House members remain concerned after FBI/NSA briefing

posted at 8:41 am on June 12, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The defenders of the NSA’s surveillance programs have insisted since last week that the programs don’t threaten the privacy of US citizens on the Internet or on the phone, and have strict Congressional oversight.  That must mean that a briefing on the program would satisfy most members of the House and reassure Americans that George Orwell’s worst nightmares hadn’t come to pass.  Unfortunately, a briefing of the House by the NSA and FBI left many of them with more questions than before it began, and perhaps even more concerns:

Members of Congress on Tuesday expressed growing doubts about the way the country’s top-secret surveillance programs are managed, even as the top legislators from each party voiced confidence in the programs and showed little interest in a public discussion of the issue.

Emerging from an early evening closed-door briefing with officials from the National Security Agency, the Justice Department and the FBI, some members of the House of Representatives said they had more questions than answers about the surveillance programs that sweep up records from phone and Internet accounts belonging to millions of Americans.

“I think what really came out of it is that we need, as Congress, is to move forward and debate the issue,” said Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee. “It’s really a debate on how far we go with public safety, and protecting us from terrorist attacks, versus how far we go on the other side and what programs we use to deal with that issue. This is what we do in Congress.”

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said there “obviously” needs to be more congressional oversight on the telephone surveillance program, under which so-called metadata from cellphone records are surrendered to the FBI and the NSA on a daily basis.

“I did not know a billion records a day were coming under control of the executive branch,” Sherman said.

A billion records a day? What kind of records would those be?  It doesn’t sound like that’s just metadata from Verizon, which is big but not that big.

The Hill also reports that if the NSA and FBI hoped to quell criticism with this briefing, they failed:

Lawmakers concerns over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs were not alleviated after the full House received a briefing on the programs Tuesday. …

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), senior Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been critical of Obama’s surveillance programs, saying over the weekend that the administration has “gone too far” in eroding privacy rights.

Asked after Tuesday’s briefing if he still has those concerns, Cummings said simply, “Yes.”

“Most of the members that spoke seemed to be pretty concerned,” he added.

Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) has been among the loudest critics of the administration’s claims that it had briefed all members of Congress on the surveillance programs. Long said after Tuesday’s briefing that that consternation has now been alleviated, but he still has “grave concerns” about the programs themselves.

Not everyone’s concerns over prior briefings were “alleviated”:

Intelligence Committee leaders have said that lawmakers had access to the classified information had they requested briefings. But Sherman argued that the nature and scope of the program was essentially hidden even if it was available.

“If somewhere on page 9,412 was the disclosure of this program, it was well concealed under the other 9,000 pages,” Sherman said.

Back to the Billion A Day Diet, though. The Hill has a longer quote from Sherman that explains that the executive branch is indeed collecting a billion records a day, despite James Clapper’s denials over the weekend.  They claim they’re not conducting searches on the data without FISA court warrants and good cause, but the court has no oversight over the data itself.  The NSA may well be conducting raids on this stored data all day long, and only the NSA would know it. Given the agency’s history, that’s not a situation in which Congress or the American people will remain comfortable for long.

Update: Changed headline; briefing was broader than on PRISM, and it may not be the source for the “billion records a day,” or at least the sole source.  Thanks to Gabriel Malor for pointing that out.

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Executive branch?????

And the outrage during WS term….what a crock

cmsinaz on June 12, 2013 at 8:46 AM

This Congress and Administration want to punish leakers of private information that THE GOVERNMENT COLLECTS secretly but wants to DENY it’s CITIZENS the same rights it DEMANDS.

Irony much?

PappyD61 on June 12, 2013 at 8:47 AM

:shiver:

gophergirl on June 12, 2013 at 8:47 AM

They claim their they’re not conducting searches on the data without FISA court warrants and good cause, but the court has no oversight over the data itself.

Searching a billion records a day is nothing but a fishing expedition. It is irresponsibly overbroad.

Happy Nomad on June 12, 2013 at 8:48 AM

Is it all legal? Of course not, but we are doing it to protect us from you. Pitchforks on the Mall anyone?

tim c on June 12, 2013 at 8:51 AM

These records were/are being used by the Obama administration for political purposes. I have no doubt about it.

GiantOrb on June 12, 2013 at 8:52 AM

metadata from cellphone records are surrendered to the FBI and the NSA on a daily basis.

What??? The FBI too?????

faraway on June 12, 2013 at 8:54 AM

You didn’t know, GOP? Why didn’t you know? Why did you spend more time fighting the tea party and Sarah Palin than you did policing our constitution and this administration that stands for everything our forefathers were opposed to–tyranny by government rule, rather than self-rule.

You were elected to oppose and you chose to become complicit as a co-ruler, desecrating the graves of millions of patriots who died to preserve what you casually ignored.

