BREAKING! Information “is collected” on millions of Americans

Obama just gave a press conference to announce some changes to FISA. They include four things:

  1. Making some changes to the dragnet program
  2. Appointing a privacy officer to do for NSA what DOJ’s IG has done competently in the past but isn’t encouraged to do now
  3. Appointing an adversary for major decisions at FISC to represent civil liberties’ side
  4. Having a committee review the programs technically to see if we can improve them (this was something Ron Wyden and Mark Udall pressed for last year but got shot down on)

In addition, the Administration released a pretty useless white paper on the dragnet program. I’ll have more substantive comments about it later, but for now, note this sentence:

Likewise, the program does not violate the First Amendment, particularly given that the telephony metadata is collected to serve as an investigative tool in authorized investigations of international terrorism. [my emphasis]

Yeah, sure, they don’t even try to offer some explanation of how an associational database of all Americans doesn’t violate the Freedom of Assembly.

But at least they’re finally admitting they do too “collect” data on millions of Americans.

It’s well past time to fire James Clapper.

Update: Bobby Chesney offers some real analysis. Note I got the order wrong and the Privacy Officer bullet is actually a broader “more transparency.”

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22 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    I saw a headline in (IIRC) the LA Times this morning that he’s also going to support the GOP on allowing more prayer at government meetings.
    I wish he’d just admit he’s a Republicans so we can kick him out in an honest way.

  2. orionATL says:

    a quote from the defender-in-chief’s speech:

    “..“All these steps are designed to ensure that the American people are in line with our interests and our values,” Obama said. “It is true we have significant capabilities. But it is also true that we show a restraint that many governments around the world do not.”…”

    did you get that?

    “All these steps are designed to ensure that the American people are in line with our interests and our values,” Obama said. …”

    say WHAAT?

    we gotta get in line for our security again?

    quote from:
    http://m.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-to-announce-proposals-to-reform-nsa-surveillance/2013/08/09/ee3d6762-011a-11e3-9711-3708310f6f4d_story.html

  3. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    I went to a speech by Sen. Richard Blumenthal yesterday at the Harvard Law School who was promoting two changes to FISC.

    1) A “constutional” advocate
    2) Change the appoint process so that someone besides John Roberts appoints FISC judges.

    I was left wondering who’d take the job of constitutional advocate when you couldn’t speak of what you’re doing.

    (Charles Fried, Reagan’s Solicitor General, was there and asked: “Why are people afraid of their email being collected?” I’m sorry I wasn’t quick enough to get up and ask him, since he was in Cambridge, how many people did he know who knew the Tsarneavs. Me, it’s in the low double digits and I don’t have kids who might have gone to the same school.)

  4. jo6pac says:

    clapper is safe and with larry summers making a comeback who could wish for more. If anyone thinks 0 is going to make any changes on spying on Amerika well the only change will be to ramp it up a few notches.

    Thanks PJ for the link

  5. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    @orionATL: Wow, “ensure that the American people are in line with our interests and our values” is that ever backwards.

    Isn’t it meant to be “ensure the Government is in line with the people’s interests and values”?

    His quote speaks volumes and is the very core of the issue ‘the people’ have with ‘his’ rather than ‘their’ Government.

  6. der says:

    With the Brits, Canucks and whoever else the NSA gives a peek into reading the shit I Goggled yesterday and this comment I’m writing now, short of taking it apart brick by brick someone somewhere will be doing the storing and the searching that NSA was doing but stopped because Congress passed a law, Obama signed it, and the Roberts Court approved its constitutionality. Sure. Then we can all go back to the Cold War Dayz of hiding under our desks. Because terrorist. Putin, Putin, Putin! Thankfully Peter King will stop with the Benghazi stuff and leave Hilary alone. Support the Homefront, report Suspicious Activity to the DEA not those other guys.

  7. M.Black says:

    @orionATL:

    “All these steps are designed to ensure that the American people are in line with our interests and our values,” Obama said. “It is true we have significant capabilities. But it is also true that we show a restraint that many governments around the world do not.”

    Wow. Obama has now officially declared war against his own people. And we should be grateful he’s leading the battle charge because, you know, other tyrants wouldn’t be half so nice…

    I really can’t believe I’ve lived to see this day.

  8. Snoopdido says:

    I don’t know how many times we’ll have to say this before it becomes understood by the media, but here we go again.

