Terrorism

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Hackers Did Not Flood LA’s Critical Infrastructure

Yesterday, a water main broke at UCLA, causing flooding and the tremendous waste of drought-era CA’s scarcest resource, water.

The rupture of the 90-year-old main sent a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air and deluged Sunset Boulevard and UCLA with 8 million to 10 million gallons of water before it was shut off more than three hours after the pipe burst, city officials said.

The water main ruptured shortly before 3:30 p.m. in the 10600 block of Sunset Boulevard, fire officials said, sending a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air. The main, which delivers 75,000 gallons a minute, was finally shut down about 7 p.m., officials said.

But by then, Sunset Boulevard and UCLA had been deluged. Sunset was closed in both directions from Marymount Place to Westwood Plaza, snarling traffic.

[snip]

Thousands of gallons of water trapped five people in their cars as they tried to drive out of the flood zone, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Water was seen inside the J.D. Morgan Center, which houses athletic staff and administration offices, the George Kneller Academic Center, UCLA’s Athletic Hall of Fame and the John Wooden Center.

Water pipes are precisely the kind of critical infrastructure the government always worries will be vulnerable to hackers or (because water is pretty low tech) terrorists.

But it’s likely neither of those had a hand in this break. Simple neglected infrastructure did.

And yet that — our crumbling infrastructure that results in the waste of millions of gallons of water during an acute drought — doesn’t get the same kind of urgent attention. It’s okay, it seems, for neglect to lead to such catastrophes on its own, just not if hackers or terrorists help such catastrophes along.

SIGAR Finds That ANSF Weapons SCIP Away from OVERLORD

I have been harping lately on the US approach to international crises being to first ask “Which group should we arm?” and how this strategy has come back countless times to bite us in the ass, as seen most spectacularly in Osama bin Laden. Further, in Afghanistan, the dual problems of failed training and insider attacks have demonstrated that Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are ineffective and now even require a separate layer of security between them and US forces.

Back when there was a stronger push for the US to arm and train “moderates” in Syria, I noted the poor record-keeping that was being put into place, where we were being assured by those doing the training that they were getting handwritten receipts for the weapons they were handing out. Who could have known that in our much larger program of handing out weapons, in Afghanistan, that records were not much better? The 2010 NDAA required that DOD establish a program for accounting for weapons handed out in Afghanistan. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released a report today (pdf) on how that accounting has gone. And the answer is not pretty:

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 required that DOD establish a program for registering and monitoring the use of weapons transferred to the ANSF. However, controls over the accountability of small arms provided to the ANSF are insufficient both before and after the weapons are transferred. Accountability over these weapons within DOD prior to their transfer to Afghan ownership is affected by incompatible inventory systems that have missing serial numbers, inaccurate shipping and receiving dates, and duplicate records, that may result in missing weapons prior to transfer to the ANSF. However, the problems are far more severe after the weapons are transferred to the ANSF. ANSF record-keeping and inventory processes are poor and, in many cases, we were unable to conduct even basic inventory testing at the ANSF facilities we visited. Although CSTC-A has established end use monitoring procedures, the lack of adherence to these procedures, along with the lack of reliable weapons inventories, limits monitoring of weapons under Afghan control and reduces the ability to identify missing and unaccounted for weapons that could be used by insurgents to harm U.S., coalition, and ANSF personnel.

This graphic from the report shows the insanity of how three completely independent and incompatible databases are used to track the weapons:

procurement

 

Seriously, who comes up with these acronyms? The database used by the military in shipping the weapons out is the Security Cooperation Information Portal, or SCIP. This name seems designed to let us know up front that these weapons are skipping town and there is no prospect for tracking them. And to make sure they can’t be tracked, once they arrive in Afghanistan, the weapons are logged in, but they go into a completely different database incompatible with SCIP. In Afghanistan they use the Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database, or OVERLORD. SIGAR tells us “SCIP is used by DOD personnel to track the shipment of weapons from the United States, while OVERLORD is used for tracking the receipt of weapons in Afghanistan. Errors and discrepancies often occur because these two systems are not linked to each other and require manual data entry.”