Don L on June 12, 2013 at 8:54 AM

They claim their they’re not conducting searches on the data without FISA court warrants and good cause, but the court has no oversight over the data itself.

I wish someone would ask Patrick Leahy about this. He sponsored a bill that would require a warrant in order for the government to access electronic communications. If a warrant is already required, why would the bill be needed?

Syzygy on June 12, 2013 at 8:55 AM

Most likely all data being accessed by the Democratic party via the White House for political purposes. “Operational Research” as the Democrats call it.

albill on June 12, 2013 at 9:01 AM

You were elected to oppose and you chose to become complicit as a co-ruler, desecrating the graves of millions of patriots who died to preserve what you casually ignored.

Don L on June 12, 2013 at 8:54 AM

I’m inclined to give the Congresscritters some benefit of the doubt here. I suspect the NSA’s brief to Congress was vague without going into the detail about how much this administration has expanded the snooping. I mean Clapper flat out lied about snooping in the first place. Who’s to say that Congress had the information they needed for oversight. That would require an honest administration.

Happy Nomad on June 12, 2013 at 9:02 AM

We have the NSA potential scandal but how do we protect ourselves and still go after our enemies.

If we indeed have constitutional NSA programs then how do we protect ourselves from abuse as we have seen with the IRS. We have seen that the IGs in the IRS and State Department have done what they could to identify problems, but they have limited powers and are appointed by the president.

I say increase their investigative powers and change the law such that congress has to approve a firing of an IG. Obama fired 2 during his first term when his people were caught skirting/breaking the law. Everyone may have forgotten what happened during the bailouts/bankruptcy games.

The NSA needs IGs if they don’t have them now with different groups within the NSA having their own IGs and having to report to the congressional intelligence committees every 6 months.

Rules on testifying before congress need to be strengthened. Lying/misleading congress should require an IG investigation and a firing if it was true. Actual perjury would require firing and jail time, as with Nixon’s AG John Mitchell who got 19 months in prison. Officials should say they can’t testify in open session if they don’t want to answer a question that compromises national security. Lying like Mr. Clapper, head of our intelligence community, did recently to congress should cause him to be fired.

We can fire people even in the unionized IRS if Section 1203 of the Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, which mandates terminations of IRS employees who commit any of what are known in the Service as the 10 Deadly Sins is implemented.

There needs to be a balance between security and constitutional rights and as Ben Franklin indicated if you give up your freedom for security, you will have neither. Right now government is not afraid of the people; that needs to change.

amr on June 12, 2013 at 9:03 AM

FOIAing the NSA: What you can get, what you can’t and where to start. https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2013/jun/11/foiaing-nsa-what-you-can-get-what-you-cant-and-whe/

albill on June 12, 2013 at 9:06 AM

A BILLION items a day? I guess they really are collecting almost everything from phone calls, e-mails and credit card transactions. That number pretty much confirms that part of the story.

Johnnyreb on June 12, 2013 at 9:09 AM

“I did not know a billion records a day were coming under control of the executive branch…”

Only a billion records a day?!

Heck, I’m pretty sure my daughter is responsible for about 800,000,000 of those records!

NavyMustang on June 12, 2013 at 9:14 AM

See guys, it’s your fault for not asking us questions about the program we didn’t tell you existed.

boone on June 12, 2013 at 9:15 AM

Members of Congress on Tuesday expressed growing doubts about the way the country’s top-secret surveillance programs are managed, even as the top legislators from each party voiced confidence in the programs and showed little interest in a public discussion of the issue.

While we can’t expect any more “elaboration” on the specifics of the program, I would submit the “doubts about how the programs are managed, are the key words here.

Given the events that have transpired here with this IT guy, (Edward Snowden), and the still far-reaching ramifications of the IRS intrusions on American citizens, it’s no wonder Congressional members are showing concern for how secure the program is, and who’s got the keys to the computers.

It was reported this morning that Lois Learner may have accessed IRS computers just this past week—WHILE ON PAID LEAVE! If this turns out to be true, how in the hell can we trust that ANY government official has a handle on securing this “private information”? MANAGEMENT? It’s still in the hands of this Obama administration—who’s asking us all to trust them.

Rovin on June 12, 2013 at 9:22 AM

Glenn Beck says he was in a meeting with some Congressmen just after their NSA briefing. He said they were really, really angry over what they had just heard, and noticeably paranoid. Ted Cruz warned Beck that the way things were going, he could see Beck ending up in jail. Shades of Cuba in the ’50′s.

