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Google Releases Data On FBI Spying 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the number-of-people-surprised:-0-999 dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to Wired, 'National Security Letters allow the government to get detailed information on Americans' finances and communications without oversight from a judge. The FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of NSLs and has even been reprimanded for abusing them.' It's significant, then, that Google has released data about how many NSLs they've received annually since 2009. The numbers are fuzzed — the FBI apparently worries that if we know how often they're spying on us, we can figure out who. But Google is able to say they've received from 0-999 letters each year for the past four years. And we know it's likely near the upper end of that range because they list the number of accounts affected, as well: always over a thousand."
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Google Releases Data On FBI Spying

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  • We've gone way too far with empowering the government. The time is now to roll back the "emergency" terrorism powers the government gave itself after 9/11. We are not "at war" with Al Qaeda in the United States. There are plenty of opportunities to catch terrorists without infringing on the rights of law-abiding Americans who have done nothing wrong.

    These powers were voted into place in a panic and now we're living with the consequences.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:32AM (#43091657)

      Finish the PATRIOT act? Why do you hate America?

      You would vote for the COMMIE act, for sure.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:24AM (#43092115)

        Lol (but not really) at the person who thinks the PATRIOT act (or supporting it) has anything to do with patriotism or protecting US "freedoms".

        • You and I and GP realize that. Probably the best way to get all the morons who don't already realize it is through satire, such as AC was doing.

          The Daily Show is, after all, doing more to safeguard liberty by informing the public right now than any of the news networks are. While that's awful, it's the truth, and we should probably learn something from it.
    • Compare this aggressive surveillance with the slap on the wrist of HSBC [rollingstone.com], and it is hard to believe that this is really about national security.
      • by sgt_doom (655561)
        But dude, that was only one bankster and one cartel: HSBC did an estimated one-half trillion dollars of drug money launder per year, for a period of ten years. Now consider how many criminal orgs are out there, distributing tax-free drugs worldwide, and the number of banksters which must be involved with their money laundering activities? (We know that Societe Generale, Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Credit Suisse and others, have been involved in the past --- and we know that the Chinese Triads, T
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm Dutch and the Patriot Act affects my life and privacy too

      RESTORE LIBERTY

      REPEAL THE PATRIOT ACT

      • by emho24 (2531820) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:21AM (#43092735)
        It would be interesting to start up a White House petition asking for the repeal of the patriot act. "Interesting" may be a poor choice of words on my part, the official response would probably be more amusing than interesting.

        Two fun White House petitions might be:
        - repeal the Patriot Act
        - dismantle Homeland Security
        • by fazey (2806709)
          There already was one... im not sure where it went tho. It either didnt get enough votes or someone accidentally 'delete from table where like "%patriot%"';
      • I'm Dutch and the Patriot Act affects my life and privacy too

        RESTORE LIBERTY

        REPEAL THE PATRIOT ACT

        We're damned if we do and damned if we don't...

        If we go through the pain in the ass efforts with citizen signatures, getting senators to actually act based on the citizen opinion (which is mostly scared and uninformed people), get the process started to repeal (which will take years with convenient delays), and actually GET it appealed, that will be the time terrorists strike just to spite us.

        If we don't bother to repeal, corporations and those influenced by said corps will find convenient ways to reduce fr

    • by rmdingler (1955220) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:50AM (#43091799)
      A decade ago, the Municipality where I reside enacted a quarter cent sales tax increase to build a sporting complex that was to "sunset" away as soon as the debt was paid off. (Advertised as a huge economic plus to the entire community, blah blah blah...) It has become crystalline to any observer not too poor to pay attention that the City will never willingly allow this revenue source to dry up. The justification process has already begun at Council meetings: maintenance issues will have to be resolved by increased property tax evaluations if this tax increase is allowed to fade, etc. Whether you are talking about a tax or a way to circumvent a citizen's Constitutional freedoms, once they're in your overlord's hands, they're gone baby gone.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        A property tax is the proper way to fund the maintenance of the facility. If the businesses and community are improved by the project, the property values will reflect that added value and that's what should be taxed.

