On the same day the NYT published the latest in a series of reports of how ISIS has incorporated Baathists from Saddam’s regime, the WaPo reported that ISIS had tortured some of its captives, including James Foley, using some of the same techniques employed by the US.
The NYT described how Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi teamed up with some of Saddam’s old officers.
He had a preference for military men, and so his leadership team includes many officers from Saddam Hussein’s long-disbanded army.
They include former Iraqi officers like Fadel al-Hayali, the top deputy for Iraq, who once served Mr. Hussein as a lieutenant colonel, and Adnan al-Sweidawi, a former lieutenant colonel who now heads the group’s military council.
The pedigree of its leadership, outlined by an Iraqi who has seen documents seized by the Iraqi military, as well as by American intelligence officials, helps explain its battlefield successes: Its leaders augmented traditional military skill with terrorist techniques refined through years of fighting American troops, while also having deep local knowledge and contacts. ISIS is in effect a hybrid of terrorists and an army.
And WaPo described the waterboarding used with Foley — but it described it exclusively as a CIA torture technique.
James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Waterboarding often involves strapping a person down on a gurney or bench and pouring cold water over a cloth covering the face. It causes the sensation of drowning. “The wet cloth creates a barrier through which it is difficult — or in some cases not possible — to breathe,” according to a Justice Department memo in May 2005 about the CIA’s use of the technique.
True, waterboarding — as opposed to simulated drowning by submersion — has only been admitted in 3 known cases, all CIA detainees — Abu Zubaydah, Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (as well as Egypt’s waterboarding on our behalf of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi).
But waterboarding was at least contemplated for use on Baathists. Charles Duelfer admitted that OVP suggested a Mukhabarat officer Duelfer names as Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi be waterboarded, though Duelfer claims he ultimately wasn’t waterboarded.
At the end of April 2003, not long after the fall of Baghdad, U.S. forces captured an Iraqi who Bush White House officials suspected might provide information of a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime. Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi was the head of the M-14 section of Mukhabarat, one of Saddam’s secret police organizations. His responsibilities included chemical weapons and contacts with terrorist groups.
Duelfer says he heard from “some in Washington at very senior levels (not in the CIA),” who thought Khudayr’s interrogation had been “too gentle” and suggested another route, one that they believed has proven effective elsewhere. “They asked if enhanced measures, such as waterboarding, should be used,” Duelfer writes. “The executive authorities addressing those measures made clear that such techniques could legally be applied only to terrorism cases, and our debriefings were not as yet terrorism-related. The debriefings were just debriefings, even for this creature.”
Duelfer will not disclose who in Washington had proposed the use of waterboarding, saying only: “The language I can use is what has been cleared.” In fact, two senior U.S. intelligence officials at the time tell The Daily Beast that the suggestion to waterboard came from the Office of Vice President Cheney.
“Everyone knew there would be more smiles in Washington if WMD stocks were found,” Duelfer said in the interview. “My only obligation was to find the truth. It would be interesting if there was WMD in May 2003, but what was more interesting to me was looking at the entire regime through the slice of WMD.”
But, Duelfer says, Khudayr in fact repeatedly denied knowing the location of WMD or links between Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda and was not subjected to any enhanced interrogation. Duelfer says the idea that he would have known of such links was “ludicrous”.
The UK raised its threat limit to “pee your pants” today, based on the assessment an attack on the country is “highly likely.” This is a response to the 500 or so Britons who have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIS.
PM David Cameron said at least 500 people had travelled from the UK “to fight in Syria and potentially Iraq”.
He said Islamic State (IS) extremists – who are attempting to establish a “caliphate”, or Islamic state, in the region – represented a “greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before”.
New legislation would also be brought in to make it easier to take passports away from people travelling abroad to join the conflict, Mr Cameron said.
Which has me thinking — and not for the first time — of the large numbers of people who went to fight in the Spanish Civil War.
After all, it’s not like wanting to overthrow Bashar al-Assad is an ignoble goal. And while I think most Brits (and Americans) will grow disillusioned by the intolerance and ruthless discipline of ISIS, I can imagine the attraction, from afar, of moral certitude they offer. The 1930s, like today, are a morally confusing time, and those who fought the fascists in Spain ended up being vanguards of a necessary fight, even if they fought for an equally loathsome authoritarian force in the process.