For the first time, they were focused on one thing: Saving the Constitution.

petefrt on June 12, 2013 at 9:22 AM

I’m surprised you’re surprised. If every household in America use the phone ten times per day on average, and my kids each use their phone probably 100 times, then that’s a billion records. There’s probably a billion credit card charges per day. Movie rentals, kindle uses, Apple music store sales….it all adds up quickly.

I’m surprised its only a billion. When the smoke clears, I bet its several orders of magnitude larger than a billion records per day.

The larger the data set, the happier I am by the way. It’s almost impossible to find one specific record in a massive data set (sometimes even when you know exactly what you are looking for!), and these records can only be analyzed algorithmically. That’s not what Snowden said they are doing, I know, but we work with large data sets in our business and if there is another way to analyze big data than with algorithms I’d like to know what that might be. With an algorithm it’s a certainty they aren’t looking at specific Americans transactions, unless and until the algorithm says they should. Not us, in other words.

That doesn’t make this right, I agree, but at least it makes it lots less intrusive. We need to know more before reaching conclusions but, maybe it sounds paradoxical but trust me on this one, the bigger the records set the happier we all ought to be.

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 9:24 AM

Asked after Tuesday’s briefing if he still has those concerns, Cummings said simply, “Yes.”

No worries, it will be solved by the time he hits the Sun a.m. talk show circuit..

hillsoftx on June 12, 2013 at 9:25 AM

A billion just doesn’t seem that high to me. If you figure they are collecting meta data on texts as well as phone calls, any teenager can run up 50 to a 100 texts a day with ease. There are 300 million people in this country. That’s 3 phone calls/texts per person per day. I realize that not everyone has a phone, but as I say, if you include texts of teenagers, that alone makes up a lot of ground for those who don’t have phones.

And I realize no one has said anything about collecting texts, but don’t we just assume that if they’re (their?) collecting phone calls they have to collect texts? Otherwise, any conspiring terrorists could just text each other to circumvent the snooping.

rogaineguy on June 12, 2013 at 9:25 AM

“I did not know a billion records a day were coming under control of the executive branch,”

But Snowden could’ve told his mommy.
Tepid Air

Gohawgs on June 12, 2013 at 9:28 AM

A billion records a day!
Supposedly it is ok because they can’t “search” the records without approving it with a court.

Am I missing something? It does seem that they are collecting the data, or “seizing” it.

Doesn’t the 4th cover both Search AND Seizure. Also, my understanding is that you don’t have to have both a search and a seizure, you cannot do either without the proper authority.

Is the legal basis for this that they are only copying data and not actually “seizing” the original or disrupting the flow of information?

The phone thingy isn’t as disconcerting as the internet data gathering..unless they are actually tapping into phone lines and recording absent a warrant.

I look at the internet issue as being equivalent to the government recording every phone conversation and only accessing the contents if they have a court order. Scary stuff that they think they have the authority to collect the data on this large of a scale.

Let’s circle back to the national security argument. Is it wise to have this much information on Americans that could be tapped into by people with less than pure motives? (Hackers, foreign governments, PO’d government employees/contractors).

weaselyone on June 12, 2013 at 9:29 AM

Hey, you yahoos, this is only ‘metadata’.

It’s not like the Left is collecting all your call logs, and records of which websites you visit.

faraway on June 12, 2013 at 9:30 AM

NSA is constructing (or has constructed) a turnkey totalitarian state.

petefrt on June 12, 2013 at 9:31 AM

even as the top legislators from each party voiced confidence in the programs and showed little interest in a public discussion of the issue.

We need to remove these traitors from office.

paulsur on June 12, 2013 at 9:32 AM

They claim their not conducting searches on the data without FISA court warrants and good cause, but the court has no oversight over the data itself. The NSA may well be conducting raids on this stored data all day long, and only the NSA would know it.

A billion pieces a day! That’s literally three pieces a day for every man woman and child in America. That’s 1,000 pieces of data collected on you, me and everyone you know every single year. If these guys protect data the way the IRS does you have nothing to be worried about!

The Police State of Obamaville”

http://www.Imperfectamerica.com

imperfectamerica on June 12, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Supposedly it is ok because they can’t “search” the records without approving it with a court.

General warrants were a chief complain that ledt to the revolutionary war. They are prohibited under the 4th amendment to the constituion.

paulsur on June 12, 2013 at 9:33 AM

If a billion calls a day is not from US citizens than they are from other countries. What a way to upset your friends and allies.

aknews on June 12, 2013 at 9:34 AM

What I don’t understand is if they can literally monitor the entire internet – then why do kiddie porn, death video websites, and jihad blogs still exist?

abobo on June 12, 2013 at 9:36 AM

There should not be an American alive who is OK with this.
The government of for and by the people is a thing of the past. This is a disgusting tyranny masquerading as the United States.
I am not the only one, but I am hopping mad. I feel watched and guilty and on the verge of being prosecuted for what, I don’t even know.

