Maybe the Spooks Don’t Want FTC to Know NSA’s Tricks?

In awesome news, the Federal Trade Commission has hired Ashkan Soltani — the tech expert who helped Bart Gellman on many of his most important Snowden scoops — as its new Chief Technology Officer.

The news has elicited wails from NSA’s mail mouthpieces, Stewart Baker and Michael Hayden.

“I’m not trying to demonize this fella, but he’s been working through criminally exposed documents and making decisions about making those documents public,” said Michael Hayden, a former NSA director who also served as CIA director from 2006 to 2009. In a telephone interview with FedScoop, Hayden said he wasn’t surprised by the lack of concern about Soltani’s participation in the Post’s Snowden stories. “I have no good answer for that.”


Stewart Baker, a former NSA general counsel, said, while he’s not familiar with the role Soltani would play at the FTC, there are still problems with his appointment. “I don’t think anyone who justified or exploited Snowden’s breach of confidentiality obligations should be trusted to serve in government,” Baker said.

I find Hayden’s wails especially disgusting, given the way — it is now clear — the government spent so much effort covering up how he extended the illegal wiretap program in March 2004. I mean, I’m not trying to demonize the fella, but he’s a criminal, and yet he’s complaining about the press reporting on abuses?

That said, I’m curious whether this isn’t the real reason there seems to be organized pushback against Soltani’s hire.

Soltani is scheduled to give a presentation Nov. 19 at the Strata+Hadoop World conference in Barcelona, Spain, on “how commercial tracking enables government surveillance.” According to the conference website, Soltani’s presentation will explore how “the dropping costs of bulk surveillance is aiding government eavesdropping, with a primary driver being how the NSA leverages data collected by commercial providers to collect information about innocent users worldwide.”

At FTC, Soltani will be in a role where he can directly influence the kind of regulatory pressure placed on data collectors to protect user privacy. He understands — probably far more than we know from the WaPo stories — how NSA is capitalizing on already collected data. Which means he may be able to influence how much remains available to the spooks.

So maybe all this wailing is an effort to sustain the big commercial data’s unwitting support for big spooky data?

5 replies
  1. lefty665 says:

    Ought to listen to Hayden, he knows something about criminality. MOFO ought to be in the dock for sedition.
    Since Hayden brought up Snowden, saw a sneak preview of CitizenFour last night. Encourage all in places it opens tonight to GO SEE IT. Amazing, and very sobering…

  2. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    I don’t know who hires FTC Chief Technology Officers but they’ve been inspired choices. Previously, it was Harvard’s Latanya Sweeney who’s done pioneering work on how easy it is to deanonymize anonymous data and how health-related data gets shared through corporate relationships. Before that, it was Princeton’s Ed Felten, who came to prominence by reverse engineering music watermarking technology as part of a public challenge from the music industry, deciding to break the confidentiality agreements, and then being threatened under the DMCA if he published his work. He published.

    None of these three are easy establishment choices, all have track records of challenging power. I really want to know the story behind how these folks got appointed.

  3. PeasantParty says:

    No surprise that Stewart and Baker are afraid of someone that knows. They are still calling Snowden the biggest criminal in history. NSA, just like CIA and FBI do not want any control levers and definitely not some authority figure.

    I mean, just look at how far the Agency has reached when it operates on American turf. They had no qualms about acting as staffers inside the department that is suppose to control this shit. The problem is just that, control. It is a problem that not only the Banksters have overcome, but almost every aspect of this multi-industry based government.

    I’ve been away from the blogs for about a year, but I still try to keep up. In fact, I keep up in ways others can’t imagine. HECK! People thought I was out of mind two years ago when I tried to tell them their TV was spying on them!

    Hopefully, they understand now that even their cereal boxes are doing the same. If you haven’t noticed, any business or industry that sells consumer goods and services has the sanctioned RIGHT to collect, store, sell, or give away any detail they have on you.

  4. pdaly says:

    Speaking of tracking, I read that after the NYC doctor was admitted to the hospital with Ebola, the authorities checked his travel history against his cell phone and credit card history and found the two matched well. No mention in the article about whether he gave permission to the search. It was just a matter-of-fact statement that the guy was a good, believable historian about his recent whereabouts. ??

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