Federal agencies frustrated that they can’t use NSA’s spy tools too

posted at 8:01 pm on August 5, 2013 by Allahpundit

To clarify: They do use them occasionally, in cases related to terrorism or foreign intel, but the demand for the NSA’s surveillance services from other arms of the government apparently far exceeds the supply. If you missed this story on Saturday night, when it first went live, make amends now. Not only as a gloss on Ed’s post this morning about the DEA’s own practices in sharing intelligence but as a hint of where the debate over the surveillance state is headed in the less-distant-than-you-think future.

Agencies working to curb drug trafficking, cyberattacks, money laundering, counterfeiting and even copyright infringement complain that their attempts to exploit the security agency’s vast resources have often been turned down because their own investigations are not considered a high enough priority, current and former government officials say…

“The other agencies feel they should be bigger players,” said [former White House intelligence official Timothy] Edgar, who heard many of the disputes before leaving government this year to become a visiting fellow at Brown University. “They view the N.S.A. — incorrectly, I think — as this big pot of data that they could go get if they were just able to pry it out of them.”…

In fact, a change made in 2008 in the executive order governing intelligence was intended to make it easier for the security agency to share surveillance information with other agencies if it was considered “relevant” to their own investigations. It has often been left to the national intelligence director’s office to referee the frequent disputes over how and when the security agency’s spy tools can be used. The director’s office declined to comment for this article…

The security agency’s spy tools are attractive to other agencies for many reasons. Unlike traditional, narrowly tailored search warrants, those granted by the intelligence court often allow searches through records and data that are vast in scope. The standard of evidence needed to acquire them may be lower than in other courts, and the government may not be required to disclose for years, if ever, that someone was the focus of secret surveillance operations.

Money quote: “Sometimes, security agency and bureau officials accuse the smaller agencies of exaggerating links to national security threats in their own cases when pushing for access to the security agency’s surveillance capabilities.” The most amazing part is that the extent of intel-sharing appears to be within the discretion of the NSA itself. If agencies like the DEA feel stymied, it’s only because the people in charge of programs like PRISM have — so far — been more sensitive to Americans’ privacy concerns than some of their colleagues would be. There’s a starting point for Congress if/when it decides to engage with this subject more seriously. Whatever limits are placed on the NSA itself, how about stricter statutory boundaries to prevent the rest of the government from dipping its hands in the intel pot?

Or maybe I’m kidding myself. It occurred to me after first reading about PRISM that, as much as the public would fret about privacy, there’d also be public support (maybe not now but in due time, as we become acclimated to intrusive surveillance) for using the NSA’s powers to fight more traditional crime. An obvious example: Crimes against children. Why not add algorithms designed to detect child pornography to the NSA’s data-mining apparatus? Or why not add the names of missing kids, just in case their kidnappers happen to mention them in e-mails to a confidant? Once you make that move, why not add the names of victims of unsolved murders too? The feds already have DNA and fingerprint databases that they search to solve cold cases; eventually metadata will be added on the theory that they need “digital fingerprints” too. (One of the most insidious ways a surveillance regime expands is through “we already do X, so why not Y?” reasoning.) I don’t think the public’s there yet, and it probably won’t be for several years thanks to Snowden, but give it time.


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I think I’ve heard this argument when my kids were toddlers…. if NSA gets lots of cool shiny surveillance, everyone should get to have one just like it. Can’t pick favorites you know!

2nd Ammendment Mother on August 5, 2013 at 8:06 PM

Results for #nsa
****************

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23nsa

canopfor on August 5, 2013 at 8:07 PM

Once the tyrants establish for some time, however limited, that they can carry on these ops with impunity, they will employ every lesser evil to continue it.

Akzed on August 5, 2013 at 8:07 PM

Why can’t kids be required to inform on their parent’s activities, they could fill out a daily report for their public school teachers. I want Utopia.