ORconservative on June 12, 2013 at 9:40 AM

General warrants were a chief complain that ledt to the revolutionary war. They are prohibited under the 4th amendment to the constituion.

paulsur on June 12, 2013 at 9:33 AM

My understanding is that they don’t need the court order to collect the data, only to access specific records.

Their argument, I think, is that the collection should not be construed as a search or seizure and that the 4th only applies when they go to look at the actual data on a specific case-by-case basis.

The whole question comes down to whether or not collecting all the data is a “seizure” based on a “general warrant”.

weaselyone on June 12, 2013 at 9:41 AM

With big data they aren’t looking at individual Americans. It’s different than that.

Think of a Venn diagram from elementary school. If you know a given set of fourth graders are males and another set are females, and you know that a given group doesn’t like chocolate, you can identify Susie as one girl who fits both sets by asking every single kid or, alternatively, by looking for the intersection of lists. She’s probably the only fourth grade girl who doesn’t like chocolate.

We need to know more, but That’s what the NSA is most likely doing: they have search filters set up and they are applying those filters to massive data sets. Only the intersecting points are subject to further investigation. If you are looking for Chechen immigrants who moved to the States in the last ten years between the ages of sixteen and forty with recent purchases of pressure cookers, then you apply those filters and investigate the resulting list.

Are the NSA searches “looking at” our records in the initial run, like some of you are worried about? Yes, but only because those records exist. They aren’t analyzing your individual records at all, and from what’s been said, no one’s specific records would likely even be findable in the data set unless the search filters were specifically changed. The more data in the set of records, the harder it is to tie individual records to each other.

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 9:44 AM

bluegill thinks those House members are silly for being concerned, because what could government ever possibly do with such access? They’re our frieeeeeeeennnnnnnnddddddddddsssssss.

MadisonConservative on June 12, 2013 at 9:48 AM

Metadata & Paul Revere…

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/06/prism_metadata_analysis_paul_revere_identified_by_his_connections_to_other.single.html

Bottom line if King George had PRISM back in the day…our little rebellion would’ve been busted.

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. – Thomas Jefferson

workingclass artist on June 12, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Time and time again we are told that “the terrorists only need to be right once.”

Apparently it is easier if the terrorist is a political hack, such as an Obama lackey.

Turns out not all terrorists use bombs and guns. Government terrorists just need a database.

ProfShadow on June 12, 2013 at 9:50 AM

They aren’t analyzing your individual records at all, and from what’s been said, no one’s specific records would likely even be findable in the data set unless the search filters were specifically changed. The more data in the set of records, the harder it is to tie individual records to each other.

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 9:44 AM

They have your phone call logs. Without listening to your calls, what do you think they could gather from looking at who you called, and how often, over the last 5 years?

faraway on June 12, 2013 at 9:51 AM

It sounds like the administration is serious about protecting us from the threats posed by Iran, China, North Korea , violent Islamist groups, etc.

kcewa on June 12, 2013 at 9:54 AM

This is next:

http://www.lazygamer.net/xbox-360/kinect-is-spying-on-you/

Then this:

“Well, yes, we have installed cameras in every room in your house. And we do record all that happens there, but we won’t look at it without a warrant. Only people with something to hide could be upset about this…”

ROCnPhilly on June 12, 2013 at 9:56 AM

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 9:44 AM

You have a whole lotta confidence in this bunch of criminals. Lets just say you’re right. Explain the Boston bombing.

I also find it difficult to believe this garbage at the NSA didn’t supplement the IRS in handing an election to BO that he never should have won. Not only that, I think it also explains some of the inexplicable comments and rulings by supposed conservatives that make no sense.
I have zero confidence in this government doing anything that doesn’t fit the bigger agenda. Excusing this over reach just furthers their abilities to get exactly what they want.

ORconservative on June 12, 2013 at 9:56 AM

The whole question comes down to whether or not collecting all the data is a “seizure” based on a “general warrant”.

weaselyone on June 12, 2013 at 9:41 AM

BINGO!

The metadata is collected and stored in perpetuity…analysis comes later to identify troublesome associationsto be used later for crimes in a shifting criteria of what constitutes a crime?

It’s Unconstitutional & Oppressive…Coercive.

On Red Eye Radio last night they speculated whether our gubmint might have end run the law by using Canada to gather in metadata and give it back to us…

The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first. – Thomas Jefferson

workingclass artist on June 12, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Are they mining data in spanish?If not they will have to gear up for the 20 or 30 million headed this way.

docflash on June 12, 2013 at 9:57 AM

But faraway, that’s not what they are looking at. My individual records I mean. With huge data sets they have to start differently. They aren’t looking at individual records until the very last step in the process and, presumably, by that time they have a very good reason to look at individual records. It just isn’t possible for a low-level technician to changes metadata search algorithms or filters to look at individual records, unless the system is built specifically to allow that. We need to learn more about it, but so far, no one alleges it is built that way. If it is built that way, by the way, it’s slow as hell and isn’t going to be worth much to investigators.

