Big Brother Is Still Watching You: Don't Fall For The NSA's Latest Ploy

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“You had to live - did live, from habit that became instinct - in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”—George Orwell, 1984

Supposedly the National Security Administration is going to stop collecting certain internet communications that merely mention a foreign intelligence target.

Privacy advocates are hailing it as a major victory for Americans whose communications have been caught in the NSA’s dragnet.

If this is a victory, it’s a hollow victory.

Here’s why.

Since its creation in 1952, when President Harry S. Truman issued a secret executive order establishing the NSA as the hub of the government’s foreign intelligence activities, the agency has been covertly spying on Americans, listening in on their phone calls, reading their mail, and monitoring their communications.

For instance, under Project SHAMROCK, the NSA spied on telegrams to and from the U.S., as well as the correspondence of American citizens. Moreover, as the Saturday Evening Post reports, “Under Project MINARET, the NSA monitored the communications of civil rights leaders and opponents of the Vietnam War, including targets such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohammed Ali, Jane Fonda, and two active U.S. Senators. The NSA had launched this program in 1967 to monitor suspected terrorists and drug traffickers, but successive presidents used it to track all manner of political dissidents.”

Not even the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the creation of the FISA Court, which was supposed to oversee and correct how intelligence information is collected and collated, managed to curtail the NSA’s illegal activities.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush secretly authorized the NSA to conduct warrantless surveillance on Americans’ phone calls and emails.

Nothing changed under Barack Obama. In fact, the violations worsened, with the NSA authorized to secretly collect internet and telephone data on millions of Americans, as well as on foreign governments.

It was only after whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 that the American people fully understood the extent to which they had been betrayed once again.

What this brief history makes clear is that the NSA cannot be reformed.

This is an agency whose very existence - unaccountable and lacking any degree of transparency - flies in the face of the Constitution.

Despite the fact that its data snooping has been shown to be ineffective at detecting, let alone stopping, any actual terror attacks, the NSA has continued to operate largely in secret, carrying out warrantless mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages and the like, beyond the scrutiny of most of Congress and the taxpayers who are forced to fund its multi-billion dollar secret black ops budget.

As long as the government is allowed to make a mockery of the law—be it the Constitution, the FISA law, or any other law intended to limit its reach and curtail its activities—and is permitted to operate behind closed doors, relaying on secret courts, secret budgets and secret interpretations of the laws of the land, there will be no reform.

Presidents, politicians, and court rulings have come and gone over the course of the NSA’s 60-year history, but none of them have done much to put an end to the NSA’s “technotyranny.”

The beast has outgrown its chains. It will not be restrained.

Moreover, even if the NSA could be reformed, the problem of government surveillance goes far beyond the criminal activities of this one agency.

In fact, long before the NSA became the agency we loved to hate, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration were carrying out their own secret mass surveillance on an unsuspecting populace. Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people.

Then there are the fusion and counterterrorism centers that gather all of the data from the smaller government spies—the police, public health officials, transportation, etc.—and make it accessible for all those in power. And of course that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine.

Consider that on any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior.

Corporate trackers monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere. For example, every time you use a loyalty card at the grocery store or elsewhere, your purchases are being monitored, mined for data, and sold to the highest bidder. Every time you use your credit or debit card, or your digital “wallet,” your transactions are being tracked. Uber’s ride service app knows where you are even when you are not actively using the service. Even store mannequins are being used to monitor and identify shoppers with facial recognition software. 

Major cities are being transformed into “Smart Cities” filled with sensors in everything from pavement to lamp posts, and all of that data is being linked together to monitor the day-to-day lives of everyone in them. In some cities, even the sewage is being monitored and could potentially be used to find out what drugs a household may have used.

All of your medical data in the near future will be constantly monitored, and while the data is supposed to only be shared with your doctor, in practice it will be accessible by any number of government and private actors.  Microchips in “smart pills” can communicate with tablet devices to ensure the elderly take their medications already exist. And a transponder injected into the skin that contains a person’s entire medical history has been approved by the FDA.  Wearable health-monitoring devices likewise can be used to monitor you, and the information collected can be used in a court of law.  Smart toothbrushes can monitor your brushing habits and communicate them to your dentist, or anyone else.  Smart alarm clocks can monitor your sleep habits. 

