[discuss] Snowden Revelations: What concrete activities were revealed that led us here?

Nick Ashton-Hart nashton at ccianet.org
Thu Jan 16 08:40:14 UTC 2014

dear Greg,

I think you will be best able to answer these questions with a little online research, candidly, rather than asking this list to, in effect, do that work for you when many here are not expert in these subjects. A number of reputable news sources have excellent summaries, and for security Bruce Schneider has excellent blog posts that make the issues with compromising of encryption etc clear.

"Shatan, Gregory S." <GShatan at ReedSmith.com> wrote:
>I have followed the Snowden revelations with interest and some
>diligence, but I can’t profess to know everything that has been
>revealed and reported on.  As a result of /1Net discussions, my
>interest has been piqued and I’ve been looking for the “smoking gun(s)”
>or “the scene of the [Internet] crime”: the explicit and specific acts
>by US surveillance (etc.) that were uniquely made possible by the
>United States’ current relationship to Internet governance, Internet
>infrastructure, ICANN, and/or IANA, etc.  I want to know what happened
>and I haven’t really been successful.
>In other words, I would like to fill in the blanks in the following
>sentence: “Because of the United States’ unique ________________ [e.g.,
>“relationship to”, ”control over”] ____________ [e.g., “the Root”,
>“ICANN”], _________________ [e.g., “the NSA”, “PRISM”, “US Cyber
>Command”] was able to do the
>following:___________________________________ [e.g., “access XYZ”,
>“intercept XYZ”, “read XYZ”].
>Or, the corollary, “Solely due to stopping the US _____________________
>and/or moving __________________, US surveillance agencies will no
>longer be able to__________________.”
>So far, what I’ve found that’s concrete relates to the US working with
>private enterprises (no reason to name names here) to gain access to
>data.   But it appears that these “relationships” could (and probably
>do) happen in any country with significant private enterprises (and a
>governmental yen for surveillance), and it seems those “relationships”
>would exist in largely the same fashion even if the US had no “special”
>relationship to the Internet.  (Spies will be spies, after all, and IG
>isn’t going to stop them.)  So, this isn’t really what I’m looking for.
>Of course, I’ve found a lot of higher level, abstract discussions that
>don’t tie back to any discrete, identifiable action that the US was
>able to take because of its position vis a vis the Internet.  Some of
>these are interesting and thought-provoking.  Then there are that say
>the connection between Snowden and the impetus for an IG shakeup is
>clear and obvious, but they don’t actually demonstrate the connection
>and seem to end up with more of a “guilt by association” argument.  And
>those that assume the connection or seem to be using Snowden as an
>excuse and quickly move on to next steps in shifting IG around.  There
>are even speculative arguments that the technology could have developed
>in a different way or would develop in a different way if the
>US/Internet relationship were different or nonexistent.  But these are
>also not what I’m looking for.
>I am really looking for concrete technical exploits revealed by Snowden
>that were uniquely made possible by the way things work now with the US
>relationship to the Internet, and for citations to primary sources (or
>reliable secondary sources that quote or link to primary sources) that
>report/reveal those exploits.  To use a crude analogy (and with
>apologies to anybody who knows anything about technology) I want
>something like, “Because the cable company has located a mess of cables
>and boxes in my closet, I’m able to steal cable TV.  If they took that
>out of my closet, I wouldn’t get free cable anymore.  And here’s how I
>did it.”  I haven’t really found this yet.  What am I missing?
>Some might say this is not an IG question.  I think it is (and perhaps
>you can indulge me if you disagree).  L’Affaire Snowden was a key
>driver to all that has happened since in IG.  We should know why and
>what are the concrete problems (if any) it showed us that we need to
>solve.  Though I may disagree to a greater or lesser extent, I
>understand the philosophical or political reasons why.  What I am keen
>to find out are the factual technical reasons why.
>Apologies for asking such a long-winded question.  I look forward to
>the answers.
>Greg Shatan
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