Breaking the Rules

This seems significant:

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

This is from a document Snowden provided to the Post earlier this year. As usual with Barton Gellman’s stories, it’s not clear if Snowden put an embargo on the document, or if the Post chose to sit on it until now.  My guess is that Snowden is controlling the flow, and that he’s keeping the more damning revelations back to try to catch officials in lies, but that’s just a guess.

One of the questions this raises is the error rate at the NSA–if it screws up thousands of times a year, how many requests does it process in a year?

Also in the Post this morning, the chief judge of the FISC says he “lacks the tools to independently verify how often the government’s surveillance breaks the court’s rules”.






134 replies
  1. 1
    Ben Cisco says:

    the chief judge of the FISC says he “lacks the tools to independently verify how often the government’s surveillance breaks the court’s rules”

    What judge has his/her own independent auditor?

  2. 2
    Keith P says:

    My guess is that the Post is trickling the documents out to make the story last longer. Part of Snowden’s conditions of asylum to Russia was that he stop leaking documents, anyway.

  3. 3
    Napoleon says:

    @Ben Cisco:

    What judge has his/her own independent auditor?

    That is what the adversary system and discovery is for. Unfortunately that court doesn’t have 2 sides preparing arguments or doing discovery for and against any particular proposition or issue, so the system just doesn’t work.

    By the way, if any of those judges believe that they need to resign and quit participating in the charade.

  4. 4
    Botsplainer says:

    How dare them have critical internal audits to improve performance and flush out problems. Rogue agency! Pertect mah Freedoms from the Tyranny of the Kenyan Muslime Usurper! Stick it to the man and empower the Vanguard of the Proletariat against the Hope and Change Tyrant even though he’s not rounding up dissenters!

  5. 5

    OT but … Republicans in disarraaaaay …..

    Several influential Republicans told us the party is actually in a worse place than it was Nov. 7, the day after the disastrous election. This is their case:

    • The party is hurting itself even more with the very voters they need to start winning back: Hispanics, blacks, gays, women and swing voters of all stripes.

    • The few Republicans who stood up and tried to move the party ahead were swatted into submission: Speaker John Boehner on fiscal matters and Sen. Marco Rubio on immigration are the poster boys for this.

    • Republicans are all flirting with a fall that could see influential party voices threatening to default on the debt or shut down the government — and therefore ending all hopes of proving they are not insane when it comes to governance.

    Kinda what we’ve all been saying since forever.

  6. 6
    Baud says:

    I had a few takeaways from the story. First, it seems clear that the NSA has a number of protocols and internal checks in place to try to segregate data on Americans. Second, it appears those checks aren’t as good as they could be, given that error rate. Third, I think some of the sloppiness is the natural result of excessively guarded secrecy, even from members of Congress who are supposed to have oversight over the agency. Finally, too much current depends on internal bureaucratic minutiae, rather than laws and external checks and balances. It is quite easy for those protections to erode over time, or be manipulated if another Cheney-type personality occupies a future administration. For these reasons, this story provides for me a more compelling reason for reform of the laws than the initial disclosures about the surveillance program.

    I also thought your post avoided some of the sensationalism that sometimes characterizes NSA stories. FWIW, I appreciate that.

  7. 7
    me says:

    @Botsplainer:

    Despite the quadrupling of the NSA’s oversight staff after a series of significant violations in 2009, the rate of infractions increased throughout 2011 and early 2012. An NSA spokesman declined to disclose whether the trend has continued since last year.

    …and those audits have been sooooo effective!

  8. 8
    smintheus says:

    the chief judge of the FISC says he “lacks the tools to independently verify how often the government’s surveillance breaks the court’s rules”

    The same is true of Congress. Shame that its Intelligence Committee members continue to pretend otherwise.

  9. 9
    Mike D. says:

    What would those tools even be?

  10. 10
    smintheus says:

    @Baud: The NSA is spying on Americans. How much more sensational can one get, than the plain truth?

  11. 11
    Baud says:

    @smintheus:

    Except that’s not true.

    ETA: Or not proven to be true, to be more accurate.

  12. 12

    Can we repeal or at least amend the damn Patriot Act and the AUMF now?

  13. 13
    Botsplainer says:

    @me:

    …and those audits have been sooooo effective!

    Or the increase in oversight staff accomplished a result by further identifying and clarifying problems. It isn’t that the rate went up objectively – it is that problems were more likely to be identified.

    Fucking propagandist.

  14. 14
    Chris says:

    @Southern Beale:

    • Republicans are all flirting with a fall that could see influential party voices threatening to default on the debt or shut down the government — and therefore ending all hopes of proving they are not insane when it comes to governance.

    Haven’t we already been here before?

  15. 15

    @Southern Beale:

    Here’s a quote from that piece I found interesting:

    This probably doesn’t matter for 2014, because off-year elections are notoriously low-turnout affairs where older whites show up in disproportionate numbers.

    If that’s their attitude, this is an excellent opportunity to catch them napping.

  16. 16
    NobodySpecial says:

    @Baud: From the article:

    Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans

    according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents

    So, in other words, the NSA auditors are possibly lying about the NSA surveillance of Americans. How devious of them.