        • re: A property tax is the proper way to fund the maintenance of the facility.
          .
          A fee for use can also be proper, such as a toll to pay for bridge passage [wikipedia.org] that helps to pay for maintenance. The Coronado Bridge [wikipedia.org] in San Diego used to be paid for that way. You can also push a social or ecologic/"green" agenda by waiving the toll if the car has multiple passengers and requiring the toll if the car has only a single passenger. But they've gotten rid of the tolls on that bridge completely since 2003.
        • by Fjandr (66656)

          The proper way to tax it is by taxing ticket sales or the gross revenue of the sports organizations who use the stadium.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Are you talking about the San Antonio Alamodome?

        The Alamodome was built using a 0.5% city sales tax for five years, levied in 1989. The Alamodome is the only major domed facility in the country to be almost debt-free when it opened. Officially the sales tax reverted to its original level on March 31, 1994.

        What really happened was after the tax 'reverted', the city council quickly added a new 0.5% sales tax. Then sold the plan to the public by saying "there will be no tax increase".

        Of course, everybody invol

      • by Tokolosh (1256448)

        “...an immediate and drastic reduction of governmental expenditures by abolishing useless commissions and offices, consolidating departments and bureaus, and eliminating extravagance, to accomplish a saving of not less than 25 percent in the cost of the federal government.” - 1932 Democratic platform

        “A government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.” - Ronald Reagan

        • A government entitlement is the nearest thing to eternal life I've ever seen on this earth, and while 'the military budget' is the buzzword for would-be budgeteers everywhere, the only way this Outfit gets in the black is to utilize the politically-impossible entitlement reduction strategy. So it's not going to happen, and if it was going to happen, it wouldn't happen now while the gov't. has international investors lined up to loan US virtually free money.
    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:51AM (#43091815) Homepage

      One of my basic insights of life: When someone is running around screaming "emergency", a lot of the time they simply want people to shut down the smart part of their brain and do something they otherwise wouldn't.

      Some examples of what people often mean when they say "This is an emergency!":
      - Your boss: "Please work lots of overtime for no compensation."
      - A salesperson at your company: "Please work lots of overtime so I can get a big fat commission."
      - A salesperson selling to you: "Please don't think too hard about either the product or the price."
      - A politician: "Please stop complaining about this bill I'm going to shove through that hurts you and helps my friends."
      - A non-profit: "Please donate more time and money to our group, preferably without asking too many questions."
      - Some (thankfully not all) spousal partners: "Please give me more control over our shared resources so I can buy the things I want." Or "Please make me feel appreciated."
      - A friend or family member: "Please give me more of your time, money, and attention."

      So that's why you have to define what an emergency is and what it isn't. My personal definition: A problem where human lives or a very large amount of property is at stake, and swift action will demonstrably reduce the damage. That means that a heart attack is an emergency, a server down is a problem but not an emergency. In the case of the Patriot Act, all the useful emergency actions had been done several weeks earlier, and the emergency part of what happened was over when Congress passed the bill.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Whenever a boss asks me to work overtime "off the clock" I ask them if I can get a few extra hours on my paycheck without actually working those hours should I ever find myself in a similar situation as he finds himself at present. The answer is always, "no." "There's your answer," I reply. Respect is a two-way street.

      • One of my basic insights of life: When someone is running around screaming "emergency", a lot of the time they simply want people to shut down the smart part of their brain and do something they otherwise wouldn't.

        And the tin-foil hat and conspiracy types are no less prone to that. Outrage spreads fast on the 'net, and stopping to think leaves you behind the herd.

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:53AM (#43091827)

      you are only half right. the people were in a panic. the lawmakers were cool, calm and licking their chops. police and military also salivated at the New Normal(tm).

      only the people were told to 'be afraid!'. the rest, well, their dreams came true! more money for their buddies. why build roads here and improve our infrastructure when we could, you know, have an all new buying spree on spy shit, tanks for police, and tasers. lots and lots of tasers and chemical weapons (cough, I mean, its essentially just a food product..). cause, tasers and weapons grade sprays really help fight FOREIGN enemies...

