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.
For months, I have been suggesting that the government only uses Section 702 of FISA, under which it collects data directly from US Internet providers and conducts some upstream content from telecom providers, for three purposes:
I have said so based on two things: many points in documents — such as the second page from John Bates’ October 3, 2011 opinion on 702, above — make it clear there are 3 sets of certifications for 702 collection. And other explainer documents released by the government talk about those three topics (though they always stop short of saying the government collects on only those 3 topics).
The NSA Review Group report released yesterday continues this pattern in perhaps more explicit form.
[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.
If I’m right, it explains one of the issues driving overseas collection and, almost certainly, rising tensions with the Internet companies.
I suggested, for example, that this might explain why NSA felt the need to steal data from Google’s own fiber overseas.
I wonder whether the types of targets they’re pursuing have anything to do with this. For a variety of reasons, I’ve come to suspect NSA only uses Section 702 for three kinds of targets.
- Arms proliferators
- Hackers and other cyber-attackers
According to the plain letter of Section 702 there shouldn’t be this limitation; Section 702 should be available for any foreign intelligence purpose. But it’s possible that some of the FISC rulings — perhaps even the 2007-8 one pertaining to Yahoo (which the government is in the process of declassifying as we speak) — rely on a special needs exception to the Fourth Amendment tied to these three types of threats (with the assumption being that other foreign intelligence targets don’t infiltrate the US like these do).
Which would make this passage one of the most revealing of the WaPo piece.
One weekly report on MUSCULAR says the British operators of the site allow the NSA to contribute 100,000 “selectors,” or search terms. That is more than twice the number in use in the PRISM program, but even 100,000 cannot easily account for the millions of records that are said to be sent back to Fort Meade each day.
Given that NSA is using twice as many selectors, it is likely the NSA is searching on content outside whatever parameters that FISC sets for it, perhaps on completely unrelated topics altogether. This may well be foreign intelligence, but it may not be content the FISC has deemed worthy of this kind of intrusive search.
That is, if NSA can only collect 3 topics domestically, but has other collection requirements it must fulfill — such as financial intelligence on whether the economy is going to crash, which FISC would have very good reasons not to approve as a special need for US collection — then they might collect it overseas (and in the Google case, they do it with the help of GCHQ). But as Google moved to encryption by default, NSA would have been forced to find new ways to collect it.
Which might explain why they found a way to steal data in motion (on Google’s cables, though).
Here’s the thing, though. As I’ll note in a piece coming out later today, the Review also emphasizes that EO 12333 should only be available for collection not covered by FISA. With Section 702, FISA covers all collection from US Internet providers. So FISC’s refusal to approve (or DOJ’s reluctance to ask for approval) to collect on other topics should foreclose that collection entirely. The government should not be able to collect some topics under 702 here, then steal on other topics overseas.
But it appears that’s what it’s doing.
Since it became clear Mike Rogers had chosen not to pass on the Administration’s notice of phone dragnet problems, I’ve been wondering if he did the same with any notice about the FISA Amendments Act upstream problems.
In response to a query from Politico, Rogers and his counterpart Dutch Ruppersberger seem to suggest they did not pass on the notice.
Moreover, the House leaders who held the keys to the report did not loudly broadcast its existence to the rest of the chamber. The chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Rogers, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, declined to say whether they even had sent a letter in 2012 informing members there had been a critical document to view. Hill sources say they don’t recall anything of the sort.
More telling still, though, is Rupp’s justification for providing briefings instead of the actual white paper.
Party leaders did hold unclassified and classified briefings on FISA, but they occurred just days before the House’s September 2012 vote to reauthorize the law. The Republican briefing, for example, occurred only two days before the House approved the FISA Amendments Act, according to an invite obtained by POLITICO. Yet nowhere in the message, sent Sept. 7, 2012, is any mention of the White House white paper on FISA oversight — the document that detailed how the agency had erred in collecting U.S. communications.