Bishop on August 5, 2013 at 8:08 PM

The hardest part has already been accomplished. Getting the data gathering set up and having the secret oversight in the hands of as few people as possible has been accomplished. Now it’s all fun and games.

d1carter on August 5, 2013 at 8:08 PM

Or maybe I’m kidding myself. It occurred to me after first reading about PRISM that, as much as the public would fret about privacy, there’d also be public support (maybe not now but in due time, as we become acclimated to intrusive surveillance) for using the NSA’s powers to fight more traditional crime.

You just iced down the slope. God help us.

CTSherman on August 5, 2013 at 8:10 PM

Should all Americans have identify marks…maybe identity chips or maybe tattooed numbers on our skin?

d1carter on August 5, 2013 at 8:11 PM

oh hail proggtardia

newrouter on August 5, 2013 at 8:11 PM

“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” Edward R. Murrow

jpcpt03 on August 5, 2013 at 8:11 PM

Boston rolled over for good ol’ fashioned door crushing after the Hat Brothers attack, this high tech approach is hardly needed in some locales.

Bishop on August 5, 2013 at 8:14 PM

Why can’t kids be required to inform on their parent’s activities, they could fill out a daily report for their public school teachers. I want Utopia.

Bishop on August 5, 2013 at 8:08 PM

You want Utopia, they can’t get HAARP to control the weather properly.

RickB on August 5, 2013 at 8:19 PM

Inevitably, we start to push back.

“The paper holds their folded faces to the floor,
And everyday the paperboy brings more.”

Akzed on August 5, 2013 at 8:22 PM

The World’s Largest Extortion Tool

- your phone calls to girlfriends, Tea Party members, donors, etc.

- your website visits to dangerous places like HotAir, or just some random link you clicked

- your Google searches for anal warts, etc.

Imagine what the Dem party is doing with this data in local, state, and Federal elections?

Imagine how they can organize IRS audits, EPA audits, etc. for donors, politicians, Tea Party members, campaign contributors?

faraway on August 5, 2013 at 8:24 PM

Just do it for the kids.

Give up our privacy and constitutional rights and let the govt snoop into all our emails and texts and phone calls and internet comments or posts, cuz it’s for the kids. No way we can disagree with that.

anotherJoe on August 5, 2013 at 8:24 PM

So they are lining up to take a turn as Joe Six-pack is bent over the table? Nice.

sharrukin on August 5, 2013 at 8:26 PM

You want Utopia, they can’t get HAARP to control the weather properly. RickB on August 5, 2013 at 8:19 PM

You think not?

You remember Hurricane Erin, right? 9/11/01? Right off the coast of NYC. Remember that? No? Maybe because it was not reported on morning news weather forecasts.

Akzed on August 5, 2013 at 8:27 PM

This is most unfair. Didn’t the Gestapo share info with the SS?

VorDaj on August 5, 2013 at 8:27 PM

Do it for the children!

Mark1971 on August 5, 2013 at 8:28 PM

Fake whining to make people think they are not privy to what they have. Of course they have access to and are using that information. What, the DEA has the same stuff… You really think the government will not use this to strengthen its grip on power?

astonerii on August 5, 2013 at 8:28 PM

Remember this???

Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win

Obama has info on each voter already, including phone numbers. Available by cell phone.

It’s a simple matter to link phone numbers, email addresses, and IP addresses to this data.

faraway on August 5, 2013 at 8:32 PM

The World’s Largest Extortion Tool

faraway on August 5, 2013 at 8:24 PM

There will be a day when some NSA-friendly senator or congressperson will be involved in a difficult re-election. They will use their pull with the NSA to get incriminating research on their opponent.

Think the NSA would not help? Remember that, as with any government agency, the NSA’s #1 priority is to protect. . .

the NSA.

kurtzz3 on August 5, 2013 at 8:32 PM

Didn’t Al Capone share information with Frank Nitti and visa versa?

VorDaj on August 5, 2013 at 8:34 PM

There will be a day when some NSA-friendly senator or congressperson will be involved in a difficult re-election. They will use their pull with the NSA to get incriminating research on their opponent.

kurtzz3 on August 5, 2013 at 8:32 PM

No warrant is required for the NSA data. Any insider can pull this data in seconds. This data is used daily.

faraway on August 5, 2013 at 8:36 PM

Since when does “can’t” mean “won’t” when it comes to the Thug-In-Chief’s regime?

