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Mistakes Were Made - Everyone Freak Out!
Author: Raine    Date: 2013-08-17 20:00:00

This morning, The Washington Post had this article on its front page: NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds

It's not good. Documents that were stolen by Edward Snowden were leaked to WaPo, and were rightfully analyzed. Is what Snowden leaked proof that the NSA is a rogue agency that needs to be dismantled?

Let's start with the WaPo article in all of its depressing glory. Mistakes were made - this we know. But let's dissect a few things.
The May 2012 audit, intended for the agency’s top leaders, counts only incidents at the NSA’s Fort Meade headquarters and other ­facilities in the Washington area. Three government officials, speak­ing on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said the number would be substantially higher if it included other NSA operating units and regional collection centers.
Interestingly, another story came out yesterday from Reuters.
Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden began downloading documents describing the U.S. government's electronic spying programs while he was working for Dell Inc in April 2012, almost a year earlier than previously reported, according to U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the matter.
[...]
Snowden downloaded information while employed by Dell about eavesdropping programs run by the NSA and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters, and left an electronic footprint indicating when he accessed the documents, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.
[...]
Some of the material Snowden downloaded in April 2012 while a Dell employee related to NSA collection from fiber-optic cables, including transoceanic cables, of large quantities of internet traffic and other communications, the sources said.

Snowden has said he left Dell for a job at Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii around March of this year, specifically to gain access to additional top-secret documents that could be leaked to the media.
[...]
In February 2010, while working for Dell, Snowden wrote in an internet technology forum, Ars Technica, that he was bothered by technology companies allegedly giving the U.S. government access to private computer servers.

"It really concerns me how little this sort of corporate behavior bothers those outside of technology circles," Snowden wrote under the screen name "The True HooHA." "Society really seems to have developed an unquestioning obedience towards spooky types.
Ironically, the WaPo Article mentioned these very fiber optic cables, specifically:
In what appears to be one of the most serious violations, the NSA diverted large volumes of international data passing through fiber-optic cables in the United States into a repository where the material could be stored temporarily for processing and selection.

The operation to obtain what the agency called “multiple communications transactions” collected and commingled U.S. and foreign e-mails, according to an article in SSO News, a top-secret internal newsletter of the NSA’s Special Source Operations unit. NSA lawyers told the court that the agency could not practicably filter out the communications of Americans.

In October 2011, months after the program got underway, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled that the collection effort was unconstitutional. The court said that the methods used were “deficient on statutory and constitutional grounds,” according to a top-secret summary of the opinion, and it ordered the NSA to comply with standard privacy protections or stop the program.
(bold-face mine)

So the document Snowden released revealed a program that was ruled by the FISA court as unconstitutional in 2011. So when exactly did Snowden take the document? The document certainly pre-dates the court's decision.

Something else from the article:
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who did not receive a copy of the 2012 audit until The Post asked her staff about it, said in a statement late Thursday that the committee “can and should do more to independently verify that NSA’s operations are appropriate, and its reports of compliance incidents are accurate.”
Yet, later in the article, it also states:
Members of Congress may read the unredacted documents, but only in a special secure room, and they are not allowed to take notes. Fewer than 10 percent of lawmakers employ a staff member who has the security clearance to read the reports and provide advice about their meaning and significance.

The limited portions of the reports that can be read by the public acknowledge “a small number of compliance incidents.”
Today on the Senator's website is her full statement, and it is prefaced with this:
While today’s Washington Post stated that Feinstein did not receive a copy of the 2012 audit cited by the paper until The Post asked about it, Feinstein’s full statement provided on Thursday to the paper made clear the committee receives the FISA compliance information in a more official format rather than as an internal NSA statistical report.
her statement includes: “As I have said previously, the committee has never identified an instance in which the NSA has intentionally abused its authority to conduct surveillance for inappropriate purposes.

“I believe, however, that the committee can and should do more to independently verify that NSA’s operations are appropriate, and its reports of compliance incidents are accurate. This should include more routine trips to NSA by committee staff and committee hearings at which all compliance issues can be fully discussed.”
Intentionally is a very important word here. The article itself states: "They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls." and later states "Most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure. The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.

So again - the WaPo article mischaracterizes the truth (whether intentionally or inadvertently is unclear).

Yes, I disagree with the DOJ fighting to keep that October 2011 decision private.
But in July 2012, Wyden was able to get the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to declassify two statements that he wanted to issue publicly. They were:

  • * On at least one occasion the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court held that some collection carried out pursuant to the Section 702 minimization procedures used by the government was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

    * I believe that the government's implementation of Section 702 of FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] has sometimes circumvented the spirit of the law, and on at least one occasion the FISA Court has reached this same conclusion

  • Senators Wyden and Udall had been pushing this issue for a very long time. People paying attention knew this.

    So what exactly did Snowden leak to the Washington Post? To the best of my knowledge, it was an Internal audit of the NSA. In other words -- he leaked proof that the NSA was actually doing oversight. I'm going to let Bob Cesca from the Daily Banter take it from here:
    More importantly, this was an internal audit, which means… oversight! It turns out, yes, obviously, NSA has multiple layers of oversight and exhaustive internal audits of the agency and its analysts as a means of both weeding out problems and then mitigating them. The elephant in the room is that the purpose of Gellman’s document, presumably from NSA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), is to keep detailed tabs on the agency. But Gellman never explicitly mentioned the OIG, just that the document is an “audit.” But it’s a fair to reach such a conclusion since internal audits are performed by various OIGs within all government agencies and departments.
    He goes on to mention takeaways from the article that many might not have noticed:
    –There was a “quadrupling of NSA’s oversight staff” in 2009 after the Obama administration came into office.

