NSA’s Spying: Medical Records, Resumés … and [about] Obama

The WaPo has been working for months to understand a chunk of incidentally collected data Edward Snowden took from the NSA. They discovered the bulk of people being spied on — who were for the most part incidentally collected — were innocent people living their everyday lives.

No government oversight body, including the Justice Department, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, intelligence committees in Congress or the president’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, has delved into a comparably large sample of what the NSA actually collects — not only from its targets but from people who may cross a target’s path.

Among the latter are medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. In one photo, a young girl in religious dress beams at a camera outside a mosque.

Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risque poses in shorts and bikini tops.

Most alarming (but something they bury in the story) is that President Obama was spied on both before and after he was inaugurated. [Correction: That’s not right. What they spied on were conversations about Obama, and they kept them but masked them in foolish fashion.]

Some of them border on the absurd, using titles that could apply to only one man. A “minimized U.S. president-elect” begins to appear in the files in early 2009, and references to the current “minimized U.S. president” appear 1,227 times in the following four years.

WaPo then tries to apply the ratio of target to incidental they discovered to the number of targets to which the government admitted.

 In a June 26 “transparency report,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed that 89,138 people were targets of last year’s collection under FISA Section 702. At the 9-to-1 ratio of incidental collection in Snowden’s sample, the office’s figure would correspond to nearly 900,000 accounts, targeted or not, under surveillance.

And all of this is available for back door search, for both “intelligence” and criminal purposes.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

7 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    Yeah, right they need all this stuff for possible future investigations. And Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny are all real.

  2. Rayne says:

    Philip K. Dick’s “Pre-crime” was supposed to be fiction, not an instruction manual.

    What I want to know: how much of this non-foreign collection is actually content related to minors? That’ll really piss me off; bad enough they’re likely collecting on me because I’m both a leftist political dissident and I have friends outside the U.S., but what would stop them from collecting on my minor children?

    • emptywheel says:

      Don’t you mean your minor child? One of them is not longer a minor, last I counted!

      They prolly spy on the minor bc he’s a gamer.

      • Rayne says:

        Yeah, child, but did they collect on the other kid while she was a minor also? Probably actively collecting on the younger not only because he’s a gamer, but he’s had friends overseas, like a classmate who moved to Asia, another who is of Mediterranean/mid-east heritage visiting grandparents abroad, so on.

        Biggest threat from this youngster is behind the wheel of my car, if he ever earns a final permit.

  3. orionATL says:

    there really is only one thing to be left amazed at about the police state bush and obama have built in our nation in a mere dozen years – that there is no chance it will be dismantled, as it should be, this year or any year soon.

    here we have a doj/fbi driven police state employing the nsa in conjunction with the fbi’s own spying authorities to collect private information the fbi et al. have no warranted need for. this is an unambiguous violation of the fourth ammendment.

    yet there is no national organization or movement to stop this nonsense. there is no obvious movement in the house or senate to de-fund, de-legislate, delegitimize this set of police-state spying organization.

    the president of the u.s., he who swears to uphold and protect the constitution, is covertly leading the effort to legalize, legitimize, and extend the police state spying, while at the same time turning a blind eye to the ruthlessness, brutality, coersion and theft (personal computers …) employed by federal police like the fbi “authorized” by stolen private information.

    it’s july now. the congress will muddle along until its time this fall to go home to campaign. the president will continue his campaign to get young voters to the polls. the newspapers will publish their stories, corporate-controlled teevee will continue its feeble reporting on the police state.

    it’s 2 am in america.

  4. orionATL says:

    this wapo research and publication deserves high praise for data analysis – for drilling down to the level of numbers of individuals affected by nsa spying.

    this is very useful information which deflates ignorant or deceitful nsa “assurance” scenarios and other vague evasions of the consequences of nsa data theft.

  5. Rich says:

    They are building a god machine…What they want is to be able to round up every concievable type of person they deem a threat…Aethiest, liberals, right wing, homosexuals, gypsies, muslims, occupy, people dissatisfied with the government, pedophiles, porn addicts, christians, Jews, black, white, Whatever….What they want to build is a computer program so that whatever particular type of person they are looking for, they punch in the parameters and out pop the names and addresses for a 2a.m. rifle butt knock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comments are closed.