The Other Problem with the Obama Proposal: Who Does the Pizza Joint Review?

I’m sure I’ll spend all day discussing the various proposals to “fix” the dragnet.

I’ve already shown why the House Intelligence bill is not an improvement and should not be discussed by credible people as one.

And on Twitter and briefly in that piece, I described two problems that aren’t addressed at all in either of these proposals, including President Obama’s plan laid out by Charlie Savage.

  • The Reasonable Articulable Suspicion standard is still far too lenient, allowing the government to engage in a broad digital stop-and-frisk system
  • Once supplied to NSA, it will presumably subject tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent people to the full array of NSA’s tradecraft

Finally, though, there’s one other problem, which directly affects how many people get subjected to such analytical tradecraft, a problem identified by no other person than … Barack Obama.

Relying solely on the records of multiple providers, for example, could require companies to alter their procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns.

I suspect one of those privacy concerns, as I laid out in this post, is the necessity to make analytical judgments about what high volume numbers distort the chaining system.

Someone needs to go in and take out such high volume numbers — which include voice mail access numbers, telemarketers, and pizza joints — otherwise almost everyone is two degrees of separation from everyone else.

For two of these functions, I assume the telecoms can do the task as easily as the NSA. (The dirty secret is they conduct the same kind of 3-degrees analysis as the government does!) They know what their own (and reseller phone companies) voice mail access numbers are, after all, and surely they track the telemarketer spam that weighs down their system.

It’s the pizza joints that have me — that always have me — worried.

Pizza joints absolutely distort the contact chaining system. Keith Alexander learned this when the contact chaining he was doing — and he used to claim he had mapped out all the evil people tied to Iraq — showed everyone to be guilty because they frequented the same pizza joints.

When he ran INSCOM and was horning in on the NSA’s turf, Alexander was fond of building charts that showed how a suspected terrorist was connected to a much broader network of people via his communications or the contacts in his phone or email account.

“He had all these diagrams showing how this guy was connected to that guy and to that guy,” says a former NSA official who heard Alexander give briefings on the floor of the Information Dominance Center. “Some of my colleagues and I were skeptical. Later, we had a chance to review the information. It turns out that all [that] those guys were connected to were pizza shops.”

Nevertheless, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a tie through a pizza joint can be a very important tie through a pizza joint, as I believe Gerry’s Italian Kitchen was in the case of the Tsarnaev brothers. If NSA purged the pizza joint in that case, they may have eliminated some of the most important evidence tying the brothers (or at least Tamerlan) to the Waltham murder in 2011.

So who, under this new system, will do the pizza joint analysis?

If the phone companies do it (which I doubt, because of cases like the Tsarnaevs), it will mean even more intensive data mining of customer data while it remains in their hands.

If the NSA does it, it means a lot more totally innocent people will have their data turned over to NSA to do as they wish.

Don’t get me wrong. The Obama proposal is an improvement off the status quo. But for these reasons, including the pizza joint problem, it still doesn’t comply with the Fourth or First Amendments.

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook0Google+1Email to someone

13 Responses to The Other Problem with the Obama Proposal: Who Does the Pizza Joint Review?

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
Emptywheel Twitterverse
JimWhiteGNV Curveball hacked Sony.
1mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Why is @MSNBC perpetuating a myth about Marco Rubio's history? Is idiotic+craven "let's do both sides" myth more important than the truth??
43mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @MasaccioEW It really is. Still, what a load of shit.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @MasaccioEW: @bmaz it's the least untruthful thing they could say.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @BradMossEsq The US government, or your willingness to be a relentless toady for them? cc: @JasonLeopold
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz John Brennan and James Clapper "swear under oath" that NK is responsible for the SONY hack. Yeah, because THEY have a scintilla of veracity.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Suck your shit up and blindly repeat after your master USGovt that NK is solely responsible for SONY intrusion b/c your jackass Govt says so
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Come on all you relentless US Exceptional Statist Reflexive apologists, bring your statist crap.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Can't wait for USGovt suck puppet @BradMossEsq to explain how pitiful it is that NK pulled off SONY, but USG screwed pooch on Merlin.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Because, honestly, there is NO evidence that Beinart+Blitser would hysterically fake shit, right?
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Haha:Beinart+Blitzer are reporting confirmation of NK leadership of SONY hack? Any word other that their discredited self serving Wolf shit?
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @thegrugq Are you certain the people running our nation state wars are grownups?
2hreplyretweetfavorite
March 2014
S M T W T F S
« Feb   Apr »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031