The experience of fighting — and growing disillusioned — in Spain was chronicled by George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia. After his return, his views were suspect, but he did manage to return to the UK and warn of the dangers of absolutism.
I’m not the first to make this comparison. Boyd Tonkin wrote a piece in the Independent wondering whether those who traveled to Syria to fight Assad will be able to return to the UK without he specter of terrorism ruining their lives. (h/t to Gabe Moshenska who pointed me to it on Twitter)
Tony Blair’s third administration passed the Terrorism Act 2006. Section Five, as presently interpreted by the Crown Prosecution Service, makes it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a “political, ideological, religious or racial motive”. The legislation appears to forbid all training or action in a foreign combat. If so, its provisions would have criminalised every Briton who fought in Spain. It would have turned Lord Byron, whose commitment to Greek independence led him to arm and lead a raggle-taggle regiment prior to his death at Missolonghi in 1824, into an outlaw. As for the 6,500 veterans of Wellington’s armies who went off after Waterloo to fight against Spanish colonial rule in the battles that led to freedom for Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, how could the courts have processed such a lawless throng?
The 2006 legislation currently targets UK citizens deemed to have fought with Syrian rebel groups. Estimates of their number vary wildly but a figure of around 400-500 has gained currency. At least eight have died. The fear of radicalisation, with any link to al-Qa’ida-allied units and above all to Isis treated as a communicable virus, has propelled the hard legal line. In January, 16 Britons were arrested after returning from Syria. Further arrests have followed since.
[T]oday’s security-led prism and its “radicalisation” model, with the automatic penalties in place for any returnee, appears blind to every nuance. One British volunteer in Syria tweeted a poster that read “Keep Calm, Support Isis”: a spoof of the already much-parodied Second World War campaign to beef up morale. What are the chances that the kid who wrote that poster had watched Dad’s Army? Pretty high. If so, he will be many things apart from a bloodthirsty future avenger dedicated to importing holy mayhem on to British streets.
The long-term significance of an overseas adventure for anyone may not be apparent to them, or to others, at the time. But every present or past volunteer in Syria now knows they bear an invisible brand marked “potential murderer”, stamped by the agencies of surveillance. In a BBC radio analysis, one British fighter thought it a “slightly surreal” notion to “go back to the UK and start a jihad there”. For him, at least: “As to the global jihad, I couldn’t tell you if I’m going to be alive tomorrow, let alone future plans.”
Just because you hear someone rashly cry “wolf” does not mean that wolves do not exist. Over the past six weeks, Isis in Iraq has shown to the world a savagery almost beyond belief. Its bloody stunts may have emboldened a few would-be butchers. They will have deterred many secret faint-hearts, already in too deep. However, if the near-certainty of UK criminal sanctions closes down your road to reintegration, why not rise to the fanatics’ bait? What have you then got to lose?
I recommend this ArsTechnica background piece on EO 12333. It describes how Ronnie Reagan issued EO 12333 to loosen the intelligence rules imposed by Jimmy Carter (with links to key historical documents). It includes interviews with the NSA whistleblowers describing how George Bush authorized the collection of telecom data from circuits focused on the US under the guise of EO 12333, calling the bulk of the US person data collected “incidental.” And it describes how Bush and Obama have continued using EO 12333 as a loophole to obtain US person data.
But there’s a key part of the story Ars misses, which I started to lay out here. As this graphic notes, the NSA is governed by a set of interlocking authorities and laws. The precedence of those authorities and laws is not terribly clear — and NSA’s own training programs don’t make them any more clear. Bush’s revision to EO 12333 played on that interlocking confusion.
Perhaps most alarming, however, the NSA continued to use a classified annex to EO 123333 written by Michael Hayden the day he reauthorized the illegal wiretap program at least until recent years — and possibly still. And that classified annex asserts an authority to wiretap Americans on the Attorney General’s authorization for periods of up to 90 days, and wiretap “about” collection based solely on NSA Director authority.
