Wired on US Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy Stewart Baker discussing cyber surveillance myths and his obvious contempt for the loss of Patriot Act Section 215 authorities thanks to the Snowden disclosures:
In the Snowden case, those were PowerPoint presentations of some things that had been reported—
Oh kiss my ass, that’s not true. At some abstract level you know the NSA has some capabilities. You don’t know which rumors are true or false. You don’t know whether the people who are saying them are accurate. There’s a lot of stuff in the ether. It doesn’t come down to you as an individual making a decision on how to communicate. But when you see the details and exactly how the NSA is exploiting your communications, which is true of some of the Snowden stories, they actually told ISIS what we were doing to intercept ISIS communications—that’s a very different thing. At that point, if you continue to do that, you should be shot. That is very different than having heard maybe there was some capabilities and seeing that you have been compromised.
Did Snowden’s revelations and raising national consciousness about surveillance end up being a good thing for America?
It was a scam from the start. Greenwald, Poitras, Snowden, and Bart Gellman did exactly what people like them have been accusing the intelligence community of doing for 40 years. They used the classification to tell a partial story in the hopes of shaping the debate, and they succeeded.
They released that order saying the government is scarfing up metadata about all your calls and they withheld, for roughly two weeks, the [documentation] which they all had which showed all the limitations on that access. Why? Because they didn’t want a debate on the limitations—they wanted to leave the impression that everybody’s phone calls are looked at by NSA and they have succeeded in leaving that impression because of their manipulation of the classified information. That’s a shame.
Never expect the intelligence community to ever admit the disclosures were a valuable tool for American citizens. As far as the IC is concerned, once they are given legal authority to conduct surveillance, they believe that authority should last indefinitely and unencumbered.
In short, the US IC believes they should be able to do whatever they want, to whoever they want, for however long they want, no questions asked.