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NSA Web Site Places 'Cookies' on Computers
Excite News ^ | 29 December 2005 | ANICK JESDANUN

Posted on 12/29/2005 8:00:16 AM PST by ShadowAce

NEW YORK (AP) - The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.

These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.

"Considering the surveillance power the NSA has, cookies are not exactly a major concern," said Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "But it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they are not even following the government's very basic rules for Web privacy."

Until Tuesday, the NSA site created two cookie files that do not expire until 2035 - likely beyond the life of any computer in use today.

Don Weber, an NSA spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday that the cookie use resulted from a recent software upgrade. Normally, the site uses temporary, permissible cookies that are automatically deleted when users close their Web browsers, he said, but the software in use shipped with persistent cookies already on.

"After being tipped to the issue, we immediately disabled the cookies," he said.

Cookies are widely used at commercial Web sites and can make Internet browsing more convenient by letting sites remember user preferences. For instance, visitors would not have to repeatedly enter passwords at sites that require them.

But privacy advocates complain that cookies can also track Web surfing, even if no personal information is actually collected.

In a 2003 memo, the White House's Office of Management and Budget prohibits federal agencies from using persistent cookies - those that aren't automatically deleted right away - unless there is a "compelling need."

A senior official must sign off on any such use, and an agency that uses them must disclose and detail their use in its privacy policy.

Peter Swire, a Clinton administration official who had drafted an earlier version of the cookie guidelines, said clear notice is a must, and 'vague assertions of national security, such as exist in the NSA policy, are not sufficient."

Daniel Brandt, a privacy activist who discovered the NSA cookies, said mistakes happen, "but in any case, it's illegal. The (guideline) doesn't say anything about doing it accidentally."

The Bush administration has come under fire recently over reports it authorized NSA to secretly spy on e-mail and phone calls without court orders.

Since The New York Times disclosed the domestic spying program earlier this month, President Bush has stressed that his executive order allowing the eavesdropping was limited to people with known links to al-Qaida.

But on its Web site Friday, the Times reported that the NSA, with help from American telecommunications companies, obtained broader access to streams of domestic and international communications.

The NSA's cookie use is unrelated, and Weber said it was strictly to improve the surfing experience "and not to collect personal user data."

Richard M. Smith, a security consultant in Cambridge, Mass., questions whether persistent cookies would even be of much use to the NSA. They are great for news and other sites with repeat visitors, he said, but the NSA's site does not appear to have enough fresh content to warrant more than occasional visits.

The government first issued strict rules on cookies in 2000 after disclosures that the White House drug policy office had used the technology to track computer users viewing its online anti-drug advertising. Even a year later, a congressional study found 300 cookies still on the Web sites of 23 agencies.

In 2002, the CIA removed cookies it had inadvertently placed at one of its sites after Brandt called it to the agency's attention.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Government; Technical
KEYWORDS: cookies; notagain; nsa; website
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1 posted on 12/29/2005 8:00:17 AM PST by ShadowAce
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To: rdb3; chance33_98; Calvinist_Dark_Lord; Bush2000; PenguinWry; GodGunsandGuts; CyberCowboy777; ...

2 posted on 12/29/2005 8:00:34 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

It's the holiday season! Cookies are everywhere! I know I've eaten way too many this year!...........Those little Danish butter cookies are very addictive............


3 posted on 12/29/2005 8:06:06 AM PST by Red Badger (And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him)
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To: ShadowAce

Name a website that doesn't put cookies on your computer. Now that would be news.


4 posted on 12/29/2005 8:06:07 AM PST by TigersEye (They hang traitors don't they?)
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To: ShadowAce

I'm not the biggest computer expert, but the story even says this is pretty darned common.

As far as I am concerned, this is a total non-story and, again, more Tokyo-Rose type bullsh*t. Forgive the language, but I'm sick of it.

If I'm wrong I'll thank anyone for the correction in advance.


5 posted on 12/29/2005 8:07:20 AM PST by cvq3842
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To: ShadowAce

Let me get this straight..The NYT,WP, ABC, NBC,CBS and the rest of the lame stream media can put cookies on your computer..but not the federal government trying to hunt down terrorists? I wonder if they realize how ridiculous they sound complaining about this?


6 posted on 12/29/2005 8:07:30 AM PST by penelopesire
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To: ShadowAce

The media is getting desperate for dirt.