Committee leaders, though, stress they acted appropriately. “Members were notified of the contents of the white paper through the briefing,” Ruppersberger told POLITICO. “We felt that a briefing was an appropriate way to notify members of this important issue so that they would have the opportunity to get all of their questions answered immediately.”
The congressman continued: “Some members chose to take advantage of a briefing and some did not. We thought offering a briefing shortly before the vote was held would work best with members’ busy schedules and keep the issue fresh in their minds as they cast their vote.” [my emphasis]
In his explanation, Rupp explains that members have busy schedules.
And his accommodation for those busy schedules was to require members who want to be informed on issues they didn’t receive notice of adjust their busy schedule to show up at one of two briefings, rather than go to a SCIF to read a document during whatever time is most convenient for them. Indeed, I’ve heard from members that that’s part of the problem with briefings — they require people to drop all their other important issues and cater to Rogers’ and Rupp’s schedules, instead. All to learn about issues not identified in the meeting notice.
I’d add two points to the Politico piece. First, while it notes that the notice pitched the 2011 compliance problems as an example of functional oversight, there’s another problem with it. It doesn’t appear to reveal that some agency (probably FBI) already did, and the NSA newly started searching on incidentally collected US person data. Thus, it left out one of the most crucial aspects of the 2011 opinion, that it permitted the access to US person communications without a warrant.
And then a persnickety issue. Politico makes this claim.
The Washington Post first revealed that lapse in PATRIOT Act oversight in August, which at the time Rogers acknowledged “very few members” had taken advantage of any related briefing opportunities.
As the reporter admitted he knew, the WaPo did not, in fact, “first” reveal the earlier failure to pass on the notice. The WaPo reporting followed my own and the Guardian’s, as well as several other sites. The whole issue of “first” is stupid, but why use it, particularly if you know it is factually inaccurate?
Finally! The backdoor!
The Guardian today confirms what Ron Wyden and, before him, Russ Feingold have warned about for years. In a glossary updated in June 2012, the NSA claims that minimization rules “approved” on October 3, 2011 “now allow for use of certain United States person names and identifiers as query terms.”
A secret glossary document provided to operatives in the NSA’s Special Source Operations division – which runs the Prism program and large-scale cable intercepts through corporate partnerships with technology companies – details an update to the “minimization” procedures that govern how the agency must handle the communications of US persons. That group is defined as both American citizens and foreigners located in the US.
“While the FAA 702 minimization procedures approved on 3 October 2011 now allow for use of certain United States person names and identifiers as query terms when reviewing collected FAA 702 data,” the glossary states, “analysts may NOT/NOT [not repeat not] implement any USP [US persons] queries until an effective oversight process has been developed by NSA and agreed to by DOJ/ODNI [Office of the Director of National Intelligence].”
The term “identifiers” is NSA jargon for information relating to an individual, such as telephone number, email address, IP address and username as well as their name.
The document – which is undated, though metadata suggests this version was last updated in June 2012 – does not say whether the oversight process it mentions has been established or whether any searches against US person names have taken place.
The Guardian goes on to quote Ron Wyden confirming that this is the back door he’s been warning about for years.
Once Americans’ communications are collected, a gap in the law that I call the ‘back-door searches loophole’ allows the government to potentially go through these communications and conduct warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans.
But the Guardian is missing one critical part of this story.
The FISC Court didn’t just “approve” minimization procedures on October 3, 2011. In fact, that was the day that it declared that part of the program — precisely pertaining to minimization procedures — violated the Fourth Amendment.
So where the glossary says minimization procedures approved on that date “now allow” for querying US person data, it almost certainly means that on October 3, 2011, the FISC court ruled the querying the government had already been doing violated the Fourth Amendment, and sent it away to generate “an effective oversight process,” even while approving the idea in general.
And note that FISC didn’t, apparently, require that ODNI/DOJ come back to the FISC to approve that new “effective oversight process.”
Consider one more thing.