Like all other devices relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) to communicate, these can be hacked into by government and private corporations.

The “internet of things” refers to the growing number of “smart” appliances and electronic devices now connected to the internet and capable of interacting with each other and being controlled remotely. These range from thermostats and coffee makers to cars and TVs.

Of course, there’s a price to pay for such easy control and access. That price amounts to relinquishing ultimate control of and access to your home to the government and its corporate partners. For example, while Samsung’s Smart TVs are capable of “listening” to what you say, thereby allow users to control the TV using voice commands, it also records everything you say and relays it to a third party. Same goes for Amazon’s Echo.

“Smart houses” filled with IoT-capable devices are just starting to come into play, but by 2020 Samsung pledges that all of its devices, including its household appliances, will be IoT capable.  Such products include ovens, microwaves, vacuums (including robot vacuums), refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers, as well as smart hubs which coordinate everything.  Coffee makers and toasters are also being made IoT compatible. 

Smart TVs seemingly out of Orwell’s 1984 will also collect data and spy on you.  Modern gaming consoles likewise have internet connections, and those with cameras can be used to spy like any smartphone or computer.  Smart power outlets can turn your lights on and off remotely, and smart thermostats work similarly. 

All of them monitor when you’re at home or not, as can smart home security systems.  Wi-Fi routers can even monitor the inside of your home and distinguish between different individuals in the house, while reading their lips to “hear” what they say.  Other forms of home monitoring systems for the elderly can be hacked and used by anyone. 

Already the web-enabled “Hello Barbie” doll has been the center of a hacking controversy, in which security experts disclosed a number of significant security flaws with the toy.  Other smart objects include smart golf clubs, which monitor the speed, acceleration, and swing plane of your golf swing, smart shoes which track your location and can guide you on where to go. Tostitos has even unveiled a promotional smart bag of chips which can tell you if you’ve been drinking too much.

That doesn’t even begin to touch on all of the government’s many methods of spying on its citizens. For instance, police have been using Stingray devices mounted on their cruisers to intercept cell phone calls and text messages without court-issued search warrants.

Doppler radar devices, which can detect human breathing and movement within in a home, are already being employed by the police to peer inside a suspect’s home.

License plate readers, yet another law enforcement spying device made possible through funding by the Department of Homeland Security, can record up to 1800 license plates per minute. These surveillance devices can also photograph those inside a moving car. Recent reports indicate that the DEA has been using license plate readers in conjunction with facial recognition software to build a “vehicle surveillance database” of the nation’s cars, drivers and passengers.

Sidewalk and “public space” cameras, sold to gullible communities as a sure-fire means of fighting crime, is yet another DHS program that is blanketing small and large towns alike with government-funded and monitored surveillance cameras. It’s all part of a public-private partnership that gives government officials access to all manner of surveillance cameras, on sidewalks, on buildings, on buses, even those installed on private property.

Couple these surveillance cameras with facial recognition and behavior-sensing technology and you have the makings of “pre-crime” cameras, which scan your mannerisms, compare you to pre-set parameters for “normal” behavior, and alert the police if you trigger any computerized alarms as being “suspicious.”

Capitalizing on a series of notorious abductions of college-aged students, several states are pushing to expand their biometric and DNA databases by requiring that anyone accused of a misdemeanor have their DNA collected and catalogued. Technology is already available that allows the government to collect biometrics such as fingerprints from a distance, without a person’s cooperation or knowledge. One system can actually scan and identify a fingerprint from nearly 20 feet away.

Radar guns have long been the speed cop’s best friend, allowing him to hide out by the side of the road, identify speeding cars, and then radio ahead to a police car, which does the dirty work of pulling the driver over and issuing a ticket. Now, developers are hard at work on a radar gun that can actually show if you or someone in your car is texting. No word yet on whether the technology will also be able to detect the contents of that text message.

