Instead of answering a set of questions about Bamford’s essay, your assignment is to begin making connections between our readings.

How does Bamford’s essay work with our previous readings? For example, how does his work extend ideas we’ve already encountered? Does he work against any of our readings by complicating, raising questions about, or critiquing their points or conclusion?

To prepare for discussion and class work, choose at least one place in Bamford’s essay that works with at least one of our previous readings. Then write a paragraph that does the following:

  1. provides the immediate context
  2. paraphrases and/or quotes the passage or idea
  3. explains what the example means
  4. connects it to another reading using specific details
  5. Explains why these combined points might be important

15 thoughts on “DQ7-Bamford

  1. In the first paragraph of Eavesdropping in the Digital Age, Bamford talks about the NSA and how its capabilities of eavesdropping is far beyond what justice brandies dreamed of. The article talks about the rise in the amount of cellphones and internet users and how it makes eavesdropping a lot easier. The talk about the NSA is also used in Jill LePore ‘s article, “The Prism”. Jill says, For all that has changed in the past few centuries, much that happens in government remains cloaked in mystery…” Bamford’s facts of the amount of cell phones and internet users really ties in good with Jill’s statement and raises a lot of different questions. These two points are important because one statement supports the other and gives a stronger emotion to the idea of how much eavesdropping is being done. Another fact Bamford said was, “This year, the world’s population will spend over 180 billion minutes on the phone in international calls alone.” thats crazy!!

  2. In this article Bamford talks about how the digital age is becoming more and more prevalent in every day life for most people. We notice that technology is advancing and it is becoming harder and harder to keep things private. Bamford mentions in his article that the NSA is doing a good job at seeking personal information through phone calls and emails without us even knowing it. Unfortunately, because of the advancement in technology, the NSA has found it to be easier to leak information from our personal stash and use it for public record and maybe even to trace keywords to detect terrorism. Bamford emphasizes how there has been a huge change in how we are no longer capable of keeping our privacy within reach. Since this is becoming more and more unreasonable, we find that our personal information is being leaked to the NSA through monitoring. The ideas that Bamford talks about in this article are similar to the ones we read in Warren and Brandeis’ article. They also mentioned how it is nearly impossible to obtain any form of privacy these days because we constantly have someone wanted to know more information, whether it be a person of authority or even a family member. They both said how the advancement in technology is disabling the general public of finding anyway to secure their privacy. “In contrast to the image we have from movies and television of an FBI agent placing a listening device on a target’s phone line, the NSA inter- cepts entire streams of electronic communications con- taining millions of telephone calls and e-mails.” (Bamford 1) It’s so strange to think that we could be talking on the phone, and without even knowing it, there is a third party listening in on our conversation. Are we really a free country like we say we are and do we really have a right to privacy. It certainly doesn’t seem like it.

  3. In Bamford’s essay, he discusses the NSA’s ability to eavesdrop on American citizens with ease. Bamford’s essay reveals more information about how the NSA performs this data mining. They intercept “tens of millions of electronic communications — e-mails, faxes, instant messages, web searches, and phone calls — every hour.” These are run through computers that scan them for certain names and numbers. In the past, an American name could only be put on the watch list if there was a probable cause for them to be connected to terrorism and the NSA needed to get a warrant. Now, there only has to be “reasonable belief” for the name to be put on the list. Bamford’s essay relates to David Brook’s essay, “The Solitary Leaker.” In his essay he explains how Edward Snowden sacrificed his career to reveal the data mining procedures of the NSA. It states that “the procedures he’s unveiled could lend themselves to abuse in the future” and that there is a “rising tide of distrust in our country.” This relates to Bamford’s point on how a person can be put on a watch list today for only reasonable cause instead of a probable cause. These two points might be important because American’s may feel that the NSA has no right to do this and that they are not trustworthy. This also can be seen as the NSA abusing their power because they are monitoring some Americans and keep this a secret.