As I have repeatedly highlighted, the Senate Intelligence Committee (and the Senate Judiciary Committee, though there’s no equivalent report) considered whether to regulate precisely this issue last year when extending the FISA Amendments Act.
Finally, on a related matter, the Committee considered whether querying information collected under Section 702 to find communications of a particular United States person should be prohibited or more robustly constrained. As already noted, the Intelligence Community is strictly prohibited from using Section 702 to target a U.S. person, which must at all times be carried out pursuant to an individualized court order based upon probable cause. With respect to analyzing the information lawfully collected under Section 702, however, the Intelligence Community provided several examples in which it might have a legitimate foreign intelligence need to conduct queries in order to analyze data already in its possession. The Department of Justice and Intelligence Community reaffirmed that any queries made of Section 702 data will be conducted in strict compliance with applicable guidelines and procedures and do not provide a means to circumvent the general requirement to obtain a court order before targeting a U.S. person under FISA.
But in spite of Ron Wyden and Mark Udall’s best efforts — and, it now appears, in spite of FISC concerns about precisely this issue — the Senate Intelligence Committee chose not to do so.
This strongly suggests that the concerns FISC had about the Fourth Amendment directly pertained to this backdoor search. But if that’s the case, it also suggests that none of NSA’s overseers — not the Intelligence Committees, not ODNI/DOJ, and not FISC — have bothered to actually close that back door.
The Guardian has its latest scoop on NSA spying, describing the extent to which Microsoft helps the government spy on its customers. This bullet list is just some of what the article reveals.
- Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;
- The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;
- The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;
- Microsoft also worked with the FBI’s Data Intercept Unit to “understand” potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;
- Skype, which was bought by Microsoft in October 2011, worked with intelligence agencies last year to allow Prism to collect video of conversations as well as audio;
- Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a “team sport”.
But I’m as interested in some of the details about the cooperation as the impact of that cooperation.
For example, the story describes that this cooperation takes place through the Special Source Operations unit.
The latest documents come from the NSA’s Special Source Operations (SSO) division, described by Snowden as the “crown jewel” of the agency. It is responsible for all programs aimed at US communications systems through corporate partnerships such as Prism.
But we saw that when NSA approached (presumably) Microsoft in 2002, it did not approach via SSO; it used a more formal approach through counsel.
In addition, note how Skype increased cooperation in the months before Microsoft purchased it for what was then considered a hugely inflated price, and what is now being called (in other legal jurisdictions) so dominant that it doesn’t have to cooperate with others.
One document boasts that Prism monitoring of Skype video production has roughly tripled since a new capability was added on 14 July 2012. “The audio portions of these sessions have been processed correctly all along, but without the accompanying video. Now, analysts will have the complete ‘picture’,” it says.
Eight months before being bought by Microsoft, Skype joined the Prism program in February 2011.
According to the NSA documents, work had begun on smoothly integrating Skype into Prism in November 2010, but it was not until 4 February 2011 that the company was served with a directive to comply signed by the attorney general.
The NSA was able to start tasking Skype communications the following day, and collection began on 6 February. “Feedback indicated that a collected Skype call was very clear and the metadata looked complete,” the document stated, praising the co-operation between NSA teams and the FBI. “Collaborative teamwork was the key to the successful addition of another provider to the Prism system.”
While this isn’t as obvious as Verizon’s MCI purchase — which for the first time led that carrier to hand over Internet data — it does seem that those companies that cooperate with the NSA end up taking over their rivals.
Remember, the Department of Commerce plays some kind of role in ensuring that companies cooperate in protecting our critical infrastructure.
As of 2:30, Microsoft stock is at a high on the day.
One of my friends, who works in a strategic role at American Federation of Teachers, is Iranian-American. I asked him a few weeks ago whom he called in Iran; if I remember correctly (I’ve been asking a lot of Iranian-Americans whom they call in Iran) he said it was mostly his grandmother, who’s not a member of the Republican Guard or even close. Still, according to the statement that Dianne Feinstein had confirmed by NSA Director Keith Alexander, calls “related to Iran” are fair game for queries of the dragnet database of all Americans’ phone metadata.
