I joked yesterday that James Clapper did no more than cut and paste to accomplish President Obama’s order of providing a list of acceptable bulk collection. But I’d like to note something about the list of permissible uses of bulk collection.
For months, I have been noting hints that the use of Section 702 — which is one of several kinds of domestic bulk collection — is limited by the number of certifications approved by FISC, which might be limited by FISC’s assessment of whether such certifications establish a certain level of “special need.”
In 2011, it seems clear from John Bates’ opinion on the government’s Section 702 applications, there were 3 certifications.
If there are just 3 certifications, then it seems clear they cover counterterrorism, counterproliferation, and cybersecurity (which is consistent with both ODNI’s public descriptions of Section 702 and the Presidential Review Group’s limits on it), 3 of 6 of the permitted uses of bulk collection.
Furthermore, there’s some history (you’ll have to take my word for this for now, but the evidence derives in part from reports on the use of National Security Letters) of lumping in Counterintelligence and Cybersecurity, because the most useful CI application of bulk collection would target technical exploits used for spying. So if that happens with 702 collection, then 4 of the 6 permissible applications would be covered by existing known certifications.
Threats against Armed Forces would, for the most part, be overseas, suggesting the bulk collection on it would be too. (Though it appears Bush’s illegal program used the excuse of force protection to spy on Iraqi-related targets, potentially even in the US, until the hospital confrontation stopped it.)
Which leaves just transnational crime threats — against which President Obama rolled out a parallel sanctions regime to terrorism in 2011 (though there had long been a regime against drug traffickers) — as the sole bulk collection that might apply in the US that doesn’t have certifications we know about.
Given that at least drug cartels have a far more viable — and deathly — operation in the United States than al Qaeda, I can’t think of any reason why the Administration wouldn’t have applied for a certification targeting TCOs, too (one of Treasury’s designated TCO targets — Russian and East European mobs — would have some overlap with the cyber function, and one — Yakuza — just doesn’t seem like a big threat to the US at all).
And last year’s Semiannual Compliance Assessment may support the argument that there are more than 3 certificates. In its description of the review process for 702 compliance, the report lays out review dates by certifications. Here’s the NSA review schedule:
This seems to show 4 lines of certifications, one each in August and December, but two in October. Perhaps they re-review one of the certifications (counterterrorism, most likely). But if not, it would seem to suggest there’s now a 4th certification.
Here’s the FBI review schedule (which apparently requires a lot more manual review).
Given that this requires manual review, I wouldn’t be surprised if they repeated the counterterrorism certifications review (and we don’t know whether all the NSA certifications would be used by FBI). But the redactions would at least allow for the possibility that there is a 4th certification, in addition to the 3 we know about.
Perhaps Obama rolled out TCOs as a 4th certification as he rolled out his new Treasury initiative on it (which would be after the applications laid out by Bates).
Of course, we don’t know. But I think two things are safe to say. First, the use of 702 is tied to certifications by topic. And the public statement about permissible use of bulk collection, it would seem to envision the possibility of a 4th certification covering TCOs, and with it, drug cartels.
As part of his Presidential Policy Directive on Signals Intelligence, Obama said this about bulk collection:
In particular, when the United States collects nonpublicly available signals intelligence in bulk, it shall use that data only for the purposes of detecting and countering: (1) espionage and other threats and activities directed by foreign powers or their intelligence services against the United States and its interests; (2) threats to the United States and its interests from terrorism; (3) threats to the United States and its interests from the development, possession, proliferation, or use of weapons of mass destruction; (4) cybersecurity threats; (5) threats to U.S. or allied Armed Forces or other U.S or allied personnel; and (6) transnational criminal threats, including illicit finance and sanctions evasion related to the other purposes named in this section. In no event may signals intelligence collected in bulk be used for the purpose of suppressing or burdening criticism or dissent; disadvantaging persons based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion; affording a competitive advantage to U.S. companies and U.S . business sectors commercially; or achieving any purpose other than those identified in this section.
The Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor (APNSA), in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), shall coordinate, on at least an annual basis, a review of the permissible uses of signals intelligence collected in bulk through the National Security Council Principals and Deputies Committee system identified in PPD-1 or any successor document. At the end of this review, I will be presented with recommended additions to or removals from the list of the permissible uses of signals intelligence collected in bulk.
