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Update on The Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. [1] (The flash dri­ve includes the anti-fas­cist books avail­able on this site.)

 

COMMENT: Updat­ing the Adven­tures of Eddie the Friend­ly Spook [Snow­den], we note sev­er­al things:

“The End of the Inter­net?” by Gor­don M. Gold­stein; The Atlantic; July/August 2014. [2]

. . . . The Web’s growth has been broad­ly con­ge­nial to Amer­i­can inter­ests, and a large boon to the Amer­i­can econ­o­my.

That brings us to Edward Snow­den and the U.S. Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency. Snowden’s dis­clo­sures of the NSA’s sur­veil­lance of inter­na­tion­al Web traf­fic have pro­voked world­wide out­rage and a grow­ing coun­ter­re­ac­tion. Brazil and the Euro­pean Union recent­ly announced plans to lay a $185 mil­lion under­sea fiber-optic com­mu­ni­ca­tions cable between them to thwart U.S. sur­veil­lance. In Feb­ru­ary, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel called for the Euro­pean Union to cre­ate its own region­al Inter­net, walled off from the Unit­ed States. “We’ll talk to France about how we can main­tain a high lev­el of data pro­tec­tion,” Merkel said. “Above all, we’ll talk about Euro­pean providers that offer secu­ri­ty for our cit­i­zens, so that one shouldn’t have to send e‑mails and oth­er infor­ma­tion across the Atlantic.”

Merkel’s explo­ration of a closed, pan-Euro­pean cloud-com­put­ing net­work is sim­ply the lat­est exam­ple of what the ana­lyst Daniel Cas­tro of the Infor­ma­tion Tech­nol­o­gy and Inno­va­tion Foun­da­tion calls “data nation­al­ism,” a phe­nom­e­non gath­er­ing momen­tum where­by coun­tries require that cer­tain types of infor­ma­tion be stored on servers with­in a state’s phys­i­cal bor­ders. The nations that have already imple­ment­ed a patch­work of data-local­iza­tion require­ments range from Aus­tralia, France, South Korea, and India to Indone­sia, Kaza­khstan, Malaysia, and Viet­nam, accord­ing to Anu­pam Chan­der and Uyen P. Le, two legal schol­ars at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Davis. “Anx­i­eties over sur­veil­lance … are jus­ti­fy­ing gov­ern­men­tal mea­sures that break apart the World Wide Web,” they wrote in a recent white paper. As a result, “the era of a glob­al Inter­net may be pass­ing.”

Secu­ri­ty con­cerns have cat­alyzed data-nation­al­iza­tion efforts, yet Cas­tro, Chan­der, and Le all ques­tion the ben­e­fits, argu­ing that the secu­ri­ty of data depends not on their loca­tion but on the sophis­ti­ca­tion of the defens­es built around them. Anoth­er motive appears to be in play: the Web’s frag­men­ta­tion would enable local Inter­net busi­ness­es in France or Malaysia to carve out roles for them­selves, at the expense of glob­al­ly dom­i­nant com­pa­nies, based dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly in the Unit­ed States. Cas­tro esti­mates that the U.S. cloud-com­put­ing indus­try alone could lose $22 bil­lion to $35 bil­lion in rev­enue by 2016.

The Snow­den affair has brought to a boil geopo­lit­i­cal ten­sions that were already sim­mer­ing. . . .

“Civ­il Lib­er­ties Hero Edward Snow­den Com­mits Mas­sive Civ­il Lib­er­ties Vio­la­tion” by Charles John­son; Lit­tle Green Foot­balls; 7/6/2014 [5]

I can’t help notic­ing that the most impor­tant and trou­bling aspect of Bar­ton Gellman’s new NSA sto­ry for the Wash­ing­ton Post is not even men­tioned in the text: In NSA-Inter­cept­ed Data, Those Not Tar­get­ed Far Out­num­ber the For­eign­ers Who Are [21].

