Wyden & Udall to Alexander: Why Do You People Keep Lying?

According to a letter Ron Wyden and Mark Udall sent Keith Alexander, the NSA is still lying publicly. At issue are two inaccuracies in the information sheet the NSA released about Section 702 implementation.

We were disappointed to see that this fact sheet contains an inaccurate statement about how the section 702 authority has been interpreted by the US government. In our judgment this inaccuracy is significant, as it portrays protections for Americans’ privacy as being significantly stronger than they actually are.

While I’m not certain what inaccuracy they’re talking about here, I suspect it has to do with the US person contact info collected along with targets. Even a comparison of the minimization order and the NSA’s claims make it clear US person communication can be swept up more easily than they claim.

Then there’s this complaint, which explicitly objects to the suggestion that the government manages to purge US person data, which of course they also claim they don’t track.

Separately, this same fact sheet states that under Section 702, “Any inadvertently acquired communication of or concerning a US person must be promptly destroyed if it is neither relevant to the authorized purpose nor evidence of a crime.” We believe that this statement is somewhat misleading, in that it implies that the NSA has the ability to determine how many American communications it has collected under section 702, or that the law does not allow the NSA to deliberately search for the records of particular Americans. In fact, the intelligence community has told us repeatedly that it is “not reasonably possible to identify the number of people located in the United States whose communications may have been reviewed under the authority” of the FISA Amendments Act.

They make it clear the claim this information gets purged is false.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

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 the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, 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 and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

10 replies
  1. scribe says:

    To answer the question your title asks, “because it’s what they do and have done for their entire careers.”

  2. nomolos says:

    Lying is what this government does. It is their job. It is their reason for being…well lying and stealing.

    In among all the silly hoo ha ha about our hero Snowden we seem to have missed that journalist Michael Hastings has been murdered by the same government that is now making idiots of themselves about Snowden.

  3. Frank33 says:

    There is another lying sack of crap on the Twitter, Tommy Vietor. He is in the secret government because all the government spokesliars are, such as Vickie Nuland, and Georgie Little.

    Tommy says it is incredibly irresponsible to suggest the obvious. And the most consequential policy of the President will be announced tomorrow. I predict the President will approve the XL Pipeline and Tommy will approve. And Tommy probably has money invested in Black Tar.

    Tommy Vietor [email protected] 1h

    Incredibly irresponsible speculation MT @daveweigel: Richard Clarke speculates that a “car cyber attack” could have killed Michael Hastings
    Tommy Vietor Tommy Vietor [email protected] 3h

    As we obsess about red panda and Snowden, its worth noting Obama may announce one of most consequential policies of his Presidency tomorrow

    How dare Richard Clarke suggest that the US government assassinates reporters.

    According to a prominent security analyst, technology exists that could’ve allowed someone to hack his car. Former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke told The Huffington Post that what is known about the single-vehicle crash is “consistent with a car cyber attack.”

    Clarke said, “There is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers” — including the United States — know how to remotely seize control of a car.

  4. C says:

    They make it clear the claim this information gets purged is false.

    Actually I think it is a clear logical trap. Clapper et al. have insisted that they cannot count the number of Americans who get examined inadvertently or deliberately. Moreover they said in court docs that to do so would violate people’s privacy and is therefore verboten.

    Now they want us to trust them because they clearly audit all that is done, and delete impermissable data (after 5 years if it is not encrypted or “relevant” or…).

    So logically this is a contradiction either:
    They can audit in which case they are lying about the numbers AND violating privacy to boot.
    Or they don’t have the numbers and they are lying about the audits.

    Either way they are lying and anyone in congress can see it. The question then is whether congress has either pride or a spine. Sadly we already know that they have neither.

  5. P J Evans says:

    In view of Bloch’s sentence: because they know they can get away without any consequences to themselves, their careers, or their pensions.

  6. bz says:

    Who Said It?

    “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “thank you”, and went on your way.”

    NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander

    Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

    Former NSA Director (for Bush Administration) Michael Hayden

    Marine Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (the Jack Nicholson character in the movie “A Few Good Men”)

  7. SpanishInquisition says:

    “While I’m not certain what inaccuracy they’re talking about here, I suspect it has to do with the US person contact info collected along with targets. Even a comparison of the minimization order and the NSA’s claims make it clear US person communication can be swept up more easily than they claim.”

    I think the way they go about vacuum this stuff up is the same way they define ‘imminent’ and ‘terrorist’…everyone picked up in the sweep is considered ‘foreign’ unless there is affirmative proof otherwise AKA guilty until proven innocent. Look at how Obama defines ‘terrorist’ as anyone who is killed by a US drone strike unless there is affirmative proof otherwise that they aren’t a terrorist. I think this has actually come out somewhere, just I don’t remember where the ‘guilty until proven innocent’ part is for this.

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