The DNI shall maintain a list of the permissible uses of signals intelligence collected in bulk. This list shall be updated as necessary and made publicly available to the maximum extent feasible, consistent with the national security.
To fulfill that bolded “shall” language, James Clapper just released this on his IContheRecord Tumblr page:
Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-28 – Signals Intelligence Activities establishes a process for determining the permissible uses of nonpublicly available signals intelligence that the United States collects in bulk. It also directs the Director of National Intelligence to “maintain a list of permissible uses of signals intelligence collected in bulk” and make the list “publicly available to the maximum extent feasible, consistent with the national security.”
Consistent with that directive, I am hereby releasing the current list of permissible uses of nonpublicly available signals intelligence that the United States collects in bulk.
Signals intelligence collected in “bulk” is defined as “the authorized collection of large quantities of signals intelligence data which, due to technical or operational considerations, is acquired without the use of discriminants (e.g., specific identifiers, selection terms, etc.).” As of Jan. 17, 2014, nonpublicly available signals intelligence collected by the United States in bulk may be used by the United States “only for the purposes of detecting and countering:
- Espionage and other threats and activities directed by foreign powers or their intelligence services against the United States and its interests;
- Threats to the United States and its interests from terrorism;
- Threats to the United States and its interests from the development, possession, proliferation, or use of weapons of mass destruction;
- Cybersecurity threats;
- Threats to U.S. or allied Armed Forces or other U.S. or allied personnel; and
- Transnational criminal threats, including illicit finance and sanctions evasion related to the other purposes named above.”
Further, as prescribed in PPD-28, “in no event may signals intelligence collected in bulk be used for the purpose of suppressing or burdening criticism or dissent; disadvantaging persons based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion; affording a competitive advantage to U.S. companies and U.S. business sectors commercially;” or achieving any purpose other than those identified above.
Effectively, Clapper fulfilled an obligation mandated by the PPD by simply cutting and pasting the list of 6 permissible uses of bulk collection in the PPD.
Given that this list is expected to be assessed annually, does that mean the PPD itself should be considered valid for no more than a year?
It seems that Mike Rogers lately is aiming to take over the Emptywheel blog. When he’s not yapping about criminalizing journalism or dissembling about Congressional briefings on the Patriot Act renewal, he’s putting out bloodthirsty endorsements of drone violence. When we last heard from him on the drone front, he was joining the mad rush to come up with the most damning indictment of Hakimullah Mehsud after the US disrupted Pakistan’s plans to start peace talks the very next day with a Taliban group headed by Mehsud. Yesterday, Rogers used a hearing of his House Intelligence Committee as a venue in which to pitch a tantrum over the US daring to adjust its drone policy, leading to fewer strikes.
Now, almost exactly three months after the Mehsud drone strike, we see the prospect for peace talks between Pakistan and the Taliban disrupted again. As I mentioned yesterday, Taliban negotiators fear that Pakistan’s government may be planning to scuttle the talks in order to launch an offensive against the Taliban in tribal areas, which might also play into a desire by Sharif’s government to be in line for counterterrorism funds which the US might not be spending in Afghanistan.
The Washington Post has Rogers’ tirade. First, there is news of a pause in drone strikes in Pakistan:
The Obama administration has sharply curtailed drone strikes in Pakistan after a request from the government there for restraint as it pursues peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, according to U.S. officials.
“That’s what they asked for, and we didn’t tell them no,” one U.S. official said. The administration indicated that it will still carry out strikes against senior al-Qaeda targets, if they become available, and move to thwart any direct, imminent threat to U.S. persons.
Concern about Pakistani political sensitivities provides one explanation for the absence of strikes since December, the longest pause in the CIA’s drone campaign since a six-week lull in 2011, after an errant U.S. air assault killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at a border post, triggering a diplomatic crisis.
