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 Twitterverse
emptywheel Acc to CIA's official story, torture didn't start until after Jose Rodriguez became CTC head. So why is Cofer Black involved in pushback?
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JimWhiteGNV Debate in DC right now comes down to nothing more than whether the CIA is or is not subject to oversight. Sadly, I fear that "is not" wins.
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emptywheel Cofer Black Gets to Rebut Torture Report that Shouldn’t Include Him http://t.co/JFDmoh5cG3
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JimWhiteGNV RT @AdamSerwer: Former CIA chief George Tenet is trying to discredit the Senate report on torture because it makes him look bad http://t.co
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emptywheel The things you shouldn't have to do on a Saturday morning; Consult Rizzo and Rodriguez' novels.
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emptywheel "Tenet is...relying on his close relationship with Mr. Brennan" to be able to craft "response" to torture report. http://t.co/0tYEznK4pM
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emptywheel Wondering how many of the 5 quarts of tart cherries I brought home I can get spouse to pit in exchange for one pie?
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emptywheel @moselmensch Did not know that--think the diner was gone by the time I ever went into KMart. @MichiganHist
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emptywheel @PaulBaer1 Egads. You're right: 10 extra characters to weasel!
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bmaz @dbaich @azcentral So, they planned a two hour long death process? Uh huh, sure. Charles Ryan just comes off as sick saying that.
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bmaz RT @HaroldItz: I love the idea of calling a 12 hour ceasefire a "humanitarian pause." After 12 hours they resume being inhuman. #Gaza #Isra
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bmaz @GregoryMcNeal @WSJ Neat story, but pretty stiff ticket for the watch
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