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
emptywheel RT @NamelessCynic: If you give children full-sized candy, they have no incentive to work harder and... get... more... handouts... ?
2mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Apparently Detroit Lions are early adopters for BOTH "season ending ACL injury celebrating a sack" AND the dreaded "pizza injury."
3mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @F1grid: He's back!!! RT @vfacundo: @F1grid the #Ferrari head guy is back near turn 19 #COTA http://t.co/ctDy4C8Cvv #USGP #LWYBF
4mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @ddayen Hey, if David Trott had a future in politics, what prevents Brandon? @bmaz
6mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Hey @jaketapper The Eagles are representing at the festivities surrounding the US Grand Prix in Austin this weekend http://t.co/45ZPnodWGd
7mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @hinckleystorage Right. But "fun size" is propaganda for "no fun more knocking size."
7mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Do you parents taunt kids, saying, "In my day, son, we only had to knock 6 doors to have week's supply of Snickers. No doubling up for us!"
8mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Do kids today know how much smaller Halloween candy is than it was when we were kids? Do they look on it as a productivity incentive?
9mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @dmataconis Yeah, it is sloppy reporting, they keep saying "judge ordered Friday" but it looks like it is this order dated Thursday.
10mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @dmataconis So, that is the only oder to date, and what CNN, ABC etc are just reporting in the last hour?
14mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @elizabeth_joh: House's concerns re 3d party harms in FBI undercover ops in 1984 cc: @froomkin @MedinaMora @csoghoian @GeneAPseattle htt…
14mreplyretweetfavorite
March 2014
S M T W T F S
« Feb   Apr »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031