It doesn’t really matter if the NSA gathers all the information from the big tech giants, because real terrorists, smart terrorists, the guys in management, they don’t use those platforms.
Only terrorism’s idiots do.
Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg writes:
The infrastructure set up by the National Security Agency, however, may only be good for gathering information on the stupidest, lowest-ranking of terrorists. The Prism surveillance program focuses on access to the servers of America’s largest Internet companies, which support such popular services as Skype, Gmail and iCloud. These are not the services that truly dangerous elements typically use.
A few weeks ago, National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked documents diagramming the existence of a program called PRISM.
Supposedly this program enabled the NSA to tap into the content of communications from the major tech giants — but only specific information and only if they had a court order, NSA officials later claimed.
Later, when Congress pressed for information and justification for such a program, NSA director Keith Alexander claimed they had stopped 50 terrorist acts, 10 of which were aimed at the U.S. Former vice president Dick Cheney raised the stakes, asserting PRISM could have stopped 9/11.
Dubious claims at best.
There are multiple platforms and methods to avoid the higher, more visible side of the Internet. Even Bin Laden was smart enough to use a courier and hand written notes to give orders.
The real terrorist planners prefer to “remain in the undernet,” writes Bershidsky.
In 2012, a French court found nuclear physicist Adlene Hicheur guilty of, among other things, conspiring to commit an act of terror for distributing and using software called Asrar al-Mujahideen, or Mujahideen Secrets. The program employed various cutting-edge encryption methods, including variable stealth ciphers and RSA 2,048-bit keys.
A mathmetician found out when he hacked into Google last year that they were only using 512 bit keys for their email communications. Likely they’ve upgraded, but the anecdote goes to show just how sophisticated terrorist planners can get.
Earlier this year we covered an element of the undernet called “Tor.” Certainly the paranoid upper echelons of Al Qaeda would use this side-road rather than the general Internet super highway.
Those aren’t the only options either when it comes to avoding PRISM.
“At best,” writes Bershidsky, “the recent revelations concerning Prism and telephone surveillance might deter potential recruits to terrorist causes from using the most visible parts of the Internet.”
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