ShainS on August 5, 2013 at 8:42 PM

As far as the DEA having these spying powers on us, I don’t think it’s worth it to give them that. Maybe for the children, we’ll give all our privacy and rights up.

But the DEA? I would bet that more than half of conservatives think that the drug war is a bust, a waste, counterproductive, and the most glaring aspect of it is the intrusive violent police state.

Half of us don’t want them to have any power, now we’re going to give them (wait, we haven’t given them anything, they just are doing it [spying] without our consent), we are to give them these extra powers so they are like an Orwellian fascist arm of the govt? And the drug war’s a losing proposition. They’ve spent more and more ($1.5T) since Nixon declared the “all out war” on drugs, and drug use has not declined at all, and the addiction rate is the same 1.3% as it was in 1971: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/10/chart-says-war-drugs-isnt-working/57913/

Someone said that prosecuting the drug war is like trying to nail jello to a tree. We just aren’t going to be able to achieve anything of note, except for a police state and a spying state and horrible violence and crime and the imprisonment of millions and millions of victimless “criminals.” When will we ever learn?

anotherJoe on August 5, 2013 at 8:44 PM

There will be a day when some NSA-friendly senator or congressperson will be involved in a difficult re-election. They will use their pull with the NSA to get incriminating research on their opponent.

kurtzz3 on August 5, 2013 at 8:32 PM

Have you been watching our politics of late? You think it has not been happening yearly if not daily? You seriously think Obama or his team did not have access to this stuff in 2012? You seriously think that John Roberts was always a progressive constitution hating man? Do you think Petreaus really believed in Obama right after Benghazi?

astonerii on August 5, 2013 at 8:46 PM

Someone said that prosecuting the drug war is like trying to nail jello to a tree. We just aren’t going to be able to achieve anything of note, except for a police state and a spying state and horrible violence and crime and the imprisonment of millions and millions of victimless “criminals.” When will we ever learn?

anotherJoe on August 5, 2013 at 8:44 PM

That’s the point. It never has about drugs, just like it wasn’t about alcohol during the last prohibition.

Have you been watching our politics of late? You think it has not been happening yearly if not daily? You seriously think Obama or his team did not have access to this stuff in 2012? You seriously think that John Roberts was always a progressive constitution hating man? Do you think Petreaus really believed in Obama right after Benghazi?

astonerii on August 5, 2013 at 8:46 PM

Yep. Don’t know about Roberts, but the Petreaus thing is pretty clear. He and his girlfriend weren’t even sending emails — just writing them in a fake gmail account and saving them to draft (so no “metadata” — now we know why THAT mattered). Someone was recording his (or her) keystrokes.

Timin203 on August 5, 2013 at 8:49 PM

Or maybe I’m kidding myself. It occurred to me after first reading about PRISM that, as much as the public would fret about privacy, there’d also be public support (maybe not now but in due time, as we become acclimated to intrusive surveillance) for using the NSA’s powers to fight more traditional crime. An obvious example: Crimes against children. Why not add algorithms designed to detect child pornography to the NSA’s data-mining apparatus? Or why not add the names of missing kids, just in case their kidnappers happen to mention them in e-mails to a confidant? Once you make that move, why not add the names of victims of unsolved murders too? The feds already have DNA and fingerprint databases that they search to solve cold cases; eventually metadata will be added on the theory that they need “digital fingerprints” too. (One of the most insidious ways a surveillance regime expands is through “we already do X, so why not Y?” reasoning.)

Is that what you Warfare and Police Statists are hoping for, AP? For Americans to become acclimated to the tyrants’ repugnant, high tech global Panopticon? Sickening.

“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”
–H. l. Mencken

Rae on August 5, 2013 at 8:53 PM

I don’t think the public’s there yet, and it probably won’t be for several years thanks to Snowden, but give it time.