They were probably planning to write a story on how hard
it was to navigate the NSA site, discovered it wasn't,
and decided to make that the story.

Every "outraged" liberal who reads this on any on-line
news site will be doing so on a site that not only uses
preference cookies, but runs ads with real tracking
cookies, not all benign.


7 posted on 12/29/2005 8:07:35 AM PST by Boundless
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To: ShadowAce

A website that places cookies on your computer -- oh the horror of it.


8 posted on 12/29/2005 8:07:54 AM PST by vbmoneyspender
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To: ShadowAce

CNN is cooking this up something fierce, telling its naive viewers that this a "tracking mechanism" to spy on web surfers.


9 posted on 12/29/2005 8:08:10 AM PST by angkor
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To: TigersEye
Name a website that doesn't put cookies on your computer. Now that would be news.

Yep, but this slant of the story can make it seem as if Bush really is trying to keep his eye on us. No mention of how easy it is to delete cookies either.

10 posted on 12/29/2005 8:08:59 AM PST by trebb ("I am the way... no one comes to the Father, but by me..." - Jesus in John 14:6 (RSV))
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To: ShadowAce

Here go to my website and I'll give you a cookie too.
http://www.rusthompson.com/

OH, The Horrors!


11 posted on 12/29/2005 8:09:31 AM PST by The Mayor ( As a child of God, prayer is kind of like calling home everyday.)
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To: ShadowAce


"So?!?!"


12 posted on 12/29/2005 8:10:11 AM PST by TomGuy
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To: TigersEye

Exactly, the cookie monster is built into all computers.
Just delete them and put your history folder on 0.

What a load of malarky.

God Bless America!
Ops4


13 posted on 12/29/2005 8:11:24 AM PST by OPS4 (worth repeating)
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To: ShadowAce
What?
And No Milk?
14 posted on 12/29/2005 8:11:59 AM PST by DeaconRed (NYT=ENEMY)
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To: vbmoneyspender

At least they don't bombard us with pop-ups!


15 posted on 12/29/2005 8:12:13 AM PST by mlc9852
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To: ShadowAce

Ya mean the same ones used by every other site to track your computer? Run AD-AWARE SE [It's free], and I guarantee that many will be surprised by who is tracking their every move.


16 posted on 12/29/2005 8:12:53 AM PST by conservativecorner
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To: ShadowAce
Hells Bells, FR places a cookie on your system when you log in.

Most browsers can delete and block cookies, no biggie.

17 posted on 12/29/2005 8:13:49 AM PST by AFreeBird (your mileage may vary)
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To: OPS4

That's right. Now if the NSA starts putting pop-up ads on their site I might be a little miffed. No excuse for that! ;-p


18 posted on 12/29/2005 8:16:18 AM PST by TigersEye (They hang traitors don't they?)
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To: ShadowAce

If No Such Agency wanted to track you or me they wouldn't have to wait for us to vist their web page. Media idiots.


19 posted on 12/29/2005 8:16:56 AM PST by Kokojmudd (Outsource the US Senate to Mexico! Put Walmart in charge of all Federal agencies!)
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To: Red Badger

Macaroons are the bomb. Ooops better not say bomb.


20 posted on 12/29/2005 8:17:59 AM PST by showme_the_Glory (No more rhyming, and I mean it! ..Anybody got a peanut.....)
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To: ShadowAce

If you hate it, don't go or get your security programs at work. It doesn't take but several steps to disable it. This shows how dumb the complaining liberals are. Cookies... let the cookie monster eat 'em.


21 posted on 12/29/2005 8:18:13 AM PST by Wiz
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To: ShadowAce
NEW YORK (AP) - The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.

This is very good news.......our security services need more 'cookie' factories......maybe they can make 'goodle' research a giant 'cookie' network....

Britain,....China and India.... Needs More Work.....

....and don't forget,....."Narnia" is surely the favorite false profit work of the Billy-goat Clintons and their Homo 'DNC'....support the 'DNC' filosophies and see 'their' Hollywood-Homo-Saypean politics....

/Bill Hybulls and Sick Warren,......not to forget Robert Schiller and other 'Narnia' gnostic-false-christian 'occults'...

/soarcasim?

The 'DNC' is C.S. Lewis' real KINGDOM.....

22 posted on 12/29/2005 8:18:39 AM PST by maestro
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To: ShadowAce

OH, NO! The NSA is putting COOKIES on computers that visit their WEBSITE!