It’s a sure bet that anything the government welcomes (and funds) too enthusiastically is bound to be a Trojan horse full of nasty surprises. Case in point: police body cameras. Hailed as the easy fix solution to police abuses, these body cameras—made possible by funding from the Department of Justice—are turning police officers into roving surveillance cameras. Of course, if you try to request access to that footage, you’ll find yourself being led a merry and costly chase through miles of red tape, bureaucratic footmen and unhelpful courts.

And the FBI can remotely activate the microphone on your cellphone and record your conversations. The FBI can also do the same thing to laptop computers without the owner knowing any better.

Government surveillance of social media such as Twitter and Facebook is also on the rise. Americans have become so accustomed to the government overstepping its limits that most don’t even seem all that bothered anymore about the fact that the government is spying on our emails and listening in on our phone calls.

Drones, which are taking to the skies en masse, will be the converging point for all of the weapons and technology already available to law enforcement agencies. This means drones that can listen in on your phone calls, see through the walls of your home, scan your biometrics, photograph you and track your movements, and even corral you with sophisticated weaponry.

It’s a given that the government’s tactics are always more advanced than we know, so there’s no knowing what new technologies are already being deployed against us without our knowledge. Certainly, by the time we learn about a particular method of surveillance or new technological gadget, it’s a sure bet that the government has been using it covertly for years already.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, we’ve all become suspects, a.k.a. potential criminals.

As I make clear in my book, Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers.

This is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, and probation officer.

So don’t get too excited about the NSA’s latest concession.

It won’t stop Big Brother from watching you.

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Cassandra.Hermes's picture

Trump said so, so ZH need to justify it now

D Nyle's picture

It's not True, until it's Officially Denied

Déjà view's picture


No Such Agency...

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

For viewing pleasure of NSA, Boris is walk around apartment in only boxing short with live web cam and is frequently adjust plumbing.

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

Uh-oh, someone who is work for NSA is down arrow for Boris, obviously is not enjoy view as much as Boris is enjoy perform…

cheka's picture

they have a front row seat to growing skype awareness.  millions....compounding

internet = greatest spying tool ever...but trojan horse of truth embedded.  dumbasses went for the overreach (again)

tick tock

N0TME's picture

WWW = World Wide Web of deceit.

SuperChicken1138's picture

and speaking of the nsa spying on Boris.

reconnaissance satellite........suuuuuuuure.





datbedank's picture

Until the federal budget is halved in size, I don't trust anything the government "claims". 

Helix6's picture

Funny how that never makes it into next year's budget proposal, no?

Avichi's picture



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economessed's picture


Avichi's picture

Here I tried to make it easy for NSA to read, they need not use the "Decryption algorithm"                                                  


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NoDebt's picture

I'm going to go watch some Porntube now.  Maybe rub one out.  You NSA gus are welcome to watch along with me on my webcam if you want.  But you already know this and I can't stop you from doing it, so who gives a shit?


Giant Meteor's picture

Ok, but just go easy on the midget porn ,,

Think BIG !

But seriously I have long suspected the wall , if ever built, is going to be built to keep people in !

red1chief's picture

Nothing new here. George Carlin said it best:

"Power does what it wants"

Giant Meteor's picture

I'm sure all this is with the best of intentions ..

Control, manipulation, blackmail, you know, the usual ..

DuneCreature's picture

You can't close the NSA down any more. .. It just won't die.. Even a complete government shut down won't do the trick.

Spooks never leave the bases uncovered. ..... We could pull the funding plug (Not that Congress ever would. .. They are 'owned') and the IC would march on like a zombie with no identifiable body parts.

The NSA would just ring up the NRO and see if they have a few temp contractor techs to spare. ........... Rumor has it the NRO has billions and billions of USD squirreled away in a rainy day (slush) fund.

The National Reconnaissance Office -

"A 1996 bipartisan commission report described the NRO as having by far .... the ... largest ... budget ... of any intelligence agency, and "virtually no federal workforce", accomplishing most of its work through "tens of thousands" of defense contractor personnel."
~ 2017 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

They sound like pure mega funded CI contractors to me.