    (note from me: WaPo stated that after 'quadrupling of the NSA’s oversight staff after a series of significant violations in 2009, the rate of infractions increased throughout 2011 and early 2012.' is it possible be that the oversight staff is doing its job? Normally that is considered a good thing, isn't it?)

    –There are “semi-annual reports to Congress” about NSA “errors and infractions.”

    –The public can read abbreviated versions of these audits. “The limited portions of the reports that can be read by the public acknowledge ‘a small number of compliance incidents.’” Obviously, a full public disclosure of agency errors would reveal the nature of NSA’s top secret SIGINT operations. But this is evidence that the public can attain a limited peek at NSA’s audits anyway.

    –There are “regular audits from the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and periodic reports to Congress and the surveillance court.”

    –Regarding the surveillance court, Gellman’s article reveals a summary of a now infamous 86-page October 2011 decision by the FISA court, which determined that a then-brand new NSA operation was unconstitutional and must be discontinued.
    My basic point in bringing this up is that it appears as though it was recognized that we had an NSA problem back in 2009. Edward Snowden released an internal audit of the NSA. It shows that the NSA recognizes mistakes it makes.

    However, people like Snowden, Assange, and Greenwald would like you to believe it is institutional. Want proof? here:
    http://banter.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/greenwald_nsa_audit_tweet.jpg
    Cescas response?
    Why would NSA whitewash a top secret internal audit? To presumably lie to itself?


    If you recall, I questioned Snowden back in June -- it wasn't a blog, but it was in the comments of the day. Specifically at 02:10:08 PM.
    Quote by Raine:how did Snowden even get his job at the CIA? He doesn't have a degree by his own admission.
    even if it was this position, it still seems strange that he was able to get this job.
    Quote by Raine:
    Quote by Raine:
    how did Snowden even get his job at the CIA? He doesn't have a degree by his own admission.
    even if it was this position, it still seems strange that he was able to get this job.

    After that, he got his first job in an NSA facility, working as a security guard for one of the agency's covert facilities at the University of Maryland. From there, he went to the CIA, where he worked on IT security. His understanding of the internet and his talent for computer programming enabled him to rise fairly quickly for someone who lacked even a high school diploma.
    from security guard to CIA??

    As I said below, even if it was this position:
    These positions require a 5-year contract-term employment agreement. Contract-Term Agreement. Candidates should have Associate's Degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering Technology, Computer Network Systems, Electronics Engineering Technology or similar degrees from an accredited technical school or university. A final GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale is required. Candidates with at least two years civilian or military work experience/knowledge in the telecommunications and/or automated information systems field that is comparable to one of the requisite degree fields may also qualify (example: with current computer systems, applications, networks, and hardware/software troubleshooting skills).
    The article appears to be ignoring his stint at Dell -- there is something not quite fitting together here. How long did he work at Dell? He was there until at least 2012:
    http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/politics/assets_c/2013/06/Screen%20Shot%202013-06-09%20at%205.34.46%20PM-thumb-570x170-123958.png


    Here we are two months later learning that he stole information about a fiber-optic program that the FISA court later ruled unconstitutional. This means he was stealing information back when he was working at Dell. He also supported Ron Paul.

    Think about that for a moment.

    You know who else supported Ron Paul? Julian Assange (not an American citizen BTW) really said this:
    The libertarian aspect of the Republican party is presently the only useful political voice really in the U.S. Congress. It will be the driver that shifts the United States around. It’s not going to come from the Democrats. It’s not going to come from Ralph Nader. It’s not going to come from the co-opted parts of the Republican party. The only hope as far as electoral politics is concerned, presently, is the libertarian section of the Republican party.
    Read and watch the whole thing; it's quite enlightening.

    Edward Snowden and Jullian Assange are Ron Paul supporters. Greenwald obviously worked with Snowden to discredit the government. Snowden is so self-centered that he threw his father under the bus.

    His credibility should have always been questioned just as his motives should have been. If you want government to 'drown in a bathtub', as Grover Norquist once said, then you should probably trust Snowden (and Assange... and Greenwald). They all are part of the extreme Libertarian wing that wants no government at all. Lest you think I am being hyperbolic, google "Dismantle the NSA" This came up first for the search. Then there's this. Or - you can just go to this FB group: Abolish the IRS DHS TSA ATF DEA FDA SSA DOE FBI ED NSA CIA DOD EPA FCC CDC (I'm not sure it's a joke or not, but it exists.) This form of Libertarianism is alive and well and it is wreaking havoc, imo.

    You can trust Snowden or not. I don't.

    If you want to know if government actually does oversight, then you should go back and read the WaPo article again. Snowden is actually contradicting himself, trying to imply that the NSA problems in the audit were intentional. Intentional is far different than malicious. Snowden would like you to believe the latter.

    Do you believe a man who fled the United States for Russian asylum over actual documented situations? Are we going to allow this to drive the narrative about government agencies and their programs as if there's no oversight?

    Maybe in the end the far right has their 2nd, and the far left has the fourth. I don't know for certain. What I do know is this --what Snowden leaked was an internal audit. It wasn't pretty -- but that is why audits are needed. Are we really pissed off that a government agency did an audit and found it wasn't perfect?

    Rule breaking DOES matter, but this isn't the end of the world or our Constitution. Read this. The NSA is actually working the way it should be working.

    Until then, I will say this: Bradley Manning is going to jail. Edward Snowden is facing jail time, should he ever come back to the USA. Both were/are supported by Assange and Wikileaks. Ironically, Julian Assange is sitting in an embassy. He's fine with his supporters going to jail it appears. Is this the freedom that Wikileaks supports?

    I've said it before: Something isn't right here.

    1 comments (Latest Comment: 08/17/2013 11:32:55 by TriSec)
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