  4. Bamford discusses the ease and execution of how government espionage has advanced in recent years. The NAS’s eavesdropping methods have been refined over the past few years. Due to the terrorist attacks back in 2001, the need for a warrant has been removed, allowing for NSA to spy on American citizens as long as there is probable cause they can be put on the watch list. “Such uncertainties may plague innocent Americans whose names are being run through the supercomputers even though the NSA has not met the established legal standard for a search warrant” (Bamford 67). Similar ideas are raised in Jill Lepore’s essay, “The Prism”. She talks about how our privacy is diminished with the increasing age of technology. We need to be worried about what our own government is hiding from us. Lepore states, “The Constitution was meant to mark the end of an age of political mystery”. It seems as though the government is abusing their power and keeping everything a secret from the American citizens. Change needs to come soon before we completely lose what we have left of our right to privacy.

  5. In Bamford’s article, he discussed how today we live in the “digital age” and it is incredibly hard to keep things private he stated, “Today, the NSA’s capability to eavesdrop is far beyond anything ever dreamed of by Justice Brandeis. With the digital revolution came an explosion in eavesdropping technology; the NSA today had the ability to scan tens of millions of electronic communications — e-mails, faxes, instant messages, Web searches, and phone calls — every hour” (Bamford 68). In other words, since the technology expanded, the NSA can easily tap into a lot of different networks like instant messaging, phone calls, and text messages. The capabilities of the NSA to tap into the networks is so shocking that people would have never even predicted that something like this was even possible. Brandeis stated, “It is not breaking of his doors, and the rummaging of his drawers that constitutes the essence of the offence; but it is the invasion of his indefeasible right of personal security, personal liberty, and private property” (Bamford 68). Brandeis was someone who believed strongly in the right to have your own privacy and thought it was crazy that personal information could so easily be published to the public, if only he knew what was occurring in this day in age. The government has the right to snoop around our lives to check to see if there are terrorist acts occurring through the use of technology that they would need to cease. I believe that this article by Bamford connects with Jill Lepore’s essay, “The Prism” because throughout the essay she was using historical events that occurred chronologically to show how over time as technology broadened so did people’s need for privacy which is what Bamford was also explaining in his article. Jill Lepore explained the issue more in detail however both of these authors show a very interesting point because they are showing how the government has so much control over us that they are able to monitor our every move just to see if there are any hidden terrorist lurking. Furthermore, this is protecting our country, but we as American citizens, barely have a sense of privacy anymore because the government is tapping into every electronic device and account that we own. It is a growing struggle to keep personal and private things a secret.

  6. In this article, Bamford talks about technology and its prevalence in society today. This surge of technology is making it increasingly more difficult to hide and keep things private from surveillance. The NSA has the ability to eavesdrop on every type of communication. It used to be that the NSA had to achieve a warrant by having a probable cause. After 9/11, the NSA was no longer required to obtain a warrant and just needed reasonable belief to perform a search and eavesdrop on a certain person. Contrary to readings we have had, Bamford explains, “the NSA’s task is to listen in on the world outside American shores” (Bamford 66). The NSA has been accused of tapping into every American way of communication technologically, but their main task is the keep tabs on other nations. This is not to say that the NSA now follows Americans and their means of communication, but that was not the initial purpose for the NSA. This has led to innocent Americans being watched and put onto their “watch list.” Bamford references Brandeis in his article and explains how Brandeis “envisioned a day when technology would overtake the law” (Bamford 67). Today, Bamford explains that the ability to eavesdrop has exceeded what Brandeis could have ever imagined. The NSA taps into all cables between nations and taps into connections within the country. Bamford also talks about the temptation that goes along with the great abilities people have to eavesdrop. This ties in with our readings of Edward Snowden and other people who have revealed secrets of the NSA. Bamford also ties in the history of the NSA. Jill Lepore did similar when she tied in history. They both show how the government controls secrecy and communication. Overall, Bamford talks about how technology has put us at a risk of losing complete control of our privacy, and in the last few statements, he mentions the risk of tyranny in our country and how this technology advances the risk greatly.

  7. Bamford like Jill Lepore starts his essay with examples in history of the NSA and eavesdropping. With her example of Mazzini, and Bamford stating that “contrary to popular perception, the NSA does not engage in ‘wiretapping’; it collects signals intelligence, or ‘signt’” (Bamford, 66). Similarly they showed that people are monitored if they are suspected of things even though Mazzini’s ‘wiretap’ was a bit more personal because technologies weren’t advanced. Then Bamford quotes Louis Brandeis who said “The progress of science in furnishing the government with means of espionage is not likely to stop with wiretapping” and responding to that Bamford states that “today the NSA’s capacity to eavesdrop is far beyond anything Justice Brandeis ever dreamed of” (Bamford, 66). Bamford is saying that with this increase in technologies it is unimaginable how the government might be using it to get information. Lepore showed how it just started with opening someone else’s mail and evolved with technology to wiretapping and more. So with this ever-changing technology will we ever get privacy?

