iters for the National Security Agency (NSA), which has been facing scrutiny after documents leaked by Edward Snowden exposed that it spies on the entire world, recently visited a language program at the University of Wisconsin.It didn’t go well for them.
Madiha Tahir, a journalist enrolled in the language program, live-tweeted the presentation and then wrote a blog post detailing how she and other students called out the two recruiters over their flippant characterizations NSA snooping — e.g. “the globe is our playground” — and the implications of its vast spying apparatus.
Tahir challenged the recruiters’ use of the term “adversary” (i.e. enemy) to describe any target of surveillance when Der Spiegel reported that Germany, a close U.S. ally, plays “a central role in the NSA’s global surveillance network” and the rest of Europe (sans the UK) is surveilled.
The male recruiter’s answer stands out: “So for us, umm, our business is apolitical. OK. We do not generate the intelligence requirements. They are levied on us … Whether that’s an adversary in a global war on terrorism sense or adversary in terms of national security interests or whatever – that’s for policymakers, I guess, to make that determination. We respond to the requirements we are given …”
The answer implies that policymakers decide who NSA analysts tap and what kind of information is acquired.
That jibes with the claim made by NSA whistleblower Russ Tice that the he saw NSA orders to tap the phone of then-Senator Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Senators John McCain and Diane Feinstein, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, Gen. David Petraeus, and a current Supreme Court Justice.
At one point Tahir said (emphasis ours): “Right. So adversary can be anyone.”
The male recruiter answered: “As long as they levy their requirement on us through the right vehicle that exists for this and that it is defined in terms of a foreign intelligence requirement …”
The answer implies that if a person or entity is “defined in terms of a foreign intelligence requirement,” then that person or entity can be spied on by the NSA.
That premise is downright chilling to the privacy of non-Americans and disturbing to the privacy of Americans since their communications are routinely scooped up in the process of “foreign intelligence collection.”
It’s also the reason why the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a constitutional challenge in response to Glenn Greenwald’s report in the Guardian detailing how the NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily.
The constitutional question was broached in July when a secret court found that NSA domestic spying has violated the Fourth Amendment‘s restriction against unreasonable searches and seizures “on at least one occasion.”
Other students also voiced displeasure with the pitch. This student’s comment/question about the NSA presentation is simply amazing (emphasis ours):
Student A (female): “I have a lifestyle question that you seem to be selling. It sounds more like a colonial expedition. You know the ‘globe is our playground’ is the words you used, the phrasing that you used and you seem to be saying that you can do your work. You can analyse said documents for your so-called customers but then you can go and get drunk and dress up and have fun without thinking of the repercussions of the info you’re analysing has on the rest of the world. I also want to know what are the qualifications that one needs to become a whistleblower because that sounds like a much more interesting job. And I think the Edward Snowdens and the Bradley Mannings and Julian Assanges of the world will prevail ultimately.”
Tahir followed up the student’s question with this:
“The question here is do you actually think about the ramifications of the work that you do, which is deeply problematic, or do you just dress up in costumes and get drunk?”
Here’s the audio:
Score a few privacy points for the Badgers.
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