  17. 17
    Baud says:

    @J.D. Rhoades:

    There was a poll or two showing that the Republicans are losing support among seniors, but I don’t know if that was an outlier.

  18. 18
    Suffern ACE says:

    @J.D. Rhoades: yeah, but from their perspective off year elections are a good time to shut down the federal government and claim that the election is a referendum on continuing the US experiment.

  19. 19
    Baud says:

    @NobodySpecial:

    Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans

    No kidding, because the rules are more protective of Americans. So most of the infractions would involve Americans.

    according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents

    Why would the NSA set up a program for spying on Americans, then audit it, then label the spying on Americans as errors in the audit?

    So, in other words, the NSA auditors are possibly lying about the NSA surveillance of Americans

    Alternatively, it is possible that the audits mean what they say.

  20. 20
    mistermix says:

    @Keith P: You might be right. It’s also common practice for sources to embargo stories and journalists respect those embargoes to keep in the sources good graces. If Snowden gets to Ecuador he’ll probably leak more when he gets there and Gellman wants it.

  21. 21
    Baud says:

    @mistermix:

    I am curious how the Post scooped this ahead of Greenwald. I assumed they have the same docs.

  22. 22
    smintheus says:

    @Baud: Sure it is. The Post’s documents prove it, again. Presumably you’d argue that instituting a mass pen register on all Americans permanently doesn’t constitute spying?

  23. 23
    me says:

    @Botsplainer: Interesting theory. Just imagine how many violations went unreported until they hired more auditors in 2009. Could be millions!

  24. 24
    Baud says:

    @smintheus:

    The Post’s documents prove it, again.

    No they don’t. The Post’s document prove that the NSA has rules designed to prevent (ineffectively, perhaps) spying on Americans.

    A mass pen register doesn’t constitute spying under existing Supreme Court precedent. Maybe a future Supreme Court will feel differently given the advancement of technology, but current law is what it is.

  25. 25
    smintheus says:

    @Botsplainer: The Post documents demonstrate that the NSA does not report all violations of the law to the Court that its internal reviews identify. I would have thought that was entirely predictable, but now we have the evidence that should put the question beyond dispute.

  26. 26
    mistermix says:

    @Baud: My guess is Snowden parceled them out to different reporters to maintain more than one relationship in case he didn’t like what one of the reporters did, or if that reporter’s editors chickened out. I’m surprised it’s only two reporters, but that’s what it seems.

  27. 27
    smintheus says:

    @Baud: A pen register requires court authorization, which can be given only if a govt attorney attests to facts about the use of those interceptions in criminal investigations. It cannot make such an attestation concerning a mass pen register. Thus it is illegal.

  28. 28
    Baud says:

    @mistermix:

    That makes sense.

  29. 29
    Baud says:

    @smintheus:

    The Supreme Court precedent I was thinking of involved the Fourth Amendment. You are correct that there is a pen register statute, although I’m not sure if it carves out the NSA. In any event, the NSA obtained phone metadata through the FISC court order, not a pen register, IIRC.

  30. 30
    Dave says:

    “As usual with Barton Gellman’s stories”? What’s his deal?

  31. 31
    ET says:

    So far what has come out from the Snowden leak has not been “controversial” in the sense that it revealed information we didn’t know or assume.

    However, I wonder if this audit specifically was something the NSA new Snowden leaked and really really were worried about being made publicly available because knew it would contradict their narrative that they only go after those they need to and that there was oversight to insure it was done legally. Not only that but they didn’t want it known that violating the law was sometimes done on purpose (i.e. that what they wanted to do wasn’t legal so they lie to the people who have nominal oversight).

    This audit may be more damaging than anything that has come out before.

  32. 32
    smintheus says:

    @Baud:

    No they don’t. The Post’s document prove that the NSA has rules designed to prevent (ineffectively, perhaps) spying on Americans.

    Who’s getting fired for spying on Americans? Yeah, nobody is. The putative rules are so important to the NSA that it doesn’t tell anybody who has been ‘inadvertently’ spied upon…or sometimes even that the spying has occurred.

  33. 33
    Poopyman says:

    @mistermix: @Baud: You guys have more faith in Snowden’s ability to think strategically than I do, given his vacation in China and the Moscow airport. And I don’t think Greenwald would be the one handing stories to other reporters, so my guess is the Post sat on it.

  34. 34
    smintheus says:

    @Baud: FISC cannot give the NSA authority to do what federal statute does not permit.

    Anyway, what happened to the founding charter of the NSA, by which it was prohibited from ever using its resources to spy inside the US? Who declared martial law and gave the military the right to spy on American civilians?

  35. 35
    Baud says:

    @smintheus:

    My initial comment was that internal checks and balances seem ineffective. So I’m back to where I started.

  36. 36
    Applejinx says:

    I hope someone at BJ is up for looking into “Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement”. Looks like a corporate power grab to me, though I’m not prepared to make the standing broad conclusion jump that Obama is trying to fast-track this through apparently an endless series of meetings: I think some folks are a little confused about who is on what side and what they can do about it.