Oooh, look! There’s Marcy’s favorite word again, “imminent“. But this lull in drone strikes, coupled with the explanation offered in the Post, tells us that no suitable al Qaeda targets with credible plans against the US presented themselves in Pakistan’s tribal areas for over a month. That didn’t deter Rogers; he’s upset that any potential targets aren’t blasted immediately: Continue reading
Here are some excerpts from the Global Threats report pertaining to the cyber threat.
We assess that computer network exploitation and disruption activities such as denial-of-service attacks will continue.
… many countries are creating cyber defense institutions within their national security establishments. We estimate that several of these will likely be responsible for offensive cyber operations as well.
Critical infrastructure, particularly the Industrial Control Systems (ICS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems used in water management, oil and gas pipelines, electrical power distribution, and mass transit, provides an enticing target to malicious actors. Although newer architectures provide flexibility, functionality, and resilience, large segments of legacy architecture remain vulnerable to attack, which might cause significant economic or human impact.
It’s as if the intelligence community called up NSA and CyberCommand, asked what they had been working on, and then “assessed” that those targets presented threats going forward.
And while I expect that China commits what would be judged the largest number of hacks (in part because much of the information we steal right from the communication backbone they would have to hack to get), the inclusion of SCADA in the list of vulnerabilities is particularly rich, considering we are believed to have pioneered that kind of attack with StuxNet.
Again, I’m not denying these other entities hack (the unclassified version of the report left off Israel and France, as unclassified versions tend to do). Just that we continue to exhibit no awareness that some part of this threat amounts to our genie blowing back in our face.
SEN. MIKULSKI: General Clapper, there are 36 different legal opinions.
DIR. CLAPPER: I realize that.
SEN. MIKULSKI: Thirty-six say the program’s constitutional. Judge Leon said it’s not.
Thirty-six “legal opinions” have deemed the dragnet legal and constitutional, its defenders say defensively, over and over again.
But that’s not right — not by a long shot, as ACLU’s Brett Max Kaufman pointed out in a post yesterday. In its report, PCLOB confirmed what I first guessed 4 months ago: the FISA Court never got around to writing an opinion considering the legality or constitutionality of the dragnet until August 29, 2013.
FISC judges, on 33 occasions before then, signed off on the dragnet without bothering to give it comprehensive legal review.
Sure, after the program had been reauthorized 11 times, Reggie Walton considered the more narrow question of whether the program violates the Stored Communications Act (I suspect, but cannot yet prove, that the government presented that question because of concerns raised by DOJ IG Glenn Fine). But until Claire Eagan’s “strange” opinion in August, no judge considered in systematic fashion whether the dragnet was legal or constitutional.
And the thing is, I think FISC judge — now Presiding Judge — Reggie Walton realized around about 2009 what they had done. I think he realized the program didn’t fit the statute.
Consider a key problem with the dragnet – another one I discussed before PCLOB (though I was not the first or only one to do so). The wrong agency is using it.
Section 215 does not authorize the NSA to acquire anything at all. Instead, it permits the FBI to obtain records for use in its own investigations. If our surveillance programs are to be governed by law, this clear congressional determination about which federal agency should obtain these records must be followed.
Section 215 expressly allows only the FBI to acquire records and other tangible things that are relevant to its foreign intelligence and counterterrorism investigations. Its text makes unmistakably clear the connection between this limitation and the overall design of the statute. Applications to the FISA court must be made by the director of the FBI or a subordinate. The records sought must be relevant to an authorized FBI investigation. Records produced in response to an order are to be “made available to,” “obtained” by, and “received by” the FBI. The Attorney General is directed to adopt minimization procedures governing the FBI’s retention and dissemination of the records it obtains pursuant to an order. Before granting a Section 215 application, the FISA court must find that the application enumerates the minimization procedures that the FBI will follow in handling the records it obtains. [my emphasis, footnotes removed]
The Executive convinced the FISA Court, over and over and over, to approve collection for NSA’s use using a law authorizing collection only by FBI.
Which is why I wanted to point out something else Walton cleaned up in 2009, along with watchlists of 3,000 Americans who had not received First Amendment Review. Judge Reggie Walton disappeared the FBI Director.