But first, here’s what is in the text:

Among the most valu­able con­tents — which The Post will not describe in detail, to avoid inter­fer­ing with ongo­ing oper­a­tions — are fresh rev­e­la­tions about a secret over­seas nuclear project, dou­ble-deal­ing by an osten­si­ble ally, a mil­i­tary calami­ty that befell an unfriend­ly pow­er, and the iden­ti­ties of aggres­sive intrud­ers into U.S. com­put­er net­works.

Months of track­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions across more than 50 alias accounts, the files show, led direct­ly to the 2011 cap­ture in Abbot­tabad of Muham­mad Tahir Shahzad, a Pak­istan-based bomb builder, and Umar Patek, a sus­pect in a 2002 ter­ror­ist bomb­ing on the Indone­sian island of Bali. At the request of CIA offi­cials, The Post is with­hold­ing oth­er exam­ples that offi­cials said would com­pro­mise ongo­ing oper­a­tions.

Secret nuclear weapons projects, aggres­sive hack­ers, dou­ble-deal­ing by pur­port­ed allies — why is it sup­posed to be evil and wrong for the NSA to uncov­er these kinds of things? Why in the world would any­one be upset that their com­mu­ni­ca­tions were inter­cept­ed if it helps the US gov­ern­ment dis­cov­er a secret nuclear project?

If my emails are col­lect­ed by the NSA as part of this effort, I say, “Go ahead, col­lect away.” Call me crazy, but I want the US gov­ern­ment to dis­cov­er these things before it’s too late.

Also note that this lat­est release absolute­ly debunks the con­stant claims by the Green­wald crew that the NSA’s pro­grams have noth­ing to do with ter­ror­ism, or that they’re inef­fec­tive at uncov­er­ing ter­ror­ists.

But even more to the point, and the rea­son for my head­line above: hasn’t Edward Snow­den him­self com­mit­ted a tru­ly mas­sive vio­la­tion of civ­il lib­er­ties, by hand­ing over these legal­ly col­lect­ed and prop­er­ly redact­ed pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions to jour­nal­ists — and to Glenn Green­wald?

Many oth­er files, described as use­less by the ana­lysts but nonethe­less retained, have a star­tling­ly inti­mate, even voyeuris­tic qual­i­ty. They tell sto­ries of love and heart­break, illic­it sex­u­al liaisons, men­tal-health crises, polit­i­cal and reli­gious con­ver­sions, finan­cial anx­i­eties and dis­ap­point­ed hopes. The dai­ly lives of more than 10,000 account hold­ers who were not tar­get­ed are cat­a­logued and record­ed nev­er­the­less.

And now they’re in the hands of peo­ple like Glenn Green­wald, Jacob Apple­baum, Julian Assange and who knows who else.

I’m con­tin­u­al­ly amazed at the capac­i­ty of the civ­il lib­er­tar­i­an crowd to blithe­ly vio­late the civ­il lib­er­ties of oth­ers in their dead-end quest for a purist lib­er­tar­i­an ide­al.

“Meet the Mus­lim-Amer­i­can Lead­ers the FBI and NSA Have Been Spy­ing On” by Glenn Green­wald and Mur­taza Hus­sain; The Inter­cept; 7/9/2014. [8]

. . . .Accord­ing to doc­u­ments pro­vid­ed by NSA whistle­blow­er Edward Snow­den, the list of Amer­i­cans mon­i­tored by their own gov­ern­ment includes:

Faisal Gill, a long­time Repub­li­can Par­ty oper­a­tive and one-time can­di­date for pub­lic office who held a top-secret secu­ri­ty clear­ance and served in the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty under Pres­i­dent George W. Bush;

• Asim Ghafoor, a promi­nent attor­ney who has rep­re­sent­ed clients in ter­ror­ism-relat­ed cas­es;

• Hooshang Ami­rah­ma­di, an Iran­ian-Amer­i­can pro­fes­sor of inter­na­tion­al rela­tions at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty;

• Agha Saeed, a for­mer polit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty who cham­pi­ons Mus­lim civ­il lib­er­ties and Pales­tin­ian rights;

Nihad Awad, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR), the largest Mus­lim civ­il rights orga­ni­za­tion in the coun­try. [CAIR is very close­ly linked to the Mus­lim Brotherhood–D.E.]. . . .

