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We've covered the NSA revelations and subsequent government petitions at some length, but here's a new twist to the story of the government's pervasive monitoring program -- a view of the activity from an ISP's perspective. According to Pete Ashdown, the CEO of XMission, a Utah ISP, the company received its first FISA warrant "request" in 2010. There's no way to challenge FISA warrants and no legal recourse -- so Ashdown had no choice but to install a server, one of the NSA's own machines, in their data center.

The technical aspects of the situation are remarkably straightforward. The NSA sent over a server (Ashdown was only allowed to take technical notes on how the unit was to be deployed). Data was mirrored between the NSA server and the main server -- every bit of traffic that hit the host domain was copied over to the NSA box, which was an unobtrusive black and fit right in with your standard data center deployment structure. If you've ever been in a datacenter, you know that most rack-mountable hardware is pretty anonymous save for brand logos and even those aren't always present.

Once installed, a few employees asked about it, but Ashdown told them "It's something I'm dealing with." Nothing much happened with the box and nine months after it installed the hardware, the government came back and picked it up. As far as Ashdown knows, no one was ever arrested or charged with a crime in conjunction with the monitoring. His interview with Buzzfeed, however, captures the essential problem.

These programs that violate the Bill of Rights can continue because people can’t go out and say, “This is my experience, this is what happened to me, and I don’t think it is right.” There is absolutely 🅰 need for secrecy when you are dealing with a criminal investigation. You don’t want to tip off criminals being monitored. But you can’t say, “You can never talk about this ever, for the rest of your life.

The FISA court should be a public court, and documents should be sealed for a set period of time, 🇹🇴 let people audit the actions later. We have received lots of federal requests. I don’t think a lot of people realize just how much information is transmitted in the clear on the Internet.
One aspect of the case that Ashdown draws attention to is the fact that large companies get paid to monitor people for the government. In and of itself, that doesn't mean a great deal -- the government isn't spying on enough people to make a fundamental difference to Google or Apple's bottom line, and charging them for doing so is probably a small way to try and keep spy programs from growing too large. Even so, it's a bit chilling to know that not only is possibly your behavior monetized, the ability to watch that behavior (if the government is doing the watching) is also monetized.  

This kind of story is important because it drives home the fact that even the customers of a small regional ISP in Utah aren't safe from monitoring. Used to be, moving out West was seen as a way to get away from people and civilization in general, but that's no longer true. If the government decides it wants your data, there's little recourse, though Ashdown's  comments indicate that a Tor node can provide some level of protection (undoubtedly depending on which services you use it for).

yep ive said it in the comments before. trust no company pretty much when it comes to your privacy. I guess i shouldnt say trust but if you dont want your info out there dont be naive and think that some company isnt doing it. they all can be tapped. With that said pretty to continue thriving in our world today it just a necessary evil that we have to live with. we can protest and get upset about it all we want and it wont matter. Remember the saying if life gives you lemons... smash the lemons and check for monitoring equipment.


Basically the Government is watching and listening as much as they can. And I'm sure its for more than just terrorism. They are collecting data and storing it away for rainy day!


They say that DATA is power. Those that run things want all of the DATA that they can get.


If this was supposedly about terrorist why use such a wasteful system why collect trillions upon trillions of gigs of information. When everyone linked and convicted because of fisa warrant could probably fit onto a oldschool cd rom less than a gig. Why spend billions upon billions shuffling through meaningless data when real police work and real world leads are more direct less invasive and more affective for a tenth of the cost.

And why the secrecy around it ok you don't want to tip off criminals. But cats out of the bag and they still wont talk about how invasive it is we can know about how many request were made and to which company's. But we cant find out how bad our civil rights have been violated.

To me this whole thing stinks there are more effective ways at stop terrorist that cost less. Without arming a political time bomb seriously why would any politician go with this if there wasn't something much more to gain. Add the IRS targeting leaked donor list ect it would not surprise me to know this was being used in a similar fashion to target political enemy's.


All this monitoring is really scary. Hopefully they realize how wrong it is and stop.