Among the documents released to ACLU and EFF via FOIA was an undated “Core Intelligence Oversight Training” program that consists of nothing more than printouts of the authorities governing NSA activities (as I noted in this post, with one exception, the NSA training programs we’ve seen are unbelievably horrible from a training efficacy standpoint). It includes, in part, EO 12333, DOD 5240.1-R, and NSA/CSS Policy 1-23 (that is, several of the authorities NSA considers among its signature authorities). As part of a 2009 issuance of the latter document (starting on page 110), the training documents also include the classified annex to EO 12333 (starting on page 118). And although both documents are part of that 2009 issuance (which incorporated language reflecting the FISA Amendments Act), they are dated March 11, 2004 — the day after the hospital confrontation, when the Bush Administration continued its illegal wiretap program without DOJ sanction — and signed by then DIRNSA Michael Hayden.
That is, as part of the FOIA response to ACLU and EFF, DOJ revealed how it was secretly applying EO 12333 at least as recently as 2009.
And that secret application of EO 12333 includes two provisions that illustrate how the government was abusing EO 12333, even in the face of revisions to FISA. They include provisions permitting the wiretapping of Americans for 90-day periods based on AG certification, and the wiretapping of “about” communications for apparently unlimited periods based on DIRNSA certification. (see page 123)
The Greater US War to Remake the Middle East has been going on so long, it is already re-running its story lines.
Back in 2004, when Dick Cheney was trying to drum up a hot war against Iran, the CIA got dealt a laptop that provided a casus belli all wrapped up in a bow: all aspects of Iran’s nuke program, all conveniently collected on one laptop, somehow falling into intelligence hands. It later showed signs of being a forgery.
Now, as the warmakers are trying to gin up a hot war against ISIS (in seeming co-belligerence with Iran!), that’s whose laptop we find, courtesy of Foreign Policy: a Tunisian named Muhammed whose last name and picture Foreign Policy declined to provide. On the laptop, FP found a 19-page document that explains how to “weaponize” bubonic plague by throwing it on grenades close to air conditioning units.
“Use small grenades with the virus, and throw them in closed areas like metros, soccer stadiums, or entertainment centers,” the 19-page document on biological weapons advises. “Best to do it next to the air-conditioning. It also can be used during suicide operations.”
Because a college science student only needs 19 pages to accomplish the technical feat of weaponizing the plague.
Remarkably, a lot of people are taking this as a serious discovery, even though FP describes obtaining the laptop this way:
Abu Ali, a commander of a moderate Syrian rebel group in northern Syria, proudly shows a black laptop partly covered in dust. “We took it this year from an ISIS hideout,” he says.
Abu Ali says the fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which have since rebranded themselves as the Islamic State, all fled before he and his men attacked the building. The attack occurred in January in a village in the Syrian province of Idlib, close to the border with Turkey, as part of a larger anti-ISIS offensive occurring at the time. “We found the laptop and the power cord in a room,” he continued, “I took it with me. But I have no clue if it still works or if it contains anything interesting.”
As we switched on the Dell laptop, it indeed still worked. Nor was it password-protected.
We are supposed to believe that 1) ISIS got routed back in January 2) left their laptop 3) don’t password protect their devices.
More amusingly, we’re supposed to believe that upon capturing devices from an adversary, the “moderate” beheaders in the FSA would not look for intelligence on those devices. Instead, they’d let a computer collect dust over the course of 8 months, never once attempting to so much as turn on a laptop, until such time as it became imperative to foster opposition to ISIS.
Because powering a laptop is apparently too hard for FSA commanders?
Either Abu Ali is lying, or he’s lying. Which means the provenance of this laptop and this story is so suspect it should not be treated seriously. There are plenty of other reasons to doubt the story. But if your source claims never to have turned on a laptop — never to have even tried! — seized from an adversary over the course of 8 months, your source is not telling the truth.
On February 19, 2013, John Bates approved a Section 215 order targeting an alleged American citizen terrorist. He hesitated over the approval because the target’s actions consisted of protected First Amendment speech.
