Sorry #NSA, Terrorists Don’t Use Verizon…or Skype…or Gmail

from The NSA has to collect the metadata from all of our phone calls because
terrorists, right? And the spy agency absolutely must intercept Skypes
you conduct with folks out-of-state, or else terrorism. It must sift
through your iCloud data and Facebook status updates too, because Al Qaeda.

Terrorists are everywhere, they are legion, they are dangerous, and,
unfortunately, they don’t really do any of the stuff described above. 

Even though the still-growing surveillance state
that sprung up in the wake of 9/11 was enacted almost entirely to
“fight terrorism,” reports show that the modes of communication that
agencies like the NSA are targeting are scarcely used by terrorists at

A recent Bloomberg piece points
to a 2012 report on terrorism which found that most serious
terrorists steer clear of the most obvious platforms—major cell
networks, Google, Skype, Facebook, etc.

Or, as Bloomberg more bluntly puts it, the “infrastructure set up by
the National Security Agency … may only be good for gathering
information on the stupidest, lowest-ranking of terrorists. The Prism
surveillance program focuses on access to the servers of America’s
largest Internet companies, which support such popular services as
Skype, Gmail and iCloud. These are not the services that truly dangerous
elements typically use.”

And why would they? Post-911 warrantless wiretapping practices are
well known, NSA-style data collection was well-rumored, and we all knew
the Department of Homeland Security was already scanning emails for red-flag keywords. Of course terrorists would take precautions.
Bloomberg elaborates:

In a January 2012 report titled
“Jihadism on the Web: A Breeding Ground for Jihad in the Modern Age,”
the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service drew a convincing
picture of an Islamist Web underground centered around “core forums.”
These websites are part of the Deep Web, or Undernet, the multitude of
online resources not indexed by commonly used search engines.

In 2010, Google estimated that it had indexed just 0.004% of the
internet—meaning the vast majority of the web is open for surreptitious
message-sending business. Terrorists simply aren’t dumb enough to
discuss their secret plans over Skype or to email each
other confidential information on Gmail.

So, essentially, the NSA is deeply compromising our privacy so that
it can do an extremely shitty job of looking for terrorists. Nice.

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