“EU Should Cre­ate Own Spy Agency, Red­ing Says” by Andrew Rettman; EUob­serv­er; 11/4/2013. [16]

EU jus­tice com­mis­sion­er Viviane Red­ing has said the Union should cre­ate its own intel­li­gence ser­vice by 2020.

Speak­ing on Mon­day (4 Novem­ber) to Greek dai­ly Naftem­po­ri­ki on the US snoop­ing scan­dal, she said: “What we need is to strength­en Europe in this field, so we can lev­el the play­ing field with our US part­ners.”

She added: “I would there­fore wish to use this occa­sion to nego­ti­ate an agree­ment on stronger secret ser­vice co-oper­a­tion among the EU mem­ber states — so that we can speak with a strong com­mon voice to the US. The NSA needs a coun­ter­weight. My long-term pro­pos­al would there­fore be to set up a Euro­pean Intel­li­gence Ser­vice by 2020.”

Rev­e­la­tions by US leak­er Edward Snow­den say Amer­i­ca’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency (NSA) inter­cepts mil­lions of Euro­peans’ emails and phone calls. . . .

“U.S. Offered Berlin ‘Five Eyes’ Pact. Merkel Was Done With It” by Patrick Don­ahue and John Wal­cott; Bloomberg News; 7/12/2014. [17]

U.S. Ambas­sador John Emer­son made his way to the For­eign Min­istry in Berlin armed with a plan to head off the worst diplo­matic clash of Angela Merkel’s chan­cel­lor­ship.

Emer­son came to the July 9 meet­ing with an offer autho­rized in Wash­ing­ton: pro­vide Ger­many a U.S. intel­li­gence-shar­ing agree­ment resem­bling one avail­able only to four oth­er nations. The goal was to assuage Merkel and pre­vent the expul­sion of the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency’s chief of sta­tion in Berlin.

It wasn’t enough.

The same morn­ing, across the bound­ary once marked by the Berlin Wall, Merkel con­vened her top min­is­ters fol­low­ing the 9:30 a.m. Cab­i­net meet­ing on the sixth floor of the Chan­cellery and resolved to ask the U.S. intel­li­gence chief to leave Ger­man soil.

Merkel, who ulti­mately deter­mined the government’s course, had to act. Pub­lic and polit­i­cal pres­sure after more than a year of accu­sa­tions of Amer­i­can espi­onage over­reach, stoked by indig­na­tion at the lack of a suf­fi­cient response from Wash­ing­ton, had left the Ger­man gov­ern­ment with no alter­na­tive.

“We don’t live in the Cold War any­more, where every­body prob­a­bly mis­trusted every­body else,” Merkel, who has pre­vi­ously reserved her Cold War-men­tal­i­ty accu­sa­tions for Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, said in an inter­view with Ger­man broad­caster ZDF today.

No Trust

The spy­ing scan­dal has blown open a rift between the U.S. and Ger­many, a nation once under Amer­i­can tute­lage in the decades after World War II. The lat­est alle­ga­tions, involv­ing U.S. dou­ble agents, rekin­dled anger over the dis­clo­sure last year that Merkel’s mobile phone had been hacked by the U.S.

“The notion that you always have to ask your­self in close coop­er­a­tion whether the one sit­ting across from you could be work­ing for the oth­ers -– that’s not a basis for trust,” Merkel told ZDF. “So we obvi­ously have dif­fer­ent per­cep­tions and we have to dis­cuss that inten­sive­ly.”

