Has the NSA ever gotten anyone arrested for just a google search?

I like the idea of the NSA and other things like that. If there were security cameras in every corner of every street in a city, most people would be rioting and going “WAHHH I WANT MY PRIVACY THIS VIOLATES THE 4TH AMENDMENT BOOHOO THIS IS SO CREEPY THE USA SUCKS” but wouldn’t mind giving up my privacy in exchange for safety from getting beaten up by gangs. And the nerds working in the NSA offices probably don’t care about the times you google searched “how many fists can fit in a butt”. They just skip right over it. It’s a hobby of mine to type NSA keywords in google just to provoke them. So dangerous, BUT SO THRILLING.

The NSA is a good idea but they are doing it wrong. Instead of legitimately finding terrorists, they seem to be trying to arrest innocent amateur chemists and people google searching where to get pressure cookers for actually cooking. There was a news flash where they monitored the porn habits of muslims to humiliate them (huge dick move, because watching porn reduces your cortisol levels), but it didn’t say they actually used it to humiliate them. If I’m interested in chemistry and I google search “ammonium nitrate” or I’m actually growing plants and google “where to get fertilizer” should I expect my door to be broken? What should I do if I see a black van pull up to my driveway and men in black come knock on the door?

FTR, the NSA does not have the authority to arrest anybody.

I’m not in law enforcement, so I’m perfectly willing to stand corrected on the following points by someone more knowledgeable.

  1. So far as I know, the NSA is solely an intelligence-gathering organization. There doesn’t seem to be any such thing as NSA agents with police powers.

  2. Have you ever heard of anyone in the US being arrested, and then successfully prosecuted, solely for searching the Internet under the term “ammonium nitrate”? I haven’t. People are prosecuted under written laws in the US, and I don’t believe there is a particular federal law that would easily enable such a prosecution. A prosecutor would have to conclusively prove, to a certain legal standard, that your search on “ammonium nitrate” was with the intention of causing mayhem, would they not? How do you figure on that happening?

Why don’t you try it and report your findings back to us?

I have plenty of times. I am not a terrorist and won’t ever be. I have searched for all kinds of weird stuff just out of curiosity and never heard a peep about it. I wish journalists would too because they are really terrible about spreading falsehoods about everything from so-called ‘assault rifles’ to weapons of mass destruction.

That said, the NSA can bite my ass. I don’t like them and never will. All those jokes we made about the former Soviets now apply to the U.S. and that is certainly not a good thing even if we still have some degree of freedom of speech and due process. I am very surprised that people were shocked by recent revaltions of their activities. Wired magazine, hardly a obscure publication, has been covering them for years down to rough plans for their new data centers. The joke was once that NSA stood for No Such Agency because even most members of Congress didn’t know about it for decades but they are old and despicable news now.

The only acts of free speech that I am aware of that will get you an uninvited visit by the feds are hypothetical statements about harming or assassinating the President of The United States. However, it is the Secret Service rather than the NSA that follows up on all of those leads. You probably won’t be prosecuted for it unless a specific and direct threat is made but they can still ruin your month. That is nothing new though. They have following up on every remotely credible threat for decades. Those amount to thousands of people a year collectively.

The NSA may not have a law enforcement division, but the agencies they provide information to certainly do. It is highly probably those agencies have made arrests based on investigations started with seed information they acquired from the NSA. There is probably no way to find the numbers of American citizens arrested as a result of information collected and passed along by the NSA.

He might end up in a place without internet access.

I know this is a tangent, but I have walked around many neighborhoods over the last 48 years, in first world and third world countries, without any surveillance by the NSA and usually without so much as a webcam in a window, and I have never been beaten up by gangs, a gang, or even a single thug.

That said, I used to write posts like this when I first got here, so Welcome to the Boards!

I am disappointed to learn the NSA has ceased legitimately finding terrorists and has turned instead to trying to arrest innocent chemists and cooks.
I was unaware until now of the importance of reducing Muslim cortisol levels, but perhaps the NSA would appreciate a note from you so they can better focus their antiporn efforts.