There's a high crime and misdemeanor if I ever heard of one!

IMPEACH BUSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


23 posted on 12/29/2005 8:19:14 AM PST by nhoward14
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To: ShadowAce

Big deal over nothing. Yes, government policy says not to do it, but anyone who has ever done server config knows that things can get turned back on automatically, especially in the Microsoft world. Mistakes happen, they fixed it. Forget it.


24 posted on 12/29/2005 8:20:54 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: Kokojmudd
If No Such Agency wanted to track you or me they wouldn't have to wait for us to vist their web page. Media idiots.

You wonder if they realize how stupid they will sound when the truth about session cookies is made known. Still, there will be some out there whose tin foil hats will be vibraing in harmonic resonance at this story...

25 posted on 12/29/2005 8:21:33 AM PST by COBOL2Java (The Katrina Media never gets anything right, so why should I believe them?)
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To: ShadowAce

They cant track that cookie when you are surfing away from their site. They cant even read it when you are away and the sites you visit cant be applied to any cookie outside the domain you are browsing.

Can we AT LEAST get some technical expertise to report on this type of stuff????


26 posted on 12/29/2005 8:21:52 AM PST by smith288 (Peace at all cost makes for tyranny free of charge...)
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To: ShadowAce; ASA Vet; Grampa Dave; beyond the sea

Vanilla wafer with sprinkles ....Ping.


27 posted on 12/29/2005 8:22:47 AM PST by BIGLOOK (I once opposed keelhauling but recently have come to my senses.)
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To: ShadowAce

Great now if my computer would only give me some fresh cold milk...that would be utterly great...


28 posted on 12/29/2005 8:22:51 AM PST by joesnuffy (A camel once bit our sister.. but we knew what to do.. we gathered rocks and squashed her!)
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To: penelopesire

Journalists have the IQ of a rock.


29 posted on 12/29/2005 8:23:23 AM PST by Seamoth (Be a FR Folder! http://folding.stanford.edu team# 36120. For more info, search FR keyword: folding)
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To: ShadowAce; All

I've visited the NSA's web site before.

Interesting site - especially the historical section where they talk about Enigma, Venona, etc.

Here's the site:

http://www.nsa.gov

But there's nothing there that could be considered secret or sensitive.


30 posted on 12/29/2005 8:24:08 AM PST by MplsSteve
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To: antiRepublicrat
Big deal over nothing.

Agreed. I thought I'd post it because it's getting radio air time locally. I thought it was funny when I heard it on the radio.

31 posted on 12/29/2005 8:24:39 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

I already wrote to the author of the article ANICK JESDANUN and told him what an idiot he is .Liberals whining about nothing again


32 posted on 12/29/2005 8:28:40 AM PST by binkdeville
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To: ShadowAce

Good grief! Every email you get places cookies on your computer - and if you're so stupid you don't know how to erase them on a daily basis - then you deserve to be spied on!


33 posted on 12/29/2005 8:28:46 AM PST by CyberAnt ( I believe Congressman Curt Weldon re Able Danger)
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To: CyberAnt
Every email you get places cookies on your computer

Since when?

Web browsers place cookies on a computer, not email.

34 posted on 12/29/2005 8:30:04 AM PST by smith288 (Peace at all cost makes for tyranny free of charge...)
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To: Seamoth

"Journalists have the IQ of a rock."

No argument with that...lol


35 posted on 12/29/2005 8:32:40 AM PST by penelopesire
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To: ShadowAce
Geez Louise, what a non-story story. But just for the heck of it I'm going to try something.

I'm going to run my Spybot Search & Destroy and AdWare SE, get rid of all 'malicious cookies' (sarcasm), go to a few different sites like AP, NY Times, Whitehouse, the NSA - run them again and see what gives.

Be back in a few......

36 posted on 12/29/2005 8:33:02 AM PST by Condor51 (Leftists are moral and intellectual parasites - Standing Wolf)
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To: BIGLOOK
Vanilla wafer with sprinkles ....Ping.

LOL

What would the Christmas season be without some cookies ........... and milk?

;-)

37 posted on 12/29/2005 8:34:41 AM PST by beyond the sea (If you need a really new idea ..................... read a really old book.)
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To: beyond the sea

Santa Claus is deeply saddened.