Chances are slim that my friend’s calls to his grandmother are among the 300 identifiers the NSA queried last year, unless (as is possible) they monitored all calls to Iran. But nothing in the program seems to prohibit it, particularly given the government’s absurdly broad definitions of “related to” for issues of surveillance and its bizarre adoption of a terrorist program to surveil another nation-state. And if someone chose to query on my friend’s calls to his grandmother, using the two-degrees-of-separation query they have used in the past would give the government — not always the best friend of teachers unions — a pretty interesting picture of whom the AFT was partnering with and what it had planned.
In other words, nothing in the law or the known minimization rules of the Business Records provision would seem to protect some of the AFT’s organizational secrets just because they happen to employ someone whose grandmother is in Iran. That’s not the only obvious way labor discussions might come under scrutiny; Colombian human rights organizers with tangential ties to FARC is just one other one.
When I read labor organizer Louis Nayman’s “defense of PRISM,” it became clear he’s not aware of many details of the programs he defended. Just as an example, Nayman misstated this claim:
According to NSA officials, the surveillance in question has prevented at least 50 planned terror attacks against Americans, including bombings of the New York City subway system and the New York Stock Exchange. While such assertions from government officials are difficult to verify independently, the lack of attacks during the long stretch between 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombings speaks for itself.
Keith Alexander didn’t say NSA’s use of Section 702 and Section 215 have thwarted 50 planned attacks against Americans; those 50 were in the US and overseas. He said only around 10 of those plots were in the United States. That works out to be less than 20% of the attacks thwarted in the US just between January 2009 and October 2012 (though these programs have existed for a much longer period of time, so the percentage must be even lower). And there are problems with three of the four cases publicly claimed by the government — from false positives and more important tips in the Najibullah Zazi case, missing details of the belated arrest of David Headley, to bogus claims that Khalid Ouazzan ever planned to attack NYSE. The sole story that has stood up to scrutiny is some guys who tried to send less than $10,000 to al-Shabaab.
While that doesn’t mean the NSA surveillance programs played no role, it does mean that the government’s assertions of efficacy (at least as it pertains to terrorism) have proven to be overblown.
Yet from that, Nayman concludes these programs have “been effective in keeping us safe” (given Nayman’s conflation of US and overseas, I wonder how families of the 166 Indians Headley had a hand in killing feel about that) and defends giving the government legal access (whether they’ve used it or not) to — among other things — metadata identifying the strategic partners of labor unions with little question.
And details about the success of the program are not the only statements made by top National Security officials that have proven inaccurate or overblown. That’s why Nayman would be far better off relying on Mark Udall and Ron Wyden as sources for whether or not the government can read US person emails without probable cause than misstating what HBO Director David Simon has said (Simon said that entirely domestic communications require probable cause, which is generally but not always true). And not just because the Senators are actually read into these programs. After the Senators noted that Keith Alexander had “portray[ed] protections for Americans’ privacy as being significantly stronger than they actually are” — specifically as it relates to what the government can do with US person communications collected “incidentally” to a target — Alexander withdrew his claims.
Nayman says, “As people who believe in government, we cannot simply assume that officials are abusing their lawfully granted responsibility and authority to defend our people from violence and harm.” I would respond that neither should we simply assume they’re not abusing their authority, particularly given evidence those officials have repeatedly misled us in the past.
Nayman then admits, “We should do all we can to assure proper oversight any time a surveillance program of any size and scope is launched.” But a big part of the problem with these programs is that the government has either not implemented or refused such oversight. Some holes in the oversight of the program are:
Greg Miller returns focus to James Clapper and Keith Alexander and President Obama’s lies that underscore why, at least for some of his leaks, Edward Snowden must count as a whistleblower. He reveals two new details about why Clapper is not headed for prison.
