Pay No Attention to the Surveillance Secrets Behind the Curtain, Senate Staffers Told


Reason 24/7

We all know that reality and government mix really, really badly. So, even as much of the world peruses information revealed by Edward Snowden about the National Security Agency's creepy, intrusive and wide-ranging snooping of telephone communications and Internet activity, Senate staffers have been told to pretend that the document-dump never happened.

From Forbes:

The Senate Security Office sent an email around the Hill Friday afternoon asking Senate employees and contractors to try to ignore the fact that top-secret, highly-classified documents are now floating around the Web freely (and, in the case of a terribly designed NSA Powerpoint, getting facelifts.) The email asks security managers to remind Senate employees and contractors that the documents are still technically classified and should be treated as if millions of people haven't already read them. The email:

"Please share with your staff the guidance below.

  • Classified information, whether or not posted on public websites, disclosed to the media, or otherwise in the public domain, remains classified and must be treated as such until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority. …
  • Senate employees and contractors shall not, while accessing the web on unclassified government systems, access or download documents that are known or suspected to contain classified information. …
  • Senate employees and contractors who believe they may have inadvertently accessed or downloaded classified information via non-classified Senate systems, should contact the Office of Senate Security for assistance.

Note that this isn't an isolated head-in-the-sand moment. As Wired noted on Tuesday, the Defense Department issued a nearly identical order to employees and contractors regarding the NSA revelations. And when WikiLeaks released its treasure trove of diplomatic cables, the Obama administration issued similar guidance to all federal government employees and contractors.

Maybe this helps to explain why government employees sometimes seem like the most poorly informed people on the planet.

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  1. So the Know-Nothing Party isn't dead afterall.

  2. Weren't we told this yesterday by one of the commentariat who works for the Air Force, that his denial-of-access to sites mentioning this classified information would leave him unable to comment on the story here?

    1. It's because if classified data ends up on the unclassified system during a security audit, there's no way to tell if it got there because it came in from outside, or if it's because someone was doing classified work on the wrong computers. It has to be treated as a data spill which is a huge pain in the ass to clean up in terms of time and expense, and could result in the facility losing their certification to handle classified data if it happens enough times.

      1. Wouldn't the less silly solution be to simply declare documents that hundreds of millions of people have already seen declassified?

        Then it doesn't matter if they turn up in a security audit.

        1. Probably, but the individual sites don't have the power to do that, so they're stuck doing this.


  4. Senate and staff ignorant of what's going on in the real world outside the beltway? That's going to be a stretch.

  5. C'mon! It's not that hard! Just pretend he's wearing clothes!

  6. Kinda OT:

    So regarding the earlier story about using DuckDuckGo search engine: I tried it out searching the term "nsa" and on the side bar there is a little feature that says "Try this search on:" and it has the usual suspects, dictionary.com, wikipedia, urban dicitonary, but then it says "Reason.com". I tried it in private mode and the same thing came up.

    Either DuckDuckGo knows what sites I like or they give preference to a libertarian news publication. Google has never once sent me to reason without me explicitly searching for it, and I've never once seen it in a news search either. Maybe it's because of the numerous stories on the NSA recently.

    Any ideas about this?

    1. Interesting. I pulled it up in IE (which I've only used once since I got this computer to see if a website was fucking up in all browsers or just FF and Comodo Dragon), and I got the usual suspects plus wired, the guardian and the EFF. No mention of Reason. I tried it again in Dragon (where I normally read Reason) and got the same results.

      1. Weird.

        I just tried the same thing (and have only rarely used explorer for the same reasons) and everything was the same, except Reason was gone and Huffington Post was substituted.

        I'm thinking it knows a bit about who's doing the searches.

        1. I will show different selections of websites in the sidebar each time. I got a different selection on my second refresh of the results page.

          1. For instance, now the EFF shows up in the sidebar, when it didn't originally. A refresh or two later, and it's back to the original selection. I still can't seem to get Reason though.

    2. Either DuckDuckGo knows what sites I like or they give preference to a libertarian news

      One of the features of DuckDuckGo is that they don't do that. DDG presents sites by relevance based on search term with no filtering of results.

      1. It wasn't the search results, it was the suggestions on the sidebar.

        It's just weird to me that it would pick Reason, a pretty obscure publication. Especially on the one browser that I use but not on the one I don't use.

        Could be a coincidence or because Reason has had a gazillion NSA stories in the past few days.

        1. Reason, a pretty obscure publication

          I thought it folded when Virginia Postrel quit?