    Off the top of my head, if this is in fact a massive corporate power grant in the making enabling corporations to beat up on governments including the US, I would guess Obama is stalling them and dragging things out on purpose. Seems like the sort of thing he would do. Hindsight will tell us more, I daresay.

  37. 37
    Baud says:

    @smintheus:

    The FISC order didn’t authorize the use of pen registers. It authorized obtaining Verizon business records. No statutes forbid that to my knowledge.

  38. 38

    Somewhat relevant to the general topic: why secrecy may be impossible in the modern work culture:

    http://www.antipope.org/charli.....ke-ho.html

    To Gen X, a job for life with the NSA was a probably-impossible dream — it’s what their parents told them to expect, but few of their number achieved. To Gen Y the idea of a job for life is ludicrous and/or impossible.

    This means the NSA and their fellow swimmers in the acronym soup of the intelligence-industrial complex are increasingly reliant on nomadic contractor employees, and increasingly subject to staff churn. There is an emerging need to security-clear vast numbers of temporary/transient workers … and workers with no intrinsic sense of loyalty to the organization.

  39. 39
    gratuitous says:

    Now, now. let’s not get all jazzed here. We can’t really complain until a significant number of people we personally know have been taken into custody without charge or access to legal counsel. And then only if it’s confirmed by Meet the Press, Fox and Friends or some other reputable media outlet.

    Besides, “everybody knows” that this stuff has been happening all along, so you’re just being alarmingly alarmist if you’re concerned about the freshet of lies spilling out. Sure, it seems to be tending in a very predictable direction, but until we’ve actually gotten there, you don’t know that it’s really going to be bad. It could veer off any second now. And it surely will, but only if you lot clap louder. And if you don’t, then it’s really your own fault.

  40. 40
    smintheus says:

    @Baud: The data obtained directly from the phone companies is identical to what a pen register retrieves.

  41. 41
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @Napoleon: How many times does it need to be said that the adversary system is never in place, at any level, for obtaining warrants?

  42. 42
    jon says:

    This is from a document Snowden provided to the Post earlier this year. As usual with Barton Gellman’s stories, it’s not clear if Snowden put an embargo on the document, or if the Post chose to sit on it until now. My guess is that Snowden is controlling the flow, and that he’s keeping the more damning revelations back to try to catch officials in lies, but that’s just a guess.

    I don’t think that makes much sense. If it was provided some time ago, how would Snowden control its release? Did Snowden encrypt his documents and the Post had them but couldn’t read them? Is Snowden the only one capable of knowing what the documents mean? I think Snowden is largely irrelevant now, except as someone our government really should want dead. Pretending he’s still a source while he’s almost definitely working for a Putin-approved tech company in Moscow is about the only way he can gather sympathy while he works on ways to spy for Russia. Just because he’s a turncoat mercenary who gave a great scoop to an idealist doesn’t mean he’s not a turncoat mercenary.

  43. 43
    Baud says:

    @smintheus:

    Doesn’t mean they’re treated the same under federal law.

    @jon:

    Snowden isn’t charged with a capital crime.

  44. 44
    Punchy says:

    The Post’s document prove that the NSA has rules designed to prevent (ineffectively, perhaps) spying on Americans.

    Perhaps?

  45. 45
    Baud says:

    @Punchy:

    It’s only one story.

  46. 46

    @Baud:

    The FISC order didn’t authorize the use of pen registers. It authorized obtaining Verizon business records. No statutes forbid that to my knowledge.

    Thanks to Smith vs. Maryland, telephone users don’t have an expectation of privacy in the numbers they dial, “since they typically know that they must convey phone numbers to the telephone company and that the company has facilities for recording this information and does in fact record it for various legitimate business purposes.” So, no 4th Amendment. So the Congress enacted the Pen Register Statute, which only applies to the installation of “pen registers and trap and trace devices”. Doesn’t stop the NSA from asking or the service provider from providing call info.

  47. 47
    James Hare says:

    @smintheus: If you’re going to try to talk about legal justifications for PRISM you would do well to read the documents the White House provided laying out their justification. You might also read Orin Kerr on this (I don’t often agree with him but his legal analysis on this issue has been first-rate) http://www.volokh.com/2013/06/.....ram-legal/.

    Or you could keep shouting the same uniformed babble. Up to you.

  48. 48
    mistermix says:

    @jon: As I said earlier, journalists routinely respect embargoes from sources. Example: tech sites produce a review of a new device on the day it was announced. They had it for a week and they were under an embargo. Why? So they can get the next new shiny thing. If they broke the embargo they wouldn’t get it.

    Snowden probably has more shiny things, so they respect the embargo.

  49. 49
    Napoleon says:

    @Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism:

    No shit, but then again ussually people go in on a warrent on an individaul basis and if there is an issue if the matter ends up before a court because someone is charged they can then litigate if what was done was proper. The vast majority of what they are doing never comes to light before a court like that.

  50. 50
    NobodySpecial says:

    @Baud: What you said was that the article was NOT TRUE. For it not to be true, no Americans would have had to have been spied on. By their own admission, this is not so. Claiming that they didn’t mean to or it was a mistake does not change the outcome – that Americans were spied on. Which is what smintheus said and you argued against.

  51. 51
    Face says:

    If you’re not emailing anyone suspicious, then why all the worry?

