Peeping Tom? Close. Peeping NSA.


November 27, 2013 by gregrabidoux2013

NSA lot

I’m told this is the NSA HQ and not just a large supermarket parking lot. Waiting for confirmation on this piece of intel.

It’s been a rough year for the good, though professionally sneaky folks at the National Security Agency (NSA). It’s archenemy (every superhero has one) Edward “sneaky-wiki leaker” Snowden caused quite a kerfuffle (spy jargon for mess) when his site leaked documents leading to news reports that the NSA was engaged in a massive domestic surveillance operation of US citizens sans the common courtesy of any search warrants. What followed were official denials, more reports, more leaks, partial confirmations, more leaks, more reports, and then waves of political spin. You know political messaging, massaging, framing, crafting, backstory and narratives. The end result? Well, seems our e-mails, website visits, google searches, blogs, tweets, insta-messaging and texts are all fair game in the ongoing spy game.

Disconcerting? Yep. “But I don’t have anything to hide” claim still doesn’t quite justify being left digitally naked to the wind when last I checked there is still, however, tattered, a US Constitution laying around somewhere. (Unless the NSA purloined it and is mining it for subversive data).

Anyways, the sheer amount of data-mining and analysis the NSA was and apparently, still is and will continue to be doing is impressive. Billions and billions of data-nuggets are being looked at for discernible threats and patterns of threatening communications to our national security. It’s gone light-years ahead of just intercepting and tracing signals or would-be terrorist chatter. This is mining rivers, oceans really, of data taken from social media-google searches, yahoo yearnings, e-mail, website visits, tweets, insta-messages, texts. You get the high-tech, digital probing picture. But we have been told that no specific individuals were or are necessarily being profiled or targeted in such domestic surveillance and that’s not what the NSA has been up to.

Well, I feel better already. And you? No, don’t say it just think it and I’ll check with the NSA later and review your answer. Kidding, well, maybe.

Tom Hanks Minority report

The NSA scoffs at Tom Hanks knowing he wished he could data-mine like they can.

But the latest news missive shedding a little more light on the various “black ops” emanating from the NSA is mostly perplexing and a bit perverse. Maybe the other way around.

Seems the NSA  has been intently following the “potential inconsistent public and personal behavioral habits consequent to vulnerabilities” of certain Muslim individuals with possible malice in mind or deed against these United States. Translation: The NSA spooks have been tracking the online porn site visits of folks that may or may not mean  harm to the rest of us, um, non-porn visiting, hard-working and (Just in case this is being data-mined) really big supporters of the NSA.

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about the NSA spending their workday in e-online hot  (and I guess I really do mean Hot) pursuit of dudes leering at porn sites. And, apparently, the more perverse and kinky the sites visited the more valuable the counter-intel to possibly use to compromise the enemy.

I get that we need intel and inside dope against the enemy or the suspected enemy. Or in the case of some of these spy-games, the possible, at some point in the future, maybe, if they get turned, those that will harm us. And I guess I get at some level, the argument that if the NSA can demonstrate the inconsistencies of suspected Muslim leaders between what they say and what they do (hence the incongruence of online naughtiness, especially western-style perversities with their public faith) such inconsistent behavior will allow them to be discredited. And theoretically, less respected and powerful in the eyes of their followers.

But still. Didn’t we already try this approach in a more direct and physical way? I recall very humiliating and embarrassing (to Americans) pictures of US female GIs leaning over human piles of naked Muslim prisoners during the Iraq War while flashing broad grins and thumbs-up signs. These were staged photos with the intention of humiliating these suspects by causing them psychological trauma by forcing them to betray several core precepts of their religion at once (nudity, male on male subjugation and female symbolic and literal domination). At least this seemed to be the reasoning when the photos got leaked. And, as I also recall, it wasn’t the suspects that got discredited it was us and their followers were outraged, you guessed it, at us.