          1. I'll drink to that.

    3. "Any ideas about this?"

      I've gotten referred to Reason.com when I search for more info on a subject I find here.

      1. Uh, more to the point:
        I've gotten referred to Reason.com *through Google* when I search for more info on a subject I find here.

        1. And since Google scrupulously avoids tracking their users' habits...

  7. I was not aware that Sgt. Schultz was still alive. And working in the US government. Learn something ebbyday.

    1. Dude, get with the program. They just found him living in Minnesota. Word is he's a staffer for one of their Senators.

  8. They need to put up the firewall somewhere, no? If the spooks get spooked about the amount and nature of information freely available, they might loosen their own lips?or at least treat their confidentiality a little less seriously. It seems inevitable that bureaucracies would make stupid pronouncements like these to shore up their defenses.

    1. Maybe the Feds will really start squeezing their employees to not leak/not look at leaks or news about leaks.

      Could be pretty fun to watch, especially if the beuracracy starts turning in on itself.

      I'm thinking like the job YT's mom had.

      1. Perhaps, but I imagine this is a prelude to a bevy of in-house policy changes, seminars, belt-tightening, and round robins meant to reinforce the "culture of secrecy." The seriousness of Manning's trial and the inevitably backlash against Snowden has nothing to do with treason but with making known the consequences of betraying the Feds.

        I only just learned someone is sitting on the Snow Crash movie, waiting (as Stephenson puts it) "for the right time," whatever that means. It takes some of the sting out of Clooney's Diamond Age miniseries that never took off.

        1. Nice. So much of the book would translate to a movie well, but there's a lot of it. Would be hard to fit it into a reasonable length movie.

          1. Basically impossible. The rule of thumb is that one page of a screenplay (dialog, description, or action) translates to one minute of screen time. Screenplays have far few words per page than novels, so yes, they'll have to ditch 2/3rds or more of the novel to make a film.

            Miniseries would be great for many science fiction novels. I wish someone other than (and more competent than) Syfy did them.

            1. I'd prefer a miniseries, too. Given how well Game of Thrones has done, I could see a scaled-back effort with Snow Crash. It's a character-driven technoventure novel and all of the really sci-fi elements are encased in the Metaverse, so amenable to campy/obvious CGI. I mean, that's the point. It's all CGI.

              1. Diamond Age would also work as a mini-series (crossing fingers)

                1. There is lots of great science fiction that would make wonderful movies and mini-series and even TV series. Too bad Hollywood is hung up on remakes, comic books, crap written by Hollywood writers who don't seem to have ever actually read any science fiction, and Philip Dick. (Not to diss Dick, but he's just one of many great SF writers.)

                  1. Fucking comic book movies are the most boring shit ever.

                    Watchmen and maybe one of the Batman movies were okay, but the rest is fucking American pie bullshit.

                    Fucking Superman is the most boring motherfucker in the entire universe. Shit, you could take away all the other superpowers and he could put bad guys in a coma with his wholesomeness. Urghh.

                    1. Yeah, Superman is dullsville, but there is a high likelihood that I will see the movie anyway.

                    2. This is why they keep producing them. This is why we can't have nice things.

                    3. One of my daydreams: an update of E.E. Smith's Lensman series, done as a series of movies. OK, it's not the highest IQ science fiction, but it's got bizarre alien races (good and bad), space pirates, and galaxy-spanning, planet-smashing action.

                      And make Oliver Stone's 1980 screenplay for The Demolished Man.

                    4. You'd really see a movie just because it has a good looking dude in it? I mean, he's got a rockin' beard and all, but movies are expensive.

                      I wouldn't go see a boring movie just because it had some chick in it, because all of the good scenes will be online anyways. And porn, there's always free porn.

                      What about The Purge, did anybody see that yet? It looks like it could either be really awesome or be a hamfisted "message" type movie.

                    5. Eh, I don't really go to the movies all that often, and I think Henry Cavill looks awful clean shaven, so I'll just keep checking out that photo and probably won't see the movie. If I did, it'd be at matinee prices.

                      Everything I've read about the purge makes it sound hamfisted and implausible.

                    6. What's up with the fucked-up io9 commenting system? Or is it one of those things designed for fondlescreens, so that when you touch your screen in the right place, the rest of the threaded comments show up?

                      (And sure enough, the comment at the top was a stridently political comment about what evil gun nuts southerners are.)