The structure of all the dragnet orders released so far (save Eagan’s opinion) follow a similar general structure:
- An (unnumbered, unlettered) preamble paragraph describing that the FBI Director made a request
- 3-4 paragraphs measuring the request against the statute, followed by some “wherefore” language
- A number of paragraphs describing the order, consisting of the description of the phone records required, followed by 2 minimization paragraphs, the first pertaining to FBI and,
- The second paragraph introducing minimization procedures for NSA, followed by a larger number of lettered paragraphs describing the treatment of the records and queries (this section got quite long during the 2009 period when Walton was trying to clean up the dragnet and remains longer to this day because of the DOJ oversight Walton required)
An application having been made by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for an order pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (the Act), Title 50, United States Code (U.S.C.), § 1861, as amended, requiring the production to the National Security Agency (NSA) of the tangible things described below, and full consideration having been given to the matters set forth therein, the Court finds that:
1. The Director of the FBI is authorized to make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible thing for an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism, provided that such an investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely on the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. [50 U.S.C. § 1861 (c)(1)]
2. The tangible things to be produced are all call-detail records or “telephone metadata” created by [the telecoms]. Telephone metadata includes …
3. There are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to authorized investigations (other than threat assessments) being conducted by the FBI under guidelines approved by the Attorney General under Executive Order 12,333 to protect against international terrorism, … [my emphasis]
Here’s how the next order and all (released) following orders start [save the bracketed language, which is unique to this order]:
An verified application having been made by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for an order pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), as amended, 50 U.S.C. § 1861, requiring the production to the National Security Agency (NSA) of the tangible things described below, and full consideration having been given to the matters set forth therein, [as well as the government's filings in Docket Number BR 08-13 (the prior renewal of the above-captioned matter),] the Court finds that:
1. There are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to authorized investigations (other than threat assessments) being conducted by the FBI under guidelines approved by the Attorney General under Executive Order 12333 to protect against international terrorism, …
That is, Walton took out the paragraph — which he indicated in his opinion 3 months earlier derived from the statutory language at 50 U.S.C. § 1861 (c)(1) — pertaining to the FBI Director. The paragraph always fudged the issue anyway, as it doesn’t discuss the FBI Director’s authority to obtain this for the NSA. Nevertheless, Walton seems to have found that discussion unnecessary or unhelpful.
Walton’s March 5, 2009 order and all others since have just 3 statutory paragraphs, which basically say:
Here’s what 50 USC 1861 (c)(1), in its entirety, says:
(1) Upon an application made pursuant to this section, if the judge finds that the application meets the requirements of subsections (a) and (b), the judge shall enter an ex parte order as requested, or as modified, approving the release of tangible things. Such order shall direct that minimization procedures adopted pursuant to subsection (g) be followed.
And here are two key parts of subsections (a) and (b) — in addition to “relevant” language that has always been included in the dragnet orders.
(a) Application for order; conduct of investigation generally
(1) Subject to paragraph (3), the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or a designee of the Director (whose rank shall be no lower than Assistant Special Agent in Charge) may make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things
(2) shall include—
(B) an enumeration of the minimization procedures adopted by the Attorney General under subsection (g) that are applicable to the retention and dissemination by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of any tangible things to be made available to the Federal Bureau of Investigation based on the order requested in such application.
FBI … FBI … FBI.
The language incorporated in 50 USC 1861 (c)(1) that has always been cited as the standard judges must follow emphasizes the FBI repeatedly (PCLOB laid out that fact at length in their analysis of the program). And even Reggie Walton once admitted that fact.
And then, following his lead, FISC stopped mentioning that in its statutory analysis altogether.
Eagan didn’t even consider that language in her “strange” opinion, not even when citing the passages (here, pertaining to minimization) of Section 215 that directly mention the FBI.
Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act created a statutory framework, the various parts of which are designed to ensure not only that the government has access to the information it needs for authorized investigations, but also that there are protections and prohibitions in place to safeguard U.S. person information. It requires the government to demonstrate, among other things, that there is “an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information … to [in this case] protect against international terrorism,” 50 U.S.C. § 1861(a)(1); that investigations of U.S. persons are “not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution,” id.; that the investigation is “conducted under guidelines approved by the Attorney General under Executive Order 12333,” id. § 1861(a)(2); that there is “a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant” to the investigation, id. § 1861(b)(2)(A);14 that there are adequate minimization procedures “applicable to the retention and dissemination” of the information requested, id. § 1861(b)(2)(B); and, that only the production of such things that could be “obtained with a subpoena duces tecum” or “any other order issued by a court of the United States directing the production of records” may be ordered, id. § 1861(c)(2)(D), see infra Part III.a. (discussing Section 2703(d) of the Stored Communications Act). If the Court determines that the government has met the requirements of Section 215, it shall enter an ex parte order compelling production.
