Is This Why Banksters Don’t Go to Jail for Laundering Terrorist Finances?

I’m in the middle of a deep dive in the Section 215 White Paper — expect plenty of analysis on it in coming attractions!

But I want to make a discrete point about this passage, which describes what happen to query results.

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. Based on this analysis of the data, the NSA then provides leads to the FBI or others in the Intelligence Community. For U.S. persons, these leads are limited to counterterrorism investigations.

The Primary Order released several weeks back calls these stored query results “the corporate store.” As ACLU laid out, the government can do pretty much whatever it wants with this corporate store — and their analysis of it is not audited.

All of this information, the primary order says, is dumped into something called the “corporate store.” Incredibly, the FISC imposes norestrictions on what analysts may subsequently do with the information. The FISC’s primary order contains a crucially revealing footnote stating that “the Court understands that NSA may apply the full range of SIGINT analytic tradecraft to the result of intelligence analysis queries of the collected [telephone] metadata.” In short, once a calling record is added to the corporate store, anything goes.

More troubling, if the government is combining the results of all its queries in this “corporate store,” as seems likely, then it has a massive pool of telephone data that it can analyze in any way it chooses, unmoored from the specific investigations that gave rise to the initial queries. To put it in individual terms: If, for some reason, your phone number happens to be within three hops of an NSA target, all of your calling records may be in the corporate store, and thus available for any NSA analyst to search at will.

But it’s even worse than that. The primary order prominently states that whenever the government accesses the wholesale telephone-metadata database, “an auditable record of the activity shall be generated.” It might feel fairly comforting to know that, if the government abuses its access to all Americans’ call data, it might eventually be called to account—until you read footnote 6 of the primary order, which exempts entirely the government’s use of the “corporate store” from the audit-trail requirement.

The passage from the White Paper seems to suggest there are limits (though it doesn’t explain where they come from, because they clearly don’t come from FISC).

This analysis must have a valid foreign intelligence purpose — which can include political information, economic information, espionage information, military information, drug information, and the like. Anything other countries do, basically.

But if the data in the corporate store pertains to US persons, the FBI can only get a lead “for counterterrorism purposes.”

At one level, this is (small) comfort, because it provides a level of protection on the dragnet use.

But it also may explain why HSBC’s US subsidiary didn’t get caught laundering al Qaeda’s money, or why JP Morgan always gets to self-disclose its support for Iranian “terrorism.” So long as the government chooses not to treat banks laundering money for terrorists as material support for terror, then they can consider these links (which surely they’ve come across in their “corporate store!) evidence of a financial crime, not a terrorist one, and just bury it.

I would be curious, though, whether the government has ever used the “corporate store” to police Iran sanctions. Does that count as a counterterrorism purpose? And if so, is that why Treasury “finds” evidence of international bank violations so much more often than it does American bank violations?

12 replies
  1. max says:

    calls these stored query results “the corporate store.”

    ‘Store’ in an IT context generally refers to something stored in memory or a database.

    So, store in the acronym ACS refers to usages like:

    A differentiator between Lieberman Software’s solution and others in the privileged account password management space is that ERPM is connected full time to eDirectory and uses it as a real-time authentication and access control store.

    From the documentation I’ve seen ‘store’ is essentially the same as DB (database). The reason to refer to it as a store is that it may be accessed while it is stored in memory or stored on disk or on some other medium (e.g. tape, drum memory, optical media, whatever) – whatever application is being used may not have any clue as to where the data is stored. (The usage was more common back in the day when mainframes ruled the roost.)

    I assume the ‘corporate’ part refers to the fact that they’re stored the results of all actions. (Of course, 10 bucks says that things can be very easily erased from the said store, because otherwise what happens when someone mistypes a query?)

    BTW, the last powerpoint GG posted had a metadata store which sat between the analyst and ‘DNI’. I am pretty sure DNI stands for Direct Network Interface and is probably the main DB where all the traffic they sweep up is kept.

    So, our analyst sees something in the metadata, uses XKS to write a query, and XKS scoops out the relevant data from the DNI (store). That data in turn would be placed in the corporate store.

    So the only limitation here is that they aren’t allowed to grab everything out of the DNI immediately, but given the width of the data the queries collect, that’s virtually meaningless, and there’s no back end correction if they scoop up the wrong stuff or what have you.

    I expect that the corporate store has grown to an enormous size thanks to the accumulation of queries over five years, and it might actually be larger than the DNI (which is all the internet data they can grab), which apparently only retains data for a few days.

    The passage from the White Paper seems to suggest there are limits (though it doesn’t explain where they come from, because they clearly don’t come from FISC).

    I expect we have to go all the way around the barn here like this, precisely because they (the NSA) want to render such limits meaningless while retaining the appearance of compliance. That particular habit being woven into their organization DNA since the beginning. So they may be saying things to the President (for example) that are technically true, but substantially false, which is how he winds up saying we’re complying with legal limits, which he might believe because that’s what they’ve told him they’re doing.

    [‘Looking forward to the white paper analysis.’]

  2. scribe says:

    Of course, this alleged counterterra focus for analysis is further given the lie by a report out of German media, on an article in Der Spiegel.