  8. Bamford illustrates the involvement the government’s secret organizations have and how it has changed over time, but also what brings the secret agencies to be so involved. He identifies different organizations including the National Security Agency which is touched upon in Jill Lepore’s article “The Prism”. Not only do Lepore and Bamford identify acts in history, but they compare acts of government agencies today when it comes to eavesdropping. The NSA was formed to eavesdrop on American citizens and has become more involved due to dangerous terrorist attacks that have occurred in history. Bamford identifies that our country’s technological advancements have made it very challenging to maintain privacy. Of course, society today has adapted to the trends in technology and the actual needs of technology, transforming the actions secret agencies take. Could it be the fear of history repeating itself that makes these government agencies continue to search through peoples’ emails, phone calls, messages, etc? Or, as Bamford states, is it maybe that, “…now the enemy is one that communicates very little…” as opposed to how it used to be? (Bamford 66). It is brought fourth by Bamford that all the ways in which people communicate is part of their personal property. Lepore might agree that all ways of communication and today’s new technology has not decreased the act of eavesdropping by government agencies, it has almost made it easier. As Bamford states, “With the digital revolution came an explosion in eavesdropping technology” (Bamford 68).

  9. In the section labeled “The Temptation of Secrecy” of James Bamford’s article “Big Brother Is Listening,” Bamford explains why it is so enticing for the government to spy on other’s information. Bamford states in this portion of the article that “simply having the ability to eavesdrop brings with it the temptation to use that ability” (Bamford). This is the idea carried throughout this section. He describes the different ways, throughout more modern American history, in which the government has set up groups such as the NSA and the SSA to monitor communications between people such as telegraphs and such. Bamford explains that these organizations continue to take information even despite “whatever the legal barriers against” an act like that may be (Bamford).
    This article relates to another article by Jill Lepore that we read a few months ago. The historian, Lepore, talked about an example in past history about a man named Mazzini who had his personal information looked at by a third party not himself. This begins to highlight the problems with the government and their nosy tendencies. Lepore explained that regulations weren’t created until Mazzini went before a court to fight the issue at hand. Relating back to Bamford, organizations like the SSA operated until they were discovered and shut down in the 1970’s. Together, both the articles of Bamford and Lepore show readers just how powerful the government is when they operate under the noses of ignorant Americans. Only when their actions are realized are they regulated or outlawed.

  10. In Bamford’s essay there is a lot of talk about the NSA and how they do what they do. They eavesdrop on Americans more then we think. He explains that the NSA not only monitors how often certain things are used but the content of the messages. He says, “the NSA intercepts entire streams of electronic communications containing millions of telephone calls and e-mails. It runs the intercepts through very powerful computers that screen them for particular names, telephone numbers, Internet
    addresses, and trigger words or phrases. Any communications containing flagged information are forwarded by the computer for further analysis” (Bamford 66). Bamford is explain how they use a system to monitor messages, emails and phone calls for certain words, and if a word is found to be suspicious then that message or email or phone call is looked into further. Lepore talks about the NSA as well and how nosey they are. Lepore thinks that Americans cant have as much privacy and that they are losing privacy because of the NSA and their monitoring of a lot of electronic messages and phone calls. Lepore and Bamford both talk about how the advance in technology is what is making it more possible for the NSA to watch over people and monitor them and their messages and calls.

  11. In Bamford’s article he talks about the NSA being able to watch over everything you do. They keep track of key phrases used in texts, emails, and phone calls. It also keeps track of people’s names that might be on the list in the governemnt, even certain numbers that are called repeative amount of times. This was brought up in many recent articles we have read, the one I can relate more so is to David Brooks article “The Solitary Leaker.” In that article Brooks talks about Snowden sacrificing his career and life to tell the world about what the government really does. How they have the power and will look through our messages that we want to keep confidential. This article and Bamford’s relate to each other, because Bamford brings up the point that people can be watched over without even knowing they are because of “probable cause” where the government makes a watch list” so the NSA can keep closer eyes on some more then others.