That’s what we need to know: what safeguards exist at the point of investigation? The big data set protects indviduals, as I’ve said. It’s when they get it down to a small data set that real investigation is possible, and that’s where we should all focus our attention,

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 9:57 AM

What hasn’t been mentioned that I have seen so far is that this NSA snooping is a great opening for the UN to demand control of the Internet from the US. It is coming and hard.

mustng66 on June 12, 2013 at 10:03 AM

ORconservative, I have zero confidence in this bunch of crooked thieves running the government. But I am confident that we will find this NSA program is not a big deal, when its all said and done, and I will bet you now lots of people here will like it once we learn ore about it.

If the data set is big, the crooked bastards in the Democrat party will have a vey hard time identifying individuals to harass. Remember in the IRS case they harasses poor innocents who came to see them! That’s more likely the pattern in the future too, to use the out of control agencies like the EPA or the IRS or OSHA or whatever to go after individual Americans.

Getting specific Americans data out of a giant database and tying it together to draw a picture of what each and every American believes or does on an average day is very difficult to do, and we are told it requires specific approval of the courts (as it damn well should!). Lets investigate that assertion. Lets learn more.

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 10:04 AM

They should not be mining data. Period.

ORconservative on June 12, 2013 at 10:05 AM

MTF, they have your call logs. Even a 10 year old could sort out if you called 1-800-teaparty.

faraway on June 12, 2013 at 10:07 AM

I want a show of hands. Who here thinks these call logs have not already been turned over to 3rd party Leftwing groups?

faraway on June 12, 2013 at 10:08 AM

See guys, it’s your fault for not asking us questions about the program we didn’t tell you existed.

boone on June 12, 2013 at 9:15 AM

And would deny any knowledge of if you did.

Happy Nomad on June 12, 2013 at 10:09 AM


MeanWhile…………………..

Edward Snowden revealed as source of NSA leak NSA leaker Edward Snowden says in new interview: ‘I’m neither traitor nor hero, I’m an American’ – @SCMP_News

Story metadata:
Submitted 20 mins ago from http://www.scmp.com by editor

canopfor on June 12, 2013 at 10:10 AM

Not to mention cost. We are broke, in mounds of debt, with politicians harping on how much 30 bucks in food stamps doesn’t buy and meanwhile our massive government machine is mining data? At what dollar cost? We already suspect, based on Boston, that the cost is likely not worth the benefit in terms of terrorism.
So, what is the real benefit to these guys at the NSA? It sure as hell was not catching two Chechyan punks with loads of data.
Hell, I could have found those two without the NSA and without metadata or a state of the art storage facility in Utah.

ORconservative on June 12, 2013 at 10:12 AM

ORconservative, as far as Boston goes, I think it shows the algorithm they were using isn’t perfect. They weren’t looking for teenaged Chechens who bought multiple pressure cookers. In our business we call that “a f*** up”. Technical term. I’d like to somebody had a bad performance review afterwards, but in this damn government they probably gave that person a paid vacation, a promotion and sent them off to work for Lois Lerner.

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 10:14 AM

They aren’t looking at individual records until the very last step in the process and, presumably, by that time they have a very good reason to look at individual records. It just isn’t possible for a low-level technician to changes metadata search algorithms or filters to look at individual records, unless the system is built specifically to allow that.

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Such presumptions are naive. We incorrectly assumed the Senate Majority Leader would not have access to an opposing presidential candidate’s tax records. We also assumed the IRS would not use tax data to identify and target political enemies.

To then make assumptions about what can and can’t be accomplished by anyone with access to a system you know absolutely nothing about is ridiculous. And to then trust those with access to mind their manners?!

You are, perhaps, a fool.

ROCnPhilly on June 12, 2013 at 10:16 AM

MTF, they have your call logs. Even a 10 year old could sort out if you called 1-800-teaparty.

faraway on June 12, 2013 at 10:07 AM

You jump to a conclusion here that I don’t think is possible. I work with big data sets every day and, sure, if the primary filter is “who called 1-800-Tea Party?” they have me in their sights. Is that a search term? Because if it is, I have a little Tree of Liberty in my yard that needs refreshment.

You are alleging the government is actively waging a low intensity war on average Americans. Sure, the IRS and the Democrats sure in fact doing that, I agree. But this particular NSA program, based on what I’ve heard so far, couldn’t be part of a low-level war, its a high intensity thing. Big, big difference.