        2. "Sitting on" it? HA! Sitting is for fools. try this, and tell us how exited you would be to see this.

          1. *Try *excited


          2. I'm... pretty much ceding any credibility here, but I never read Neuromancer. I covered an essay Gibson did in one of my English classes a few years ago, but I haven't read the seminal work of cyberpunk literature.

            But since you've reminded me, I'll find a piratable ebook copy. It seems fitting.

            1. I enjoyed The Difference Engine

            2. I've never read any of his books. They sound awesome, but I've just never read them. With the little I do know though, this was hilarious.

              1. I thoroughly enjoyed Zero History, but it's the only thing I've read from Gibson.

          3. Matt fucking Damon?

            No, good God, just no.

  9. Process is all, and all is process.

  10. Nice alt-text. It describes 24/7 perfectly.

  11. "The whole point of the doomsday machine...is lost if you keep it a secret!"

  12. BREAKING: Beer bellies are a myth - alcohol does not target the gut.

    1. Did anyone with even a lick of sense ever think it did? Beer is a food, like any other.

      1. What is a 'food'? Something that isn't poisonous? What is a poison? Something below a specific LD#? Like alcohol?

        For one thing, booze is inflammatory. People with lots of belly fat have a lot of inflammation as measured by M1 macrophages and inflammatory hormones such as cortisol. Belly fat is directly linked with heart disease.

        Does beer and wine, substances composed of alcohol and simple sugars cause the body to accumulate belly fat and increase inflammatory response? I think it does. 2000 calories a day of beer is definitely going to have a different effect than 2000 calories a day of steak.

        This is totally different that saying that situps don't burn off belly fat any more than any other fat.

        These researchers probably also think it's obvious that saturated fat is unhealthy, salt is evil, and whole grains are heart healthy.

        1. So show me a randomized controlled study with a decent sample size where one group had, say a VLC (very low carb diet), another group had a crappy diet without beer (pizza, chips, etc) and the third had a diet where half the calories came from beer, all groups having the same calories per day, say 2500, then measure adipose belly tissue. Then get back to me. Otherwise, I'm not interested in the opinions of 'food science' prof.

  13. Warty Chickens lost their penises because of a gene called Bmp4.

    1. I'm not you're you'd call Warty's growths a "penis", but I'm sure you'd know better than I do.

    2. Don't tell 2nd wave feminists, they'll slip it into the human genepool and we'll breed by cloaca to cloaca sex just like how Warty impregnates his hosts chickens do.

  14. Sounds like a pretty solid plan to me dude. I like it.


  15. Hey guys, don't fret. The Syrian government says the chemical weapons claims are just one big lie.

    1. link kind of got trapped in the period there...

  16. Why are none of my neighbors this nerdy?

    1. why aren't you?

      1. Because I'm a renter?

        1. They let renter's wear tophats now?
          What is this world coming to?

        2. They let renter's wear top hats?
          What is this world coming too?

          1. that double post brought to you by PURPLE GAS

          2. I did things for my tophat, Pantsfan, unspeakable things.

    2. I hope they have the proper permits for that.

    1. Someone probably flushed him after a rage-inducing double post.


      1. I'd never live in St. James.

    2. "I was thinking Squirrelshank Redemption."

      Quote of the day.

  17. The sun set 10 minutes ago, and the baseball team is setting off fireworks.

  18. Friday night alocholics club checking in

    1. Well yeah, but only Friday?

    2. I just had a set of eight vintage pilsner glasses come in. Sounds like that would go well. For the record, I did have a few Tom Collinses in the matching cooler glasses, which I owned already.

  19. Ok.

    There should be a "who's that guy?" app.
    You're watching TV, a movie, whatever. A secondary character appears. You know him! You saw him in that movie last month. Who is it?

    1. There is a book (Hey, It's That Guy) based on a feature from the late, lamented Fametracker website.

    2. IMDB serves for this.

  20. Senate Security Office, don't you have you some offs to fuck?

  21. There is no NSA leak. Sure, some guy absconded to Hong Kong with some documents and passed them off to journalists who published them, but even as we speak the Ministry of Truth is revising the record to show that nothing not in accord with the wishes of the Party took place. Before long Snowden's actions will disappear down the memory hole and Snowden himself will be made an unperson.

  22. Senate employees and contractors who believe they may have inadvertently accessed or downloaded classified information via non-classified Senate systems, should contact the Office of Senate Security for assistance.

    Turn yourselves in, you miscreants. We'll schedule the arraignment hearings.

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