First, Clapper claims his staffers acknowledged to Wyden (presumably not in writing) his error after the Senator demanded a correction.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who had asked Clapper the question about information collection on Americans, said in a recent statement that the director had failed to clarify the remark promptly despite being asked to do so. Clapper disputed that in his note to the committee, saying his “staff acknowledged the error to Senator Wyden’s staff soon after the hearing.”
And then, more than two weeks after Snowden proved Clapper to be a liar (and 10 days after Wyden called for hearings for the Intelligence Committee to correct their disinformation), Clapper sent the Senate Intelligence Committee a letter apologizing for his “clearly erroneous” comment.
Acknowledging the “heated controversy” over his remark, Clapper sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 21 saying that he had misunderstood the question he had been asked.
“I have thought long and hard to re-create what went through my mind at the time,” Clapper said in the previously undisclosed letter. “My response was clearly erroneous — for which I apologize.” [my emphasis]
Miller also reveals that Clapper presented yet another explanation for why his lie wasn’t really a lie.
He made a new attempt to explain the exchange in his June 21 correspondence, which included a hand-written note to Wyden saying that an attached letter was addressed to the committee chairman but that he “wanted [Wyden] to see this first.”
Clapper said he thought Wyden was referring to NSA surveillance of e-mail traffic involving overseas targets, not the separate program in which the agency is authorized to collect records of Americans’ phone calls that include the numbers and duration of calls but not individuals’ names or the contents of their calls.
Referring to his appearances before Congress over several decades, Clapper concluded by saying that “mistakes will happen, and when I make one, I correct it.”
Note, this particular lie retreats to Administration claims that they no longer collect Internet metadata, at least no via Section 702 collection, at least as far as they’lll tell us.
Of course, that’s only been true (if it is in fact true) since 2011, for what that’s worth.
One thing Miller is missing in this otherwise laudable article is one more detail from Wyden: that he gave Clapper notice he was going to ask the question.
Clapper got the question for the test before taking it, and he still — he says — misunderstood it.
But of course that’s not what happened. The way Clapper has made false statements in public and then “acknowledged errors” in secret is all part of the game by which Clapper mostly sort of tells the truth to Congress, but continues to lie to the American people.
In other news, it has now been almost a week since, caught in another lie, the NSA took down their “Section 702 Protections” document, without replacing them with an accurate description of what protections, if any, Americans have under Section 702.
Perhaps NSA has finally decided to start telling the truth?
Update: To help Joshua Foust understand this topic, I did a second, really basic version of this post here. So if you’re fairly new to all this stuff, you might start there and then come back.
Update: Alexander’s office has conceded Udall and Wyden’s point about the classified inaccuracy. It also notes:
With respect to the second point raised in your 24 June 2013 letter, the fact sheet did not imply nor was it intended to imply “that the NSA has the ability to determine how many American communications it has collected under section 702, or that the law does not allow the NSA to deliberately search for the records of particular Americans.”
He then cites two letters from James Clapper’s office which I don’t believe have been published.
I’ve seen some people complaining that Ron Wyden and Mark Udall didn’t explicitly describe what Keith Alexander’s lies were in the NSA handout on Section 702 collection (note, as of 1PM, NSA has taken down their handout from their server). I’m okay with them leaving big breadcrumbs instead, not least because until we fix intelligence oversight, we’re going to need people like them who manage to stay on the committees but lay these signposts.
That said, I think people are underestimating how big of a signpost they did leave. Consider this, from their letter:
Separately, this same fact sheet states that under Section 702, “Any inadvertently acquired communication of or concerning a US person must be promptly destroyed if it is neither relevant to the authorized purpose nor evidence of a crime.” We believe that this statement is somewhat misleading, in that it implies that the NSA has the ability to determine how many American communications it has collected under section 702, or that the law does not allow the NSA to deliberately search for the records of particular Americans. [my emphasis]
Last year’s SSCI report on extending the FISA Amendments Act strongly implied that the government interpreted the law to mean it could search for records of particular Americans.
