“Section 215 Is Silent”

Justin Amash has a useful fact sheet on the Amash-Conyers amendment that would defund dragnet 215 collection. (If you haven’t yet called your Congressperson and told her to support the amendment, please do so!)

As a whole, the fact sheet clears up some misconceptions about the amendment, making it clear, for example, that the amendment only returns the meaning of Section 215 to the intent Congress had when it first passed.

Given that the fact sheet — dated today — appears to post-date yesterday’s TS/SCI briefing by Keith Alexander and James Clapper, I am particularly interested in these two sentences.

The administration has not provided a public explanation as to how the telephone records of all Americans are “relevant” to a national security investigation.  Similarly, Sec. 215 is silent as to how the government may use these records once it has obtained them.

The language seems to suggest the Administration has provided a classified explanation as to how phone records became “relevant to” a massive terrorism investigation.

More interestingly, the next sentence points to the Administration’s silence about how the government can use this dragnet collection.

That’s a concern I’ve long had. After all, only FISA Court minimization might, with very strict language, prevent the National Counterterrorism Center from simply copying the dragnet database and data mining it with abandon. And so I find it interesting that a document released after yesterday’s TS/SCI hearing mentions the possibility the government does something with it beyond what they’ve stated publicly.

If this were a Ron Wyden statement, I’d take it as a big hint. I’m not sure it is meant as such here, but it does heighten my concerns that this data is circulated far more widely than the government has admitted.

10 replies
  1. FFEIN says:

    I’ve called (left a voicemail) and sent 2 emails urging support. Thanks for the link to the fact sheet and for covering this important issue.

  2. rosalind says:

    fav part of calling my Reps offices is the different ways the interns fumble around answering whether the Rep has made a decision on how s/he is gonna vote, all boiling down to:

    “sorry, this info is for Lobbyists only, you dirty lowly prolies just gotta wait for it.”

  3. thatvisionthing says:

    Why are we talking about an amendment? Why aren’t we talking about repealing the Patriot Act? Cancer is cancer.

  4. Mindrayge says:

    I don’t know if you have seen it but the latest defense of the NSA comes in an Op-ed by Stephen G. Bradbury.

    “Steven G. Bradbury was head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2005 to 2009. In 2006, he led the department’s legal effort to obtain initial approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court for the telephone metadata order.”

  5. C says:

    Two suggestions from someone who has called on this and other issues:
    When calling the office ask to speak to the aide who deals with civil liberties issues. If you simply speak to the poor summer intern who takes the initial call then the message won’t go that far. Only the senior aides can actually change the reps mind.
    In general call the D.C. office. The local offices don’t really have the power to influence on policy.

  6. thatvisionthing says:

    Also, why are we looking at Patriot 215 first and not FAA 702? From Wyden’s speech yesterday at Center for American Progress:


    When government officials refer to these programs collectively, and say that “these programs” provided unique intelligence without pointing out that one program is doing all the work and the other is basically just along for the ride, in my judgment that is also a misleading statement.

  7. RHIL says:

    6:45p ET – C-SPAN has live House coverage on Defense Appropriation amendments – #100 Amash-Conyers is said to be next. It is reported that it will be a “2 minute vote”…

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Since much of this collection and “analysis” is outsourced, and since such outsourcing has the bipartisan status of a growth industry that is too big to fail, I’d say the risk that such databases are copied and data mined with abandon is 100%.

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