Perhaps if we were dealing with the relatively smaller number of weapons for an operation like our death squad training in Syria, manual entry into a database might make sense. But here is a photo from SIGAR of one of the weapons caches that they attempted to audit in Afghanistan:

14580114417_19ff8f8230_z

But perhaps even worse is that SIGAR has found Afghan forces already have far more light weapons than they need. From the databases they determined that there are 112,909 weapons in excess of stated needs for the Afghans (and 83,184 of them are AK-47′s that many Afghans learn to handle practically from birth) already in country.

As if that is not enough, more weapons will keep flowing even though ANSF force size is projected to shrink:

The problems posed by the lack of a fully functional weapons registration and monitoring program may increase as plans to reduce the total number of ANSF personnel proceed. According to our analysis, the ANSF already has over 112,000 weapons that exceed its current requirements. The scheduled reduction in ANSF personnel to 228,500 by 2017 is likely to result in an even greater number of excess weapons. Yet, DOD continues to provide ANSF with weapons based on the ANSF force strength of 352,000 and has no plans to stop providing weapons to the ANSF. Given the Afghan government’s limited ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons, there is a real potential for these weapons to fall into the hands of insurgents, which will pose additional risks to U.S. personnel, the ANSF, and Afghan civilians.

What could possibly go wrong?

Fact-Checking 9/11 Anniversary Report on Info and Dragnets with 9/11 Report

In Salon, I point out something funny about the report released on Tuesday to mark the 10 year anniversary of the release of the 9/11 Commission report. The report says we must fight the “creeping tide of complacency.” But then it says the government has done almost everything the 9/11 Commission said it should do.

There is a “creeping tide of complacency,” the members of the 9/11 Commission warned in a report released on Tuesday, the 10-year anniversary of the release of their original report. That complacency extends not just to terrorism. “On issue after issue — the resurgence and transformation of al Qaeda, Syria, the cyber threat — public awareness lags behind official Washington’s.” To combat that “creeping tide of complacency,” the report argues, the government must explain “the evil that [is] stalking us.”

Meanwhile, the commissioners appear unconcerned about complacency with climate change or economic decline.

All that fear-mongering is odd, given the report’s general assessment of counterterrorism efforts made in the last decade. “The government’s record in counterterrorism is good,” the report judged, and “our capabilities are much improved.”

If the government has done a good job of implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations but the terror threat is an order of magnitude worse now, as the report claims, then those recommendations were not sufficient to addressing the problem. Or perhaps the 13 top security officials whom the Commission interviewed did a slew of other things — like destabilizing Syria and Libya — that have undermined the apparatus of counterterrorism recommended by the original 9/11 Commission?

Which is a polite way of saying the 10-year report is unsatisfying on many fronts, opting for fear-mongering than another measured assessment about what we need to do to protect against terrorism.

Perhaps that’s because, rather than conduct the public hearings with middle-level experts, as it boasted it had done in the original report, it instead privately interviewed just the people who’ve been in charge for the last 10 years, all of whom have a stake in fear and budgets and several of whom now have a stake in profiting off fear-mongering?

Suffice it to say I’m unimpressed with the report.

Which brings me to this really odd detail about it.

The report takes a squishy approach to Edward Snowden’s leaks. It condemns his and Chelsea Manning’s leaks and suggests they may hinder information sharing. It also suggests Snowden’s leaks may be impeding recruiting for cybersecurity positions.

But it also acknowledges that Snowden’s leaks have been important to raising concerns about civil liberties — resulting in President Obama’s decision to impose limits on the Section 215 phone dragnet.

Since 2004, when we issued the report, the public has become markedly more engaged in the debate over the balance between civil liberties and national security. In the mid-2000s, news reports about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs caused only a slight public stir. That changed with last year’s leaks by Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor who stole 1.7 million pages of classified material. Documents taken by Snowden and given to the media revealed NSA data collection far more widespread than had been popularly understood. Some reports exaggerated the scale of the programs. While the government explained that the NSA’s programs were overseen by Congress and the courts, the scale of the data collection has alarmed the public.