But, did it work? Was the backlash worth it? Did we gather valuable intel we wouldn’t have gathered if not for engaging in such controversial acts? Not sure. Seems there remains a huge schism of opinion as to the value of such behavior. Similar to interrogating (torturing?) suspects by waterboarding. Some say we have to be able to use any tool we have in the interrogator tool box. Others believe such behavior is simply indefensible and worse, un-American.

surfboarding dog

Waterboarding, not surfboarding! Dang IT support staff.

And really, is this line of thinking and “black ops” that far off from secret investigations and wiretapping used by our own FBI to try and discredit civilian leaders like Dr. Martin Luther? You’ll recall taxpayer money was used to try and “get” Dr. King in compromising situations with women not his wife as a way of gaining “leverage” against him and consequently the civil rights movement. The idea was to show inconsistencies between the public and private Dr. King which would then discredit him and drive a wedge between himself and his follows. Sounds a bit familiar. Is the NSA using the 1960s FBI playbook in 2013?

Black Ops game

Maybe they should just play the game instead.

As Americans, how do we feel about that FBI effort to discredit Dr. King by secretly spying on his personal, sexual behavior and choices today? Will we feel similarly about this ongoing NSA effort with the pornographic habits of targeted Muslim men?

Look, while the actual budget and spy-staff of the NSA is hard to accurately peg since from 1952 it all officially fall sunder “Black Budget” items it has been estimated by analysts to be somewhere in the $20 billion range with at least 40,000 employees. The NSA is one of at least 15 intel-agencies with an overall budget of about $75-100 billion. It’s not small potatoes and it covers a wide range of activities, domestic and foreign. This porn-peeping is no doubt (okay,there’s always some doubt with black ops and black budgets) a minute portion of the NSA’s daily duties.

Still, there is something that is disturbing about knowing my taxpayer money is at least partially subsidizing NSA spy-guys and gals visiting and tracking porn site visits by others. It seems a dubious and unseemly way to fight a war on terrorism. I know we aren’t forcing folks to visit porn sites but it all smacks of doing things that run counter to our own core values.

I guess spying like war and for that matter, politics, is indeed a filthy business. No one walks away clean-handed. What next? Well, if Hugh Hefner turns out to be a counter-intel spy I guess now I won’t be shocked. You know, now that I think about it that would explain a lot.


PS: Some of you in follow-up to my post about coffee maybe killing me asked about my favorite java spot. I have many but on my short list is the one below in Milwaukee. Happy brewing.

Collective Coffee

Colectivo Coffee in Milwaukee.


12 thoughts on “Peeping Tom? Close. Peeping NSA.

  1. Mara says:

    This is disturbing in many ways. Americans seem to be far too concerned with what everyone else is doing and not enough on what they are doing. Spying on everyone else even for flimsy or no apparent reason is not smart. And worse, it does always seem to blow-up in our faces. Let’s hope the Daily Growler is right and this is a very “minute” portion of the NSA’s $20 billion or so budget!

  2. Austin says:

    Honestly, to me this whole situation is very cut and dry. To most people, there’s a deeper meaning but it’s just smoke and mirrors. The NSA isn’t just crawling through our porn just to get off, they are spending taxpayer’s money to SPY ON US; to make sure order is being kept and to further exert control over us. With the tracking of our websearches and posts on social media sites, they are keeping close tabs on who and what we are doing to keep us subjugated. Not trying to sound like a radical here but I am FIRMLY and VEHEMENTLY against 75 to 100 billion dollars of OUR money going to spying on us in our own privacy.

  3. Nooshin says:

    Surveillance operation of U.S citizens by NSA is against citizens’ constitutional rights ( their freedom and privacy). But NSA explain that it is for national secutiry and they are looking for patterns of threating communications. They use $75-100 billion budget for survey website visits, emails and tweets. They also spend this budget for controlling the porn site, that they know they couldn’t discredit persons for their sexual behavior. Wasting budget and time for something that doesn’t worth it.

  4. redimp1994 says:

    Well quite honestly none of this is really all that shocking to me. Of course I find it a little more intense than I imagined it to be, but I guess you can say that I have always had the feeling that someone was “watching me”. I feel that this a complete violation of our privacy but as we discussed in class even our “right to privacy” is limited. Their methods are definitely disturbing and kind of appalling, but to an extent I do agree with looking for terrorists just not to the extreme that they take it; and just imagining that OUR tax money goes towards this kind of thing is nerve racking. We are basically paying the government to spy on us, and THAT is just wrong. On a side note I do enjoy seeing that you put the same humor and fun into your blogs as you do in class!

