DiFi Fake FISA Fix Explicitly Allows Contractors to Conduct Suspicionless Searches on US Person Data

The Senate Intelligence Committee has released its report on DiFi’s Fake FISA Fix. The report makes it clearer than ever that this is not at all an improvement, but rather an attempt to use the Snowden leaks as an opportunity to make the spying programs explicitly worse, which I’ll explain at more length later.

Just as an example, however, take a look at what they do with back door searches. As I explained here, the bill describes new reporting for a tiny fraction of back door searches, those that search on a US identifier as content, presumably to trick people in thinking that does anything for the vast majority of back door searches on US identifiers as metadata (DiFi’s staffers all but admitted that, anonymously, here). Thus, it provides new reports for a tiny fraction of this practice, while endorsing the vast majority of such searches — and the far more intrusive ones — to go on with no reporting requirements. And since I laid that out, NSA General Counsel Raj De and DNI General Counsel Robert Litt made it clear that NSA does not currently require even Reasonable Articulable Suspicion to search any content collected incidentally.

Here’s what the report adds to that, explicitly.

The Committee believes that, to the greatest extent practicable, all queries conducted to the authorities established under this section should be performed by Federal employees. Nonetheless, the Committee acknowledges that it may be necessary in some cases to use contractors to perform such queries. By using the term “government personnel” the Committee does not intend to prohibit such contractor use.

The NSA just had a contractor walk off with unbelievable amounts of data.

And the Senate Intelligence Committee’s response to that is to explicitly give contractors the authority to conduct suspicionless searches through vast quantity of data to access and read the content of US person data, with no reporting requirements.

I guess when they named this the “intelligence” committee they were just making an elaborate joke.

(Note: Snoopdidoo had some more observations on the report in comments to this thread.)

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.

3 replies
  1. selise says:

    i’d love to know exactly who (as in names) writes the actual language of these crap bills/amendments and where organizationally (congressional staff? administration staff?) they work.

  2. C says:

    Given DiFi’s behavior as discussed in the previous post and this it seems that one of three things is going on:

    (1) This all is an elaborate attempt to setup a red-herring bill that will be weakend to make it more serious, perhaps by sacrificing the language quoted above, but won’t get all the way to real reform. In essence by staking things so far out in wacko-land DiFi is trying to move the goalposts away from real reform and sacrificing her credibility to do it.

    (2) She knows it doesn’t do any of the things she says but still believes that we trust her and is thus lying incessantly to achieve her masters’ goals.

    (3) She hasn’t really read the bill or doesn’t know what is in it, perhaps she’s too busy raising money for 8 hours per day, and is thus blathering like this because her staff are lying to her.

    My money is on a combination of 1 and 3.

  3. Porgy Tyrebiter says:

    Standard DiFi sleazebag (and she looks the part) behavior. Only a fool would think she’d do anything else.

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