      • by kwbauer (1677400)
        "the people were in a panic. the lawmakers were cool, calm and licking their chops. police and military also salivated at the New Normal(tm)." Sounds very much like all the ban this, ban that happening right now the the US in the wake of Newtown, CT. But then "guns are evil" so we're all good with it.
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      We are not "at war" with Al Qaeda in the United States. There are plenty of opportunities to catch terrorists without infringing on the rights of law-abiding Americans who have done nothing wrong.

      Questions (bitter type of humor, I wish it could be sarcastic, but it's just sad):
      1. in the United States, if not Al Qaeda, who are the Americans "at war" with? (given the amount of "security theater" in US, somebody should be cast in the "enemy role". Well, who's currently playing that role?)
      2. just how FBI could know who are the law-abiding Americans without spying them? (just how much security the Americans ask today in exchange for the "presumption of innocence" right? Isn't the "security farce admiss

    • by moeinvt (851793)

      No, we're not at war with Al Qaeda, our government is at war with "terrorism" AND according to DHS documents, reports from some of the various "fusion centers" and the West Point counter-terrorism center, a "terrorist" might be anyone who engages in political activism and especially anyone who wants to cut government budgets(a clear threat!). The whole world (including U.S. soil) is the battlefield.

      The concepts of "right" and "wrong" no longer apply. It's a matter of who the government likes and who

    • by ranpel (1255408)
      NOW punctuation exclamation mark
    • We would need to roll back the GOP. Buried deep underneath might be the reminants of (big D) Democratic spines.
    • by sgt_doom (655561)
      "We've gone way too far with empowering the government..."


      "We" kimosabe???? "We" never empowered the gov't, their owners took it to another level, dood! "We" have always been at war with al Qaeda on Wall Street, FYI, sonny!

      Which was why Robert Mueller III was appointed the director of the FBI only several days prior to the 9/11/01 events. Robert Mueller, scion of the Truesdale fortune, which was created by colluding with Rockefeller and his bunch; monopolizing transport of oil, blowing up competi
    • by detritus. (46421)

      Maybe some budget sequestration too? "Terrorism" funding is the DHS cash cow.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:19AM (#43091563) Homepage

    "National Security Letters" were quite plainly search warrants and subpoenas without Fourth Amendment protections back when they were first proposed. And that's all they'll ever be: If the FBI had real evidence that somebody was a bad guy, they could have easily gone to a judge and said "We'd like to investigate this person, and here's why."

    Instead, we're heading into Kafka land: People investigated and/or locked up without charges, without evidence they can confront, without a chance of freedom, and punishment of death when it's all over.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by vikingpower (768921)

      we're heading into Kafka land: People investigated and/or locked up without charges, without evidence they can confront, without a chance of freedom....

      I read Kafka quite a lot, and I can only agree with you. The US of America are slowly turning into a police state. What boggles my mind the most is that no one rises up, no one shouts, no one cries for a revolution. If this happened here, I would have been on the (digital) streets already for some time.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:38AM (#43091703)

        Sure they do. They are then called bigots and racists because these are Obama policies and the only reason to oppose an Obama policy is if you are a bigot.

        By the way, Holder yesterday announced that it is within Obama's power to drone strike a US citizen on US soil without a trial based on whatever he deems is approprate. You've lost democracy cheering for the dictator while screaming names at the rebels.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          By the way, Holder yesterday announced that it is within Obama's power to drone strike a US citizen on US soil without a trial based on whatever he deems is approprate

          Is this true? I'll mod you up if you can provide a citation.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:57AM (#43091853)

            Holder [washingtonexaminer.com] says drone strikes on US soil are legal. But then again I've been told by former president Carter that I'm a bigot so you shouldn't listen to me.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Here. You can mod him up: http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/05/holder-drone-strike-against-americans-in-the-u-s-possible/

          • by compro01 (777531)

            Somewhat [huffingtonpost.com].

            It wasn't an announcement. It was a reply to a direct question ("Do you believe that the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil?") from Rand Paul.

      • by gmuslera (3436)

        The voices that tried to warn were shut down by the government (i.e. threatening with 30 years of jail for something that should not be a crime) of as a warning for everyone else. Anyway, mass/media control is in order, is not just advertisers the ones that can make people in numbers do or not do things in subtle ways. Even here you can see what happen with people trying to raise awareness.