I tend to disagree. If anything the reaction to Snowden is growing for less intrusive government not more. I think nthose pushing for greater and greater government “protection” will do more harm to their case and turn the people against them, NSa and all other governemtn agencies. I se e the next POTUS being elected on a platform to dismantle a lot of these spy programs.

unseen on August 5, 2013 at 8:57 PM

It occurred to me after first reading about PRISM that, as much as the public would fret about privacy, there’d also be public support (maybe not now but in due time, as we become acclimated to intrusive surveillance) for using the NSA’s powers to fight more traditional crime.

Yup. But even if you wanted to duplicate some of the analytic routines, you’d still want to maintain 2 separate systems due to security concerns. Otherwise you’d create a greater potential to spawn more Snowdens.

Stoic Patriot on August 5, 2013 at 9:03 PM

If agencies like the DEA feel stymied, it’s only because the people in charge of programs like PRISM have — so far — been more sensitive to Americans’ privacy concerns than some of their colleagues would be.

Oh please. It has absolutely nothing to do with sensitivity to privacy concerns and everything to do with bureaucratic self-preservation. The NSA doesn’t want to share its toys with lesser agencies because it knows that when those lesser agencies inevitably misuse them that that would come around to bite the NSA in the ass too.

Armin Tamzarian on August 5, 2013 at 9:04 PM

Two reminders:

1) The N & S in NSA stand for NATIONAL SECURITY.

2) The F in FISA/FISC stands for FOREIGN (not Federal).

Resist We Much on August 5, 2013 at 9:05 PM

U.S. government’s interest should be America’s interest, and that interest is to improve America’s society, politics and economy. The U.S. government has not done that for such a long time that it no longer even knows how to do it. It thinks that our common good rests in deeply expanding U.S. government involvements in dozens of foreign countries. How such an indirect, tortuous, and demonstrably dangerous path achieves the common good of Americans is a deep mystery. It is beyond belief that they think they can improve other countries when they cannot even identify America’s common good and take steps domestically to improve that good.

American involvements in any foreign land should be on a private basis, not a U.S. government basis. The U.S. government has repeatedly shown that its foreign involvements do not help but harm the foreign peoples and do nothing for Americans. If an American links up with a foreigner on a private basis to make an exchange of any sort, be it social, artistic, economic, scientific, personal, family, or business, he or she does so with the idea that the result will be beneficial, and so does the foreign side of the exchange. Both sides know far better what they are doing to increase their personal “goods” than does the U.S. when it clumsily attempts to create “national security”, which it cannot actually even identify. What the U.S. actually does is to act on behalf of some crony capitalists, or corporate interests, or union interests, or some government bureaucratic interests, or CIA interests, or its own political interests, or some agricultural interests. None of these further the common good of Americans. They do the very opposite.

roflmmfao

donabernathy on August 5, 2013 at 9:33 PM

…f ‘em!

KOOLAID2 on August 5, 2013 at 9:39 PM

Proctological implants, ho!

Lo-jacks, f’real.

profitsbeard on August 5, 2013 at 9:51 PM

“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”
–H. l. Mencken

Rae on August 5, 2013 at 8:53 PM

Worth repeating.
If you use unConstitutional tools to thwart the scoundrel, then the same tools can be used on you, by simple expanding the definition of what constitutes a scoundrel (like, maybe, those Tea Party Extremists that are just as dangerous as Islamic Jihadis, or maybe even more!)

AesopFan on August 6, 2013 at 12:36 AM

They lord over us.

I feel priveleged to pay them over 1/2 my check for their brilliance and expertise in running our lives.

acyl72 on August 6, 2013 at 7:38 AM

we already have this scenario in televisions “Person of Interest” tv series.

gerrym51 on August 6, 2013 at 10:24 AM

if Americans don’t care about their 4th amendment, neither does our govt. might as well just implant GPS in newborns…

burserker on August 6, 2013 at 12:41 PM

“The NSA is violating the Constitution…we want to do it, too!”

easyt65 on August 6, 2013 at 2:30 PM