Merkel also sig­naled dis­plea­sure with U.S. spy­ing at a news con­fer­ence in Berlin on July 10. With­in an hour, her office issued a state­ment say­ing that the two new inves­ti­ga­tions into U.S. cloak-and-dag­ger meth­ods, on top of “ques­tions over the past months” fol­low­ing leaks on Nation­al Secu­rity Agency activ­ity, forced the gov­ern­ment to take action.

Invit­ed to Leave

At that point, the U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cer was invit­ed to leave the coun­try rather than suf­fer the diplo­matic ignominy of being declared “per­sona non gra­ta” and expelled under the Vien­na Con­ven­tion. Merkel’s spokesman, Stef­fen Seib­ert, said yes­ter­day that the gov­ern­ment expect­ed the uniden­ti­fied offi­cial to leave the coun­try “soon.”

The evic­tion was “a nec­es­sary step and a mea­sured response to the breach of trust that took place,” Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier told reporters yes­ter­day. He’ll meet U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry in Vien­na tomor­row to dis­cuss the mat­ter on the side­lines of talks on Iran’s nuclear pro­gram.

The onus is on the U.S. to sug­gest solu­tions, and Ger­man offi­cials are wait­ing to hear what Ker­ry will pro­pose, accord­ing to a Ger­man diplo­mat who asked not to be iden­ti­fied dis­cussing the con­flict.

The rev­e­la­tions at once dis­rupt the U.S. secu­rity rela­tion­ship with a core Euro­pean ally and expose Ger­man anx­i­ety over the bal­ance to strike between pri­vacy issues and com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism. Ham­burg was home to three of the Sept. 11, 2001, sui­cide pilots.

...

Intel­li­gence Shar­ing

The arrange­ment, ini­ti­ated in 1946 between the U.S. and U.K., calls for the U.S. and the oth­er Eng­lish-speak­ing coun­tries to share most of the elec­tronic inter­cepts and some of the oth­er intel­li­gence they col­lect, with the under­stand­ing that they will lim­it their spy­ing on one anoth­er.

“We are not cur­rently look­ing to alter the Five Eyes struc­ture,” said Caitlin Hay­den, a spokes­woman for the White House’s Nation­al Secu­rity Coun­cil, in an e‑mailed state­ment. “But we remain open to dis­cus­sions with our close allies and part­ners, includ­ing Ger­many, about how we can bet­ter coor­di­nate our intel­li­gence efforts.”

Post­war Ger­many has had a more mod­est intel­li­gence estab­lish­ment than the U.S. or U.K., focused large­ly on the for­mer East Ger­many and Sovi­et Union and on ter­ror­ist groups. Ger­man offi­cials balked at expand­ing their col­lec­tion and shar­ing under such an unwrit­ten arrange­ment, accord­ing to the U.S. offi­cial.

The alle­ga­tions of snoop­ing have par­tic­u­lar res­o­nance for Merkel, who lived for 35 years in com­mu­nist East Ger­many and who, as the daugh­ter of a Protes­tant pas­tor, endured spe­cial scruti­ny from the state-secu­ri­ty ser­vice, the Stasi.

Big ’If’

While German‑U.S. rela­tions dipped dur­ing the 2003 Iraq war when Merkel’s pre­de­ces­sor, Ger­hard Schroed­er, refused to join Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s coali­tion against Sad­dam Hus­sein, ties improved under Merkel. She was award­ed the Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Free­dom by Oba­ma in 2011.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to com­ment on the details of the alle­ga­tions, telling reporters at the begin­ning of the week that accu­sa­tions over spy­ing were sub­ject to a “a big ‘if’.”

“We high­ly val­ue the close work­ing rela­tion­ship we have with the Ger­mans on a wide range of issues,” Earnest said, “but par­tic­u­larly on secu­rity and intel­li­gence mat­ters.”

U.S. law­mak­ers, includ­ing some fre­quently crit­i­cal of Oba­ma, have been sim­i­larly ret­i­cent.