[snip]

[I]n March, the President announced plans to replace the NSA telephone metadata program with a more limited program of specific court-approved searches of call records held by private carriers. This remains a matter of contention with some intelligence professionals, who expressed to us a fear that these restrictions might hinder U.S. counterterrorism efforts in urgent situations where speedy investigation is critical.

Having just raised the phone dragnet changes, the report goes on to argue “these programs” — which in context would include the phone dragnet — should be preserved.

We believe these programs are worth preserving, albeit with additional oversight. Every current or former senior official with whom we spoke told us that the terrorist and cyber threats to the United States are more dangerous today than they were a few years ago. And senior officials explained to us, in clear terms, what authorities they would need to address those threats. Their case is persuasive, and we encountered general agreement about what needs to be done.

Senior leaders must now make this case to the public. The President must lead the government in an ongoing effort to explain to the American people—in specific terms, not generalities—why these programs are critical to the nation’s security. If the American people hear what we have heard in recent months, about the urgent threat and the ways in which data collection is used to counter it, we believe that they will be supportive. If these programs are as important as we believe they are, it is worth making the effort to build a more solid foundation in public opinion to ensure their preservation.

This discussion directly introduces a bizarre rewriting of the original 9/11 Report.

Given how often the government has falsely claimed that we need the phone dragnet because it closes a gap that let Khalid al-Midhar escape you’d think the 9/11 Commission might use this moment to reiterate the record, which shows that the government had the information it needed to discover the hijacker was in the US.

Nope.

It does, however, raise a very closely related issue: the FBI’s failure to discover Nawaf al Hazmi’s identity. Continue reading

Kabul Suicide Attack Kills Foreign Guards in Buffer Between Afghans and Americans

On the surface, today’s suicide attack in Kabul looks like many others, but some details disclosed in the New York Times story on the attack illustrate the lengths to which the US has been forced to go to protect against green on blue attacks in which Afghans kill Americans. The attack took place at Camp Gibson. Those killed were described by the Times as guarding buildings occupied by trainers from Dyncorp at a facility dedicated to counternarcotics operations. Three guards who were killed were from Nepal and one was from Peru, according to the Times.  The Washington Post says two were Nepalese, one was Filipino and one was of unknown nationality. The Times explains why there are both Afghan and foreign guards:

Security guards from countries like Nepal and Peru are common at foreign military and diplomatic compounds in Afghanistan. The guards, many of whom are Nepalese veterans of the British Army’s Gurkha regiments, usually provide a layer of security behind the Afghan police and security guards, who man the first line of checkpoints.

The setup is used because of deep concerns about the efficacy and loyalty of the police, a force that is riddled with corruption and drug use. It also provides a final layer of defense should Afghan guards turn on the foreigners they are guarding.

So the outside layer of security consists of Afghan personnel, but the US must use a ring of foreign security personnel to protect against the Afghans turning their weapons on the US personnel they are “guarding”. And it appears that the Afghan who carried out this attack had some help among his fellows in that outside ring of security. The attacker was Afghan, but the uniform he wore matched those of the foreign guards rather than Afghans:

An official from the NATO-led military coalition said there were suspicions that the attacker had inside help. An Afghan in a uniform worn by foreign guards would “strike me as more suspicious, not less, right?” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing his Afghan counterparts.

The Times article points out that previous attacks aimed at US personnel have killed only foreign guards, so this layered security situation likely has been described before, but I didn’t have a full appreciation of how and why it is set up in this way until today.

An interesting detail offered by ToloNews is that the attacker was not new to the facility:

On condition of anonymity a security official said that the suicide bomber was an Afghan security guard working alongside foreign contractors.

“The suicide bomber was an Afghan security guard working alongside foreigners at the anti-narcotics office for many years,” said the security official.

It would be interesting to know whether the attacker had planned all along to carry out such an attack or if he only recently decided to switch sides.

Meanwhile, the “auditing” of ballots from the runoff is proceeding much more slowly than the target rate, so look for more delays before a “final” vote count is released.