38 posted on 12/29/2005 8:42:43 AM PST by neodad (Rule Number 1: Be Armed)
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To: Condor51
OK I cleaned all the cookies, set Firefox to ask me each time as to allowing cookies, went to a few different sites
My ISP wanted to put on cookies
Drudge, puts on cookies
NY TIMES wanted to put on cookies.
Chicago Tribune - cookies
AP.org - COOKIES
Whitehouse - NO COOKIES
Thomas - Ditto
NSA - Same, NO Cookies now.
So it's okay for newspapers and news organizations like AP to put tracking cookies on your 'puter but it's a crime when NSA did?
39 posted on 12/29/2005 8:58:08 AM PST by Condor51 (Leftists are moral and intellectual parasites - Standing Wolf)
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To: ShadowAce
Bump.
40 posted on 12/29/2005 9:00:15 AM PST by jdm (QOY "I'd hit it. Then I'd turn it over, praise Allah, and hit it again." Lazamataz on Osama's niece.)
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To: TigersEye

None of my websites do.


41 posted on 12/29/2005 9:01:17 AM PST by ASA Vet (Those who know don't talk, those who talk don't know.)
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To: antiRepublicrat
Big deal over nothing. Yes, government policy says not to do it, but anyone who has ever done server config knows that things can get turned back on automatically, especially in the Microsoft world. Mistakes happen, they fixed it. Forget it.

Too bad it wasnt Microsoft...its a Sun os. ;) Sun and their evil ways... lol

42 posted on 12/29/2005 9:01:21 AM PST by smith288 (Peace at all cost makes for tyranny free of charge...)
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To: ASA Vet
None of my websites do.

If your websites dont have cookies...then it doesnt do anything cool to necessitate them. ;)

43 posted on 12/29/2005 9:02:08 AM PST by smith288 (Peace at all cost makes for tyranny free of charge...)
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To: smith288

Hmmmm?? Then why are there cookies from JCPenney on my computer when I haven't been to their website ..??


44 posted on 12/29/2005 9:03:38 AM PST by CyberAnt ( I believe Congressman Curt Weldon re Able Danger)
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To: CyberAnt

Umm... you may not have known it but websites have frames and other jazzy things going on. An iframe could have placed it when you were at some other marketplace.

Advertisements are famous for their iframes and such.


45 posted on 12/29/2005 9:05:19 AM PST by smith288 (Peace at all cost makes for tyranny free of charge...)
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To: smith288

But none of the sites I went to had any connection to JCPenney .. but I suppose that may not matter ..??

But .. some days I don't go to any websites - I'm busy working on Word or Excel - then what .. where do the cookies come from then - because I check it everyday before I turn off my computer.


46 posted on 12/29/2005 9:09:34 AM PST by CyberAnt ( I believe Congressman Curt Weldon re Able Danger)
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To: smith288

I haven't been "cool" since I was a teenager 40 years ago.


47 posted on 12/29/2005 9:13:49 AM PST by ASA Vet (Those who know don't talk, those who talk don't know.)
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To: ShadowAce
NSA Web Site Places 'Cookies' on Computers

Big deal The MSM Web Site's have been placings 'Crockies' on Computers for years

48 posted on 12/29/2005 9:15:12 AM PST by tophat9000 (lose 3000 in an hour and you want to fight, lose 2000 in 2 years and you want to run !???)
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To: smith288
Too bad it wasnt Microsoft...its a Sun os. ;) Sun and their evil ways... lol

The NSA has been running IIS for a while. And it seems a bit stupid to run Sun in the back and use IIS as a proxy.

49 posted on 12/29/2005 9:17:26 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: CyberAnt
But .. some days I don't go to any websites - I'm busy working on Word or Excel - then what .. where do the cookies come from then - because I check it everyday before I turn off my computer.

Im a professional web developer, Im just telling you how cookies work. They arent set by emails unless you use an online email service such as Yahoo or hotmail and use your web browser to view them. Then the advertisements could set cookies.

If you have cookies popping up on your computer without EVER using the internet, you might want to run a scan using microsofts anti-spyware utility (works fantastic regardless of what haters say). Cookies dont just pop up out of nowhere and cant be set in an email client like outlook (unless you have security set to nonexistent).

50 posted on 12/29/2005 9:18:27 AM PST by smith288 (Peace at all cost makes for tyranny free of charge...)
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