NSA’s “Presumption of Regularity”

As you’ve probably heard, the most striking part of the October 3, 2011 FISA opinion finding NSA’s collection violated the Fourth Amendment is Footnote 14.

The Court is troubled that the government’s revelations regarding NSA’s acquisition of Internet transactions mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program.

In March, 2009, the Court concluded that its authorization of NSA’s bulk acquisition of telephone call detail records from [redacted] in the so-called “big business records” matter “ha[d] been premised on a flawed description of how the NSA uses [the acquired] metadata,” and that “[t]his misperception by the FISC existed from the inception of its authorized collection in May 2006, buttressed by repeated inaccurate statements made in the government’s submissions, and despite a government-devised and Court-mandated oversight regime.” Docket [redacted] Contrary to the governent’s repeated assurances, NSA had been routinely running queries of the metadata using querying terms that did not meet the required standard for querying. The Court concluded that this requirement had been “so frequently and systematically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall … regime has never functioned effectively.” Id.

Two more entirely redacted substantial misrepresentations follow.

Footnote 32 reveals how, after NSA did a review of the communications the FISC ultimately found to violate the Fourth Amendment, the FISC caught it in downplaying the number of affected communications. After it sent the NSA back to new analysis, the problem grew from 2,000 to 10,000 a year to 48,000 to 56,000 a year. I guess the FISC found, like I have, that you can’t trust the biggest math organization in the world to do basic math.

Yet in spite of the fact that this opinion lists three substantial misrepresentations the NSA had made in recent history and caught the NSA in bad math, here’s how it decided it could trust the government’s assurances that it didn’t use this abusive communication to target non-targeted people.

Therefore, the Court has no reason to believe that NSA, by acquiring the Internet transactions containing multiple communications, is targeting anyone other than the user of the selected tasked selector. See United States v. Chemical Found., Inc., 272 U.S. 1, 14-15 (1926) (“The presumption of regularity supports the official acts of public officers, and, in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, courts presume that they have properly discharged their official duties.”).

I’m not surprised FISC invoked this (especially not surprised that John Bates, who can be very deferential, did). It is the law.

But (as the case of Adnan Latif showed) we keep extending the presumption of regularity to the government in spite of abundant evidence we shouldn’t.

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @laRosalind @honeyhoneyband Crap, it is a Wednesday night. Gonna be tough. Sure wish they would come to Phoenix area.
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JimWhiteGNV RT @frontlinepbs: Breaking: Doctor finds 76 of 79 deceased NFL players tested for brain damage had it http://t.co/0f9WfarXJx http://t.co/UU
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JimWhiteGNV @onekade I'm betting that Geraldo Rivera steps out of that thing when you open it.
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bmaz RT @radleybalko: Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoes bill to inform juries when prosecutors intentionally withhold exculpatory evidence. http://…
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JimWhiteGNV RT @erinmcunningham: Oh. Man. --> Iraqi Pilots Mistakenly Drop Food, Ammo to ISIS Militants http://t.co/RY5OB3JLu1
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emptywheel @Krhawkins5 They do use lethal force against people who have non-weapons in hand. Maybe that's parallel? @attackerman @PentagonPresSec
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emptywheel @JonCoppage Welp, having FBI/DOJ scream hysterically and making demonstrably false claims abt what it does does not amount to that sorting.
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emptywheel @JonCoppage No. They are false criers, and they are worse than a nuisance. If you lie in wielding govt power, you should lose that power.
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emptywheel @JonCoppage This is not Peter and wolf story. It is Peter claiming there's only one way to catch a wolf, one he never uses.
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emptywheel @JonCoppage Again if we're going to eliminate all technologies used to hide crime, we should start w/corporation. Not hearing cries to do so
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emptywheel @JonCoppage No. There is pretty crystal clear evidence they have lied about risks in the past. They have lost all credibility.
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emptywheel @JonCoppage Which is where LE normally identifies them, yes. So their claims abt pedophiles are, like claims abt kidnappers, prolly lies.
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