During the Committee’s consideration of this legislation, several Senators expressed a desire to quantify the extent of incidental collection under Section 702. I share this desire. However, the Committee has been repeatedly advised by the ODNI that due to the nature of the collection and the limits of the technology involved, it is not reasonably possible to identify the number of people located in the United States whose communications may have been reviewed under Section 702 authority. Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have requested a review by the Inspector General of the NSA and the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to determine whether it is feasible to estimate this number. The Inspectors General are conducting that review now, thus making an amendment on this subject unnecessary.
Finally, on a related matter, the Committee considered whether querying information collected under Section 702 to find communications of a particular United States person should be prohibited or more robustly constrained. As already noted, the Intelligence Community is strictly prohibited from using Section 702 to target a U.S. person, which must at all times be carried out pursuant to an individualized court order based upon probable cause. With respect to analyzing the information lawfully collected under Section 702, however, the Intelligence Community provided several examples in which it might have a legitimate foreign intelligence need to conduct queries in order to analyze data already in its possession. [my emphasis]
This passage made it clear that the Intelligence Community had demanded the ability to search on US person data already collected. Wyden and Udall’s letter makes that even more clear.
And the minimization procedures leaked last week support this (though note, these date to 2009 and might have been ruled to violate the Fourth Amendment since, though I suspect they haven’t).
They make it clear that US person communications will be retained if they contain foreign intelligence information (a term not defined in the procedures), including those they collected because (they claim) they’re unable to filter it out.
(1) Personnel will exercise reasonable judgment in determining whether information acquired must be minimized and will destroyed inadvertently acquired communications of or concerning a United States person at the earliest practicable point in the processing cycle at which such communication can be identified either: as clearly not relevant to the authorized purpose of the acquisition (e.g., the communication does not contain foreign intelligence information)
The communications that may be retained include electronic communications acquired because of limitations on NSA’s ability to filter communications.
(2) Communications of or concerning United States persons that may be related to the authorized purpose of the acquisition may be forwarded to analytic personnel responsible for producing intelligence information from the collected data.
The procedures make it clear that, with authorization from the NSA Director, even communications entirely between US persons may be retained (see section 5) if they are of significant intelligence value. Communications showing a communications security vulnerability may also be retained (this permission, related to cybersecurity, was not made public in the NSA handout).
And here’s perhaps the most interesting way of keeping US person data.
(1) NSA may provide to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) unminimized communications acquired pursuant to section 702 of the Act. CIA will identify to NSA targets for which NSA may provide unminimized communications to CIA. CIA will process any such unminimized communications received from NSA in accordance with CIA minimization procedures …
(2) NSA may provide to the FBI unminimized communications acquired pursuant to section 702 of the Act. FBI will identify to NSA targets for which NSA may provide unminimized communications to the FBI. FBI will process any such unminimized communications received from NSA in accordance with FBI minimization procedures …
This is a kind of collection that Pat Leahy seems to believe escapes review by current Inspector General reviews of the program, as he tried to mandate such reviews in last year’s reauthorization.
The minimization procedures also appear to support Julian Sanchez’ guesstimate of how they could pull up US person contacts, since a phone number or unique name are not explicitly included among the identifiers that would constitute IDing a US person.
Now, all that doesn’t specifically address the other lie Wyden and Udall invoked, which they describe “portrays protections for Americans’ privacy as being significantly stronger than they actually are.” But I think the points I’ve laid out above — particularly the cybersecurity collection that is entirely unmentioned in the 702 sheet — probably lays out the gist of Alexander’s lies.
The government has spent the entire time since these documents were revealed trying to lie to Americans about whether their contacts with foreigners can be retained and read. And those lies keep getting exposed.
Given the Intelligence Community’s reluctant and partial disclosures on the Section 702 (PRISM/FAA) collection, I want to return to a squabble from last fall, before Congress reauthorized FAA.
