In all the turmoil about Linux Journal allegedly being called an "extremist forum" by the NSA, I really feel I have to clear something up.
Disclaimer: I do not
aim to defend the NSA. I am very very concerned about their dragnet spying and find that a lot of what they do is unconstitutional, breaking international treaties and generally immoral. That said, as a scientist I am a big fan of basing opinions on facts.
That's why I find it sad that the Panorama article which everyone cites (http://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/aktuell/nsa230_page-1.html
) clearly - we don't know whether willfully or out of ignorance - misread the XKeyScore rules they link to. You can find these rules here:http://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/xkeyscorerules100.txt
Now, there is only one place that mentions Linux Journal, and it's this rule:
These variables define terms and websites relating to the TAILs (The Amnesic
Incognito Live System) software program, a comsec mechanism advocated by
extremists on extremist forums.
$TAILS_terms=word('tails' or 'Amnesiac Incognito Live System') and word('linux'
or ' USB ' or ' CD ' or 'secure desktop' or ' IRC ' or 'truecrypt' or ' tor ');
') or ('linuxjournal.com/content/linux.
Okay, what have we got here? First of all, about the "extremist forum": Panorama says
"It also records details about visits to a popular internet journal for
Linux operating system users called "the Linux Journal - the Original
Magazine of the Linux Community", and calls it an "extremist forum"."
The rule which Panorama bases their statement on says
"These variables define terms and websites relating to the TAILs (The Amnesic Incognito Live System) software program, a comsec mechanism advocated by extremists on extremist forums."
It clearly states that TAILS is advocated by extremists on extremist forums.
This may very well be true, since of course it makes sense for extremists to use anonymization tools to cover their tracks (just as it makes sense for innocent people to use them to enhance their privacy, of course!).
So, to repeat: That first comment in the rule does not say that all sites included in the rules are extremist forums, only that they talk about software that in turn is advocated in extermist forums. Clear difference.
Yes, treating all of linuxjournal.com/content/linux.
.. as "websites relating to TAILs" is wrong and actually incredibly stupid. XKeyScore is a tool to identify - presumably - useful targets in the mass of data they get, so such a broad filter definition simply makes the whole thing less useful. If they want to target TAILS users (regardless of whether that's justified or not), they should have only included articles relating to the program on Linux Journal.
I really assume it's simply that an idiot wrote that rule.
So please, everyone, focus your criticism on that overly broad rule which makes no sense and stop repeating the nonsense written by Panorama that the NSA considers Linux Journal an extremist forum. It doesn't. Period.