  52. 52
    smintheus says:

    @James Hare:

    uninformed babble

    Because I’m not capable of reaching a different interpretation of the facts than you.

  53. 53
    Baud says:

    @NobodySpecial:

    If legitimate errors mean that Americans are being spied on, then Americans have been spied on by every level of government since this nation began.

  54. 54
    Betty Cracker says:

    Regarding the scale of the program (copy below from second link in post):

    Its [the audit report’s] author is director of oversight and compliance for the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, but the scope of the report is narrower. Incidents are counted only if they took place within “NSA-Washington,” a term encompassing the Ft. Meade headquarters and nearby facilities. The NSA declined to provide comparable figures for its operations as a whole. A senior intelligence official said only that if all offices and directorates were included, the number of violations would “not double.”

    So there’s that.

  55. 55
    smintheus says:

    @J.D. Rhoades: Congress enacted the Pen Register Statute because it disagreed with the Court, believing that Americans do have an expectation of a certain amount of privacy regarding their electronic communications. Giving NSA access to all the information in mass is a clear violation of the spirit if not the letter of that law.

    Your convoluted justification for this remind me of the Reagan administration’s justifications for Iran-Contra.

  56. 56
    Gene108 says:

    If the NSA surveillance is more thorough maybe they could let me know where I kept the Red Box Blue Ray I rented on Sunday.

    I mean thorough surveillance does not have to be a bad thing. Misplace your car keys? Call the NSA for a quick update where you kept them.

  57. 57
    I Heart Breitbartbees says:

    True, this is nothing new. Anybody with a pulse and brain activity knew this or something like it has been happening for a very long time. However, this is alarming. We need to get away from our security state.

  58. 58
    andrewtna says:

    From the Post, this seems like the most significant finding:

    The NSA uses the term “incidental” when it sweeps up the records of an American while targeting a foreigner or a U.S. person who is believed to be involved in terrorism. Official guidelines for NSA personnel say that kind of incident, pervasive under current practices, “does not constitute a . . . violation” and “does not have to be reported” to the NSA inspector general for inclusion in quarterly reports to Congress. Once added to its databases, absent other restrictions, the communications of Americans may be searched freely.

  59. 59
    mapaghimagsik says:

    This story is consistent with my experience with private orgs. Audit controls are weak, and for little people, anyway.

  60. 60
    Botsplainer says:

    @Face:

    If you’re not emailing anyone suspicious, then why all the worry?

    Generally, all the panty wetting emit white guys of the far left and far right are worried that their premium memberships to chickswithdicks.com will get revealed (discreetly billed as Galaxy Entertainment at the low, low rate of 29.95 a month).

  61. 61
    Botsplainer says:

    Emit=emo

    Goddamn spell check makes more errors than it solves

  62. 62
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Betty Cracker: “Would not double”? Would it triple? Quadruple? Those are also not double.

  63. 63
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @I Heart Breitbartbees: True, this is nothing new

    Who’s old enough to remember key escrow? Clipper? Skipjack?

  64. 64
    raven says:

    @Botsplainer: How’s the pup?

  65. 65

    @smintheus:

    Giving NSA access to all the information in mass is a clear violation of the spirit if not the letter of that law.

    The “spirit of the law” and a dollar will buy you a Coke, especially where the law is as specific as this one. Try to argue it in court and the best you can hope for is a condescending smile, if not outright laughter.

    Does the law on surveillance need to be reformed and updated? Damn right it does, and I’ve been arguing that, in print and in public, since 2002. So you can take your “convoluted justifications” sneer and your Reagan comparisons and shove them up your ass.

  66. 66
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Gin & Tonic: But even if you take them at their apparent word, we’re talking up to 5,500 violations a year this audit uncovered. Are they auditing a sample of activities, and if so, how large?

  67. 67
    Liberty60 says:

    Just keep walking, eyes forward, nothing to see here.
    Repeat as necessary.

  68. 68

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Or how about the the DARPA Information Awareness Office, run by none other than John Pointdexter of Iran-Contra fame?

    http://www.booksnbytes.com/dus....._1209.html

    (Got a nasty e-mail from Poindexter’s wife for that one. Good times, good times).

  69. 69
    Soylent Green says:

    They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors…

    Did the warrant say “Buttle” or “Tuttle?”

  70. 70
    MomSense says:

    @mistermix:

    Snowden gave documents to Der Spiegel as well. They decided not to publish some of the documents because they could endanger NSA workers.

  71. 71
    Johnnybuck says:

    David Sirota called the President a liar so there’s that.

  72. 72
    Mnemosyne says:

    @J.D. Rhoades:

    This means the NSA and their fellow swimmers in the acronym soup of the intelligence-industrial complex are increasingly reliant on nomadic contractor employees, and increasingly subject to staff churn. There is an emerging need to security-clear vast numbers of temporary/transient workers … and workers with no intrinsic sense of loyalty to the organization.

    Welcome to the world the Republicans made, where employees are fungible and the most important consideration is how to save money on salaries and benefits.

