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 RT @astepanovich: Debate on no good, very bad surveillance law in Kenya leads to physical fighting http://t.co/JnCksvdJI1 More on law: http…
emptywheel @ncweaver But you COULD do it sparingly, especially if you used a cut-out?
emptywheel @ncweaver Also, what would prevent them from doing this to wiretap offshore to get around FISA, as they moved Internet dragnet offshore?
emptywheel @ncweaver 215 is just a teeny part of phone dragnet, and it's all linked.
emptywheel @gburneston4 Might want to look up 1) what "anonymous" means 2) how links work before you suggest I'm hiding ID.
emptywheel Oh. When Theresa Shea and James Clapper say phone dragnet is index to content, this is what they mean. http://t.co/RQQ4JHiamr
emptywheel @gburneston4 You're apparently pretty ignorant about me, starting with what that "fake name" is.
emptywheel RT @hrprogressive: Land of the Free, Home of the Please Don't Hurt Us for Expressing Controversial Ideas, apparently.
emptywheel Imagine them cowering from courageous scripts with the same bravery they're ordering Team America to be silenced with.
emptywheel If you didn't already know, now we know why big Hollywood movies suck ass. Bc they're cowards.
emptywheel Thinking inviting Raul Castro for White House visit might be best way to set off GOP self-combustion before 2016 season.
emptywheel @Monkeyfister1 It's possible it's not accurate. Should have added caveat to my 140 characters. But ... yes. @JC_Christian
July 2014
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