As you’ll recall, Ron Wyden tried to get the IC to disclose the number of Americans whose communication had been reviewed under Section 702. The IC dicked around long enough to ensure Wyden didn’t get an answer in time to make a political stink about it. When they finally gave him an answer, they said providing such a number would violate the privacy of Americans.
I defer to [the NSA Inspector General's] conclusion that obtaining such an estimate was beyond the capacity of his office and dedicating sufficient additional resources would likely impede the NSA’s mission. He further stated that his office and NSA leadership agreed that an IG review of the sort suggested would itself violate the privacy of U.S. persons.
Ultimately, this statement seemed to be as much about resource allocation as anything else — the NSA and IC IGs would need more staff to accomplish the tast. (I must say, I do find it interesting the ICIG has time to investigate 375 leaks but not enough time to find out how many Americans are being spied on.)
But look at how closely the government is purportedly tracking US person data.
These procedures require that the acquisition of information is conducted, to the greatest extent reasonably feasible, to minimize the acquisition of information not relevant to the authorized foreign intelligence purpose.
Any inadvertently acquired communication of or concerning a U.S. person must be promptly destroyed if it is neither relevant to the authorized purpose nor evidence of a crime.
Any information collected after a foreign target enters the U.S. –or prior to a discovery that any target erroneously believed to be foreign was in fact a U.S. person– must be promptly destroyed unless that information meets specific, limited criteria approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The dissemination of any information about U.S. persons is expressly prohibited unless it is necessary to understand foreign intelligence or assess its importance; is evidence of a crime; or indicates a threat of death or serious bodily harm.
Now, these passages ought to make people more worried about privacy than not. Stated clearly, it says the government believes it can collect and keep US person content if it deems that content “relevant” to the reason they collected the information.
Remember two things: this collection is not limited to use with terrorism; it can be used for espionage investigations, hacking, or any foreign intelligence purpose. And the government has already deemed every single one of our phone records to be “relevant” to an umbrella terror investigation, so the definition of relevance the government has developed in secret is unbelievably broad and persmissive.
That collection — the people whose content is reviewed and deemed relevant and kept — is the universe of people Wyden wanted to count. And the government is making decisions about the relevance of them in secret, but not tracking the process by which they do so.
Note too that the government can disseminate US person communications if “it is necessary to understand foreign intelligence.” This is not news (which is why it is so appalling that people were fighting over whether the government could listen to US person calls or read their emails). It is part of traditional FISA, too. (It was using that excuse that John Bolton was learning about what his rivals were negotiating with the North Koreans.) But given how much more information an analyst can access both because she is accessing all Internet activity and not just phone, but also because more associated communications are sucked up with a target, it means many more US persons’ communications might be disseminated. It’s not clear, by the way, such dissemination would exclude privileged conversations between lawyers and clients, or discussions between journalists and sources.
And this second group of people — the ones whose communications are being circulated — are counted.
Though we’re not allowed to know what those numbers are.
Here’s what the DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz had to say about a statutorily required review of the 702 collection he recently completed (I think, but it’s not entirely clear, that Horowitz didn’t finish this review until after FAA was renewed last year — I know he didn’t finish it before the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees passed it out).
Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz of the United States Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently issued a report examining the activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2008 (Act). Section 702 authorizes the targeting of non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States for the purpose of acquiring foreign intelligence information. The Act required that the Inspector General conduct a review of the Department’s role in this process and, in conjunction with this review, the OIG reviewed the number of disseminated FBI intelligence reports containing a reference to a U.S. person identity, the number of U.S. person identities subsequently disseminated in response to requests for identities not referred to by name or title in the original reporting, the number of targets later determined to be located in the United States, and whether communications of such targets were reviewed. See 50 U.S.C. 1881a(l)(2)(B) and (C). The OIG also reviewed the FBI’s compliance with the targeting and minimization procedures required under the Act.
The final report has been issued and delivered to the relevant Congressional oversight and intelligence committees, as well as leadership offices. Because the report is classified, its contents cannot be disclosed to the public.