Lets investigate and let’s learn more. But, so far, I’m lots more concerned about Lois Lerner than James Clapper. I wish he wouldn’t lie to Congress though, and he should resign post haste for that. But I don’t think, based on what I know right now, that he’s any danger to my liberty.

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 10:21 AM

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 10:21 AM

I hope so but I have no trust in any of these agencies to do anything close to the right thing.
The “good guys” aren’t even good. Look at immigration.

ORconservative on June 12, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Yes, you right on that. Immigration is another example of why politicians are bad news. Even those who claim to represent me are people I don’t much like.

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 10:34 AM

If we indeed have constitutional NSA programs then how do we protect ourselves from abuse as we have seen with the IRS.

amr on June 12, 2013 at 9:03 AM

For starters, how about more transparency with the FISA court? The way the FISC is set up now, there seems to be no accountability, or assurance that the warrants that are being approved are lawful. The FISC operates in the shadows, and seems like nothing more than a rubber stamp for the intelligence community.

HarryBackside on June 12, 2013 at 10:47 AM

The South China Morning Post has another interview with Snowden to be released shortly.

MadisonConservative on June 12, 2013 at 10:50 AM

They aren’t analyzing your individual records at all, and from what’s been said, no one’s specific records would likely even be findable in the data set unless the search filters were specifically changed. The more data in the set of records, the harder it is to tie individual records to each other.

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Not until you “accidentally” become included in a search query that is supposed to be intended to target the bad guys.

HarryBackside on June 12, 2013 at 10:52 AM

The more data in the set of records, the harder it is to tie individual records to each other.

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 9:44 AM

I have never heard anything so stupid.

faraway on June 12, 2013 at 11:00 AM

But this particular NSA program, based on what I’ve heard so far, couldn’t be part of a low-level war, its a high intensity thing. Big, big difference.

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 10:21 AM

For the sake of argument, let’s say that this is the case today, what about tomorrow? Now that the government has such a massive database, what’s to stop other agencies from finding uses for the data in the future? We know that the FBI is working with the NSA. What future “crisis” could compel the FBI to need access to the vast data stores. What about the IRS, or HHS? Power always finds a reason. It may not be today, or tomorrow, but someday this information will just become another tool for the entire federal government.

We already see examples of this with law enforcement. How much military technology has, or is making it’s way from the battle field to your local PD? Once the tool exists, other will find a use for it.

HarryBackside on June 12, 2013 at 11:01 AM

Not until you “accidentally” become included in a search query that is supposed to be intended to target the bad guys.

HarryBackside on June 12, 2013 at 10:52 AM

Exactly right; and your point on more transperancy for the FISC process is also exactly what I’d like to see. We need to learn more about these programs, and the government has to find a way to make it possible without hurting their operational abilities.

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 11:04 AM

Now that the government has such a massive database, what’s to stop other agencies from finding uses for the data in the future?

Another really good question. I’d like whomever replaces James Clapper to answer this one too. Todays technology may limit what can be done, but those limits may disappear in the future.

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 11:06 AM

I’m fine with the Prism thing… The NSA promises to keep the whole thing secret, and that’s good enough for me (oh, wait, nevermind). They can’t even keep their own data safe, how am I to expect they’ll keep my data safe?

RedManBlueState on June 12, 2013 at 11:10 AM

What I don’t understand is if they can literally monitor the entire internet – then why do kiddie porn, death video websites, and jihad blogs still exist?

abobo on June 12, 2013 at 9:36 AM

They are not looking for criminals. Besides they could not their illegal spying in court anyway. They are looking at political opposition and finding ways to destroy them. I’m not sure that the NSA info is currently being used for this but since it seems that every other federal government agency is being used to destroy political opposition, why should we trust anything from the federal government.

Corsair on June 12, 2013 at 11:11 AM

We don’t allow videotapes in dressing rooms or bathrooms in stores/businesses, even though they are rife with criminal activity. We don’t even allow this if the video tapes aren’t monitored and only pulled up if there is a suspicion of a criminal activity. The potential for abuse is far too great. The same goes with the NSA programs.

weaselyone on June 12, 2013 at 11:18 AM

Why don’t we just let the NSA go into everyone’s house, take pictures, and inventory everything into a super large database… just in case they want to do a FISA search later? I don’t have a problem with that. They promise not to look at the pictures or inventories unless they have a good reason.

RedManBlueState on June 12, 2013 at 11:21 AM

hy don’t we just let the NSA go into everyone’s house, take pictures, and inventory everything into a super large database… just in case they want to do a FISA search later? I don’t have a problem with that. They promise not to look at the pictures or inventories unless they have a good reason.