A more difficult question is whether the application shows reasonable grounds to believe that the investigation of [redacted] is not being conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment. None of the conduct of speech that the application attributes to [4 lines redacted] appears to fall outside the ambit of the first amendment. Even [redacted] — in particular, his statement that [redacted] — seems to fall well short of the sort of incitement to imminent violence or “true threat” that would take it outside the protection of the first amendment. Indeed, the government’s own assessment of [redacted] points to the conclusion that it is protected speech. [redacted] Under the circumstances, the Court is doubtful that the facts regarding [redacted] own words and conduct alone establish reasonable grounds to believe that the investigation is not being conducted solely on the basis of first amendment.
He alleviated his concerns by apparently relying on the activities of others to authorize the order.
The Court is satisfied, however, that Section 1861 also permits consideration of the related conduct of [redacted] in determining whether the first amendment requirement is satisfied. The text of Section 1861 does not restrict the Court to considering only the activities of the subject of the investigation in determining whether the investigation is “not conducted solely on the basis of activities protected by the first amendment.” Rather, the pertinent statutory text focuses on the character (protected by the first amendment or not) of the “activities” that are the “basis” of the investigation.
Later in the opinion, Bates made it clear these are activities of someone besides the US citizen target of this order, because the activities in question were not being done by US persons.
Such activities, of course, would not be protected by the first amendment even if they were carried out by a United States person.
If I’m right that behind the redactions Bates is saying the activities of associates were enough to get beyond the First Amendment bar for someone only expressing support, then it would seem to require Association analysis. But then, Bates, the big fan of not having any help on his FISC opinions, wouldn’t consider that because the government never does.
Ah well. At least we can finally clarify about whether or not the FISC is a rubber stamp for Administration spying. No. It’s a Bates stamp — in which judges engage in flaccid legal analysis in secret before approving fairly troubling applications. Which is just as pathetic.
When ISIS beheaded James Foley, pundits in DC pointed to it as proof of the organizations barbarism. Never mind that Saudis were busy beheading people for sorcery in the same period. Not to mention America’s latest penchant for executing people with DIY cocktails of lethal chemicals that leave them gasping for breath for hours.
It’s very confusing discerning what does and does not qualify an entity as barbaric these days.
The WaPo report that ISIS subjected Foley and others to waterboarding and mock execution makes it all the more confusing.
At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.
James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
French journalist Didier Francois, who was imprisoned with Foley, has told reporters that Foley was targeted for extra abuse because his captors found pictures on his computer of his brother, who serves in the U.S. Air Force.
Francois said Foley was subjected to mock executions — something suspected al-Qaeda operative Nashiri also endured while being held in a secret CIA prison, according to a report by the inspector general of the CIA. The Justice Department did not sanction mock executions.
Note how carefully the WaPo skirts the political minefield and journalistic primer of whether to call waterboarding torture or not. It, unlike NYT, still refuses to call waterboarding torture, probably because its editorial page routinely serves as a lead defender of waterboarding as a value “enhanced interrogation technique.”
Nevertheless, our adversaries have moved beyond dressing up prisoners in our signature orange jumpsuits to using the techniques much of the political establishment has defended for the last decade.
That’s not surprising. It’s sickening. But it’s also going to present an interesting challenge to the DC punditry, as it tries to villainize ISIS in advance of expanding the war against it.
Update: Katherine Hawkins has convinced me that I’m unduly harsh on WaPo’s language here. I think the language in the piece is interesting, but the implications of the story are quite clear.
I’ll have a more substantive post about what we learn about NSA’s broader dragnet from the Intercept’s ICREACH story.
But for the moment I want to reiterate a point I made the other day. ICREACH is important not just because it makes NSA data available to CIA and FBI. But also because it makes CIA and FBI data available for the metadata analysis the NSA conducts.
The documents describe that to include things like clandestine intelligence and flight information.
But there’s one other program that ought to be of particular concern with regards to NSA’s programs. As I laid out here, FBI had a Pen Register/Trap and Trace “program” that shared information with the NSA at least until February 2012, several months after NSA had ended its PRTT Internet dragnet program.
The secrecy behind the FBI’s PRTT orders on behalf of NSA
Finally, there’s a series of entries on the classification guide for FISA programs leaked by Edward Snowden.
These entries show that FBI obtained counterterrorism information using PRTTs for NSA — which was considered Secret.
But that the FBI PR/TT program – which seems different than these individual orders — was considered TS/SI/NOFORN.
