George Ellard

If NSA Commits Database Query Violations, But Nobody Audits Them, Do They Really Happen?

Barton Gellman, at the beginning of the worthwhile video above, addresses something I addressed here: the only way the government can claim they haven’t “abused” the rules governing NSA activities is by treating all abuse done in the name of the mission as a mistake.

The President, like a lot of people who work for him, has a very narrow definition of two key words in that passage. One is “abuse” and the other is “inappropriately.” As the government depicts it — and this is language it’s using that it does not, frankly, explain.

Abuse — the only kind of abuse that exists would be if, say, an NSA employee were to stalk his ex-wife or spy on movie stars or something of that nature. If they are performing the mission that the NSA wants them to perform, and nevertheless overstep their legal authority, make unauthorized interceptions or searches or retentions or sharing of secret information, that is not abuse, that’s a mistake.

That’s how they get to pretend the 9% to 20% of violations in which a person does not follow the rules seemingly intentionally (these are distinct from human error and training violations) does not constitute an abuse.

With that in mind, I wanted to look more closely at what the audit report says about how errors are found, as shown primarily in this figure:

Screen shot 2013-08-20 at 10.21.25 AM

That looks pretty good on the face, with 64% of all violations found via automated alert, plus a few more — data flow analysis and traffic scanning — that involve technological review.

But this detail on the roamer problem (in which valid foreign targets continue to be targeted when they travel to the US) explains what that’s not all that impressive.  Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
JimWhiteGNV RT @RudyHavenstein: I saw this picture of some of the looters. #Ferguson http://t.co/j1QoXnBTZP
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bmaz @Javakev He could have kept his sorry ass out of it after years of pretending he was the salve on the American wound he was not
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emptywheel @dkmich I think we're using road funding to pay for @SchuetteOnDuty's stupid serial national lawsuits.
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emptywheel @RustBeltRebel Peaceful brown people being killed by white men with dogs. You know, peaceful.
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bmaz And, with nothing more as substance in a time of obvious turmoil, Obama has proven what a hollow shell of a Dem leader he really is+has been
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JimWhiteGNV RT @barbaraslavin1: .@lrozen has a more optimistic take: Last days of #Iran talks showed signs of promise http://t.co/M1bxOQ4mhe via @AlMon
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bmaz For a man who supposedly made his bones as a "civil rights scholar", Obama's bleating statement on Ferguson was some pissant weak sauce.
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JimWhiteGNV End this tyranny! https://t.co/qI6mZb9iOm Help us, Florida #Gators
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emptywheel @JoeSudbay I studied it, I think when I was making fun of Cowan and Obama both being BIFFOs. And yes, I'm quite proud of it.
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emptywheel @JoeSudbay Admit it. You take great pride in being able to spell Taoiseach w/o peeking. @EndaKennyTD
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emptywheel RT @RudyHavenstein: I saw this picture of some of the looters. #Ferguson http://t.co/j1QoXnBTZP
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emptywheel @johnson_carrie I just think not enough people noticed how absolutely outrageous FBI is being on these re-declassifications.
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