This Court must verify that each statutory provision is satisfied before issuing the requested Orders. For example, even if the Court finds that the records requested are relevant to an investigation, it may not authorize the production if the minimization procedures are insufficient. Under Section 215, minimization procedures are “specific procedures that are reasonably designed in light of the purpose and technique of an order for the production of tangible things, to minimize the retention, and prohibit the dissemination, of nonpublicly available information concerning unconsenting United States persons consistent with the need of the United States to obtain, produce, and disseminate foreign intelligence information.” Id. § 1861(g)(2)(A)
Reggie Walton disappeared the FBI Director as a statutory requirement (he retained that preamble paragraph, the nod to authorized FBI investigations, and the perfunctory paragraph on minimization of data provided from NSA to FBI) on March 5, 2009, and he has never been heard from in discussions of the FISC again.
Now I can imagine someone like Steven Bradbury making an argument that so long as the FBI Director actually signed the application, and so long as the FBI had minimization procedures for the as few as 16 tips they receive from the program in a given year, it was all good to use an FBI statute to let the NSA collect a dragnet potentially incorporating all the phone records of all Americans. I can imagine Bradbury pointing to the passive construction of that “things to be made available” language and suggest so long as there were minimization procedures about FBI receipt somewhere, the fact that the order underlying that passive voice was directed at the telecoms didn’t matter. That would be a patently dishonest argument, but not one I’d put beyond a hack like Bradbury.
The thing is, no one has made it. Not Malcolm Howard in the first order authorizing the dragnet, not DOJ in its request for that order (indeed, as PCLOB pointed out, the application relied heavily on Keith Alexander’s declaration about how the data would be used). The closest anyone has come is the white paper written last year that emphasizes the relevance to FBI investigations.
But no one I know of has affirmatively argued that it’s cool to use an FBI statute for the NSA. In the face of all the evidence that the dragnet has not helped the FBI thwart a single plot — maybe hasn’t even helped the FBI catch one Somali-American donating less than $10,000 to al-Shabaab, as they’ve been crowing for months — FBI Director Jim Comey has stated to Congress that the dragnet is useful to the FBI primarily for agility (though the record doesn’t back Comey’s claim).
Which leaves us with the only conclusion that makes sense given the Executive’s failure to prove it is useful at all: it’s not the FBI that uses it, it’s NSA. They don’t want to tell us how the NSA uses it, in part, because we’ll realize all their reassurances about protections for Americans fall flat for the millions of Americans who are 3 degrees away from a potential suspect.
But they also don’t want to admit that it’s the NSA that uses it, because then it’ll become far more clear how patently illegal this program has been from the start.
Better to just disappear the FBI Director and hope no one starts investigating the disappearance.
I’m watching the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on global threats, and will have more to say about the Snowden fear-mongering later.
But I wanted to point to Jello Jay Rockefeller’s remarkable campaign in favor of the status quo for the dragnet.
He argued against the telecoms taking the data, because their interest is not in protecting privacy (yet they’re playing with our data all the time).
He then said the phone dragnet — a database of all the phone-based relationships in the US in the last 5 years — was a “core governmental function.”
There you have it. Having an associational database of the entire US is a core governmental function, the oversight people think.
I want to thank James Clapper and Eric Holder who, in their statement on yesterday’s “disclosure” agreement emphasized the word “target.”
As indicated in the Justice Department’s filing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the administration is acting to allow more detailed disclosures about the number of national security orders and requests issued to communications providers, the number of customer accounts targeted under those orders and requests, and the underlying legal authorities.