If you compare these entries with the rest of the classification guide, you see that this information — the fact that NSA gets PRTT information from FBI (in addition to information from Pen Registers, which seems to be treated differently at the Secret level) – is treated with the same degree of secrecy as the actual targeting information or raw collected data on all other programs.
This is considered one of the most sensitive secrets in the whole FISA package.
Even minimized PRTT data is considered TS/SCI.
Now, it is true that this establishes an exact parallel with the BR FISA program (which the classification guide makes clear NSA obtained directly). So it may be attributable to the fact that the existence of the programs themselves was considered a highly sensitive secret.
So maybe that’s it. Maybe this just reflects paranoia about the way NSA was secretly relying on the PATRIOT Act to conduct massive dragnet programs.
Except there’s the date.
This classification guide was updated on February 7, 2012 — over a month after NSA shut down the PRTT program. Also, over a month after — according to Theresa Shea — the NSA destroyed all the data it had obtained under PRTT. (Note, her language seems to make clear that this was the NSA’s program, not the FBI’s.)
That is, over a month after the NSA ended its PRTT program and destroyed the data from it (at least according to sworn declarations before a court), the NSA’s classification guide referred to an FBI PRTT program that it considered one of its most sensitive secrets. And seemed to consider active.
I have no idea what this program entailed — and no one else has even picked up on this detail. It’s possible NSA’s Internet dragnet just moved under the FBI’s control. It’s possible (this is my current operative wildarseguess) that FBI’s PRTT program collects location data; the Bureau uses PRTT orders to get individualized location data, after all.
Whatever it is, though, the existence of ICREACH would make that data available to NSA in a form it could use to include it in contact chaining of metadata (which may be why it figures so prominently in NSA’s classification guide). And note: FBI’s minimization procedures are far more lenient than NSA’s, so whatever this data is, NSA may be able to do more with it given that FBI collected it.
And as with a number of other things, even the Pat Leahy version of USA Freedom would weaken protections for PRTT data.
It took McClatchy 21 paragraphs to illustrate why it was such a big conflict of interest for Director of National Intelligence General Counsel to lead negotiations over how much of the torture report would be declassified, as he currently is doing.
According to reports in The Washington Post, Litt previously represented a CIA analyst, Alfreda Frances Bikowsky, who played a central role in the bungled rendition of Khaled el-Masri. El-Masri, who was revealed to be innocent, claimed to have been tortured by the agency.
As the rest of the article explains, Litt reviewed his role brokering the declassification process with ODNI’s Ethics officer — who is his subordinate — and she approved his participation.
But it still probably conflicts with Litt’s promises, made during his confirmation process, to recuse himself from matters affecting his former clients. And given the centrality of CIA’s absurd demand to hide even the pseudonyms making clear that the same woman who got El-Masri tortured also went out of her way to watch Khalid Sheikh Mohammed be tortured (among a fairly substantial list of other things — here’s a reminder of details on how she got promoted after the El-Masri debacle), it is a problem that Litt is brokering this process.
Don’t worry, National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden insists (fresh off insisting it’s a good thing that the White House cybersecurity czar doesn’t have a technical background), Bob Litt — the same guy hiding known dates in Internet dragnet documents, almost certainly to avoid legal repercussions — is one of the administration’s strongest proponents of what it calls “transparency.”™
“Bob Litt is one of the administration’s strongest proponents of transparency in intelligence, consistent with our national security, and he and we are fully committed to ensuring there is no conflict of interest as the administration continues to work to see the results of the committee’s review made public,” Hayden said in a statement.
Calling Bob Litt a proponent of “transparency”™ is itself cause for concern.
Within weeks of Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as Attorney General in November 2007, Assistant Attorney General Ken Wainstein started pitching him to weaken protections then in place for US person metadata collected overseas; Mukasey did so, under an authority that would come to be known as SPCMA, on January 3, 2008.
In 2007, Wainstein explained the need to start including US person data in its metadata analysis, in part, because CIA wanted to get to the data — and had been trying to get to it since 2004.
