This interview was conducted with a self-described “former government employee who believes there is a role for surveillance by the intelligence community, and doesn’t like the way things are trending.”
We were introduced by a mutual acquaintance. For the purpose of this interview, we’ll call our contact “No Such Accomplice” or NSA for short.
This is Part II of the interview that first appeared Monday.
Media Daily News: What’s your biggest complaint?
NSA: One of the biggest problems with the NSA is that the FISA warrants are a joke. If you fill out this form in a cookie-cutter way, you will be granted a warrant. No question. If you don’t get a FISA warrant, you just have to go rewrite it and refile. Did you make sure you wrote this in this section? If so, you get a rubber stamp. Look at the number of FISA warrants turned down in the past year. Not many.
(According to research compiled by ZDNet, from 1979 to now, the FISA court has approved 40,117 warrants, but only rejected 21 requests. That's a rejection rate of 0.052%.)
But what’s really outrageous is the mislabeling of individuals to meet that rubber-stamp culture. You have to say, if you think somebody is a bad guy who is a terrorist threat, you have to say they’re a member of Al-Qaeda. Now, this guy may actually hate Al-Qaeda, but you need to put Al-Qaeda in there to get that rubber stamp. They don’t care. The higher ups, the floor managers, they don’t care that you’re mislabeling people. There’s this “go along to get along” in what’s considered life-or-death situations. Not healthy.
Media Daily News: Did you see it get worse?
NSA: I can’t say it got worse, but ….You watch a history of the abuses of the power. They give you a dozen examples of errors of use, but “now everything is perfect.” But when you’re doing the job, you’re like, hmm …. About a third of the people who do the work are cognizant of these issues -- they do it because they don’t see it as a huge problem right now. Well, we’re not monitoring these people. We’re just doing this to get the job done.
Media Daily News: Just as long as nobody gets hurt?
NSA: Look, I don't know that you can point to anybody -- well, Trump, who has been hurt by the NSA. I don’t know of anybody. If there are no victims, no victims to point to, it’s hard to conceptualize the greater threat to society.
A lot of the people who work at NSA are conscientious. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of Mormons. They don’t see the problem with it. Even if they see the problem, it’s not so big a problem you’ll give up a $100K salary. It’s really just people living their lives.
Media Daily News: Were you ever involved in anything that stopped a terrorist attack?
NSA: It’s hard to say if something would have necessarily happened. A lot of what they call counter-terrorism is a bastardization of the term terrorism. Counter-terrorism, the one that gets the most money, maybe 5% of the people they actually track are terrorists. Others are jihadists. They fail to make a differentiation.
A terrorist is trying to instill terror for political gain. It’s a despicable thing to do. But post-9/11 Earth, the term "terrorism" has been watered down to a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter thing. But if you have somebody who lives in France and wants to travel to Uzbekistan to fight the American troops, he’s not looking to instill terror to a political end.
You can say one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, but that’s not really the case. A freedom fighter is going to defend his country. That's a jihadist. Ninety-five percent of the people the NSA labeled as terrorist, are they enemies of the of USA? Sure they are. They should be tracked. But calling them a terrorist is irresponsible and dishonest.
Media Daily News: What else can you tell us?
NSA: The NSA is not omnipotent in the cyber world. There are just too many people to keep up with. But at the same time, they can get any information they want, if they want. Should the average American be worried about being caught for tax evasion, looking at porn, cheating on their wife? No, probably not. But I can’t tell you beyond their capabilities.
Media Daily News: What about corporations?
NSA: Do not trust Microsoft. Anything that is Microsoft, the government has unlimited access to. That includes Skype. Before Microsoft bought Skype, Skype was not able to be monitored. Skype goes from computer to computer and avoids the access points the government uses to monitor communication. As soon as Microsoft bought Skype, the government had unfettered access to every Skype conversation.
Media Daily News: Wow. And all those Microsoft viruses and updates? It’s funny, because the latest Microsoft update disabled both my VPN and my non-Microsoft approved anti-virus software. I’ve been unable to get either of them back.
NSA: It only lets in the viruses the NSA makes. The U.S. government is the leading creator of SPAM and viruses.
Media Daily News: Why?
NSA: I don’t know all the reasons. A lot of it is used to specifically target someone. I don’t know why they create so much of it, but much of it is only targeted operations. They want to get into your laptop, and they devise a plan. They generally win. When they want access to something, they usually win.
Media Daily News: How about Google?
NSA: Google’s encryption is pretty good. Once you’re co-oped, it doesn’t matter how good your encryption is. They’re not Microsoft, though.
Media Daily News: Have you seen anyone abuse their security or surveillance authority?
NSA: Personal vendettas happen all the time. You hear about people spying on their girlfriend because they’re cheating on them, or think they are. But to the NSA's credit, they always find out and the employees are very harshly dealt with.
Media Daily News: They get fired?
NSA: No. They go to prison. There is no “thin blue line” for the rank-and-file NSA people.
Media Daily News: Well, that’s encouraging.
NSA: Again, don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of goodwill behind a lot of NSA and government surveillance policies. There are a lot of good people who are working to protect the country. And it’s reinforced in the training: “We’ve made mistakes, but now everything is good.” People honestly believe that.
Media Daily News: Can we get back to the Mormon thing? I’ve read for years that the intelligence community is disproportionally Mormon. How much of NSA is Mormon and why?
NSA: About 20% of the NSA are Mormons. A big part of that is getting clearance. It’s much more likely that a Mormon will get security clearance than most Americans because of their generally clean personal history.
Media Daily News: So should Americans be slightly more encouraged by what’s going on? Why seek me out for this interview?
NSA: There are encouraging things that should be there. I know there is paranoia that someone is always watching. If you don’t have tape over your camera on your computer, you should. Anybody could be watching you, not just the NSA.
But all this talk that they’re listening to your calls. They’re not doing that. Nobody’s got time for that. Some of you are online 20 hours a day. How could you possibly monitor that? It takes two days to go through all that. You can breathe a little bit easier about that. But your communications are being collected. All of it. At the moment, there are a lot of people in our society who think it’s a necessary thing. I’m going to tell you it’s happening and to pretend otherwise is naive.
Media Daily News: So paranoia is not a realistic reaction? Are you sure?
NSA: You don’t have to worry about if you say “I don’t like Obama,” or now “I hate Trump,” that the Secret Service is going to put you on some list. Most people, they know, have a wife and kids, have political opinions they won’t actually do anything about.
Media Daily News: How many people leave?
NSA: Most of the people who work at the NSA find themselves in a morale quandary after a while. Do I quit and find another job, with no resume, because everything I do is top secret? The pay is pretty good and it becomes golden handcuffs.
Media Daily News: What’s a realistic perspective for Americans to have?
NSA: For me personally, I’m not paranoid that there are malignant forces working to undermine regular everyday people. That gets a little bit hairy if you’re a political activist. Maybe you should be more worried about it, more careful. If you’re a politician, there are levels of things to worry about.
But let’s say you’re not a politician or political activist now, but a couple years down the line. Somebody has that power to destroy your entire life. And that’s what we’re looking at now. An entire nation, a world, open to blackmail because every single digital thing they’ve done can be exposed. That’s the thing people need to know as they watch the behaviors of their politicians, journalists, TV and movie stars. Nearly everyone can be compromised.