DNI’s Latest “I Con” Speak: “Sift Through and Have Unfettered Access To”

The Director of National Intelligence, after having repeatedly refused to answer any questions about the WSJ’s big scoop in yesterday’s conference call, has released a new document pretending to debunk stories based on the WSJ (though not the WSJ itself). It reads, in part,

Press reports based on an article published in today’s Wall Street Journal mischaracterize aspects of NSA’s activities conducted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The NSA does not sift through and have unfettered access to 75% of the United States’ online communications.

The following are the facts:

  • Media reports based upon the recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article regarding NSA’s foreign intelligence activities provide an inaccurate and misleading picture of NSA’s collection programs, but especially with respect to NSA’s use of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
  • The reports leave readers with the impression that NSA is sifting through as much as 75% of the United States’ online communications, which is simply not true.
  • In its foreign intelligence mission, and using all its authorities, NSA “touches” about 1.6%, and analysts only look at 0.00004%, of the world’s internet traffic.

Obviously, the government partly obscures its answer by presenting the global numbers when trying to debunk US numbers.

But more importantly, it builds a gigantic straw man with its “sift through and have unfettered access to” language. That’s not what the WSJ said (which is why DNI shifts its accusation).

The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans. In some cases, it retains the written content of emails sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with Internet technology, these people say.


The surveillance system is built on relationships with telecommunications carriers that together cover about 75% of U.S. Internet communications.

The NSA doesn’t do all the sifting. The telecoms Americans are paying every month do the first sift (which means part of that 75% of US Internet traffic is inaccessible to the NSA).

But see what DNI doesn’t ever do? Refute the WSJ.

Which I assume means we can take as confirmation that the government and its pseudo-private partners the telecoms do, in fact, sift through 75% of US Internet traffic.

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4 Responses to DNI’s Latest “I Con” Speak: “Sift Through and Have Unfettered Access To”

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @tellmemo @erinscafe Absolutely. Could not agree more.
bmaz Also, does anybody know what @erinscafe has done to Clayton Kershaw??
bmaz Yes, funny how that precise, pin point, US targeting suddenly "accidental" now. Or maybe the "accuracy" always a lie https://t.co/JQtV9Ld2ox
emptywheel @AdamSerwer I think Exxon would call it a "useful idiot."
emptywheel @JayAckroyd Sure. Probably looked at the Clown Show GOP has become & said "here's my chance!" @poniewozik @digby56 @realDonaldTrump
bmaz Can you be more specific? Cause that's about any given 14 day period for the current iteration of the House. https://t.co/3y2ubHcthV
bmaz Pure Michigan Trash Talk https://t.co/atHKXeTASL Hail to The Fighting Journalists of Northwestern!
JimWhiteGNV My heart goes out to the generous people of Turkey on this tragic day. This beautiful rug is from wife's visit there http://t.co/4uSv5ViF3A
JimWhiteGNV Oh, crap. So sad to hear situation in Turkey getting worse. When will the bloodshed stop spreading?
emptywheel @peterwsinger They've been successful as they fight alongside "more extremist" factions--would be material support if Muslim teenager did it
emptywheel @joanneleon Maybe the overt program was just cover for the covert one, until it became inconvenient as a collosal failure? @MaxAbrahms
emptywheel Hey! America!! Our super secret covert program in Syria has been working great if you ignore how it's helping AQ!! http://t.co/wo8CvEKk1d