In other words, the DOJ IG counted — because the law required him to — the following:
But it did not count how many US persons’ communications were reviewed but not disseminated, many of which may be retained under the relevance standard.
In general, when the government chooses not to count things, there’s a reason it doesn’t want to.
I’d like to compare how the NSA talking point document released yesterday compares with a document Glenn Greenwald has or has seen, with respect to minimization under Section 702 (PRISM/FAA) collection. Remember PRISM allows the government to access Internet communications with little review of individual targeting decisions, and any American communications accessed with that foreign target communication is also viewed.
The NSA document says US person communications can only be disseminated (this includes getting shared with FBI) if it is necessary to understand the communication, and evidence of crime, or indicates a threat of death.
The dissemination of any information about U.S. persons is expressly prohibited unless it is necessary to understand foreign intelligence or assess its importance; is evidence of a crime; or indicates a threat of death or serious bodily harm.
The Guardian document (which they did not publish) says US person communications — and note, these are entirely domestic communications — can be disseminated in two slightly different cases and a third unrelated one. The unrelated one permits US person communications to be disseminated if it contains “information necessary to understand or assess a communications security vulnerability.”
One typical example is a document submitted by the NSA in July 2009. In its first paragraph, it purports to set forth “minimization procedures” that “apply to the acquisition, retention, use, and dissemination of non-publicly available information concerning unconsenting United States persons that is acquired by targeting non-United States persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States in accordance with section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, as amended.”
That document provides that “communications of or concerning United States persons that may be related to the authorized purpose of the acquisition may be forwarded to analytic personnel responsible for producing intelligence information from the collected data.” It also states that “such communications or information” – those from US citizens – “may be retained and disseminated” if it meets the guidelines set forth in the NSA’s procedures.
Those guidelines specifically address what the NSA does with what it calls “domestic communications”, defined as “communications in which the sender and all intended recipients are reasonably believed to be located in the United States at the time of acquisition”. The NSA expressly claims the right to store and even disseminate such domestic communication if: (1) “it is reasonably believed to contain significant foreign intelligence information”; (2) “the communication does not contain foreign intelligence information but is reasonably believed to contain evidence of a crime that has been, is being, or is about to be committed”; or (3) “the communication is reasonably believed to contain technical data base information, as defined in Section 2(i), or information necessary to understand or assess a communications security vulnerability.” [my emphasis]
Now, this is not an apple to apple comparison. Indeed, this could very well be an apples to small rubber child’s ball comparison.
The NSA document purports to describe minimization as it occurs today. The Guardian one dates to July 2009, so may be out of date, for starters.
And by design, the NSA timeline focuses on terrorism examples because TERROR TERROR TERROR is very convincing to people who don’t want to think. Based on the mention of a “communications security vulnerability,” the Guardian one seems to be a 702 order describing minimization for a cybersecurity order.
If that’s true, though, it suggests two things. First, that hacking has been equated to terrorism as a crime adequate to disseminate US person communications with no warrant.
And this is where the difference in the standard on foreign intelligence gets interesting: the NSA document claims that only communications necessary to understand foreign intelligence merits dissemination. The Guardian document only need be “reasonably believed to contain significant foreign intelligence information” (though admittedly, that may be the language used in the first instance).
But again, this minimization order is 4 years old. The other day the WaPo suggested that the NSA has changed how they collect Internet metadata (which may be what that other clause “technical data base information, as defined in Section 2(i)” in the minimization order refers to. It may be they’re conducting their cybersecurity dragnet via other means, perhaps even as a way to maintain this lower standard of minimization.
The government is clearly planning to engage in far more intrusive collection in the name of cyberwar than described in discussions about Section 702 (and at the end of the hearing yesterday, Mike Rogers alluded to keeping the programs in place, with their permissive standards, for other reasons, which I took to mean cybersecurity). And that is bound to treat far more Americans as targets of foreign-type collection.