Were DiFi’s Aides Who Claimed “Only a Small Number” of Back Door Searches Ignorant or Lying?

Yesterday, we learned:

  • NSA conducted unwarranted back door searches on 198 US persons’ content last year and 9,500 back door searches on US person metadata
  • CIA conducted around 1,900 unwarranted back door searches on US person content, and an uncounted number of back door searches on US person metadata
  • FBI conducted a substantial number of unwarranted back door searches on US person content and metadata — so much so it doesn’t count it

Back in November, when Dianne Feinstein was trying to codify these unwarranted back door searches explicitly into law, here’s what anonymous sources described as Senate Intelligence Committee aides told the WaPo:

They say that there have been only a “small number” of such queries each year. Such searches are useful, for instance, if a tip arises that a terrorist group is plotting to kill or kidnap an American, officials have said.

“Only a small number.”

Over 2,000 counted searches between the CIA and NSA. Uncounted, but substantial, number of searches by FBI. “Only a small number.”

Were these anonymous sources ignorant — relying on false information from the Agencies? The actual number of unwarranted back door searches doesn’t appear in the unredacted portions of the one Semiannual Section 702 Compliance report we’ve seen (see page 13); there doesn’t appear to be a redacted section where they would end up.

So have the Agencies (CIA and NSA in this case; FBI’s back door searches get audited in a different way) simply hidden from their Congressional overseers how frequently they were doing these searches?

Or were these aides trying, once again, to pass legislation permitting the nation’s spy agencies to conduct intrusive searches on Americans by lying?

One way or another, it’s a damn good thing Ron Wyden asked for and insisted on getting an answer to his question of how common these back door searches are (even if the FBI still refuses to count them). Because the key people who are supposed to oversee them are either ignorant or lying about them.

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emptywheel @chinahand McCain was analogizing Ukraine to Afghanistan yesterday. @MazMHussain @the_intercept
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emptywheel @JameelJaffer You mean we're gonna win the crypto wars on profit multipliers? Sweet! @bartongellman @mike__cunning
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emptywheel @JameelJaffer Right. But perception that TCG is an arm of US intel is probably true. @bartongellman @mike__cunning
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emptywheel @JameelJaffer Think issue is what interest The Chertoff Group has in American tech cos. @bartongellman @mike__cunning
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emptywheel Hayden made no mention of the fact that NSA had collected on Tsarnaev brothers, but had not read that collection.
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emptywheel Hayden pronounces Tsarnaev Sernayevee. Also, making probably false claims abt NSA tracking web reading.
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emptywheel RT @nickshaxson: #HSBC and the world’s oldest drug cartel http://t.co/j90dtgSpti What an inglorious, bloody, druggy history that scandalhou…
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emptywheel @bartongellman I keep prepping snarky tweets abt it but then coming back to that point. What's his gig? @JameelJaffer
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emptywheel @TimothyS Very good skill everywhere. Too much college writing instruction is abt English papers, not even--say--science lab reports.
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emptywheel @TimothyS Tho I will say I approve of teaching kids in college to write memos.
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emptywheel @TimothyS Also: Petraeus failed with the last two surges. Let's consult with him on the ISIL surge!
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