Turns Out, Committee to Make You Love the Dragnet Soured on the Dragnet

Here’s their report, which I’ll have far more to say about.

But one-third of the way in, I’ve decided to do a working thread. Will fill in my earlier observations later. (Page numbers are to document page numbers, not PDF.)

(90) Report says most of the 21,000 NSLs issued in FY2012 were issued for subscriber information. I’m not sure we knew that. It also coincides with the move of the Internet dragnet overseas, and may be related.

(97) Report says 215 collects “only a small percentage” of total telephone metadata. This seems to conflict w/statement that they collect “substantially all.”2

(97) Report confirms Internet metadata tured off in 2009 and back on in 2010, as reported here.

(125-7) You get the feeling the Group is not all that critical of Snowden. Note reference to disclosing “unwise or even unlawful govt programs” and that whistleblower laws don’t apply to contractors. Also note the discussion of spying on journalists.

(128) Note the suggestion that govt numbers might not be accurate:

Reports from providers can be a useful supplement to reports from the government—the existence of multiple sources of information reduces the risk of inaccurate reporting by any one source.

(131) Note they define foreign power in the terms of the 3 categories I think are available for FAA: CT, CP, and Cyber

(135) The discussion of FAA 703-5 (not named as such) is more specific than some claims I’ve gotten from the WH.

(136) The report is consistent with my belief that FAA only used for CT, CP, and cyber.

(141) Report’s discussion of the 2011 problem refers to problems in the plural, suggesting there have been others. Also note he calls that inadvertent collection; that’s not what Bates said.

(144-5) This seems to suggest that all 54 “thwarted” plots involve some 702 component, including Moalin (though MOalin would have been PAA). That makes sense, but they haven’t illustrated that side of things.

(148) Note they don’t include the “threat to property” in their summary of minimization procedures.

(149) Note the complaint about the definition of foreign intelligence value.

(152) Report again says 702 is limited, potentially to just CT, CP, and cyber

(154) This is a remarkable sentiment, but I’m not sure it holds:

As an aside, we note that the very existence of these protections in the United States can help promote and preserve democratic accountability across the globe. In light of the global influence of the United States, any threat to effective democracy in the United States could have negative and far-reaching consequences in other nations as well. By helping to maintain an effective system of checks and balances within the United States, the special protections that FISA affords United States persons can therefore contribute to sustaining democratic ideals abroad.

13 replies
  1. Snoopdido says:

    While reading the document and finding their list of recommendations includes “everything but the kitchen sink”, I do note that even in spite of that aspect which tends to obscure, there still are some important conclusions and recommendations we should not overlook. For example, page 79:

    “With the benefit of experience, and as detailed below, we conclude that some of the authorities that were expanded or created in the aftermath of September 11 unduly sacrifice fundamental interests in individual liberty, personal privacy, and democratic governance.”

    The previous statement is one of those fundamental conclusions that must not be ignored.

  2. joanneleon says:

    Figured I’d share this in case it’s useful for anyone else. I need page numbers when working with a big document and can’t print this one out so I did this. Physical document page number is first number, PDF page number is second number (PDF page number = phys doc page number + 2).

    Section / Doc Page # / PDF Page #
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    Table of Contents / 5 / 7
    Transmittal Letter / 1 / 3
    Preface / 10 / 12
    Exec Summary / 14 / 16
    Recommendations / 24 / 26
    Chapter 1, Principle / 43 / 45
    Chapter 2, Lessons of History / 53 / 55
    Chapter 3, Reforming Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Directed at US Persons / 79 / 81
    Chapter 4, Reforming Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Directed at Non-US Persons / 130 / 132
    Chapter 5, Determining what Intelligence Should be Collected and How / 163 / 165
    Chapter 6, Organizational Reform in Light of Changing Communications Technology / 177 / 179
    Chapter 7, Global Communications Technology: Promoting Prosperity, Security, and Openness in a Networked World / 209 / 211
    Chapter 8, Protecting What We Do Collect / 233 / 235
    Conclusion / 259 / 261
    Appendix A: Legal Standards for Government Access to Communications / 263 / 265
    Appendix B: Overview of NSA Privacy Protections Under EO 12333 / 268 / 270
    Appendix C: US Intelligence: Multiple Layers of Rules and Oversight / 269 / 271
    Appendix D: Avenues for Whistleblowers in the Intelligence Community / 271 / 273
    Appendix E: US Govt Role in Current Encryption Standards / 273 / 275
    Appendix F: Review Group Briefings and Meetings / 277 / 279
    Appendix G: Glossary / 283 / 285

  3. joanneleon says:

    Just a tidbit on network security (they’re recommending return to dumb terminals, or something close to that, when possible on classified networks):

    Page 256

    NSA, among others, is returning to the Thin Client architecture,
    which many agencies abandoned 15-20 years ago in favor of cheaper,
    Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) models. In the Thin Client architecture,
    the user may employ any screen on the network after properly
    authenticating. The screens, however, are “dumb terminals” with little
    software loaded on the devices. All applications and data are stored on
    servers, which are easier to secure and monitor than are large numbers of
    distributed clients. The use of a Thin Client architecture is, we believe, a
    more secure approach for classified networks and should be more widely

  4. joanneleon says:

    P 163

    “Intelligence collection should not occur because it is possible, but only because it is necessary.