    It always cracks me up when you see corporations whining about how employees just aren’t loyal anymore. Listen, dickwad, once you made it clear that you had no loyalty to your employees and would screw with their lives so your stock price would go up a quarter of a percentage point, what made you think they would stay loyal to you?

  73. 73
    Ronnie Pudding says:

    What if all of these revelations had been out before the Amash vote? Would it have changed the vote?

    Trickling them out may keep the story alive, or it may water it down.

  74. 74
  75. 75
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Johnnybuck: Sirota executed a rare double-strawman followed by a triple-false-dichotomy in that piece, but he failed to stick the landing. I give it a 6.5.

  76. 76
    MomSense says:

    For what purpose did the NSA conduct the audit?

  77. 77
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Well, is it any wonder that the MBA Preznit also has this notion that loyalty is a one way street?

  78. 78
    Elie says:

    @MomSense:

    Wait! I thought he was a hero and that no harm was done or could be done by his releases and yet they were very important releases that we all need to know about….

  79. 79
    Chris says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Entitlement mentality/inability for empathy/what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander – whatever the psychological term for it is, it’s the basis of GOP mentality.

    I think the first time I noticed this was in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, when Republicans started whining about the “ingratitude” of the Iraqi people. It’s not enough to bomb a country back to the stone age, they truly expect their victims to get right up and thank them; they truly think they’re entitled to that thanks; and they’re sincerely bewildered that their victims don’t see it the same way.

  80. 80
    Johnnybuck says:

    @Betty Cracker: I think he just wants in on some of GG’s glory.

  81. 81

    @Soylent Green: That is your receipt for your husband, thank you, and this is my receipt for your receipt.

  82. 82
    giterdone says:

    HaHa, mistermix is a gov’t spying story pr0n addict. Therefore he must also read Greenwald. Why am I not shocked he’s got the same lack of common sense glitch as Cole.

  83. 83
    MomSense says:

    @Elie:

    He is a hero even if he did screw up a bit in his careful vetting!!!! The only person who can be assumed to always have nefarious intentions in everything that He does is our Dear Leader!

  84. 84
    chopper says:

    @gratuitous:

    Now, now. let’s not get all jazzed here. We can’t really complain

    are you kidding, man? this is the internet. that’s all people do.

  85. 85
    lol says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    You’re right, we should focus on the big scary number. Thousands of incidents yearly ranging from serious violations of the law to typographical errors…. voter fraud is serious business and it’s high time we did something about it.

  86. 86
    Betty Cracker says:

    @lol: Huh?

  87. 87
    The Moar You Know says:

    Nobody is spying on you. Go about your business, comrade.

    I meant citizen. Go about your business, citizen.

    I think the first time I noticed this was in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, when Republicans started whining about the “ingratitude” of the Iraqi people. It’s not enough to bomb a country back to the stone age, they truly expect their victims to get right up and thank them; they truly think they’re entitled to that thanks; and they’re sincerely bewildered that their victims don’t see it the same way.

    @Chris: Oddly enough, most Republicans successfully prosecuted for rape react at their sentencing hearings exactly the same way.

  88. 88
    Roy G. says:

    “Zero abuses of NSA PRISM, and that’s no bullshit” -Keith “Lying M’fer” Alexander

    Go on, tell us another lie, Big Brother Alexander. That goes for POTUS too. I would think this is embarrassing, but alas.

  89. 89
    jon says:

    @Baud:

    Snowden isn’t charged with a capital crime.

    Yeah, but you’ll notice he won’t ever work in this country again. Or with our allies, if they know what’s good for them.

  90. 90

    That is significant. It’s also the first piece of information out of Snowden that would count as ‘whistleblower’ because it documents an actual wrongdoing.

    So the agencies are capable of auditing themselves, but it’s no clear if they’re capable of acting to improve enforcement based on that audit. Is that something that needs to be delegated to Congress or FISA?

  91. 91
    jamick6000 says:

    @👾 Martin:

    That is significant. It’s also the first piece of information out of Snowden that would count as ‘whistleblower’ because it documents an actual wrongdoing.

    There’s also the Clapper lying to congress bit.

  92. 92
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Baud:

    I also thought your post avoided some of the sensationalism that sometimes characterizes NSA stories. FWIW, I appreciate that.

    Because in matters regarding the misadministration of Barack Obama, protecting your fee fees is paramount.

  93. 93

    Yet again, this document does not say what you are being told it says. The framing of the article implies this is the number of times the NSA has pursued information illegally. I clicked through both stories to the document, and that isn’t what this says at all.

    This was an audit of how many times the programs were used wrong, in the broadest sense. This is stuff like ‘entered the wrong search information’. It also specifically includes every time that American citizen information was found in the database and removed. This leak doesn’t show the NSA being out of control, it shows that they record every detail of how agents use their spying programs and audit the living crap out of them to make sure they’re not abused.

    The biggest takeaway from this is that Snowden was lying through his teeth about being able to access just anybody’s records. If he did it, he’d have been caught immediately.

    I would like to say this is the biggest political misrepresentation I can remember, but it does pale next to ‘death panels’. It’s still pretty bad. You know why this stuff is being released in drips and drabs? Because if you string out enough easily debunked bullshit it becomes a narrative and your reader gets less and less analytical. A carefully faked pattern is really convincing and creates great outrage.

