Microsoft says formerly-linked accounts are exempt from this requirement so you don’t need to visit them regularly.
If that doesn’t float your boat, just set up an alias. As Microsoft emphasizes, you can use it to send and receive email, and even sign in.
See also – Microsoft integrates Skype into Outlook.com, starting in UK with full rollout in ‘coming months’ and Outlook.com now has 400m active accounts as Microsoft completes Hotmail migration, including 125m mobile users
Top Image Credit: ilco
Welcome to the Summer of 2013. Welcome to the summer when you’re not quite sure which of your Internet activities are being tracked. When you want to start Snapchatting everyone because at least then data “disappears.” Except when it doesn’t.
This is the summer when, despite the machinations being clearly reported last year and even over a decade ago, revelations of the NSA doing some sort of link and factor analysis, or at the very least metadata collection, on our Facebook and Google+ profiles has caused us to reach peak tech fear.
There have been foreshocks all Spring. The violent re-emergence of Valleywag; the unfortunate and erroneous abstraction of Sean Parker’s wedding, which, for all intents and purposes, should be a private event, into a symbol of Silicon Valley “excess”; the breathless coverage in alternative publications of our bacon-wrapped ways; and even The New Yorker weighing in, again and again.
Paul Krugman and others are predicting the techpocalypse, or Singularity, or both. If you run a tech blog, staff up. We all are, despite the biggest stories in our field now being broken by mainstream media.
Many argue that our corporate shuttles, inflated housing prices, social bubble, iPhones for day and for night, and the fact that we are reveling in replacing labor with capital — that all are worthy targets of mass resentment. The creation of a “resentocracy.“ In 2010, The Social Network topped the box office. In 2013, The Internship barely cracks the top four because of general Silicon Valley weariness and fatigue.
And then there’s that whole “aiding-the-government-in-aggregating-the-world’s-private-data-without-our-knowledge” thing. “Trust us.” Remember Enron? That’s now us.
The fallacy of the tech industry is that we think our “change the world/connect the world” intentions are enough, or at least that they should shield us from reproach, much like our gated communities of Ubers, Airbnbs, and TaskRabbits. We revel in our massive concentration of wealth, private-public transportation, private tech-heavy schools, and the underlying ideology that the government is stupid. We are exempt.
Well, except when the NSA asks for cooperation in programs that the companies we’ve founded should probably comply with – or else God knows what will happen the next time we get sued for antitrust violations.
Silicon Valley is suffering from an acute fallacy of composition: Just because it does some good doesn’t mean the whole is good. Tech isn’t above harming society. Just because change (i.e. Disruption) is inevitable doesn’t mean it’s always welcome.
Machine guns were innovation. They Disrupted muskets. They also Disrupted a lot of human bodies in World War II. Pharmaceuticals save lives. But they also let people numb emotional pain rather than face it, quiet their children rather than teach them. Social games can be seen as entertainment and relaxation. They can also be seen as dehumanizing thieves of our time and attention.
The tech sector is particularly ill-suited to address its own footprint, staving off its rich guilt with the misguided belief that it lives in a meritocracy. Hell, even the people who blog about it are rich.
Like the problem of technology replacing jobs, there is no solution to technology’s feigned innocence. As nerds and underdogs, we will always believe we have the best intentions. That doesn’t negate the problem: Even though we’re not Washington D.C., we are still an industry with absurd amounts of power, attention and money. And plenty of intentional and unintentional opportunities to abuse it.
You know, Spider-Man.
Here is the original post: Fear And Loathing OF Silicon Valley