Sting: Two New Reports on How the FBI Creates Terrorists

In the last several days, two important new reports on the FBI’s creation of Muslim terrorists.

The first is an Al Jazeera English video, above, from Trevor Aaronson, who also wrote The Terror Factory. He interviews both informants and the men who entrapped them, the latter of whom describe the FBI’s method. The video includes an extended look at a Toledo informant not previously profiled.

Today Human Rights Watch released a report (I’m part way done with it). That did both statistical analysis of the terrorism cases since 9/11 and close reviews of 27 cases across the country. They did interviews with a number of detainees. They examined the use of pre-trial solitary confinement.

Both reports make a key point: by putting informants in mosques, the FBI is effectively inserting potentially dangerous criminals inside faith communities rather than imprisoning them. The HRW report notes that in some cases, those informants “trolled” for potential leads.

Some of the cases we reviewed appear to have begun as virtual fishing expeditions, where the FBI had no basis to suspect a particular individual of a propensity to
commit terrorist acts. In those cases, the informant identified a specific target by
randomly initiating conversations near a mosque. Assigned to raise controversial
religious and political topics, these informants probed their targets’ opinions on
politically sensitive and nuanced subjects, sometimes making comments that
appeared designed to inflame the targets. If a target’s opinions were deemed
sufficiently troubling, officials concerned with nascent radicalization pushed the
sting operation forward.

HRW’s primary recommendation is more controls on the use of informants. In particular it describes how FBI sometimes uses an effort for spiritual advice to push a (usually young) target towards violence.

Both reports provide valuable new details on how the FBI makes terrorists. We’re getting closer to mapping how all these systems fit together.

PapaDick and BabyDick Try to Sustain the Terror Industry

PapaDick and BabyDick Cheney are at it again. They’ve got a piece in the Weekly Standard trying to renew the magic power of terrorterrorterror.

The intelligence claims they make are so batshit crazy they’re even being debunked in the WSJ (by a 9/11 Commission staffer).

But as with the other PapaDick/BabyDick interventions, I’m interested in certain of their detailed plans, which they hide after all their batshit intelligence lies.

The goal here, first of all, is to “get back on offense in the war on terror.”

As we work to defeat ISIS in Iraq and prevent the growth of a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, we must also move globally to get back on offense in the war on terror. This means, first, recognizing and admitting the size and scope of the threat we face. Al Qaeda is not “diminished,” nor is “the tide of war receding.” We remain at war, and law enforcement mechanisms will not keep us safe.

Part of that requires spending more than we already do on defense — which hints at one of the clients they’re working for here.

Second, we need to reverse the dramatic decline in defense spending we’ve seen in the last six years. A nation at war cannot hope to prevail if only 4 of its 42 Army brigades are combat ready. We need to make restoration of our military and a reversal of the disastrous defense budget cuts one of our top priorities.

We must occupy Afghanistan even if they don’t want us.

Third, we need to halt the drawdown of our troops in Afghanistan. The tragedy, terror, and chaos in Iraq will be repeated in Afghanistan if we abandon the fight there. Pulling out all U.S. troops without regard to conditions on the ground or the recommendations of our commanders will ensure a victory for America’s enemies.

As with PapaDick and BabyDick’s earlier recent eruptions, they’re serving our “friends and allies in the Middle East,” not necessary the American people.

Fourth, we need to reassure our friends and allies in the Middle East that America will not abandon them. We need to demonstrate through increased intelligence cooperation, military assistance, training, joint exercises, and economic support that we know they are on the front lines of the war on terror.

This apparently includes the military coup government in Egypt, and serving them requires even more arms.

We should immediately provide the Apache helicopters and other military support the government of Egypt needs to fight the al Qaeda insurgency in the Sinai.

And we must ignore all precedent on nukes just for Iran, because it threatens nuclear armed Israel.

