There is no record of US mass surveillance ever preventing a large terror attack

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The surveillance will continue until morale improves.


“There is no record of US mass surveillance ever preventing a large terror attack”
Look again, it’s in there someplace.

Someone on another forum brought this up and I said something like:

Oh well some government guy - the same government who we don’t trust for 101 reasons - says that Snowden’s leaks were bad, domestic spying is good, and in the future we should just totally shut the fuck up and trust them to protect us.

Sounds legit.


If mass surveillance doesn’t exist to stop terrorists–you can’t claim a thing exists for a purpose it has never served–then what purpose does it actually exist for?

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Mostly corporate espionage edit: I think that they refer to it as economic espionage.


There is no record of US mass surveillance.


That’s the obvious answer, yes.

I hate this argument. If they government could highlight a few successful cases where mass surveillance prevented deadly terrorist attacks, would you suddenly be okay with mass surveillance?

IMHO, even if mass surveillance or back-doored encryption would save many, many lives every year, I would still be opposed to both. Look at our history and you will see that freedom has often been very costly.

How about an auto analogy: 30,000 people are killed on the road each year. If all cars were governed to be incapable of exceeding 25 mph, most of those lives would be saved. We’ve decided though, that value of personal transportation is greater than 30,000 lives. I would claim that personal privacy is also extremely valuable.


Torture and spying exist because some people are torturers and spies. It’s what they do.

You will be given whatever rationalization or excuse you are willing to accept.


I don’t think that’s the argument here. I’m pretty sure it’s “mass surveillance is bullshit and it doesn’t work anyway”.


Worked pretty good against OWS and BLM, so it’s not a complete loss. Do you really need them to produce some real terrorists? Aren’t boogeymen enough?

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Well I can tell you that whenever NZ’s spy service has been exposed, they’ve been snooping on any kind of threat to the established power structure i.e. the two dominant political parties and any sufficiently powerful friends.

In roughly chronological order: Maoris, communists (including my own grandparents, who spent some time in China and didn’t hate it), peaceniks, Treaty of Waitangi claimants (Maoris again), environmentalists, anti-apartheidists, more environmentalists, anti-capitalists, a few more Maoris and, doing a solid for the people who brought us LotR and the Hobbit, Kim Dotcom.

Essentially, you can expect mass surveillance to be abused in more or less the same way as regular surveillance.

Edit: Oh and we spy on other small Pacific island nations as part of the five-eyes agreement, which fits under both economic espionage and doing favours for powerful friends. No doubt an eye is kept on the NORML crowd too.


It’s the “it doesn’t work anyway” part that I have a problem with. Does it matter if it works?

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It does because it changes the space of the argument. If it worked, it would be a debate about where you want to balance safety and privacy. But it doesn’t work, so it’s a debate about cost / performance and lying and who they are really spying on.

Maybe if you are on one of the far ends of the debate this doesn’t matter. But it makes a big difference in the vast middle area.


To some people; yes, it does matter. And those people assume that it does work (otherwise why would the government bother? And yes, that’s just begging the question)

I recall an astonishingly similar debate/argument with at least one pro-torture nutsack. I pointed out it was immoral, to which he responded “I don’t care if it’s immoral, because it works”, to which I responded “but it doesn’t even work, see[link to evidence du jour]?”, to which he responded “I don’t care about your so-called ‘evidence’, because it’s wrong. Torture works” to which I responded “*wibble

It turned out that we were talking past each other. For him, the point and purpose of torture was to create terror and cow the rest of the population. As in “see what we did to this guy? STFU or we’ll do it to you and your kids.” And, I suppose, he was kinda right. Heads-on-a-stake does kinda work. At least for some populations, in the short term. Of course, that has exactly nothing to do with the reasons for which torture was being touted (i.e., timely, accurate, and actionable intelligence unobtainable in any other way) but … what does a psychopath care about such trifles as logical coherence?


Mass surveillance works today in many respects and will only get better. Once they identified some of the terrorists in Paris, they were able to use their identity to comb through mountains of data that has been collected recently and determine likely co-conspirators. If they hadn’t been sucking up everything they could, they would have fewer leads.

Mass surveillance as a way of preventing crime is a ways off. But it’s already very valuable after an incident.

So now if you want to talk about cost and performance, well the cost is trending down and the performance is heading up. There is little discrimination among the targets - everybody is being watched.

And what if torture worked astonishingly well. Would you be okay with the application of torture when suspects don’t cooperate?

Or maybe physical torture is no longer needed. Maybe fMRI’s will get good enough that we just have to force them into the machine and we can extract whatever information we want. So much for pleading the 5th!

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You’re arguing with the wrong person. See the response by @spejic above.

You need to read the headline of TFA again.

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