No oversight, no supervision, no reporting requirements, everything they do is a big secret, a mega huge black budget (AND slush fund) and not a dot gov GSA employee in sight.

What could possibly go wrong?

Don't ask! ................ You really don't want to know.

Live Hard, No US Agency Should Have A Mascot With Suction Cups On Its Legs And No Backbone, Die Free

~DC v5.0

Giant Meteor's picture

I see lot's more driverlesss car, tee vee, and unmanned microwave acciidents on the horizon ..

N0TME's picture

Yep, Michael Hastings comes to mind.

cheka's picture

only fear will stop it.  ancestors knew that

DuneCreature's picture

Their fear or ours?

I think it will take Tomahawk Missiles or pitchforks.

Live Hard, Dozens Of Tomahawks Or A Couple Of Pitchforks In Just The Right Places, Die Free

~ DC v5.0

poeg's picture

Your data comes here, to Canada, and the fine folks at the CSE make it all available to the NSA so that they might make sure none of your private data is used against you by your naughty neighbours to the North... sure that's it... now who wants to talk about some shitheads on an American campus somewhere losing their shit about nothing in particular?


Funny that Snowden cracked the door and while the spin on NSA wound up, the media whipped out the neuralyzer for Five Eyes and erased it from the public consciousness.

DuneCreature's picture

Ha! ... Digital data! ... That stuff breeds and reproduces exponentially in the dark. .. I'm convinced of it! ... Turn out the lights and turn your back and there's more when you turn the lights back on!

All kidding aside, everyone acts like the documents, data, recorded phone call audio files are, you know, 'difficult to reproduce'. .. Geeeze! What is everyone smoking? ... To copy a whole drive of data is the push of a button. ... If you are really lazy you can automate that little task.

Face it, there are a dozen nosey spy agencies and private spy companies all over the planet that get copies of everything. ... As a matter of fact, the data hording has reached "Theater of the Absurd" levels.

The Israelis get a early tap of the data stream. THAT much we know.

Search = 'Operation Talpiot' and 'The Technion'

Live Hard, NOTHING Ever Gets Totally Deleted Anymore Or, You Know, 'Wiped With A Cloth', Die Free

~ DC v5.0

Helix6's picture

If you want to see which communications are bing monitored, just try encrypting the odd message and see how long it takes for some "unusual" activity to surface in your neighborhood.

Here's a hint: All of it.

What I really like is the Alexa units.  What a great idea!  Why don't you just invite the NSA right into your living room?  Oh, yeah, then there's your voice-activated smart TV.  Same thing.  Your cell phone?  Leave it in a drawer in some other room when you're not using it.  Still have a wall phone?  Use the old type that physically breaks the circuit when you hang it up.  Otherwise, just assume that Uncle Sam is sitting in the chair next to you.  Always.  Because electronically, he is.  Did I already say always?

"Total situational awareness" has now come to a living room near you.  Yours.  Live your life accordingly.

PitBullsRule's picture

Its worse than that, they can turn on your smart phone's microphone and listen to you whenever they want.  With its GPS, computer, and 4G wide band connection, that little bastard is the perfect spy tool.  Fortunately for me, there's nothing worth listening to, but you..  hoo boy!

Number 9's picture

I just cant see why the ZH community cant see that all this surveillance is for our own good?

Dontcha feel safer knowing they "got  yer back"?

Helix6's picture

"I've got your back" can have several meanings.

MedicalQuack's picture

Here's what I say...“One Trick Algo World” Needs to be Licensed and Indexed–Spurious Correlations “For Profit” Are Out of Control" and it is a One Trick Algo world a engineers and quant modelers try to trick you in every way they can.  I used to write code and I know all too well about the Alter Egos of those folks who do it and don't play fair.

There's a good book out there to read too from Cathy O'Neill a former DE Shaw quant from a few years ago, Weapons of Math Destruction, good title too.  She just recently did a TED talk and geez, you had to love her tweet about it being a very pampered experience from speaking at a conference revolving around bubble worlds and I'm sure they didn't appreciate it, but it's the truth. 

