[cryptography] Is the NSA now a civilian intelligence agency? (Was: Re: Snowden: Fabricating Digital Keys?)

Nico Williams nico at cryptonector.com
Mon Jul 1 16:41:58 EDT 2013

On Mon, Jul 1, 2013 at 3:37 AM, ianG <iang at iang.org> wrote:
> Hmmm.  Thanks, Ethan!  Maybe I'm wrong?  Maybe the NSA was always allowed to
> pass criminal evidence across to the civilian police forces.  It's a very
> strange world.

No, the doctrine of the fruit of the poisoned tree makes it
non-trivial to avoid the requirements of the 4th Amendment regarding
search and seizure.  The non-triviality is this: LEA must somehow hide
the warrant-less wiretapping (search) and produce a plausible path
(and chronology) for how they came to the probably cause that they
eventually will bring to a judge.  This is non-trivial, but not *that*
hard either, and in some cases it may well be trivial.  And when LEA
get caught doing this nothing terribly bad happens to LEA (no officers
go to prison, for example).  But when the *NSA* does this the risk of
method information leaking to the public is very large, which is one
reason to prefer that PRISM-type projects, if they exist at all, be
and remain forever secret -- their own secrecy is the best and
strongest (though even then, not fail-safe) guaranty of non-use for
criminal investigations.

Ironic, no?  We should almost wish we'd never found out.


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