Law­mak­ers’ Con­cerns

“I don’t know how much the admin­is­tra­tion could have done to defuse this,” Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ed Royce, the Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can who heads the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee, said yes­ter­day at a break­fast with reporters host­ed by the Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor. “Giv­en the cir­cum­stances, the admin­is­tra­tion is attempt­ing at this time to deal with the Ger­man gov­ern­ment, and I’m hope­ful that they’re suc­cess­ful.”

Sen­a­tor Mark Udall, a Col­orado Demo­c­rat and Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee mem­ber, has told reporters that he was eager to learn more about the sit­u­a­tion at a clas­si­fied brief­ing for the pan­el mem­bers next week.

“I am con­cerned that we’re send­ing the wrong mes­sage to a key ally,” Udall said.

Before the cur­rent ten­sions, the U.S. and Ger­many had a his­tory of exten­sive intel­li­gence coop­er­a­tion. For many years, much of U.S. elec­tronic spy­ing on Iran was con­ducted out of a CIA sta­tion in Frank­furt known as Tefran, accord­ing to a for­mer U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cial who described the coop­er­a­tion on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty.

Review Agree­ments

A num­ber of peo­ple in the U.S. gov­ern­ment say that, more than two decades after the Cold War end­ed, it’s time to con­sider agree­ments with more coun­tries to help track ter­ror­ists, weapons pro­lif­er­a­tion and espi­onage, accord­ing to U.S. offi­cials who asked not to be iden­ti­fied.

They said the con­flict with Ger­many also has under­scored con­cern that intel­li­gence agen­cies lack any good risk-assess­ment mod­el to judge the ben­e­fits of oper­a­tions against friend­ly pow­ers against the poten­tial risks.

“This is so stu­pid,” Ger­man Finance Min­is­ter Wolf­gang Schaeu­ble, Germany’s longest-serv­ing law­maker, said July 9, reflect­ing frus­tra­tion and amaze­ment about the turn of events in U.S.-German rela­tions.

Schaeu­ble, who helped nego­ti­ate Ger­man reuni­fi­ca­tion 25 years ago this year, said, “It makes you want to cry.”

“The US mil­i­tary is Already Using Face­book to Track Your Mood” by Patrick Tuck­er; Quartz; 7/3/2014. [20]

Crit­ics have tar­geted a recent study on how emo­tions spread on the pop­u­lar social net­work site Face­book, com­plain­ing that some 600,000 Face­book users did not know that they were tak­ing part in an exper­i­ment. Some­what more dis­turb­ing, the researchers delib­er­ately manip­u­lated users’ feel­ings to mea­sure an effect called emo­tional con­ta­gion [22].

Though Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity, home to at least one of the researchers, said [23] the study received no exter­nal fund­ing, but it turns out [24] that the uni­ver­sity is cur­rently receiv­ing Defense Depart­ment mon­ey for some extreme­ly sim­i­lar-sound­ing research—the analy­sis of social net­work posts for “sen­ti­ment,” i.e. how peo­ple are feel­ing, in the hopes of iden­ti­fy­ing social “tip­ping points.”

The tip­ping points in ques­tion include “the 2011 Egypt­ian rev­o­lu­tion, the 2011 Russ­ian Duma elec­tions, the 2012 Niger­ian fuel sub­sidy cri­sis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey,” accord­ing to the web­site of the Min­erva Ini­tia­tive [25], a Defense Depart­ment social sci­ence project.

It’s the sort of work that the US mil­i­tary has been fund­ing for years, most famous­ly via the open-source indi­ca­tors [26] pro­gram, an Intel­li­gence Advanced Research Projects Activ­ity (IARPA) pro­gram that looked at Twit­ter to pre­dict social unrest.