If a black van with men in black pulls up, make sure you don’t look dead, as that sounds like the local funeral home to me.

As to the title question, I suspect they have gotten people arrested, at least indirectly. Although the NSA (for reasons beyond my ken) is notoriously reticent about publishing exactly what they do, and to whom, their role as I understand it is to attempt to identify security threats, and then turn over any leads to the appropriate law-enforcement authorities. To the extent that some of those security threats began as a Google search and concluded with the identification of naughty people who were subsequently arrested (or maybe just plinked by men in black?), I think it’s fair to say the NSA has “gotten someone arrested for a Google search.” Of course, not “just” a Google search; more like “a chain of suspicion and investigation leading to arrest that began with a suspicious Google search.”

Aren’t the NSA looking for trends that they then zero in on?

It’s why I have generally no great problem with most of these revelations, as they aren’t actually looking specifically at what I am doing in any detail. They’d only do that if they had reasonable suspicion, and I am pretty sure what most people do on the Internet isn’t as unusual or uniquely weird as they think.

From what I read, they spend a good deal of time looking for people who look for and download illegal porn. The idea that terrorists do open searches for anything that might incriminate them seems pretty far fetched to me these days. Sending an email with an explicit threat to the president of anywhere would be pretty daft thing to do. Even sending encrypted emails might attract attention.

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the serious threats all use burn phones and meet up on sites like WOW.

As an aside, I speak from a country where we do have cameras in just about every public place. Cars have them mounted on the dash, and many homeowners have their own on the house.

If you’re getting beat up that often, maybe relocating to a better neighborhood should be a priority.

You mean, like this crazy guy?

Not that I’m aware of any NSA involvement in his arrest (the article doesn’t say) – but it’s rather baffling, in hindsight, why this incident didn’t get any nationwide attention.

Does that link go where you think it goes?

Google searches for members have been encrypted since 2011, and are now encrypted for everyone worldwide. It was leaked that the NSA does have an attack against SSL encryption, but they called it “fragile” and it’s believed to be a method of bypassing the encryption instead of breaking it. So if you are a terrorist they can probably attack your network and get around any encrypted Google searches, but for most people there’s a decent chance that any suspicious phrases you type in are between you and Google’s advertisement bot.

So where did you get the idea that people would be arrested just for Google searches? You said yourself you have done lots of “suspicious” searches and heard nothing.

Moderator Note

The link in post 13 (and quoted in post 14) was set up to generate a new reply to the thread. I modified the link so that it would no longer do this.

I don’t know if that was intentional or not. If it was, please do not do that again as it could easily lead to accidental posts added to the thread.

While I do have a problem with NSA spying leading to arrest as mentioned in toofs post, because the initial investigative lead was illegally (as far as I am concerned) obtained, at least they are arresting actual criminals.

A more insidious use, and admittedly one I have never seem but I worry about the potential for abuse, is say you are under suspicion for a crime but there is minimal to only circumstantial evidence. So if the police and prosecutors get hold of NSA internet data, next thing there are news reports of how ‘suspected person Shagnasty had researched all manner of weird stuff on the internet.’ Leaving the viewer to draw the conclusion that he is guilty as sin, because why would an innocent person make those searches?

In the past, well prior to 9/11, we used to wonder if the NSA or an ESCHELON like system was monitoring all phone calls for key words. So I used to say phrases like ‘we should kill the President’. Pissed off my friends! We never got visited by the Secret Service, though. So either they weren’t listening, or my saying “Hi” to them at the end of the call eased their suspicions.:slight_smile:

Still, I quit watching porn in case the NSA uses it against me later on

Oops…this is the story I meant. (And yes, it was a total accident…or was it??!?)

What worries me most about Snowden’s revelations, and J.Q. Public’s apathetic reaction, is that the NSA will actually become more bold and less invisible when it comes to taking people down. Used to be, they wouldn’t bother with a non-major criminal if there was no easily obtained “evidence” beyond Google searches and Internet downloads – but now that PRISM’s public knowledge, there’s no reason to pretend that they’re not tracking everything everyone does online. Quite scary, actually.