  94. 94
    Botsplainer says:

    @raven:

    How’s the pup?

    Eating like a champ, full of oats, and rapidly losing that urge to “mouth” us. He’s super well behaved for the most part.

    He still has his moments – left to his own devices, he’d probably eat every shoe in the house even though its clear that he knows he’s not allowed.

    The wife and I are really reluctant to have that baby tooth dug out – the anesthesia notion really bothers us, and it may have broken off because the adult teeth are really starting to come on strong. Plus, he’s not acting like it’s tender at all. i suspect that his adult fang may be well on its way.

    Money isn’t an issue (it is only $150 max) – its the idea he could have an adverse reaction to the anesthesia.

  95. 95
    burnspbesq says:

    @smintheus:

    The Post documents demonstrate that the NSA does not report all violations of the law to the Court that its internal reviews identify.

    Just out of idle curiosity, what’s the authority for your assertion that the agency is required to so report?

  96. 96
    burnspbesq says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    You know why this stuff is being released in drips and drabs? Because if you string out enough easily debunked bullshit it becomes a narrative and your reader gets less and less analytical. A carefully faked pattern is really convincing and creates great outrage.

    Pretty much. And it removes any lingering doubt about Greenie’s motivation. He cares more about his narrative than he does about the truth. He was never a journalist and always a polemicist. Twas ever thus (I’ve been reading Greenie since 2005).

  97. 97
    Yatsuno says:

    @Botsplainer:

    rapidly losing that urge to “mouth” us

    Puppehs grow out of that, but making a sharp noise when he does helps curb him of it faster. That’s how they learn what they’re doing hurts their pack.

  98. 98
    smintheus says:

    @burnspbesq: The FISA Amendments Act.

  99. 99
    Joe Buck says:

    Obama referred in his press conference to this:

    … these leaks are released drip by drip, you know, one a week to kind of maximize attention and see if, you know, they can catch us at some imprecision on something …

    You see, lying under oath to Congress and misinforming the American public is now called an “imprecision”.

  100. 100
    Keith G says:

    The apologists for governmental overreach are out in force this afternoon.

  101. 101
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    Because if you string out enough easily debunked bullshit

    But don’t worry Franky, it’s all “easily debunked,” so stringing it out carefully in an extra super duper mean effort to discredit Himself will have no effect. In reality, one could dare to think that if it’s all “easily debunked bullshit,” then stringing it out slowly is exactly the wrong thing to do, as folks like you will have plenty of time after each sloooooow stringing out incident to, you know, “debunk” it.

    Remember…it’s all “easily debunked…” and yet somehow it all keeps piling up.

  102. 102
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Keith G:

    Apolobots.

  103. 103
    I Heart Breitbartbees says:

    @Elie: I think he’s a wanker whose confirmation of something that has long been suspected is useful. The results are noble, even if the messenger is a complete tosser. He hearts freedumb and goes to the USSR Russia. Way to fail.

  104. 104
    Botsplainer says:

    @Yatsuno:

    Puppehs grow out of that, but making a sharp noise when he does helps curb him of it faster.

    He’s really cute when he cocks his head over and tries to understand when we say “motherfucker, those little chompers are sharp – that really HURTS”.

    Then he rolls over for a belly rub…

  105. 105
    Keith G says:

    @Joe Buck: Well as the old saying it indicates: If you got nothing to hide….

  106. 106
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: That’s my take too. I don’t see how a story documenting that the NSA checks for and reports improper uses of its own tools means OMG SPYING AIIEEEE! rather than “We take this seriously.” Could they take it more seriously? Sure. But this still seems a bit like a report on IRS employees sneaking peeks at a celebrity’s tax forms, which is possible but inappropriate. How many times has that happened? I assume hundreds at least, even though it’s not supposed to.

    If the NSA sweeps up a bunch of data that includes Americans — remember the whole discussion of “minimization”? — they’re supposed to discard it. It’s going to happen; we knew that, because their analytics work in bulk. When it happens, they’re supposed to chuck it. If they aren’t chucking it, that’s a problem. If they are chucking it, I don’t know what the problem is. If the big top-line number here includes people whose data gets harvested and then chucked, that’s not evidence of abuse, that’s evidence that regulation is working the way it’s supposed to, no?

  107. 107
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    The biggest takeaway from this is that Snowden was lying through his teeth about being able to access just anybody’s records. If he did it, he’d have been caught immediately.

    Don’t these numbers suggest that improper access (1) is tracked and (2) can be quantified in the four digits?

  108. 108
    burnspbesq says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    But this still seems a bit like a report on IRS employees sneaking peeks at a celebrity’s tax forms, which is possible but inappropriate. How many times has that happened? I assume hundreds at least,

    Not recently. IRS employees who browse frequently go to jail for it, and it’s well known within the IRS that access to the database is closely monitored. Ask Yats.

  109. 109
    Lol says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    The hysteria about this story is not dissimalar to the hysteria on the right about the thousands of cases of voter fraud.

  110. 110
    Li says:

    @Botsplainer: Yeah, ’cause a military spy agency using the sexual peccadilloes of large numbers of Americans to control or blackmail them would be just A’OK to our local explanation-bot.