Fifth, we should be clear that we recognize a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat to Israel and to other nations in the region, as well. We should refuse to accept any “deal” with the Iranians that allows them to continue to spin centrifuges and enrich uranium. In the cauldron of the Middle East today, accepting a false deal—as the Obama administration seems inclined to do—will only ensure Iran attains a nuclear weapon and spark a nuclear arms race across the region. The Iranians should know without a doubt that we will not allow that to happen, and that we will take military action if necessary to stop it.

We must renew our imperial push, even while screaming terrorterrorterror, because our puppet masters in the Middle East require it.

That, and more Apache helicopters.

Pakistan Operation: 800,000 Displaced, Army Claims Zero Civilian Deaths, Barber Aided Taliban Escapees

Screengrab from Express Tribune video of Miramshah on July 10, 2014

Screengrab from Express Tribune video of Miramshah on July 10, 2014

Today, Pakistan’s military escorted selected members of the media through Miramshah, which had been ground zero for militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan and the focus of the heaviest fighting in the Zarb-e-Azb offensive undertaken by the military last month. From the video provided in the Express Tribune story on Miramshah, it is clear that the town is essentially deserted and most buildings appear to be heavily damaged.

The offensive is taking a huge toll on Pakistan. Depending on the source cited, there are either 787,000 or 833,274 people who have been displaced from North Waziristan. Those are truly remarkable numbers, as the linked Washington Post article notes that previous estimates of the population of North Waziristan were only 600,000, so it is clear that virtually all citizens have left the region.

Because the media have been banned from the region before today, Pakistan’s military has controlled the flow of information. The latest claims I can find put the death toll at 400 militants and 20 soldiers. No information on civilian deaths has been released and the military claimed that the civilian death toll was zero even after over 200 militants were said to have been killed.

One of the most remarkable stories to emerge along with those who have fled Miramshah is that of Azam Khan, who was a barber in Miramshah:

Azam Khan was one of the top barbers in Miranshah — the main town of North Waziristan — until he, like nearly half a million others, fled the long-awaited offensive unleashed by the Pakistan military on the tribal area in June.

He told AFP his business boomed in the month leading up to the army assault as the militants sought to shed their distinctive long-haired, bearded look.

“I have trimmed the hair and beards of more than 700 local and Uzbek militants ahead of the security forces’ operation,” he said while cutting hair in a shop in Bannu, the town where most civilians fled.

For years he cut Taliban commanders’ hair to match the flowing locks of former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud, killed by a US drone last November, but in May a change in style was called for.

“The same leaders came asking for trimming their beards and hair very short, saying that they were going to the Gulf and wanted to avoid problems at Pakistani airports,” Khan said.

It would seem that there is now a good chance that the real targets of this offensive left before it even began. All citizens of the region have been displaced and most buildings have been rendered useless, only to kill the low level forces who were left behind because they didn’t have the resources to flee along with their leaders.

Eric Holder’s Step Four: Fictional Efforrts Countering Violent Extremism

Eric Holder has attracted a bit of attention for lecturing the Europeans that they should engage in entrapment stings like our FBI, specifically to prevent Europeans from going to fight in Syria.

The second part of our comprehensive strategy looks to ensure that we have in place law enforcement investigative tools and techniques that are both effective and protective of individual rights and the rule of law.  In this regard, we have found undercover operations – which the Federal Bureau of Investigation pioneered in fighting transnational organized crime – to be essential in fighting terrorism as well.  In the United States, the FBI has already conducted undercover operations that have identified individuals with intentions to travel to Syria.  These operations are conducted with extraordinary care and precision, ensuring that law enforcement officials are accountable for the steps they take – and that suspects are neither entrapped nor denied legal protections.  Here, too, the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Rabat Memorandum calls for such techniques to be applied in countries around the world:  one of the “good practices” it advocates is that countries “Provide a Legal Framework and Practical Measures for Undercover Investigations of Terrorist Suspects or Organizations

Even more noteworthy, in my opinion, is his claim that the fourth part of our strategy to prevent Syria from becoming a training ground for terrorists is preventing radicalization in the first place.