(3) The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Interest in Conducting Similar Communications Metadata Analysis. On July 20, 2004 [days after CIA had helped NSA get the PRTT dragnet approved], the General Counsel of CIA wrote to the General Counsel ofNSA and to the Counsel for Intelligence Policy asking that CIA receive from NSA United States communications metadata that NSA does not currently provide to CIA. The letter from CIA is attached at Tab C. Although the proposed Supplemental Procedures do not directly address the CIA’s request, they do resolve a significant legal obstacle to the dissemination of this metadata from NSA to CIA. (S//SII/NF)
Wainstein also noted other DOD entities might access the information.
That’s important background to the Intercept’s latest on ICREACH, data sharing middleware that permits other intelligence agencies to access NSA’s metadata directly — and probably goes some way to answer Jennifer Granick’s questions about the story.
As the documents released by the Intercept make clear, ICREACH arose out of an effort to solve a data sharing effort (though I suspect it is partly an effort to return to access available under Bush’s illegal program, in addition to expanding it). A CIA platform, PROTON, had been the common platform for information sharing in the IC. NSA was already providing 30% of the data, but could not provide some of the types of data it had (such as email metadata) and could not adequately protect some of it. Nevertheless, CIA was making repeated requests for more data. So starting in 2005, NSA proposed ICREACH, a middleware platform that would provide access to both other IC Agencies as well as 2nd parties (Five Eyes members). By June 2007, NSA was piloting the program.
Right in that same time period, NSA’s Acting General Counsel Vito Potenza, Acting OLC head Steven Bradbury, and Wainstein started changing the rules on contact chaining including US person metadata. They did so through some word games that gave the data a legal virgin birth as stored data that was therefore exempt from DOD’s existing rules defining the interception or selection of a communication.
For purposes of Procedure 5 of DoD Regulation 5240.1-R and the Classified Annex thereto, contact chaining and other metadata analysis don’t qualify as the “interception” or “selection” of communications, nor do they qualify as “us[ing] a selection term,” including using a selection term “intended to intercept a communication on the basis of … [some] aspect of the content of the communication.”
See this post for more on this amazing legal virgin birth.
Significantly, they would define metadata the same way ICREACH did (page 4), deeming certain login information to be metadata rather than content.
“Metadata” also means (1) information about the Internet-protocol (IP) address of the computer from which an e-mail or other electronic communication was sent and, depending on the circumstances, the IP address of routers and servers on the Internet that have handled the communication during transmission; (2) the exchange of an IP address and e-mail address that occurs when a user logs into a web-based e-mail service; and (3) for certain logins to web-based e-mail accounts, inbox metadata that is transmitted to the user upon accessing the account.
It would take several years to roll out SPCMA (remember, that’s the authority to chain on US person data, as distinct from the sharing platform); a pilot started in NSA’s biggest analytical unit in 2009. When it did, NSA made it clear that personnel could access this data to conduct analysis, but that existing dissemination rules remained the same (which is consistent with the 2006-2008 proposed activity).
Additionally, the analyst must remain cognizant of minimization procedures associated with retention and dissemination of US person information. SPCMA covers analytic procedures and does not affect existing procedures for collection, retention or dissemination of US person information. [emphasis original]
Accessing data in a database to do analysis, NSA appears to have argued, was different than disseminating it (which is a really convenient stance when you’re giving access to other agencies and trying to hide the use of such analysis).
Of course, the pitch to Mukasey only nodded to direct access to this data by CIA (and through them and PROTON, the rest of the IC) and other parts of DOD. In what we’ve seen in yesterday’s documents from the Intercept and earlier documents on SPCMA, NSA wasn’t highlighting that CIA would also get direct access to this data under the new SPCMA authority, and therefore the data would be disseminated via analysis outside the NSA. (Note, I don’t think SPCMA data is the only place NSA uses this gimmick, and as I suggested I think it dates back at least to the illegal dragnet.)
In response to yesterday’s Intercept story, Jennifer Granick suggested that by defining this metadata as something other than communication, it allows the NSA to bypass its minimization procedures.
The same is true of the USSID18 procedures. If the IC excludes unshared stored data and other user information from the definition of communications, no minimization rules at all apply to protect American privacy with regard to metadata NSA collects, either under 12333 or section 702.