RedManBlueState on June 12, 2013 at 11:21 AM

Better yet, WEBCAMS for each household!

weaselyone on June 12, 2013 at 11:30 AM

I say, if they prosecute Snowden, they should also prosecute every elected official and bureaucratic appointee that has failed to keep their oath of upholding the US Constitution.

All or nothing. None of this selective enforcement / prosecution bull crap.

Oxymoron on June 12, 2013 at 11:42 AM

Why don’t we just let the NSA go into everyone’s house, take pictures, and inventory everything into a super large database… just in case they want to do a FISA search later? I don’t have a problem with that. They promise not to look at the pictures or inventories unless they have a good reason.

RedManBlueState on June 12, 2013 at 11:21 AM

They already have all of that information and more. Any items or services purchased on your debit or credit cards is already in the database.

Unless you paid the contractor in cash to install that new gun safe you bought with your Visa card, they’re going to know right where it’s hidden. LOL

Oxymoron on June 12, 2013 at 11:46 AM

Great News! We have nothing to worry about. We can go back to our daily lives. This program has been operating in plain sight. PRISM was only secret because it is such a boring program that no one thought to question it.

The administration is pushing back on the definition of what Prism actually is – that it’s not a snooping programme but a data management tool. The call logging accusations are pretty much beyond doubt (and reason enough to scream Big Brother) but the Prism angle is a little less clear. Extremetech points out that it is a programme that has hidden in public sight, that Prism is in fact, “the name of a web data management tool that is so boring that no one had ever bothered to report on its existence before now. It appears that the public Prism tool is simply a way to view and manage collected data, as well as correlate it with the source.” This is not to say that there isn’t a scandal to investigate here: “What is much more important is to pay attention to what data is being collected, and how.” But Prism might not be the smoking gun.
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timstanley/100221535/is-edward-snowdens-story-unravelling-why-the-guardians-scoop-is-looking-a-bit-dodgy/

If you ask me, the Telegraph’s attacks on Snowden, the UK Guardin, and the Post look a bit dodgy.

weaselyone on June 12, 2013 at 11:51 AM

They are looking at political opposition and finding ways to destroy them. ,,,,,,
We say terrorists are Islamic Jihadists,,,, Obama defines terrorists slightly differently,,,,,,To him terrorists are: Republicans, Tea Party, veterans, Catholics, Protestants, Pro-lifers, farmers, coal companies,gun owners,anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage,businessmen, insurance companies, medical institutions,Christians, Jews, Military,…and on and on…!!

So, I’m convinced the stolen data provides a fertile source of research to destroy all political opposition. It now makes sense to me why obvious critics suddenly go silent and support Obama. If not blackmail, at least the threat is there.

There has to be a better constitutional way to do security. This data should be erased and start over.

Marco on June 12, 2013 at 11:58 AM

It sounds like the administration is serious about protecting us from the threats posed by Iran, China, North Korea , violent Islamist groups, etc.

kcewa on June 12, 2013 at 9:54 AM

Well, sure. But they’ve got to start someplace…so why not with Tea Party groups, American war veterans, gun owners and enthusiasts, anti-tax groups, flat-taxers, Constitutionalists, pro-life groups, anti-same sex marriage groups……and on and on…

Then, they can worry about that mundane stuff like China, al Queda, the NorKs, etc.

Solaratov on June 12, 2013 at 1:13 PM

MTF on June 12, 2013 at 10:04 AM

The biggest asset in scooping all this metadata is the degree of separation and intensity. Cross match the phone number to a reverse lookup to get the id of the phone owner. Even if the phone is attached to a pbx they can handout who is assigned that extension. Once you have a name, you can now find other numbers used by X.

The degrees of separation is picked up by who you talk to. If there’s a person that you talk to a lot and in turn he talks to someone else, whether that someone else talks to you or not establishes the degree of separation and intensity comes from frequency and duration.

Id all tea party members whether they donate or not. Now that you have names, you can set PRISM to troll eveyone’s emails and even tap all the multiple email accounts one may have.

You underestimate the power of this deathstar prism at your peril. Simply put, the govt regardless of party running it has no constitutional reason to collect identifiable data.. Only in the aggregate, to whit the census which came about after much debate.

AH_C on June 12, 2013 at 1:44 PM

1 billion call detail records a day is not out of the realm of possible if all the calls from the majors are grabbed.

I don’t care what they do with them, I do not want the NSA storing data about my life in their systems for ANY REASON. There is no justification for casting the net that wide.

They say they don’t look at it until they have a warrant. I say that’s bravo sierra. If they know how many records they are collecting, they are “looking” at the data. If they say they get 500M from cell phone CDR and another 500M from wired CDR, it’s still being looked at and analyzed. If they are interested in making sure a query doesn’t take days, they are summarizing the data on an hourly or daily basis and storing summary records, perhaps with index information referring back to the raw data.