If the idea of the gov­ern­ment mon­i­tor­ing and even manip­u­lat­ing you on Face­book gives you a cold, creep­ing feel­ing, the bad news is that you can expect the intel­li­gence com­mu­nity to spend a great deal more time and mon­ey research­ing sen­ti­ment and rela­tion­ships via social net­works like Face­book. In fact, defense con­trac­tors and high-lev­el USin­tel­li­gence offi­cials say that social net­work data has become one of the most impor­tant tools they use in the col­lect­ing intel­li­gence.

Defense One recent­ly caught up with Lt. Gen. Michael Fly­nn, the direc­tor of the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency who said the US mil­i­tary has “com­pletely revamped” the way it col­lects intel­li­gence around the exis­tence of large, open­ly avail­able data sources and espe­cially social media like Face­book. “The infor­ma­tion that we’re able to extract form social media—it’s giv­ing us insights that frankly we nev­er had before,” he said.

In oth­er words, the head of one of the biggest US mil­i­tary intel­li­gence agen­cies needs you on Face­book.

“Just over a decade ago, when I was a senior intel­li­gence offi­cer, I spent most of my time in the world of ‘ints’—signals intel­li­gence imagery, human intelligence—and used just a lit­tle bit of open-source infor­ma­tion to enrich the assess­ments that we made. Fast for­ward to 2014 and the explo­sion of the infor­ma­tion envi­ron­ment in just the last few years alone. Open-source now is a place I spend most of my time. The open world of infor­ma­tion pro­vides us most of what we need and the ‘ints’ of old, they enrich the assess­ments that we’re able to make from open-source infor­ma­tion.”

Open-source intel­li­gence can take a vari­ety of forms, but among the most volu­mi­nous, per­sonal and use­ful is Face­book and Twit­ter data. The avail­abil­ity of that sort of infor­ma­tion is chang­ing the way that DIA trains intel­li­gence oper­a­tives. Long gone are the spooks of old who would fish through trash for clues on tar­gets. Here to stay are the eyes look­ing through your vaca­tion pic­tures.

“We train them dif­fer­ently even than we did a year ago because of the types of tools we have. There are adjust­ments to the trade craft, and that’s due to the amount of infor­ma­tion we can now get our hands on,” Fly­nn said.

The growth of social media has not just changed day-to-day life at agen­cies like DIA, it’s also giv­en rise to a mini gold rush in defense con­tract­ing. The mil­i­tary will be spend­ing an increas­ing amount of the $50 bil­lion intel­li­gence bud­get on pri­vate con­trac­tors to per­form open-source intel­li­gence gath­er­ing and analy­sis, accord­ing to Fly­nn. That’s evi­denced by the rise in com­pa­nies eager to pro­vide those ser­vices.

Some of them are well known like Palan­tir, the Sil­i­con Val­ley data visu­al­iza­tion giant that’s been fea­tured promi­nently in Bloomberg Busi­ness­week and has graced the cov­er of Forbes. Col­lect­ing or ana­lyz­ing social net­work data wasn’t some­thing they orig­i­nally want­ed to get into accord­ing to Bryant Chung, a Palan­tir employ­ee. Palan­tir doesn’t mar­ket itself as a data col­lec­tion com­pany. They pro­vide a tool set to help agen­cies visu­al­ize and share data.

The com­pany wor­ried that part­ner­ing with the intel­li­gence com­mu­nity to do social net­work data col­lec­tion could hurt their rep­u­ta­tion among the tech com­mu­nity, increas­ingly wary of the gov­ern­ment, accord­ing to Chung. When the com­pany was approached by NATO and some US intel­li­gence groups, they decid­ed to explore the mar­ket­place for sen­ti­ment analy­sis of social net­work data.