NSA may nevertheless call this “minimized”, in that the minimization rules, which require nothing to be done, have been applied to the data in question. But the data would not be “minimized” in that it would not be redacted, withheld, or deleted.
Given what we’ve seen in SPCMA — the authority permitting the analysis of expansively defined metadata to include US person data — she’s partly right — that the NSA has defined this metadata as something other than communication “selection” — but partly missing one of NSA’s gimmicks — that NSA distinguishes “analysis” from “dissemination.”
And if a bunch of agencies can access this data directly, then it sort of makes the word “dissemination” meaningless. Continue reading
The Intercept has an article on ICREACH, the middleware NSA implemented between 2005 and 2007 to permit greater sharing of metadata with its IC partners. The article makes this claim.
ICREACH does not appear to have a direct relationship to the large NSA database, previously reported by The Guardian, that stores information on millions of ordinary Americans’ phone calls under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Unlike the 215 database, which is accessible to a small number of NSA employees and can be searched only in terrorism-related investigations, ICREACH grants access to a vast pool of data that can be mined by analysts from across the intelligence community for “foreign intelligence”—a vague term that is far broader than counterterrorism.
I’m fairly certain that is inaccurate.
As I reported on February 6 (at a time when I technically had been hired by the Intercept but not to “report” for them), the circa January 4, 2008 phone dragnet primary order for the first time revealed that the 215 data had been combined with other data “for the purposes of analytical efficiency.”
The Court understands that for the purposes of analytical efficiency a copy of meta data obtained pursuant to the Court’s Orders in this matter will be stored in the same database with data obtained pursuant to other NSA authorities and data provided to NSA from other sources. Access to such records shall be strictly limited in accordance with the procedures set forth in paragraphs A – G.
This happened just after ICREACH got generally rolled out in late 2007.
Given the violations “discovered” in 2009, given that NSA used federated queries with Section 215 and PRTT Internet dragnet data at least as late as 2012, I’m fairly certain that the 215 (and PRTT) repositories were made accessible to a more general interface via ICREACH (which one of the documents describes as middleware) at that point. As I’ve been explaining patiently for over 6 months, the Section 215 phone dragnet we’ve been arguing about is just one small part of the more general dragnet.
That doesn’t mean FBI and DEA and CIA had access to the raw Section 215 metadata (though it ought to raise questions, especially with regards to the Internet dragnet data, for reasons I’ll return to). As far as we know, those agencies only got direct access to FISC-authorized phone and Internet dragnet query results, not raw data.
The documents released by the Intercept make it clear other Agencies’ analysts would need PKI to log into ICREACH. And that’s how — at least after the 2009 phone violations — NSA restricted phone dragnet access to limited numbers of analysts (even while John Bates made the PRTT Internet dragnet data accessible to just about all NSA analysts in 2010). In other words, what the interface did (again, after the 2009 violations anyway) was to ensure that only those with PKI permitting access to the FISC-authorized data could get in and — this was another addition added in 2009 — could only conduct queries using identifiers approved under the more narrow permissions tied to the FISC data. But those NSA analysts who qualified definitely had access to both FISC-authorized and EO 12333 authorized data from the same one-step shop, and for at least a year the FISC-authorized dragnets got subjected to the automatic processes implemented for EO 12333. That was the problem (or one major source of the problem): FISC-authorized phone and Internet data was being exposed to the processes permitted with EO 12333 data but not permitted with FISC data.
If I’m correct, the inclusion of FISC-approved data in ICREACH led to (or exacerbated) FISC-approved data being treated as EO 12333 data for at least a year. That is, it led to the violations that included (among other things) 3,000 US persons being watchlisted without First Amendment review.
I will have more about what the Intercept documents show later (as well as some thoughts on what the structure of ICREACH might suggest about the NSA’s technical problems with the phone dragnet). They answer a number of questions about the metadata dragnet I’ve been posing for months.
Update: Adding that the point of this sharing is two-way. Not only does NSA share huge amounts of metadata with FBI and CIA, but NSA can contact chain its own metadata with non-metadata from the other agencies (documents mention things like passenger data and clandestine collection). That is, while I don’t think FBI and CIA had access to raw BR FISA data (at least not after 2009), I do think NSA was chaining on more than BR FISA.