I should have given this more emphasis yesterday. All “transparency” numbers provided by the tech companies will describe the number of accounts or “selectors” “targeted,” with the exception of National Security Letter reporting using Option One. So if thousands of other Google accounts are getting sucked into requests for content or metadata, we’ll never know that.
I’m increasingly convinced that for seven months, we’ve been distracted by a shiny object, the phone dragnet, the database recording all or almost all of the phone-based relationships in the US over the last five years. We were never wrong to discuss the dangers of the dragnet. It is the equivalent of a nuclear bomb, just waiting to go off. But I’m quite certain the NatSec establishment decided in the days after Edward Snowden’s leaks to intensify focus on the actual construction of the dragnet — the collection of phone records and the limits on access to the initial database (what they call the collection store) of them — to distract us away from the true family jewels.
A shiny object.
All that time, I increasingly believe, we should have been talking about the corporate store, the database where queries from the collection store are kept for an undisclosed (and possibly indefinite) period of time. Once records get put in that database, I’ve noted repeatedly, they are subject to “the full range of [NSA's] analytic tradecraft.”
We don’t know precisely when that tradecraft gets applied or to how many of the phone identifiers collected in any given query. But we know that tradecraft includes matching individuals’ various communication identifiers (which can include phone number, handset identifier, email address, IP address, cookies from various websites) — a process the NSA suggests may not be all that accurate, but whatever! Once NSA links all those identities, NSA can pull together both network maps and additional lifestyle information.
The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said.
The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the documents. They do not indicate any restrictions on the use of such “enrichment” data, and several former senior Obama administration officials said the agency drew on it for both Americans and foreigners.
That analysis might even include tracking a person’s online sex habits, if the government deems you a “radicalizer” for opposing unchecked US power, even if you’re a US person.
Such profiles are not the only thing included in NSA’s “full range of analytic tradecraft.”
We also know — because James Clapper told us this very early on in this process – the metadata helps the NSA pick and locate which content to read. The head of NSA’s Signals Intelligence Division, Theresa Shea, said this more plainly in court filings last year.
Section 215 bulk telephony metadata complements other counterterrorist-related collection sources by serving as a significant enabler for NSA intelligence analysis. It assists the NSA in applying limited linguistic resources available to the counterterrorism mission against links that have the highest probability of connection to terrorist targets. Put another way, while Section 215 does not contain content, analysis of the Section 215 metadata can help the NSA prioritize for content analysis communications of non-U.S. persons which it acquires under other authorities. Such persons are of heightened interest if they are in a communication network with persons located in the U.S. Thus, Section 215 metadata can provide the means for steering and applying content analysis so that the U.S. Government gains the best possible understanding of terrorist target actions and intentions. [my emphasis]
The NSA prioritizes reading the content that involves US persons. And the NSA finds it, and decides what to read, using the queries that get dumped into the corporate store (presumably, they do some analytical tradecraft to narrow down which particular conversations involving US persons they want to read).
And there are several different kinds of content this might involve: content (phone or Internet) of a specific targeted individual — perhaps the identifier NSA conducted the RAS query with in the first place — already sitting on some NSA server, Internet and in some cases phone content the NSA can go get from providers after having decided it might be interesting, or content the NSA collects in bulk from upstream collections that was never targeted at a particular user.
The NSA is not only permitted to access all of this to see what Americans are saying, but in all but the domestically collected upstream content, it can go access the content by searching on the US person identifier, not the foreign interlocutor, without establishing even Reasonable Articulable Suspicion that it pertains to terrorism (though the analyst does have to claim it serves foreign intelligence purpose). That’s important because lots of this content-collection is not tied to a specific terrorist suspect (it can be tied to a geographical area, for example), so the NSA can hypothetically get to US person content without ever having reason to believe it has any tie to terrorism.
In other words, all the things NSA’s defenders have been insisting the dragnet doesn’t do — it doesn’t provide content, it doesn’t allow unaudited searches, NSA doesn’t know identities, NSA doesn’t data mine it, NSA doesn’t develop dossiers on it, even James Clapper’s claim that NSA doesn’t voyeuristically troll through people’s porn habits — every single one is potentially true for the results of queries run three hops off an identifier with just Reasonable Articulable Suspicion of some tie to terrorism (or Iran). Everything the defenders say the phone dragnet is not, the corporate store is.