In the mid 2000s I was walking around consulting and watching HMOs using algorithms to pay their doctors less to increase their bonuses, it's a culling effect of sorts, so in 2009 I asked a brave question about whether or not the US needed something like a Department of Algorithms to regulate and funny thing, Cathy today is now saying the same thing.  They just tweaked financial models and started using them in healthcare, insurers were first at this game and live off their algorithms to underwrite. 

I keep running little campaigns hoping to get some attention to at least "license" these data sellers who drive this whole game as they make money off it with "scoring" people to values less than zero.  So why get out of bed in the morning, those ball and chain risk assessment are getting too heavy to haul around:)

Here's my campaign page and you can read it and do watch the video for game "Data Dealers" if nothing else, it's very well done and the dramatics are outstanding:)  The sad thing is that it is so truthful that it hurts and is now a game.

I'll just keep repeating myself until maybe someday I can get some funds to maybe lobby this thing as it's step one as you regulate anything unless you know who the players are.  We license hair dressers who represent a whole lot less risk:)  At least people need to have the ability to fix the flawed data that's being sold about them and the flawed scores I say.  It's the Attack of the Killer Algorithms indeed.  

ebworthen's picture

Anything on your phone, computer, or the Internets is not secure.

Boston pressure cooker bombers 4th of July Wrigley Park dittos kids.

If you think you are being "protected" it is only because they let the evil in, then surveil the virtuous.

And why doesn't the spell-checker here recognize "surveil"?


headless blogger's picture

A call to everyone: Please load up on every kind of spyware you can afford and start spying on our government officials, corporate heads, NSA people, etc. And post to Media.

If they are going to spy on us, then lets spy on them.

I've been wanting to get my own drone so I've been shopping around for one.

cheech_wizard's picture

Can i add a payload of EPX-1 just to make things interesting?

VWAndy's picture

  You guys think they do more than just spying? Not saying that data minning is a nothing burger. Its not. Its just the tip baby.

Helix6's picture

Nothing to fear until it's time for the culling.

quasi_verbatim's picture

Snooping is a Human Right. It's been around a long time, about 40,000 years.

If Washington needs to know when you've been to the crapper, they need to know.

Thoth777's picture

They once did a time-use audit, and found that the NSA spends sixty percent of it's time watching porn, 20 percent snorting coke, and 15 percent in office gossip, breaks, and illicit sex on the job. The other five percent was spent day dreaming. They know that we conrol the whole terror thing, and that there are no real threats out there. What the hell are they supposed to do all day? 


Helix6's picture

Write algorithms to mine data and assemble dossiers.  And load targeting information into drones.

IranContra's picture

Iranian Agents on ZH Plot Assassination of IranContra (smile)

As ZH reported, "The founder and CEO of Iran's satellite TV network Gem TV, Saeed Karimian, 45, who in 2016 was tried in absentia and sentenced to six years in prison by a Tehran court for 'spreading propaganda against Iran', was shot dead in Istanbul."

Iranian TV CEO Assassinated In Istanbul

In preparation for the assassination, the Iranian regime smeared Karimian as MEK agent by photo-shopping a picture of him with the MEK leader (Assassination of Karimian).

ZH troll Shemp4Victory is part of a similar plot to assassinate fellow ZH troll IranContra, an outspoken critic of the Iranian regime on ZH:

Shemp 4 Victory Says IranContra is MEK

JD59's picture

SOP. You would have to be a DUMBAZZ to believe otherwise.

JD59's picture

SOP. You would have to be a DUMBAZZ to believe otherwise.

Let it Go's picture

Anyone who doesn't believe that countries use psychological warfare and propaganda to sway the opinions of people both in and outside of their country should be considered naive. To many people America is more than a little hypocritical when they criticize other countries for trying to gain influence considering our history of meddling in the affairs of other countries.

Americans have every reason to be concerned and worried considering revelations of just how big the government intelligent agencies have grown since 9-11 and how unlimited their spying and surveillance operations have become. The article below explores this growth and questions whether we have lost control.

Last of the Middle Class's picture

Yawn, BSMSM propaganda. If you believe NSA is going to stop collecting information, you must also believe Paul Ryan is doing everything he can to get rid of Obamacare.