      • the circuses are still around, so people are still distracted.

        sporting teams and 'games' continue and the grunts among us are suitably distracted from the real problems and they spend their time rooting for their 'team' and they really -hate- the other teams. that keeps quite a lot of the population occupied.

        tv is the other distraction. as long as the tv 'flows', people won't rise up.

        now, take tv and sporting events away and you'll hear an outcry!

        of course, they will cry mostly about taking their distract

        • by moeinvt (851793)

          I largely agree, but TV isn't enough to distract people from being hungry.

          Considering the fact that government deficit spending is being financed by Federal Reserve money printing, and there is no end in sight, I don't see how commodity prices can do anything but rise. What happens when people on food stamps, those on fixed incomes, and people already on the cusp of poverty can't buy enough to feed themselves? Even more government borrowing and spending? Where does this end?
          I don't know if there would be

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by moeinvt (851793)

        "What boggles my mind the most is that no one rises up, no one shouts, no one cries for a revolution"

        The Ron Paul movement was the best organized resistance against the police state that We, The People could muster. It was a valiant effort, but the MSM and political establishment still crushed it easily.
        I think the liberty movement is in re-appraisal mode right now. However, if there is one civil liberties issue that people care about, it's the 2nd Amendment. Hopefully we can leverage the anti-gun threat

    • "National Security Letters" were quite plainly search warrants and subpoenas without Fourth Amendment protections back when they were first proposed. And that's all they'll ever be: If the FBI had real evidence that somebody was a bad guy, they could have easily gone to a judge and said "We'd like to investigate this person, and here's why."

      Instead, we're heading into Kafka land: People investigated and/or locked up without charges, without evidence they can confront, without a chance of freedom, and punishment of death when it's all over.

      I'm trying to play devil's advocate here on the side of the FBI. Wait, I can't. It's just easier to be in full hidden control than to operate within the public eye.

      I was going to suggest that perhaps there aren't enough judges, aren't any judges that have enough time to review details before they sign off on them, perhaps the judges are chicken-shits and afraid they'll be held responsible for signing off on something that harms citizens.... but all of that stuff just doesn't have any way of being answere

    • "...we're heading into Kafka land..."

      Huh? We've been there for quite some time, big guy! I mean, back in the early 1900s, when Rockefeller wa supposed to have broken up Standard Oil, the world's largest monopoly (today called ExxonMobil), it was only done on paper --- he established a holding company specifically to move the stock ownership to each holding company, as each unit was supposedly "sold off."

      Because Standard Oil was then sold on the Curb Market (street market or outside market, not on th
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:20AM (#43091565)
    Because most of what they have to read when they're figuring out what's up with someone that fits into what they're researching is as poorly written as that summary/post. That's some fine editing, there.
  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:20AM (#43091571)
    'In the interest of National Security' is a fast and loose term that has too often been used to escape the cleansing sunlight of oversight.
  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:26AM (#43091623)
    When you have done nothing wrong, you have your good reputation to worry about...
    • by gmuslera (3436)
      Depend if your definition of wrong matches with the one of the government or their representatives or what they want the public to believe, you know, there are examples [slashdot.org].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:36AM (#43091679)

    FBI releases data on Google spying.

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      Surely they will do the same as with Kim Dot Com, they ordered him to not delete some files they put and then got jailed for storing those files. If google spying is "fbi ordered us to keep track of this" and then condemned for doing so, which one is the criminal?
    • FBI releases data on Google spying.

      The FBI doesn't release information, you funny commenter, you. :)

  • If not at the institutional level, then at least at the individual level, SOMEONE who is given unfettered access to a database on everyone will use it to check up on their old girlfriend, look up celebrities, dig up dirt on their neighbors, etc. The FBI is made up of human beings just like any other institution.

    • by VanessaE (970834)

      Yes - human beings who have a choice whether to work for the FBI or not. If you make the choice to work for an abusive organization, you deserve every last bit of negativity that comes in your direction. The same holds true whether its the FBI, a collection agency, or some shady telemarketing firm. Don't want to be the recipient of such negativity? Find a job with a more reputable employer.