    The old name for that was an iron fist in a velvet glove.

  111. 111

    @FlipYrWhig:
    Except that ‘improper access’ here is defined so broadly that it’s not at all what the words ‘improper access’ make anyone think.

  112. 112
    Another Bot Splainer says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: Right the fuck on man ! This is another attempt to ratfuck Obama. And I note in an interview today that Julian Assange said he loves the Pauls and Matt Drudge. Fuck this bullshit.

  113. 113
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Lol: While there definitely are NSA hysterics who are using the controversy to advance their political agendas, domestic and global surveillance policy is a serious issue, and its extent, methods and reformation are legitimate topics.

    The “voting fraud” controversy is trumped up nonsense over a non-existent problem ginned up to disenfranchise people. It’s not analogous at all.

  114. 114
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @burnspbesq: But that’s parallel here, isn’t it? The fact that infractions are detectable doesn’t mean that they don’t happen. I had a fundraising job once that had a donor file, and the donor file included some celebrities. I looked a few up to see how much they were deemed capable of giving. I wasn’t supposed to do that if it wasn’t in conjunction with legitimate fundraising research. So what I did was an infraction.

    I guess what I’d like to know in this case is what happened to employees who showed a pattern of error or misuse.

    Frankly, what I’d also like to know is whether anything Snowden himself did would be counted in the stats for error or misuse.

  115. 115
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: Agreed. If it’s something like “I was trying to search for Carlos the Jackal, international terrorist, and got hits on Carlos J. Ackle, Tennessee dentist, so I discarded everything that came back on him,” that doesn’t sound like Big Brother at all.

  116. 116
    Betty Cracker says:

    Speaking of the NSA debate, Steve M over at No More Mister Nice Blog explains why nothing will change. He’s probably right.

  117. 117
    Ted & Hellen says:

    It is entertaining and enlightening to read thru these types of threads, where couplets or triplets of Botsplainer/Apolobots chat back and forth in apolospeak about how there is never, ever, as there has never been since Himself was elected, anything at all to see here, keep moving citizen; and while they are of course VERY concerned it is clear that the honest keepers of His flame in the security and enforcement agencies are doing everything they can to protect our rights and we need not worry our little leads about any of this, but should focus on the tasks before us: to build a bigger and better and ever more gloriously impassable chasm between the haves and the have nots here in Obamerica.

  118. 118

    @Yatsuno:

    And if that doesn’t get the message across, get up and walk away from him when he does it. They hate that.

  119. 119
    Liberty60 says:

    This is relevant:
    http://boingboing.net/2013/08/.....ore-250478

    NBC reports that senior US Attorney James Trump sent Lavabit founder Ladar Levison and his lawyer a veiled arrest threat when Levison shut down his private email service (used by NSA leaker Edward Snowden) rather than comply with a secret order to spy on his customers. Nothing more can be said definitively, because the order to Levison came with a gag order prohibiting Levison from discussing it. Everyone is pretty sure that Levison was served with a National Security Letter.

    See, here is the problem. Is the government spying on us?

    I don’t know.You don’t know. No one outside the NSA knows.

    What power do they have, what constrains their actions?

    No one knows.

    Its all secret. Has anyone been imprisoned as a result of the information gathering?

    No one knows- it is entirely possible to imprison someone, serve a national security letter, and render that person offshore. Maybe its happened, maybe it hasn’t. We just don’t know what our government is doing.

  120. 120
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @FlipYrWhig: But what about the hits on Carlos Danger?

  121. 121
    Yatsuno says:

    @burnspbesq: I’ve met a few TIGTA agents. One of them is actually pretty hot & has interviewed me in person even when he could just e-mail. But yeah, the IRS is watched like hawks watch field mice. That’s why they’re an independent office from the IRS.

  122. 122
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Yatsuno:

    One of them is actually pretty hot & has interviewed me in person even when he could just e-mail.

    Wow, Yats, that is super awesome!!!!!

    Well, of course he did, silly. Because you’re so hot yourself. Duh.

  123. 123
    Keith G says:

    @Another Bot Splainer:

    Right the fuck on man ! This is another attempt to ratfuck Obama. And I note in an interview today that Julian Assange said he loves the Pauls and Matt Drudge. Fuck this bullshit.

    If I am reading you correctly, you are saying that this whole sorry development is simply an attempt to make Obama look bad. I hope I am wrong. That would be a level of paranoid-driven derangement on a par with some of the best stupidity offered by the wingnuts. Thus, I hope your comment was an overstatement for comic effect.

    CBS News is reporting

    … the latest revelation that the NSA violated privacy rules thousands of times, as documented in an internal report — an internal report withheld from at least one leader in Congress responsible for oversight — proves the president and several others in Washington were wrong. The NSA broke privacy rules more than 2,700 times within just one year, according to a May 2012 internal NSA report that was leaked to the Washington Post, along with other secret documents.

    Some of the violations were a result of human error, some were related to technical challenges and most were unintended, the Post reported. The sheer number of violations, however, will raise concerns, CBS News national security analyst Juan Zarate said on “CBS This Morning.”