  12. Bamford discusses the NSA’s ability to eavesdrop on American citizens. In the past, the NSA could eavesdrop for three days before applying for a warrant that they almost always received. Now, the NSA does not require a warrant to eavesdrop or receive any communication data. They have computers that scan through various documents such as e-mails, faxes, text messages, web searches and phone calls looking for certain names, numbers and words. People’s names used to be put on a watch list if there was probable cause, but now only “reasonable belief” is needed to put someone’s name on a watch list. People do not know if they are on a watch list and there is no way to remove a person’s name once it has been added. “Such uncertainties may plague innocent Americans whose names are being run through the supercomputers even though the NSA has not met the established legal standard for a search warrant” (Bamford 67). Jill Lepore’s essay “The Prism” raised similar ideas. Lepore discusses how our privacy is shrinking as technology is growing and becoming more predominant. The government is keeping so much a secret from American citizens, especially things that can be damaging to a person. If things don’t change, American citizens may completely lose what privacy they have left.

  13. In Bamford’s essay, he talks about how over the years the rules and steps for the government to eavesdrop on American citizens has changed over time. Before the Bush administration warrants had to be signed by the FISA court, which is the least known court in Washington. The NSA and FBI had to tell a judge why and what they were going to do. After 9/11 the NSA didn’t need approval anymore from the judge just the supervisor on duty at the time. Although many people believe that the government uses wiretapping, Bamford shares that it is done by collecting signals intelligence. It looks for names, telephone numbers, and trigger words. Bamford states hoe difficult this is though, “enemy is one that communitcates very little and when it does, uses the same telecommunications networks as everyone else” (Bamford 66). He states its like yarn and hard to find the right thread. But if it is so hard why do they do it? Jill Lepore in her article “The Prism” also talks about how over time eavesdropping has changed due to the technology in today’s day and age. She first talks about how it all started with Manzini and his mail and now today its with emails, and as technology evolves so does the way that the government can eavesdrop. Both articles talk about the history of eavesdropping and how it had changed or repeated itself over the years.

  14. After reading James Bamford’s piece “Big Brother is Listening” I could not help but notice his use of lawyer Louis Brandeis thoughts on privacy. Early in his essay he quotes Brandeis, “it is not the breaking of his doors, and the rummaging of his drawers that constitutes the essence of the offence; but it is the invasion of his indefeasible right of personal security, personal liberty, and private property” (Bamford 2). Early on in Jill Lepore’s essay “The Prism: Annals of Surveillance” she introduces Louis Brandeis as well. She quotes Louis’ stance on privacy when he states “modern enterprise and invention have, through invasions upon his privacy, subjected him to mental pain and distress, far greater than could be inflicted by mere bodily injury” (Lepore 35). In both contexts, authors use Brandeis to explain this invasion of privacy and its treacherous consequences on a man. There must be some reasoning for the voice of Louis Brandeis in both essays. What’s ironic is that both texts revolve around the NSA and the advancement of technology in our modern world. So how does this have to do with a man who died nearly seventy-five years ago? Clearly Brandeis had an important point and that is “the right to privacy, is a function of history, a consequence of modernity … Privacy hadn’t always been necessary; it had become necessary – because of the shifting meaning and nature of attention of the press, the opposite of privacy” (Lepore 35). He recognizes the need for privacy as technology progresses. Even when these progressions are drastic and in-comprehensive, we must fight for this right.

  15. In Bamford’s “Big Brother is Listening,” he focuses on the continuous issue with privacy and the NSA watching over our every move. Similar to Lepore’s essay, he brings into the picture how the government used to only be able to look into our personal contributions to the internet if there was probable cause, but since the recent change in the administration, the government can look into our information a lot easier than before.
    “It used to be that before the NSA could place the name of an American on its watch list, it had to go before a FISA-court judge and show that it had probable cause—that the facts and circumstances were such that a prudent person would think the individual was somehow connected to terrorism—in order to get a warrant. But under the new procedures put into effect by Bush’s 2001 order, warrants do not always have to be obtained, and the critical decision about whether to put an American on a watch list is left to the vague and subjective “reasonable belief” of an NSA shift supervisor. (Bamford 1)
    Now the government doesn’t even have to be approved to look into all of our information, they can do it within reasonable cause in their own eyes. If they think that something is a threat, they can take charge and investigate whatever they want.

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