As WaPo Was Letting Pincus Transcribe, They Were Fighting Administration on Gellman Story

On Friday, the President promised us more transparency on NSA issues.

Meanwhile, the WaPo was preparing this story on NSA issues from Barton Gellman.

Along the way, the Administration gave Gellman a 90-minute interview of unspecified date (it may have been Saturday, the day after Obama’s promise to be more transparent) with NSA’s Director of Compliance John DeLong only to, after the fact, ask for quote approval.

The Obama administration referred all questions for this article to John DeLong, the NSA’s director of compliance, who answered questions freely in a 90-minute interview. DeLong and members of the NSA communications staff said he could be quoted “by name and title” on some of his answers after an unspecified internal review. The Post said it would not permit the editing of quotes. Two days later, White House and NSA spokesmen said that none of DeLong’s comments could be quoted on the record and sent instead a prepared statement in his name. The Post declines to accept the substitute language as quotations from DeLong.

On August 12, the government refused to answer specific questions about compliance issues, even though Gellman had a report on them in hand.

The NSA communications office, in coordination with the White House and Director of National Intelligence, declined to answer questions about the number of violations of the rules, regulations and court-imposed standards for protecting the privacy of Americans, including whether the trends are up or down. Spokesmen provided the following prepared statement.

Then, on August 14, it offered this statement in response to specific questions about the FISA Court finding NSA to have violated the Fourth Amendment in October 2011.

In July 2012, Director of National Intelligence [James R.] Clapper declassified certain statements about the government’s implementation of Section 702 in order to inform the public and congressional debate relating to reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA). Those statements acknowledged that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) had determined that “some collection carried out pursuant to the Section 702 minimization procedures used by the government was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

The FISC’s finding was with respect to a very specific and highly technical aspect of the National Security Agency’s 702 collection. Once the issue was identified and fully understood, it was reported immediately to the FISC and Congress. In consultation with the FISC, the Department of Justice, NSA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence worked to address the concerns identified by the FISC by strengthening the NSA minimization procedures, thereby enhancing privacy protections for U.S. persons. The FISC has continued to approve the collection as consistent with the statute and reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

I’m so old I remember when President Obama promised us more transparency.

But even as the WaPo was having these ridiculous conversations with the IC about data that Gellman had in hand, Walter Pincus was writing this story.

It’s time for the intelligence community to have its side of the debate over the National Security Agency’s collection programs explained.

[snip]

Such transparency is useless if the news media do not pass it on to the public. Few, if any, major news outlets carried any of the details from the Justice and NSA papers.

[snip]

Intelligence officials say that if the U.S. media do not provide what the government claims are the facts underlying what critics and supporters say, the public cannot understand the issue.

[snip]

There are two more issues intelligence officials want noted.

That is, even while IC officials were whining to Pincus that no one was spewing their propaganda, they were playing games with Gellman to try to influence his piece while not admitting he had a handful of documents on violations that proved them wrong.

Though none of that explains what this is, from Gellman’s story.

a senior NSA official said in an interview, speaking with White House permission on the condition of anonymity.

I’m going to guess that’s DeLong. But still: why give the government their shot at rebuttal if they refuse to let their officials be accountable for their comments?

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11 Responses to As WaPo Was Letting Pincus Transcribe, They Were Fighting Administration on Gellman Story

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel And the flight attendant encouraging everyone to take whatever seat they want? It's like chaos paradise on this flight.
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emptywheel @taylormattd The article's error is IMO about as serious as your own.
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emptywheel @taylormattd It didn't include a screen cap? Oh wait. It did.
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emptywheel @taylormattd You agree she was SoS "in 2013"?
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emptywheel @tpabob46 Pretty much what she did; "uniformed military, platinum, gold, 1, 2, 3, 4 are free to board."
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emptywheel @taylormattd Yup. And your tweets, which claimed she wasn't SoS in 2013, was just as inaccurate.
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emptywheel Gate agent rebelling against zone boarding for 50-seat airplane is my hero if the day.
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emptywheel RT @DKThomp: Hillary would b the least popular Democratic nom in modern history *and* have the best approval gap over an opponent https://t…
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emptywheel @taylormattd Sentence you did not screen cap is clearly wrong. But month (which comes from Fox) is key to that.
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JimWhiteGNV I've informed my family they have a choice of what to get me for Father's Day. (1) Chris Archer Stormtrooper bobblehead. or (2) A Boxster
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emptywheel @dispositive Welcome back! easy solution: shop at the Farmers and Coop.
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emptywheel @taylormattd Nat (the correct spelling is "Marcy"): read your tweets. And then either retract or clarify them.
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