“There are a lot of oth­er com­mer­cial com­pa­nies already in that space. Unless we know we’re going to crush it, we don’t want to get in,” Chung said. “I think we have a dif­fer­en­ti­ated capa­bil­ity, espe­cially at a macro lev­el. For exam­ple, you are inter­ested in mon­i­tor­ing an elec­tion some­where in Africa and you want to know who are the peo­ple tweet­ing on one side of an elec­tion ver­sus the oth­er, or who are the most influ­en­tial tweet­ers or you what if you have intel­li­gence that an explo­sion is about to hap­pen at a par­tic­u­lar square, can you con­firm that using Tweets?” That’s the sort of thing Palan­tir wants to help you with.

Many of the groups doing this sort of work on behalf of the gov­ern­ment are small out­fits you prob­a­bly have nev­er heard of. And ide­ally, you nev­er would.

One of them is a com­pany out of Austin, Texas, called Snap­Trends, found­ed in 2012. They pro­vide a “social lis­ten­ing” ser­vice that ana­lyzes posts to pro­vide insights about the cir­cum­stances of the poster, one of the most impor­tant of which is the poster’s loca­tion. The com­pany uses cell tow­er den­sity, social net­work knowhow, and var­i­ous oth­er ele­ments to fig­ure out who is post­ing what and where. Are you some­one who refus­es to geo-tag your tweets out of con­cerns for pri­vacy? Do you turn off your phone’s GPS receiv­ing capa­bil­ity to stay under the prover­bial radar? It doesn’t mat­ter to Snap­Trends.

One tweet and they can find you.

“If it’s a dense envi­ron­ment. I can put you with­in a block. If it’s a [bad] envi­ron­ment I can put you with­in two or three blocks,” said Todd Robin­son, direc­tor of oper­a­tions for Defense Mil­i­tary Intel­li­gence for the com­pany Gen­eral Dynam­ics Infor­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, GDIT, and Snap­Trends pres­i­dent for Mid­dle East­ern oper­a­tions. GDIT part­nered with Snap­Trends to sell their ser­vices to the gov­ern­ment. “Once I do have you, I click this but­ton right here, I can go back five years [of social media posts.]”

Snap­Trends says that the tool was extreme­ly help­ful in the inves­ti­ga­tion fol­low­ing the 2013 Boston Marathon bomb attacks. Using social net­work analy­sis, “we found the col­lege kids that had access to the com­put­ers [owned by the sus­pects]. We were able to get to them first,” said Robins.

The use of social net­work data for intel­li­gence isn’t just fair, Rob­bins says, it’s a no-brain­er. Scrawl­ing Face­book for clues about human behav­ior doesn’t require break­ing in via back­doors or oth­er elab­o­rate pieces of tech­no­log­i­cal trick­ery. “When you join Twit­ter and Face­book, you sign an agree­ment say­ing you will post that to a pub­lic web page. We just pull data from that web page.”

”I’m a retired intel­li­gence guy,” he said. “This is not that dif­fi­cult, peo­ple.

But while social data may be an impor­tant tool in intel­li­gence col­lec­tion, it’s hard­ly a per­ma­nent one.

In the same way that observ­ing the behav­ior of some sub­atomic par­ti­cles changes the behav­ior of those par­ti­cles (called the observ­er effect), watch­ing the tweets and posts of tar­gets can cre­ate an envi­ron­ment where peo­ple tweet less. You poi­son your own well by draw­ing from it. That hap­pens on an indi­vid­ual lev­el in terms of spe­cific human tar­gets but also on a larg­er, soci­etal lev­el.

“We’ve seen that already,” Robin­son said. “There is always a risk that as peo­ple under­stand this, they’ll quit putting [posts] on there.”

The view was sec­onded by Snap­Trends co-founder and­ CEO, Eric Klas­son. “The more the ‘bad guys’ know about what is pos­si­ble, the less they will use social media. This under­mines state, local, fed­eral and inter­na­tional law enforce­ment efforts,” he told Defense One.

When asked if he was con­cerned that peo­ple might stop using Face­book, Twit­ter and oth­er social net­works as a result of US intel­li­gence activ­i­ties, Fly­nn answered mat­ter-of-fact­ly: “Yes.”

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