    Intelligence, particularly signals intelligence, is as necessary now as
    ever to combat violent extremism, prevent the proliferation of nuclear
    weapons, combat international criminal groups, prevent atrocities, and
    enforce UN sanctions and other international regimes.

    We have also witnessed a rise in “Lone Wolf” terrorism, including in the United States. There is a continuing need for appropriate intelligence collection, data analysis, and information-sharing with appropriate personnel. So, too, there is a need for appropriate controls and oversight on intelligence collection to ensure that we act in ways that are both consistent with our values and reflective of our security requirements.
    Enforcement of UN and other sanctions, stopping the proliferation of materials needed for nuclear weapons, halting the trafficking in persons, combating illicit drugs and criminal cartels, reducing the risk of mass atrocities, detecting the systematic violation of ethnic minority rights, and the detection of war crimes are all examples of intelligence priorities that require the collection of information in many nations

    Have we had a rise in “lone wolf” terrorism in the US?

  5. joanneleon says:

    What makes a target “sensitive” and in need of more frequent and thorough review and the establishment of a “Sensitive Activities Office”?

    (p 168)

    We believe that the definition of what is “sensitive,” and therefore
    should be reviewed in this strengthened NIPF, will vary with time. Among
    the factors that might make something sufficiently “sensitive” to require senior interagency-level review are 1) the means that would be employed
    to collect information, 2) the specific people subject to collection, 3) the
    nation where the collection would occur, 4) international events such as a
    head-of-state meeting or negotiations, or 5) a combination of these factors.

    And another statement that opposes Alexander’s “collect it all” motto. (Page 170)

    The goal of this strengthened NIPF is to ensure that the United States
    collects all of the information it legitimately needs and as little more than
    that as possible, and that we collect not because we can, but because we
    must for our national security, that of our allies, and in support of the
    international community.

  6. Stephen says:

    21,000 NSLs?

    That’s an average of more than 2 per hour of every hour of every day of 2012!

    That’s more the sort of number you’d expect for the war on drugs not the war on terror.

    Just how many terrorists is America infested with? :-)

  7. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    Ew, not sure why you feel this way? “(154) This is a remarkable sentiment, but I’m not sure it holds:…”

    Can you elaborate please?

    The paragraph that follows is insightful, and as a non-US individual would support the general concept I believe, that the US is pivotal to democracy and if it wavers the whole world will slide away from democracy, though not sure I can understand the implications of the statement that “the special protections that FISA affords United States persons can therefore contribute to sustaining democratic ideals abroad.” Why only the “protections that FISA affords…” and not the entire model that the US constitution and rights promote?

    So, EW, please clarify what you see in this that “may not hold”. Thanks.

  8. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    @joanneleon: “They’re recommending return to dumb terminals…” and the horse and buggy would dramatically reduce road deaths, BUT, well anyone making this argument for dumb terminals should be retired and allow tech savvy individuals to take control.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people who want to live without modern technology, and won’t spend the few hours my 85 year old Mother has spent to become tech aware so she can Skype me, but to suggest the world should do so is farcical. Emphatically, these people should not be in power or directing society.

    Wait, maybe these troglodytes could convince people we should explore space on bicycles.

  9. bloodypitchfork says:

    @Greg Bean (@GregLBean): Notwithstanding emptywheels reply to your direct question, but I have a problem with this…
    “By helping to maintain an effective system of checks and balances within the United States, the special protections that FISA affords United States persons can therefore contribute to sustaining democratic ideals abroad.”unquote

    Why in the heck do we need “special protections” via a secret court, when we already have the Bill of Rights, that CLEARLY, and SUCCINCTLY already define what those rights are, which in effect, says, a SECRET COURT, allegedly “affording” us “special protections”, is, in my opinion, a crock of shit.

    Furthermore, the mere fact Obama was FORCED by virtue of Snowdens revelations, into creating a “panel” that has the dubious distinction of making “recommendations” for reining in NSA powers that even Senator Church warned us about when this stinking agency was ALREADY breaking the law, tells me they’ve been breaking the law all along, and in fact, have now become almost UNSTOPPABLE. This is why, to me, a panel that is merely “suggesting” to Obama that he “help maintain effective checks and balances” when we already have the Constitution, is a ruse to cover the fact that, indeed, a coup has already occurred. Meanwhile, a nation of rubes continue to believe we are still a country operating under the “rule of law.” To that effect..one reading of the Iran/Contra history will PROVE to you, the “rule of law” in this country, is total unmitigated bullshit.

  10. bloodypitchfork says:

    @Greg Bean (@GregLBean): quote:”BUT, well anyone making this argument for dumb terminals should be retired and allow tech savvy individuals to take control.”unquote

    Allow tech savvy individuals to “take control”. riiiiight.


    Speaking of DUMB terminals, don’t look now pal, but that’s what we DID. And look what happened. Dumb indeed.

  11. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    @bloodypitchfork: “take control” was not a choice phrase was it. :-)

    What I meant was that people who have no interest in keeping up with the mass of society, technologically or otherwise, should not be in positions of authority to direct that society.

  12. ess emm says:

    In a just and decent world Obama would return from Hawaii fire Clapper and Alexander, and pardon Snowden. And shortly after Rogers and Feinstein would be stripped of their chairs for dereliction of their oversight responsibility.

    Still this has been a pretty good week for civil liberties.

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