The fourth and final element of our strategy is founded on the notion that strong laws, effective investigative tools, and robust information-sharing must be matched with public engagement – and extensive community outreach.  We must seek to stop individuals from becoming radicalized in the first place by putting in place strong programs to counter violent extremism in its earliest stages.  In my time here in Norway, I have had the chance to learn about – and have been deeply impressed by – Norway’s Action Plan Against Radicalization and Violent Extremism.

Indeed, I have found it critical to engage in international exchanges with my counterparts regarding how we can do better on combating radicalization, and to learn from each other.   I will take home with me important lessons from Norway’s experience.  These lessons will help us implement our own National Strategy and Strategic Implementation Plan, which is led by the Justice Department, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Counterterrorism Center.

Our approach depends on building mutual trust and respect with members of communities across the country – so that we can understand their needs and concerns and to foster open dialogue with community leaders and citizens.  This enables us to work with them to mitigate tensions and identify emerging threats.

At the heart of these engagement efforts in the United States are our United States Attorneys, the chief federal prosecutors in each of the jurisdictions they serve.  Since 2012, our U.S. Attorneys have held or attended more than 1,700 engagement-related events.  And the resulting relationships have not only served to build trust.  They have also produced valuable cooperation, in some cases spurring community members to alert law enforcement about individuals who show an inclination to turn to violence.

Remember, when Mohamed Osman Mohamud’s father called the FBI for help because his son was embracing extremism, the FBI used that as the predicate to entrap him.

I mean, it’d be nice if, when the national security establishment found a young man talking trash in jihadist forums, they’d find him a healthier outlet. But right now, they instead throw undercover officers at the guys, bearing inert bombs.

Let’s hope the Europeans do teach us how to change that.

 

FBI Disclaims Material Support for Terrorism Prosecutions — for White People

Tara McElvey wrote a piece for the Beeb coming close to espousing a very (dangerous, IMO) British view: that the FBI should criminalize white supremacists’ speech the way they have Islamic terrorists’.

[Frazier Glenn Miller's] writings are a reminder of the virulence in white supremacist views. Earlier this month a married couple, Jerad and Amanda Miller (no relation to Frazier Glenn), shot and killed three people in Nevada.

The couple was steeped in white-supremacist ideology and spoke openly about their views. Police said they placed a swastika on the body of one of the victims.

Some wonder whether authorities were too easy on Frazier Glenn Miller before the killings – and are too soft on the white supremacists in the US.

The piece is most interesting for the quotes from FBI’s spokesperson, which falsely suggests it doesn’t target groups as groups.

Paul Bresson, a spokesman for the FBI, said: “We don’t target groups for who they are. If you want to be a white supremacist – legally there’s nothing wrong with that.

“What we’re concerned about is breaking the law.”

[snip]

As Bresson said: “There’s nothing illegal about being weird.”

Anti-Semitism and extremist ideology seem to play a role in the violence, but Bresson and other officials say that knowing when a white supremacist – or anyone – will explode is beyond their purview.

This is, of course, bullshit. For groups named as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, the FBI does target groups for who they are, under well-worn material support laws. But even without membership in an FTO, the FBI routinely sets up stings to catch young men to precipitate their “explosion” (invariably using inert bombs).

To be fair, the FBI also set up a bunch old white men in the Waffle House plot, in part because they had an informant affirmatively trying to work off his sex crime charges by setting up fellow anti-government activists.

But the FBI’s approach to both groups deserves reconsideration. If the FBI believes it’s not in the job of precipitating personal explosions, it should stop doing so, and instead investigate actual crimes (as Bresson says they do).

In the case of Miller, McElvey misses a key detail. The FBI did not have just his speech. The had — and DOJ had already used — his open support for the MLK bomber, Kevin Harpham, as evidence of criminality. Miller already supported the use of violence against African Americans.

The difference,  of course, is that FBI also called that a “hate crime,” not terrorism. And as a result, treated Miller’s support for terrorism as a First Amendment issue rather than a crime issue.