    “The fact is, this more than just a few inadvertent episodes,” he said. “It’s really a sense from the internal audits — inside the government — of the violations and overstepping by the NSA.”

    The documents shared with the Post make clear that the NSA deliberately withheld some information from oversight bodies, such as the 2008 unintentional interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington, D.C. The interception occurred when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt. And while the NSA has quadrupled its oversight staff since 2009, the Post reports, infractions increased in 2011 and early 2012.

    Besides, Mr/Ms Splainer, Obama can only be ratfucked if he fails to understand how important this whole story is. The ball really is in his court.

    PS…..I don’t give a shit who Assange likes. He is not calling the shots at the NSA or in Obama’s NSC. The only folks who give a crap at all about Assange, GG, or Snowden are those who for reasons only known to themselves seem to want to deflect the conversation.

  124. 124
    I Heart Breitbartbees says:

    @Ted & Hellen: So, T&H, how are ya! How’s the blowup doll wife and the kids who have a restraining order against you?

    I haven’t seen much groupthink in this thread. I have seen a fair, reasoned debate over what has happened and what it means. If I see people with white stains on their dresses over this, I’ll agree there is a problem. It’s happened here before. It’s not happening here right now.

  125. 125

    What I really hate is that this is turning into a game of “Obama Sux/No He’s Awesome!” rather than an opportunity to correct some of the mistakes made in the Post 9/11 hysteria, and even before.

    Remember: everything done here was legal under the state of current law. If the government doesn’t do everything legal to fight terrorism, and something bad happens as a result, then it’s their fault. And no one wants to be at fault.

    We’ve been willingly giving the Executive Branch—not just Bush, not just Obama, but ANY Executive–awesome power to “investigate” for years now. First in the War on Organized Crime, then in the War on Drugs, then we added the War on Terror. Now, finally, we see what that means for all of us. Now is the time that people on BOTH sides of the aisle can get together and rein this in. But, sadly, BOTH sides of the aisle are attacking and defending individuals, not the structural problem that makes this kind of snooping not only possible, but inevitable.

  126. 126
    Another Bot Splainer says:

    @Keith G: I think there is an element of ratfuckery going on. If you’re a Democrat of a certain age you will know why I think this. Already there is some backtracking on the story posted today. Some of the “violations” were finger checks that caused DC’s area code to be searched instead of Egypt’s. Again, no actual calls were monitored only metadata collected, which has been pointed out by more than one person on this thread, is legal under current judicial findings.

  127. 127
    Bill Arnold says:

    According to the volokh piece reference above, the original post article said:

    Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.”

    That is, the goal accuracy permits a fairly high number of false positives, but they are not supposed to dominate.
    It’s an obvious setting for the slider. Mixed feelings about whether it is the right threshold. I don’t know which programs this applies to but it is likely to be a general principle at the agency.

  128. 128
    Another Bot Splainer says:

    @Bill Arnold:It is possible that some “violations” occurred and generated security notices to the auditors. The person receiving the “violation” didn’t actually see anything. I have seen this many times and been on the receiving end of “why did you try to look at x ?” even though the security software prevented me from seeing the data.

  129. 129
    Socoolsofresh says:

    Obama last week:

    “If you look at the reports … what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs … what you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused.” — President Obama, Aug. 8th.

    So now we are hearing about these programs being abused. Love how you guys want to make sure none of this is Obama’s responsibility, but he’s pretty deep in this one, no way around it. But it is no big deal, right guys? Also love that Feinstein, another great democrat, never read this audit until this story broke. Great oversight! But ya, keep on explaining away. How it would have been way worse under a Republican president? How worse? Cause it’s looking pretty bad right now.

  130. 130
    Liberty60 says:

    @J.D. Rhoades:
    Exactly- I am a proud Obot of the first order, but this isn’t about him.
    I honestly think he has managed his powers about as well as anyone could, given the realities he works with.

    What we can’t do is allow this to be swept under the rug just because he’s our guy.

  131. 131
    Socoolsofresh says:

    @Liberty60: Hahaha, how is this not about him? It’s happening under his watch, doesn’t he have any power to do anything about it? He also keeps on giving press conferences and speeches trying to minimize it, is this because, it is not about him? Bush was rightly called on it when it was happening under his watch, but Obama cannot get the same treatment. Mindless cheerleading at its finest.

  132. 132
    Liberty60 says:

    @Socoolsofresh:
    Because making it about Obama allows the rightwing, Congress and the courts to get away scot-free. They willingly gave POTUS that power, and viciously attack anyone who suggests they stop it.

  133. 133
    Socoolsofresh says:

    @Liberty60: No, actually, when you look at current congressional approval levels, does it give the republicans free reign to do what they want? I think a lot of people still know how horrible they are. Maybe it gives, I know, strike me with lightning, a chance that a third, fourth or fifth party might be able to gain traction? Oh right, this is way beyond anyone’s ability to think about.

    Cause, remember 13 years ago when Nader made Bush happen? Never again! It is always and forever, either/or, and you better get used to that, or you are a naive, little bitch.

  134. 134
    LAC says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: look, if you are going to make sense, I am going to have some more wine and wait for this story to bring in the clowns

    .Oh, wait, they’re here.

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