I am also concerned with the building of another layer of permanent bureaucracy associated with this data. My gut tells me that congresscritters are concerned about this data being collected, but they don’t have the cojones to tell NSA to stop. That means somebody has to take responsibility, especially blame if there is another attack. Congresscritters live to get reelected; taking responsibility puts reelection in potential jeopardy. So probably what they’ll do is add another layer of quasi-intelligence employees as IGs to oversee the usage (and to throw under the bus occasionally). Something like that is a prescription for an endless layer of GS14s making $100K+ per year to ‘safeguard’ our data.

This whole thing is so nuts – I can’t describe how idiotic this is. Gathering this data ‘just because’ can have no other endgame but abuse and misuse.

jclittlep on June 12, 2013 at 2:24 PM

With huge data sets they have to start differently.

No, they don’t. You simply assume that they would because you would. This is a classical logical error.

They aren’t looking at individual records until the very last step in the process and, presumably, by that time they have a very good reason to look at individual records.

You probably believe that because you’ve been told that’s what they do. But there is not a technical reason why the process can’t start from a different direction, so long as the dataset and associated indexing is properly designed, and you’ve got the processing power to throw at it.

And trust me, if there is one thing the NSA has at its disposal, it’s processing power aplenty.

It just isn’t possible for a low-level technician to changes metadata search algorithms or filters to look at individual records, unless the system is built specifically to allow that

No designer worth his salt would set it up so that it wouldn’t be possible to run any imaginable query against the data, ever. This is especially true in the case where you are not practically resource-constrained on something like processing power.

Just imagine the conversation:

Lead NSA investigator: “We need to query the following set of relationships from the archive as part of our current operation.”

DBA: “You can’t, sir. I didn’t design it that way, because I didn’t anticipate that anyone would ever ask about those sorts of relationships.”

Lead NSA investigator: “Oh, well if you didn’t anticipate it, I guess that’s OK. We’ll just forget about what we wanted to know, and stick to just what you anticipated from now on.”

Yeah… it definitely would go just like that.

In this sort of environment, the system would most likely be designed to handle any possible question about any possible relationship between any possible number of records, precisely so that in a National Security crisis, that conversation would never happen.

We’re being treated to a semantic game here, folks. When the officials say they “can’t” query something without a warrant, and they can “only” query what was listed on the warrant, they are almost certainly talking about “can and can’t” entirely from the perspective of policy. They are talking about what they have permission to do, not what the system physically makes possible and impossible.

You jump to a conclusion here that I don’t think is possible. I work with big data sets every day and, sure, if the primary filter is “who called 1-800-Tea Party?” they have me in their sights. Is that a search term? Because if it is, I have a little Tree of Liberty in my yard that needs refreshment.

If you think that any and every search term or possible relationship isn’t physically and logically possible to be queried, by design, then I frankly think that you’re a Pollyanna. No designer can possibly anticipate in advance what the scope or nature of the potential query might need to be in order to help stop terrorists from setting off a series of nuclear weapons as an example.

Do you honestly think such a system would have been designed such that we end up getting wiped out as a nation because it wasn’t set up to perform the sort of query that turned out to have been needed? There’s a universe of difference between “impossible” and “you shouldn’t do that”. You seem to be the one asserting that the system is designed to make anything other than what we’ve heard is permissible to be physically impossible. That’s a frankly ridiculous position to take.

With the resources at hand, it seems entire reasonable to assume that they have established n-dimensional indexing across any conceivable combination of data elements within the records at hand, by design, specifically to prevent that sort of technological roadblock to National Defense.

And when you think about it, that’s almost certainly what the primary design criterion would have been: maximizing the physical ability of the system to help with National Defense against terrorism… not first-and-foremost to protect civil liberties and only to give them data to the extent that it doesn’t infringe on any of those liberties.

If you don’t think it’s possible to do so with reasonable efficiency (where “reasonable” is tied down only to the available processing and storage power at hand, both of which are very formidable), I’d point you at Patent #6859455… and that’s just one example from what’s publicly documented.

Do you honestly think the NSA doesn’t have more effective technology for mind-bogglingly large data manipulation, given their available resources?

VekTor on June 12, 2013 at 3:06 PM

Oh, and from the Clapper “perjury” thread:

“Rogue collection” at the NSA over the years was extremely rare, the former top official said. Asked for an example, Hayden said he remembered a collector who was fired for trying to snoop on his ex-wife overseas.

But I thought it wasn’t possible to start from an individual and gather their data from that direction, MTF?

Clearly, it is and was. The only thing that appears to stop abuse of the system is the policy, not the technological limitations of the database.

VekTor on June 12, 2013 at 3:23 PM