Hillary Claims to Support Targeted Spying But Advisor Matt Olsen Was Champion of Bulk Spying

Spencer Ackerman has a story on what Hillary Clinton meant when she said she supports an “intelligence surge” to defeat terrorism. Amid a lot of vague language hinting at spying expansions (including at fusion centers and back doors), her staffers told Ackerman she supported the approach used in USA Freedom Act.

Domestically, the “principles” of Clinton’s intelligence surge, according to senior campaign advisers, indicate a preference for targeted spying over bulk data collection, expanding local law enforcement’s access to intelligence and enlisting tech companies to aid in thwarting extremism.

The campaign speaks of “balancing acts” between civil liberties and security, a departure from both liberaland conservative arguments that tend to diminish conflict between the two priorities. Asked to illustrate what Clinton means by “appropriate safeguards” that need to apply to intelligence collection in the US, the campaign holds out a 2015 reform that split the civil liberties community as a model for any new constraints on intelligence authorities.

The USA Freedom Act, a compromise that constrained but did not entirely end bulk phone records collection, “strikes the right balance”, said [former NSC and State Department staffer and current senior foreign policy advisor Laura] Rosenberger. “So those kinds of principles and protections offer something of a guideline for where any new proposals she put forth would be likely to fall.”

It then goes on to list a bunch of advisors who have been contributing advice on the “intelligence surge.”

The campaign did not identify the architects of the intelligence surge, but it pointed to prominent counter-terrorism advisers who have been contributing ideas.

They include former acting CIA director Michael Morell – who has come under recent criticism for his attacks on the Senate torture report – ex-National Counterterrorism Center director Matt Olsen; Clinton’s state department counter-terrorism chief Dan Benjamin; former National Security Council legal adviser Mary DeRosa; ex-acting Homeland Security secretary Rand Beers; Mike Vickers, a retired CIA operative who became Pentagon undersecretary for intelligence; and Jeremy Bash, Leon Panetta’s chief of staff at the CIA and Pentagon.

It appalls me that Hillary is getting advice from Mike Morell, who has clearly engaged in stupid propaganda both for her and the CIA (though he also participated in the Presidents Review Group that advocated far more reform than Obama has adopted). I take more comfort knowing Mary DeRosa is in the mix.

But I do wonder how you can take advice from Matt Olsen — who was instrumental in a lot of our current spying programs — and claim to adopt a balanced approach.

Olsen was the DOJ lawyer who oversaw the Yahoo challenge to PRISM in 2007 and 2008. He did two things of note. First, he withheld information from the FISC until forced to turn it over, not even offering up details about how the government had completely restructured PRISM during the course of Yahoo’s challenge, and underplaying details of how US person metadata is used to select foreign targets. He’s also the guy who threatened Yahoo with $250,000 a day fines for appealing the FISC decision.

Olsen was a key player in filings on the NSA violations in early 2009, presiding over what I believe to be grossly misleading claims about the intent and knowledge NSA had about the phone and Internet dragnets. Basically, working closely with Keith Alexander, he hid the fact that NSA had basically willfully treated FISA-collected data under the more lenient protection regime of EO 12333.

Charlie Savage provided two more details about Olsen’s fondness for bulk spying in Power Wars. As head of NCTC, Olsen was unsurprisingly the guy in charge of arranging, in 2012, for the NCTC to have access to any federal database it claimed might have terrorist information in it (thereby deeming all of us terrorists). Savage describes how, in response to his own reporting that NCTC was considering doing so — at a time when the plan was to have a further discussion about the privacy implications of the move — ODNI pushed through the change without that additional privacy consideration. That strikes me as the same kind of disdain for due process as Olsen exhibited during the Yahoo challenge.

Finally, Savage described how, when Obama was considering reforms to the phone dragnet in 2014, Olsen opposed having the FISC approve query terms before querying the database as legally unnecessary. It’s hard to imagine how Olsen would really be in favor of USAF type reforms, which codify that change.

In short, among Hillary’s named advisors, the one with the most direct past involvement in such decisions (and also the one likely to be appointed to a position of authority in the future) has advocated for more bulk spying, not less.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

4 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    Hey bmaz, you, a criminal defense attorney, are joking when you say this on Twitter, right? “Be proud @Giants and @NYKnicks fans, your precious franchises are the itinerant keepers and coddlers of accused wife beaters and sex abusers”.

    • bmaz says:

      Joking? No, not at all. Josh Brown for the Giants is an admitted/convicted wife beater, and is accused by his former wife of having done so 20 or more times. For all the noise the NFL makes over DV, they ring very hollow. The one thing the NFL has done is to blackball the, by all appearances, most genuinely contrite and responsible offender, Ray Rice. Yet they let unrepentant as swipes like Josh Brown and Greg Hardy play. So, yeah, fuck that.

      As to the Knicks, they have said they fully knew of the allegations against Rose, and simply did not care. Given the scandalous and scurrilous assholish behavior of Rose and his attorneys in that litigation, that is a little shocking.

      Congrats New York, you have a couple of weiners.

      • martin says:

        ummmm… I don’t get it.  Is the new software misplacing comments? Why is sports related comments showing up under an emptywheel post about Clintons NS advisors??????????

  2. martin says:

    WTF?  I just wrote a LONG post, only to get an ERROR 404 when I clicked on POST COMMENT? And then couldn’t get it back!  arrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggrrrrrrrrrrr!!

     

    Not to mention, my screen name and email addy was in the fields below, but now, I have to fill them out!!

    ATTENTION..  emptywheel webmaster- please pick up the nearest service phone. I have something for you.

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