      Your responsibility to be a decent, honest, upstanding human being and citizen of a country NEVER ENDS.

  • Frankly I was expecting more.
  • Has anyone lost his job or gone to jail?

  • by Isca (550291) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:01AM (#43091905)
    I'm actually surprised it was only under 1k since there are so many google account holders.

    Taking a step back for just a moment, I can see an actual suspect (one in which they have gone and gotten a warrant on) having a mail account that has mailed xxx number of other emails - if they really think their warranted suspect is a terrorist threat then they will want to look into the email accounts/gchat logs of those he emailed.

    I think the concept of needing to do this is ok in certain investigations but it needs needs more judicial oversight with checks and balances. Even if it's a judge saying "what investigation is this attached to?" and tying it to a subpoena'd suspect. I'd also like to make sure that this is only used for national security issue. I wouldn't want this flipping over into normal run of the mill criminal activities. I'd even go so far as to say "If evidence is found in this way it's off limits" as evidence so it doesn't have the temptation of being abused.

    • I'm actually surprised it was only under 1k since there are so many google account holders.

      Me too. Every time one of these Google transparency articles is published, all the tinfoil hat types come out of the woodwork screaming and hollering about Big Brother... but when you actually run the numbers and look at context, they're anything but impressive. 10,000 FBI requests? I'd be worried about Big Brother too. But a thousand (or less) - that's less than I'd expect just from normal investigations. (The F

  • Sure they are sending ~3 requests a day to an organization that can handle millions of queries per second. I would be upset if they had sent individual letters -- now that's abuse!

    I'm not even going to worry about the privacy issues, in my mind I'm imagining Google as a one-man (or two-man) IT department where your highest paying client sends you fewer than 3 requests per day. We get these ridiculous RFPs where they ask us to detail our 'strategy' for this or that, and sometimes I'd like to tell them, "we

    • We get these ridiculous RFPs where they ask us to detail our 'strategy' for this or that

      Send them a quote for the hours that would be required to prepare such documentation.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:57AM (#43092457) Homepage Journal
    There is no law protecting them, so fbi/cia/whatever could ask their records too. why not release those numbers too?
  • ...for the corporate sponsored shadow government. God damn... I miss the days when there were at least some corporations that stood up to this kind of abuse.
    • by kllrnohj (2626947)

      Google is currently the *ONLY* company that is standing up to this kind of abuse. Find anyone else, *ANYONE*, that reports these sorts of numbers. They all comply with them, but only Google is willing to talk about it. And only Google has worked to be able to talk about them in the first place.

  • that the people who can't be trusted with cellphones because they sext pictures of their junk to everyone in the contact list also can't be trusted with surveilance powers unfettered by a judges discretion?

    Say it isn't so!

  • The fourth amendment is not ambiguous, and any act of congress that purports to grant the authority to the FBI to write their own warrants is unconstitutional, and therefore not a law at all.

    To make this stop, people have to refuse to comply with these “national security letters”, go to court, and sue the FBI for civil rights violations.

    -jcr

    • The fourth amendment is not ambiguous

      It actually is quite ambiguous. Read literally it never requires a warrant (much less specifies who can issue them): it requires only that searches and seizures not be "unreasonable", and that any warrants that are issued be based on probable cause, and specific as to the places to be searched and things to be seized. Those two clauses have no actual explicit relationship in the text.

    • by Tokolosh (1256448)

      You can't sue unless you can prove they did it, to you, personally, and that you suffered some harm. If you ask them if they did it, they will say it is a secret and they cannot tell you. If you somehow find out, you are not allowed to say so, because it is a secret. So if you sue, you get in trouble for revealing secrets.

      It is astonishing that most Americans are ok with this.

  • But Google is able to say they've received from 0-999 letters each year for the past four years. And we know it's likely near the upper end of that range because they list the number of accounts affect, as well: always over a thousand.

    Uh, no, that doesn't follow. There is no basis for the assumption that the average number of accounts affected by an NSL is 2 or fewer, which is the assumption necessary to conclude that "over a thousand" accounts affected makes it more likely than than not that the number of

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