In Advance of PCLOB, WaPo Busts ODNI’s Limited Hang Out on Certifications

Earlier today, I got to tell the journalists who have long ignored that the FBI does back door searches — or even suggested I was guessing that they do, when it appeared in multiple public documents — that I had been telling them so for a long time.

But today I also have to admit I got suckered by a year-long Director of National Intelligence effort at a limited hangout. That effort was, I’m convinced, designed to hide that the Section 702 program is far broader than government witnesses wanted to publicly admit it was. Nevertheless, I was wrong about a supposition I had believed until about 2 months ago.

Since the first days after the Snowden leaks, the government has suggested it had 3 certificates under Section 702, covering counterterrorism, counterproliferation, and cybersecurity.  But — as the WaPo reports (as with the ODNI back door search numbers, in convenient timing that conveniently preempts the PCLOB report) — that’ s not the case. The NSA has a certificate that covers every foreign government except the other 4 members of the 5 Eyes (UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia), as well as various foreign organizations like OPEC, the European Central Bank, and various Bolivarist groups.

For an entire year, the government has been suggesting that is not the case. I even believed them, the one thing I know of where I got utterly suckered. I was wrong.

Frankly, this certification should not be a surprise. It is solidly within the letter of the law, which permits collection on any agent of a foreign power. From the very first PRISM revelations, which showed collection on Venezuela, it was clear NSA collected broadly, including on Bolivarist governments and energy organizations.

But consistently over the last year, the NSA has suggested it only had certifications for CT, CP, and cyber.

On June 8 of last year, for example, ODNI listed 3 Section 702 successes.

  • Communications collected under Section 702 have provided the Intelligence Community insight into terrorist networks and plans. For example, the Intelligence Community acquired information on a terrorist organization’s strategic planning efforts.
  • Communications collected under Section 702 have yielded intelligence regarding proliferation networks and have directly and significantly contributed to successful operations to impede the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related technologies.
  • Communications collected under Section 702 have provided significant and unique intelligence regarding potential cyber threats to the United States including specific potential computer network attacks. This insight has led to successful efforts to mitigate these threats

The October 3, 2011 John Bates opinion, released in October, made it clear there were just 3 certificates at that point.

3 certificates

 

 

(Though note the Semiannual Compliance Review released last year looked to be consistent with at least one more certificate.)

The President’s Review Group emphasized the categorical nature of certificates, and in its second discussion thereof named those same three categories.

[S]ection 702 authorized the FISC to approve annual certifications submitted by the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) that identify certain categories of foreign intelligence targets whose communications may be collected, subject to FISC-approved targeting and minimization procedures. The categories of targets specified by these certifications typically consist of, for example, international terrorists and individuals involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

[snip]

Section 702 requires that NSA’s certifications attest that a “significant purpose” of any acquisition is to obtain foreign intelligence information (i.e. directed at international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, or hostile cyber activities), that it does not intentionally target a United States person, that it does not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be in the United States, that it does not target any person outside the United States for the purpose of targeting a person inside the United States, and that it meets the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

And in March testimony before PCLOB, NSA General Counsel Raj De suggested those same three topics.

But beyond that there has to be a valid foreign intelligence reason within the ambit of one of those certifications that the FISC approves annually. Those are certifications on things like counterterrorism, encountering WMDs, for example, weapons of mass destruction.

Most recently, former DOJ official Carrie Cordero – who has been involved in this whole certification process – claimed in the CATO debate we’ve been engaged in “they are not so broad that they cover any and everything that might be foreign intelligence information.”

And yet, there’s a foreign intelligence certificate that covers any and everything that might be foreign intelligence information, a certificate that destroys the whole point of having certificates (though if there’s a cyber one, I suspect it has its own problems, in that it permits domestic collection).

Lots of people are claiming WaPo’s latest is no big deal, because of course the NSA spies on foreign government’s. They’re right, to a point. Except that the government has been strongly implying, since day one, that Section 702 was narrowly deployed, not available to use against all but our 4 closest spying allies.

PCLOB is surely about to make it clear that’s not the case. And voila! All of a sudden it becomes clear the government has been misleading when it claimed this was narrowly deployed.

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