All the phone contacts of all the phone contacts of all the phone contacts of someone subjected to the equivalent of a digital stop-and-frisk are potentially subject to all the things NSA’s defenders assure us the dragnet is not subject to.
Before I point to reasons why we should exercise some caution before we believe a DIA report claiming that Edward Snowden’s entire leak was orchestrated by the Russians, let me lay out the following.
First. until such time as we see evidence that the reported documents somehow inordinately benefit Russia (and/or see evidence that our cooperation with Russia isn’t increasing during the period of Snowden’s asylum there), I’m not much interested in the question. I’m still so busy — both between Snowden document reports and documents declassified in response to FOIAs in a false show of transparency — reading about programs Americans should have known, that I don’t have time or interest in this manufactured sideshow.
Second, I don’t know what Snowden’s relationship with Russia is (and suspect 99% of the people commenting don’t either). The claims Mike Rogers, in particular, made on Sunday are full of Clown Show logic problems, some of which Snowden debunked in a limited rebuttal in an interview with Jane Mayer. Some accusers and defenders are conflating what happened while Snowden was working at NSA and what happened after Snowden got stuck in Moscow. All that said, while we have no evidence of cooperation now, I fully expect Vlaidimir Putin tried all he could to get as much out of Snowden as he could.
I don’t know.
What I do know is that DIA under General Michael Flynn’s leadership seems to be developing a pattern of leaking sensational intelligence conclusions based on apparently bad logic at politically opportune moments.
The accusations against Snowden are from a DIA report that DIA’s Director, Michael Flynn, organized.
The Defense Department report was conducted by the Defense Intelligence Agency in coordination with other intelligence agencies across the government, according to two sources familiar with its findings. A spokesperson for the DIA said Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the agency’s director, organized a task force “to assess the potential impact to the Department of Defense from the compromise of this information.” But the spokesman did not say what, if any, conclusions the task force had reached about actual damage caused by documents Snowden took, regardless of whether they’ve been disclosed or not.
Admittedly, the conclusions of it got leaked with apparent White House permission. But it got leaked in the worst manner of Obama Administration asymmetric leaking, which have a history of being rather partial and politically self-serving.
Moreover, the entire orchestrated leak feels a lot like the “leak” last year — during heightened tensions between North and South Korea — of DIA’s conclusion that North Korea had the capability of launching a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile. Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn, protected by Speech and Debate, revealed a detail that “accidentally” wasn’t redacted in a larger declassified finding. The “leak” fed a lot of fearmongering even as the Obama Administration was trying to temper responses.
A week after the initial leak, James Clapper and Flynn happened to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee (the entire clip is worthwhile, but the particularly important parts start after 4:00). And in response to some Ted Cruz questions about North Korea, both Clapper and Flynn made it clear that the reason DIA had come to different conclusions than the rest of the Intelligence Community was because of the assumptions it had made. This inflammatory finding arose because of “a difference in how we judge assumptions,” Flynn explained. Clapper (who had spent a week trying to batten down the alarmism) said the debate arose from the “facts we know versus what we impute to those facts.”
That is, DIA had imputed conclusions to facts other agencies hadn’t.
According to its Director, DIA has a difference in how it judges assumptions from other intelligence agencies. And in this case, those who have read the DIA report appear to be repeating allegations remarkably divorced from any evidence, relying on wacky theories rather than real evidence.
Michael Flynn seems to be making a habit of this kind of analysis.
Would you lookee here?
… And this afternoon, ODNI swapped out the document such that that passage now looks like this:
I guess maybe James Clapper’s office figured it would be hard to spew their defector propaganda if they themselves had published some of the same material.
We all know how Clapper strives to cover up his own crimes.
Except they did publish it.
Meaning ODNI has caused Verizon’s name to be published in conjunction with the phone dragnet as many times as Edward Snowden has. I wait with bated breath for the ill-considered “Traitor!!!” cries to be directed against Clapper.
Update: To be clear, as I noted on this post, I didn’t find this particular redaction error (I’ve got some more … interesting ones). Michael alerted me to it on Twitter. I just decided to point out that ODNI had tried to cover this up.