Have a Nice Day, N.S.A. – NYTimes.com

Brazil’s president pulled a “Dilma Bolada.” Everyone else in the one of the world’s newest rising powers has another strategy to confound the NSA:

It has become something of a joke among my friends in Brazil to, whenever you write a personal e-mail, include a few polite lines addressed to the agents of the N.S.A., wishing them a good day or a Happy Thanksgiving. Sometimes I’ll add a few extra explanations and footnotes about the contents of the message, summarizing it and clarifying some of the Portuguese words that could be difficult to translate.

Other people have gone so far as to send nonsensical e-mails just to confuse N.S.A. agents. For example: first use some key words to attract their surveillance filters, like “chemical brothers,” “chocolate bombs” or “stop holding my heart hostage, my emotions are like a blasting of fundamentalist explosion” (one of my personal favorites, inspired by an online sentence-generator designed to confound the N.S.A.).

via Have a Nice Day, N.S.A. – NYTimes.com.

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13 thoughts on “Have a Nice Day, N.S.A. – NYTimes.com

  1. Nobody likes a snoop. Unfortunately, after the Snowden leak, the US has been labelled the biggest snoop in the world (how ironic that this label came after Snowden himself acted like the world’s biggest snoop). And here’s the thing: I don’t think Americans should have been so surprised to learn about the NSA’s snooping (I mean, anyone who has read Dan Brown’s The Fortress should have been aware that the government has access to all kinds of personal emails and other private information). The surprise has come precisely from other countries that probably had limited knowledge of the extent of US access, or perhaps felt outraged after finding out that the US felt the need to spy on them.
    One such country, under the direction of short-tempered president Dilma Rousseff, is Brazil. Being from Brazil myself, I naturally had that initial “what the heck?” feeling as well. But then I remembered how lowly I think of Brazilian politics and kind of wished that maybe the US could have used some of its snooping to reveal to the world the amount of corruption and ignorance that goes on in the country’s leadership and governance. Sadly, they were only interested in protecting the world against potential terrorist threats. Sigh.
    So I guess now the emails that I send back home are getting hacked as well as the ones I send here in the US. Well, I hope the NSA is having a heyday with the spiritual experiences that I write about and share with my family, as well as world threatening questions that I send by text to my mom, such as: “Do you have a better recipe for brigadeiro? Mine keeps getting too crumbly.” I think I’ll start adopting a similar passive-aggressive form of getting back to the NSA and include more email subject lines such as “Dear family I’ve been having EXPLOSIVE diarrhea lately”, and the like.
    Hopefully next time Brazilians try to retaliate by attacking the NSA’s website they manage to get the URL right.

    • samdittmer says:

      It’s really not clear to me why spying on the President of Brazil would have anything to do with the NSA’s mission of “protecting the world against potential terrorist threats”.

  2. trawson7 says:

    I agree with Luiza; the US government could be doing so much good by spying on other countries, but that’s not what has been happening at all. Brazil is not alone in being plagued by corruption and inefficiency, and yet that is not what the US government has been choosing to investigate. I also agree with Sam though; since when is Brazil a threat to our security? There are too many countries and other potentially dangerous groups for the US to possibly spy on all of them, and I wonder if tracking the emails and text messages of Brazilians is really worth spending our tax dollars and increasing our national debt. Could we not be doing better things with our money?

  3. kmdavis2 says:

    Although satirical, I really love the point of this piece. I agree with all the comments above and am concerned about what NSA is really supposed to be doing. Isn’t there an implied freedom of privacy in the Constitution? Although I am sure that ‘spying’ has led to vital information, I don’t think it is necessary in most of these situations as it just leads to our status as a world power to be less respected. This is definitely a faux pas in international relations and it has made us look very stupid.

  4. Taylor Shippen says:

    First off, I can’t imagine ANY country being open to corruption investigations originating from another nation. Can you imagine Premier Xi Jinping announcing that his hacking program was monitoring Senator Mike Lee, and happened to uncover that he receives private trips to the Bahamas from natural gas lobbyists? Who would the American public be more angry at, Mike Lee or China? Such an expose would be humiliating on a world-wide level. And there’s just the economics of it: is the political downfall of a politician worth destroying a multi-billion dollar surveillance program? The proposition is pretty ridiculous.

    Furthermore, I’m surprised that anyone would believe that the government’s NSA program was intended only for counter-terrorism use. The U.S. has many world-wide interests that extend beyond terrorism, particularly as rising powers seek to extend their sphere of influence into areas that were once unquestionably under U.S. control. Brazil is one of these countries. China is now Brazil’s number one trading partner, and both seek to change the existing international status quo to create a more multi-polar system. The threat of a rising power in South America hostile to U.S. influence should be concerning to U.S. leaders with any foresight. We should not be surprised to find the NSA tracking Brazilian political moves, and neither should the Brazilian government. Brazilian protests over such surveillance is purely political; by capitalizing on anti-American sentiment they hope to score political points. I highly doubt that Brazilian leaders thought that they could challenge U.S. dominance in the South American region without attracting some attention, but by exposing the NSA program, Snowden gave them plenty of ammunition needed to justify growing anti-U.S. sentiments.

