Section 702 Is Used for Terror, Proliferation, AND Hacking

The AP has a story about the way algorithms control Section 702, the legal program for which PRISM provides NSA analysts acces.

And while he also admits that Obama “had expanded the scope of the surveillance,” Michael Hayden makes this false claim (which he actually said on FNS).

Michael Hayden, who led both the NSA and CIA, said the government doesn’t touch the phone records unless an individual is connected to terrorism.

He described on “Fox News Sunday” how it works if a U.S. intelligence agent seized a cellphone at a terrorist hideout in Pakistan.

“It’s the first time you’ve ever had that cellphone number. You know it’s related to terrorism because of the pocket litter you’ve gotten in that operation,” Hayden said. “You simply ask that database, `Hey, any of you phone numbers in there ever talked to this phone number in Waziristan?'”

Here’s how I know this is absolutely false (aside from the language of Section 702 that clearly allows it to be used for foreign intelligence generally so long as it is targeted — which is one of those tricky words– at people not known to be in the US).

Director Clapper — who admittedly engages in least untruthfuls that are too cute by half — claimed this as one of the successes in Section 702.

Communications collected under Section 702 have provided significant and unique intelligence regarding potential cyber threats to the United States, including specific potential network computer attacks. This insight has led to successful efforts to mitigate these threats.

Don’t get me wrong. Using this kind of collection for foreign cyberattacks is entirely appropriate. Indeed, it is probably the very best use of the tool, since it’s it’s a lot easier to engage in cyberattacks — particularly if you’re overseas — using the Internet, whereas the most dangerous terrorists can and no doubt increasingly will find other means to communicate.

So it’s not that I object to using this program to target Chinese hackers. But as you consider the 51% standard that, according to Edward Snowden, NSA analysts have to meet, or if you consider how easily signals taken from any major US-based coverage can meet that 51% standard, understand that NSA is much more likely to make a “mistake” in its geographic screens for American hackers than for American Islamic extremists.

We’ve heard nothing but TERRA TERRA TERRA since these leaks first started. And every time you hear that, you might ask what it would mean if they also mean hacker.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

14 replies
  1. kris says:

    What exactly is the evidence that shows that this claim (“the government doesn’t touch the phone records unless an individual is connected to terrorism”) is false? I’m not following the argument here.

  2. orionATL says:

    @orionATL:

    my machine went bonkers for a half hour or so. Fully charged, but keyboard had gremlins in it that insisted on writing their way rather than what i typed, including editorial comments inserted in my e.mail address (which took an inordinately long time to get the machine to type correctly in its entirety.

    The above two comments that were posted are verbatim, posted as soon as i was able to get them them into even partially intelligible, though “spacey” form.

  3. tinao says:

    Hey Bmaz,
    Please state clearly why judges should not be prosecuted for crimes against THE PEOPLE (Humanity), please. An hey, I think you are a GOOD judge. If I’m off base, go ahead give it to me.

  4. lefty665 says:

    @1,2 &4 Look on the bright side, you now know the keyboard has uppercase:)

    When that happens to me it usually means the keyboard has ingested too much of what I’ve been eating. Turning it upside down and banging vigorously usually does the trick (turn it off first, the disk drive won’t like that if it’s spinning).

  5. orionATL says:

    @lefty665:

    Tx, doc, but i a’ready tried a ball pein hammer,

    Was that a little much? :)

    What i did was turn off the dsl, turn off the access point , turn off – hard shutdown – the mini, and go outside in the garden for a while.

    When i returned, as you commented, the little fellow’s indigestion had cleared up.

    As for the login problems, quien sabe?

  6. lefty665 says:

    The garden was the right move, and a hard boot of everything every now and then is a force for good. Politicians especially.

    Didn’t see a reference to login, but a funky keyboard seems the likely culprit, or the hammer:). I figure keyboards are disposable, and use external ones when I can. For 10 bucks I can throw them away when they get too much schmutz in them and start over.

  7. lefty665 says:

    @P J Evans: That would be a good replacement for the hackneyed “S*** happens”.

    Cheap keyboards might be known as “burners”, and we all need a little space every now and then:)

  8. LM Lewis says:

    And how does the government define “terrorism”? Pretty loosely. Loose enough to include the Sierra Club, peace marchers, and pie throwers. (Seriously: Government employees have been instructed that pie throwing is “terrorism”)

Comments are closed.