    -Brooke Ring

  5. Saul C. says:

    I’m not really all that shocked to learn that we have all been under surveillance. My parent’s both work in different parts of the government, and they were straight up told that anything they do technologically could be monitored. While this was mean on government owned technology, it wouldn’t make any sense if they weren’t doing it on some scale to private citizens as well. I think that really it is one of those things that the American public would rather think is going on, but not have actual hard evidence that it is going on. This ignorance is bliss type of thinking isn’t very effective, but it does keep national morale significantly higher then the otherwise. I’m sure that there are some good contributions this spying program is giving to the American people, but at its core I don’t think the program is being used correctly. After all, (at least in this article), it was stated that the NSA had said they weren’t using the data to profile specific (Muslim) individuals in the US. If we’re using the data to profile and try and take down Anti-USA Muslims overseas, you could almost bet that they are indeed using it on domestic targets. After all, different governmental departments have tried to use the method of gathering intel on domestic suspects. Who is to say that they wouldn’t use it again, as long as it was “for the greater good?”

  6. Shane Hathaway says:

    If America is formed on freedom and personal choices, why are our personal choices being scrutinized and categorized? Those “Muslim individuals” that are being observed for “terrorist”
    motives… last time I checked they’re US Citizens, too. And US citizens are supposed to be afforded the right to privacy. If the only reason for connecting these men to “terrorist activities” is their visit to pornography sites… how do we know they’re actually “terrorist” or plan on mass terrorism?

  7. I feel that U.S. spying on it’s citizens isn’t right, its going against our constitutional rights to privacy and freedom. But we as citizens do give up certain liberties for our government to protect us. But there may be domestic threats that the NSA has to try and monitor and protect us from enemies domestic and abroad. So there is positive and negatives of the NSA.

  8. Brandon Dudley says:

    I have to agree with most peoples opinions on this issue. Domestic surveillance is very unethical and goes against our constitution. What happened to, “Unreasonable search and seizure.” ergo, the Fourth Amendment? What happened to our right to privacy? Should I really provide a list of all the cases that could prove this method of “national defense” wrong? I could, but there’s just too many. This is yet another action that the Government has pulled to show how hypocritical they are. How can a nation exalt freedom while spying on it’s citizens?

    In a more comical sense, maybe the NSA spy on people who visit porn sites just for an excuse to look at porn while at work. I could only imagine how awkward the workplace must be.

    P. S. Very good blog! I found it amusing and informative, to say the least. I look forward to reading more.

  9. Ryan Gutjahr says:

    The NSA has spent billions of dollars paying spies to go through internet sites and see what we are doing. In my opinion its wrong because they have no authority to over rule our constitutional rights. Spending our tax money to see what we do online! They should worry about spying on current terrorist or people that want to harm our country. Watching porn at work saying they are technically watching Americans is just an excuse for them to get off while on the job. It goes against what our founding fathers stood for and should stop immediately.

  10. Larry M says:

    This is another example of government officials reinventing the rules as they go along. The fact that they don’t think they are accountable to anyone and can just ignore the Constitution should be sending up red flags across the entire country. Where is the outrage? Why is the mainstream press not crying foul over this? Unfortunately, there are many Americans who are now so dependent on the government for their very survival that they will not do anything to risk endangering their relationship. And that also should be raising red flags everywhere as well.

  11. Casey Holcom says:

    While right now it may seem relatively harmless, if we blindly accept what the NSA are doing it’s going to just get worse. I hope more people start actively stand against this, but I’m sure it’ll just be ignored by the majority.

  12. Autron H says:

    I think that as technology is more advanced the more spying and snooping you will have from the government. What many do not understand is that the government will snoop,sometimes for good reason. I will hope that it will not get where simple things the government will start using against citizens in a court of law.

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