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Glenn Greenwald: The NSA Can 'Literally Watch Every Keystroke You Make'

'TAO is basically a unit that is designed to cultivate the most advanced hacking operations and skills of any unit, any entity on the Earth.'

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"It was thanks to the garage door opener episode that Texans learned just how far the NSA’s work had encroached upon their daily lives. For quite some time now, the intelligence agency has maintained a branch with around 2,000 employees at Lackland Air Force Base, also in San Antonio."

Jameel Jaffer, the significance of this, and the legality of what is happening here?

Jameel Jaffer: You know, I think that what bothers me most about these programs is the bulk aspect of it or the dragnet aspect of it. When the NSA has good reason to believe probable cause that a specific person is engaged in terrorism or something like that, it doesn’t bother me that much that the NSA is surveilling that person. I think that’s the NSA’s job. The problem with a lot of these programs is that they are not directed at people thought to be doing something wrong. They’re not directed at suspected terrorists or even suspected criminals. These programs are directed at everybody. Or, to say that a different way, they’re not directed at all. They’re indiscriminate.

And if you think about what the Fourth Amendment was meant to do, what the Constitution was meant to do, it was meant to ensure that the government couldn’t engage in surveillance without some reason. And all of this, all of this surveillance that the NSA is engaged in, essentially flips that on its head. It collects information about everybody in the hope that the surveillance will lead to suspicion about somebody. It’s supposed to be doing it the other way around, starting with the suspicion and then going to the search. It’s starting with the search and going to suspicion. And I think that that’s really, really dangerous, and it’s exactly what the Fourth Amendment was meant to prohibit.

AG: You know, when it came to the judge’s decision recently, you have the judge that says that this is constitutional, but it followed the judge saying this is Orwellian and likely unconstitutional. Why the difference of opinion between these two judges?

JJ: Well, I think one judge got it right, and the other one got it wrong. I mean, I think that, you know, Judge Pauley — Judge Pauley was not very skeptical towards the government’s claims. The government made claims about the effectiveness of the program, about the necessity of the program, claims that were contradicted by information already in the public record, information put into the public record by government officials. And Judge Pauley nonetheless deferred to the government’s claims in court, which is a disappointment to us.

AG: Let’s get back to Glenn Greenwald. Glenn, I just read the first couple of paragraphs of the piece in Der Spiegel about the garage doors that wouldn’t open because the garage door openers were actually operating on the same frequency of the NSA, which was really vastly expanding in San Antonio at the time. But could you take it from there? The significance of this and this Tailored Access Operations, this particular unit, and how significant it is?

GG: Yeah, one thing I think that it underscores, this was in a community that had no idea that there was this gargantuan NSA hacking unit that had sprawled up in its community, and it shows just the power of how much they’re doing, that they just simply shut down the electric devices of an entire community that didn’t know that they were even there.

But the TAO, the Tailored Access Operations unit, is really remarkable because the government, the U.S. government, has been warning for many years now about the dangers of hackers, both stateless hackers as well as state-sponsored hackers from China and from Iran and from elsewhere. And the reality is that nobody is as advanced or as prolific when it comes into hacking into computer networks, into computer systems, than the NSA. And TAO is basically a unit that is designed to cultivate the most advanced hacking operations and skills of any unit, any entity on the Earth. And so, yet again, what we find is that exactly the dangers about which the U.S. government is shrilly warning when it comes to other people, they’re actually doing themselves to a much greater and more menacing degree than anybody else is. And that’s the significance of this particular unit inside of the NSA, is they do all of the most malicious hacking techniques that hackers who have been prosecuted by this very same government do and much, much more.