    The latest white paper (http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/750210/administration-white-paper-section-215.pdf) says this on page 5:

    “Results of authorized queries are stored and are available only to those analysts trained in the restrictions on the handling and dissemination of the metadata. Query results can be further analyzed only for valid foreign intelligence purposes.”

    However, the FISC “Primary Order for Business Records Collection Under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act” (http://www.dni.gov/files/documents/PrimaryOrder_Collection_215.pdf), says this on pages 13-14:

    “Notwithstanding the above requirements, NSA may share results from intelligence analysis queries of the BR metadata, including U.S. person identifying information, with Executive Branch personnel (1) in order to enable them to determine whether the information contains exculpatory or impeachment information or is otherwise discoverable in legal proceedings or (2) to facilitate their lawful oversight functions.”

    So is the latest white paper merely whitewashing away all of the exceptions to its stated “rules” or are they just plain out and out lying?

  9. Jeff Kaye says:

    @OrionATL: far be it for me to defend Obama on the government’s terrible surveillance policy, but the Washington Post had the quote wrong, at least per the transcript from the press conference they linked to.

    That transcript quotes Obama as saying: “So all these steps are designed to ensure that the American people can trust that our efforts are in line with our interests and our values.”

    http://m.washingtonpost.com/politics/transcript-president-obamas-august-9-2013-news-conference-at-the-white-house/2013/08/09/5a6c21e8-011c-11e3-9a3e-916de805f65d_story.html

    So that’s the real quote, and no, I don’t trust the government on this. All the mass surveillance must end.

  10. Jessica says:

    “the telephony metadata is collected to serve as an investigative tool in authorized investigations of international terrorism.”

    Unless they happen to stumble across data that could be criminal in which case they would be storing our information for possible future crimes. (Perhaps I’m gross over-simplifying that)

  11. emptywheel says:

    @Snoopdido: Whitewashing. talking about analysts and others. REALLY stupid whitewashing, given that we’ve got hte underlying documents.

  12. Bill Michtom says:

    Following up on Arbusto: saying that Clapper should be fired implies that he did something Obama didn’t want him to. However, like Keith Alexander, he lied purposely and, it would seem, with his boss’s full and enthusiastic approval.

    Clapper, Alexander, Obama, et al, need to be indicted. They are all criminals. Asking for any administration functionary to be fired just seems to be evidence of denial about the breadth of that criminality.

  13. P J Evans says:

    I wonder what NSA told Obama at his pre-inauguration briefings. Do they provide a roundup of your most incriminating e-mails and phone calls?

  14. coral says:

    Potential for blackmail by “rogue” NSA analysts, or by political actors against their opponents…or for personal gain is something that seems to have been ignored or downplayed by those, including Obama, who defend these massive spying programs.

    Who in politics would “trust” the government not to use these databases against even established, mainstream political opponents…not to mention dissidents?

  15. orionATL says:

    @Jeff Kaye:

    thanks, jeff. i knew i should check the transcript, but i have previously seen obama include some similarly odd sentences in his speeches.

    i’d still like to see a non-whitehouse real-time transcript of his speech as he spoke it. official transcripts can be manipulated, though i have no reason to think this one was.

  16. orionATL says:

    as far as tone goes, i did not sense the president was conciliatory or understanding of the emotions of those who oppose his spying programs.

    i felt he was dismissive of those concerns, but had conceeded to giving very obviously grudgingly lip-service to responding to them. thus he engaged in ginning up some cotton candy for our comfort.

    personally, i don’t appreciate being talked down to, all the more so if i believe the guy doing the dismissives has a pretty serious wisdom deficiency.

    i was also taken aback by obama’s comments on snowden. the prez went out of his way to confront snowden personally, though there was no need to mention him at all in this speech, and to diminish snowden’s influence on events.

    yet only a fool of a citizen could believe obama, of all presidents, was preparing to initiate action on his own vis-a-vis the excessive, illegal, and likely ineffective spying programs, programs he has authorized and funded and is now assiduously and dissemblingly protecting.

  17. orionATL says:

    @Jeff Kaye:

    this is what the white house transcript says:

    “..So all these steps are designed to ensure that the American people can trust that our efforts are in line with our interests and our values…”

    the washington post quote left out some words, but frankly i think the double meaning can still be found there with no difficulty. specifically, whether “the american people” were intended by prez as identical to the “our” (efforts, interests, values) he uses. i don’t think he considered the two to be equivalent at all. the “our” i take to be the administration.

    here for comparison is the wapo cite i noted:

    “..“All these steps are designed to ensure that the American people are in line with our interests and our values,” Obama said. …”

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