    The report, from German radio, translated:
    that Spiegel has gone through some Snowden release and determined that the US is surveilling Germany re its external and ecomonic policies
    According to a report in Der Spiegel, the US’ first priorities in surveilling Germany are its external and economic politics and policies. The magazine reports about an internal list kept by the NSA, published by the IT professional Snowden. Few things have a higher priority for the USA than German weapons exports, new technologies, and the realm of international trade. The report continues, placing espionage objectives for Germany on a level similar to countries like Japan and France. Decidedly higher priority in the view of the secret service (NSA) are China, Russia, and Iran, and also Pakistan, North Korea and Afghanistan.

    Spiegel currently has an article running on NSA, on the officially “abandoned” (circa 2004) signals installation in Bad Aibling, southeast of Munich where, it appears from Snowden documents, that the Bundeswehr and/or Bundesnachrichtendienst are doing the signal-hoovering and shipping the metadatsa to NSA, sort of the German equivalent of what the Brits were fond to be doing. “Close” doesn’t seem to begin to describe the cooperation the Germans are giving the NSA.

    Of course, if we’re watching their international trade policies and politics, and what they’re shipping to whom, I’m sure nothing bad could come from it.

  3. Frank33 says:

    One of the dee cee Beltway’s most successful lawyers assists money laundering for terrorism, and this prominent terror profiteer is also a high ranking member of the secret government. Kenneth Wainstein has all sorts of awards and Wainstein has been a material supporter of Al Qaeda for years. He has profited greatly, for his treason.

    Wainstein brags about the prosecution of Riggs Bank, for illegally protecting money stolen by bloody dictators. Wainstein concealed the Al Qaeda funds deposited by Prince Bandar. “Bush” Bandar controlled the Saudi secret police and funded the 9/11 hijackers.

    Among his many national security position, Wainstein led the “National Security Division” of the Justice Dept. We can assume Wainstein was responsible for the destruction of evidence presented by 9/11 victims in a lawsuit. Justice was given to the Saudi sponsored Al Qaeda by Wainstein, and Wainstein concealed Saudi involvement in 9/11, again.

    In 2006, the U.S. Senate confirmed Ken as the first Assistant Attorney General for National Security. In that position, Ken established and led the new National Security Division, which consolidated DOJ’s law enforcement and intelligence activities on counterterrorism and counterintelligence matters, and also oversaw the Department’s role in regulatory mechanisms such as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS). Ken led several national security initiatives, including the launch of the national, inter-agency Export Control Enforcement Initiative targeting illegal exports of sensitive technology and weapons components.

    In 2004, he was appointed, and later confirmed as, the United States Attorney in Washington, DC, where he oversaw the investigation and prosecution of high-profile white-collar and public corruption cases, including the case against Riggs Bank for Bank Secrecy Act violations

  4. lefty665 says:

    @max: “drum memory”?? You left out mercury delay lines, but I like the thought:)

    NSA may still have some of that stuff running in a sub basement at Meade.

  5. P J Evans says:

    Back in 1983, a friend was a systems contractor on a (not classified) job at Wright-Patterson, helping to connect a disk drive on a PDP-10 to a Vax. (Digital said it couldn’t be done. They did it – but it took several people several months of work.)
    So they probably have drum and mercury-delay-line memory out there somewhere.

  6. C says:

    @max: In general I think your analysis is correct however I can see a reason for the corporate store other than avoiding the rules (in fact it is clear they don’t give a damn about the rules anyway so why go to the trouble).

    The DNI is the raw stream of the net. Based upon my reading of the slides the query process does not just find the info but in effect tags it and, via the analyst, links it to ongoing cases. In effect the Corporate Store data has been cleaned somewhat and is probably faster to access than the raw data which is likely compressed and scattered in Bluffdale.

    Consequently the Corporate store does not really help them obey the law in any meaningful sense (the FISA court seems rediculously easy to please anyway) it just stores the semi-structured and tagged results for sharing.

  7. Snoopdido says:

    @max: Your comment made for interesting reading. A couple things:

    1. DNI – This acronym at the NSA stands for Data Network Intelligence. The NSA uses its XKeyscore program to exploit Data Network Intelligence. By that they mean the exploitation of intelligence from computer networks. See this link:

    2. You are correct that the term “corporate store” is a common IT term relating to where corporate data is kept. The term “store” itself is a common IT database term. For more detail than I want to know, here’s a link where “store” and “corporate store” are discussed in relation to various databasing concepts and functions:

  8. lefty665 says:

    @P J Evans: 20+ years ago someone pulled a drum based machine out of a landfill in the D.C. area. Plans were to restore it and put it on display.

    I lost track of the project so don’t know where it ended up. Back in another memory dump maybe along with cores (Apple?). Sorry…

  9. joanneleon says:

    @max: Very helpful commentary and educated guesses.

    It’s still spotty though, if you grab the excess query results and put them in the corporate store. You’d need to do a set of queries on a regular basis if you wanted to have up to date communications from most Americans in that corporate store, wouldn’t you?

  10. pdaly says:

    I think that spotty problem could be sovled if someone writes a short script program that methodically goes back for more (like Aaron Swartz was able to do for collecting and downloading journal articles). I’m not a programmer though.

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