    • samdittmer says:

      The primary defense of the NSA given by public officials ranging from Keith Alexander to John McCain to Michele Bachmann is counter-terrorism. I think your skepticism of their statements is justified. But if one major purpose of the NSA is to give the U.S. power to dominate other regions of the world, and in particular to prevent Brazil from interfering with U.S. control of South America, the U.S. public should be told that’s what’s going on.

      In Athens and in Rome, there were public debates about what kind of empire the people wanted and who should be treated as an enemy. I believe the majority in the U.S. today does not want an empire and does not believe U.S. power should be used to prevent the emergence of a more multi-polar system.

      • Taylor Shippen says:

        I agree; the U.S. population does not want an empire in the traditional sense. But the rhetoric behind presidential speeches that say that America is “exceptional” indicates that our leaders believe that America should lead, not just participate in foreign relations, and Americans tend to support that view. If the American public does not want the U.S. to take an assertive stance in the world, then we should be protesting leaders claiming U.S. exceptionalism. We should also demand accommodation towards rising powers as they hack into our government and corporations, sign exclusive trade deals intended to damage U.S. trade, and persecute their own people. I think we’re not having this discussion because the mass media isn’t really framing what the debate should be about. It’s a discussion we should be having though.

        • samdittmer says:

          I think we’re mostly on the same page. Your point about the mass media is definitely important, and I agree that many Americans support the idea of an exceptional United States that is willing to act assertively to support good causes throughout the world.

          But it’s possible to believe in that ideal without believing that the U.S. is doing a good job of living up to it. Unfortunately, sometimes countries that persecuted their own people have done so with direct or indirect U.S. support. Operation Condor is one example.

          Protests may be one way to respond, though the February 15th 2003 protests, probably the largest protest event in history, did not stop the invasion of Iraq. The massive bipartisan popular and Congressional opposition to the bombing of Syria was effective, however, and perhaps the wind is shifting.

    • ianhesterly says:

      Taylor I definitely agree with your first point that we can’t sit here and use the NSA to help out with domestic problems. If a Brazilian politician is accused of some sort of corruption we shouldn’t be involved in that any more than we should be involved in an American woman wanting the NSA to release her husband’s text/Facebook messages to see if there’s evidence of infidelity (quite a leap, I know).

      I also agree we can’t just be focusing all of our intelligence efforts on terrorism to the extent that we are blind to other issues. The NSA’s job is to give the government an informed picture of what is going on, and that’s what they are doing.

  5. The NSA, as mentioned above, is most certainly using the information it gathers for more than just counterterrorism. Although I do believe the NSA has overstepped its bounds by gathering such in-depth information on every aspect of life in other countries, my tongue-in-cheek response to the indignation of other countries is that the other countries are doing (or at least attempting to do) just as in-depth of surveillance on the US, we just made the mistake of getting caught. It’s like when the US got caught spying on the EU. France and Germany were extremely upset with us and saying that they would never do anything like that (http://www.dailydot.com/news/germany-nsa-surveillance-spying-xkeyscore/ and http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2013/0705/After-slapping-US-France-finds-itself-in-spotlight-for-spying), and then it came out that were both doing extensive spying themselves and, in Germany’s case, in collaboration with the NSA. Every country has extensive spy programs; the only thing we did that other countries didn’t was get caught. I would extend this to Brazil and say that Brazil is in the same situation. They are most certainly (if they have the capabilities) running large spy operations, they just haven’t been caught like we have.

  6. mncarlson95 says:

    I find this issue with Brazil freaking out over the NSA spying on them very amusing. I enjoyed reading this piece because it seems like the author also finds the issue amusing. The NSA is put in place to help protect the United States against any treat whether it be political or terrorist. I think we have been spying on Brazil because undercover terrorist organizations can exist without the Brazilian government knowing of their existence. Any terrorist group anywhere for that matter, we do not just spy on Brazil. I don’t know how long it will take Brazil to realize that they will have other countries spy on them and that the Unites States spies on other countries. I think Brazil just needs to drop this issue because it is not an issue but a fact of international security precautions that every country takes in order to feel a sense of security.

  7. madythorn says:

    I enjoyed the satire and wittiness that the writer uses in this piece to share their point of view. While I guess it should be common sense that all countries spy on other countries as the above commenter points out, it still does not mean that everyone in the country should be subjected to these wire tappings. It is surprising to me that more people, in the US and abroad, are not more appalled with the actions that the NSA is taking. While I understand they are in place to protect us from political or terrorist threats, the other makes a good point when asking President Obama for the file she can’t find on her computer. The NSA has gone way over its boundaries in taking information and listening in on personal lives. They need to draw the line somewhere, and people should not be as okay with this as they seem to be.

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