More from WaPo’s bombshell: Feinstein didn’t know about NSA’s audit of privacy violations

posted at 3:21 pm on August 16, 2013 by Allahpundit

Ed hit the big points about WaPo’s scoop in his post this morning but I want to make sure people see this too. Arguably the biggest news from the story isn’t that the NSA broke the rules; when you’ve got thousands of analysts combing through billions of communications, you’re destined to have “incidents.” If — if — you’re okay with the a massive surveillance state, then to some extent you’re accepting this as the cost of doing business, just as people who prefer bigger police forces tacitly accept that more abuses, both intentional and negligent, will occur.

The big story is that Congress, purported overseers of the NSA and guardians of the public’s privacy, seems to have zero idea of how many “incidents” there are. And that includes the congressional watchdog-in-chief — Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The NSA, it seems, really is an island unto itself inside the federal government:

The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence…

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.

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.”…

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.

I’m boldfacing parts of every paragraph because there’s news in literally every paragraph of the Post’s story. And some of it’s only alluded to: Bart Gellman, the author, notes that the NSA quadrupled its oversight staff in 2009 after a “series of significant violations.” That’s … nice, I guess, that they boosted anti-abuse measures, and O will no doubt claim that as his influence at work when he’s asked about this. But it leaves open the question of how “significant” those earlier violations were and what might have gone undetected in the pre-2009 era of less oversight, and the fact remains that the most meaningful scrutiny the NSA is getting from inside government is from its own staff. How useful is that in a case like the one described by Gellman from 2011 when the NSA decided as a matter of policy, not as a clerical error, to expand the amount of data it collected from Americans? In that instance the FISA court torpedoed the new program as a violation of the Fourth Amendment, but FISA resistance to NSA data-gathering is by all accounts rare. By and large, we’re trusting one sub-branch of government to check and balance itself.

Three possibilities going forward to deal with privacy abuses. One: Scale back the NSA. Less info-harvesting means fewer opportunities to err and a smaller database to access. I’m skeptical that that’ll happen — government wants this tool and the public seems resigned to the erosion of privacy — but hope springs eternal. Two: More automation. One of WaPo’s NSA sources defends the privacy violations by saying, “We’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment…” What if the agency were, for the most part, no longer human-run? Artificial intelligence is probably only a few decades away from replacing many NSA analysts, just as drone technology will replace human pilots sooner rather than later. Take the process out of corrupt human hands and place it in a machine’s and the public might feel better about it. Three: Either overhaul the FISA court or create a new, separate federal agency for the express purpose of checking and balancing the NSA. Obama already suggested FISA court reform and an independent panel to review NSA procedures at his presser last week but I’m imagining something more permanent, like a public defender’s office strictly for intelligence matters. That idea probably won’t fly with righties because it means a further expansion of government, but libertarians in Congress might warm to it as a fallback option if they can’t get traction to cut NSA’s budget or scale down to size.

Exit quotation from Barack “Transparency” Obama, one week ago: “[A]ll the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s emails. What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused. Now, part of the reason they’re not abused is because these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC.”


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Four: Eliminate the NSA..

PatriotRider on August 16, 2013 at 3:25 PM

I wonder how Michelle Bachmann is feeling today. Paraphrasing her:

‘I interrogated Keith Alexander and he told me that the NSA is not listening to Americans’ phone calls or reading their emails.’

That would be the same Keith Alexander, who has already lied under oath before Congress.

Resist We Much on August 16, 2013 at 3:28 PM

liblikeaslave, what’s your take on obama’s tyrannical and unconstitutional spying on you?

The precious is golfing, while his MB flourishes, apace, and he and his do too.

Feinstein deserves him.

It’s now a banana republic.

That’s caudillo talk. That’s banana republic stuff. In this country, the president is required to win the consent of Congress first.

Schadenfreude on August 16, 2013 at 3:29 PM

Then there’s this…

The leader of the secret court that is supposed to provide critical oversight of the government’s vast spying programs said that its ability to do so is limited and that it must trust the government to report when it improperly spies on Americans.

The chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said the court lacks the tools to independently verify how often the government’s surveillance breaks the court’s rules that aim to protect Americans’ privacy. Without taking drastic steps, it also cannot check the veracity of the government’s assertions that the violations its staff members report are unintentional mistakes.

“The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court,” its chief, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, said in a written statement to The Washington Post. “The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing [government] compliance with its orders.”

No wonder the Court approves government requests 99.97% of the time.

Resist We Much on August 16, 2013 at 3:30 PM

I was just hearing that the nsa has a massive facility in Utah that stores all our information, all our phone calls, everyones entire internet history.

anotherJoe on August 16, 2013 at 3:30 PM

America has been made a laughing stock by obama.

That Snowden brougth him to size will go into the history books, no matter what you think Snowden is.

Schadenfreude on August 16, 2013 at 3:31 PM

obama won like Mugabe did, just a few month earlier.

Both lands are banana republics now. Both ‘men’ are about as legitimate too.

The NSA spied on all.

About 10 agencies of obama threatened all who stood in his re-election way.

The congress does nothing.

Thus, they are way more culpable than the platinum-sprayed horseturd of a CiC.

Schadenfreude on August 16, 2013 at 3:32 PM

Artificial intelligence is probably only a few decades away from replacing many NSA analysts, just as drone technology will replace human pilots sooner rather than later. Take the process out of corrupt human hands and place it in a machine’s and the public might feel better about it.

So we should stop gathering until we have the inerrant nonhuman capabilities to do so? I don’t think so.

We will get there — if only because training an analyst costs so much money. The Government may not appear to be interested in automation and downsizing, but significant portions are.

Just remember what Harry Truman did to Bill Donovan — and why. And be very afraid it will happen again.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_J._Donovan

unclesmrgol on August 16, 2013 at 3:32 PM

It sounds a lot worse than it really is…

Aplombed on August 16, 2013 at 3:33 PM

One of WaPo’s NSA sources defends the privacy violations by saying, “We’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment…”

Yeah, let’s see how well the ‘I’m a human operating in a complex environment’ excuse works with the IRS during an audit.

Resist We Much on August 16, 2013 at 3:33 PM

months earlier

The NSA spying, the IRS and other agencies threatening, incl the HHS, and more to come on it, Benghazi, will go in history as the biggest lies and cover-ups.

Nixon was a Dick.

obama has none.

Schadenfreude on August 16, 2013 at 3:34 PM

‘If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress, and don’t trust federal judges, to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.’

– President Barack Obama, 7 June 2013

Washington, we have a problem.

Resist We Much on August 16, 2013 at 3:43 PM

Off topic: John Cornyn on Laura Ingraham today………he is a SNAKE!!!

Turn him out Texas.

PappyD61 on August 16, 2013 at 3:49 PM

I’ve always respected Michelle Bachmann, UNTIL her NSA stance.

Sorry, Michelle, but you sound like a fool now…

ToddPA on August 16, 2013 at 3:49 PM

According to Feinstein, it was probably an innocent oversight of oversight.

NSA is a critical member of our National Defense team…military…involved with defense…we are supposed to sleep well at night safe in the knowledge that NSA is alert and awake…24/7…defending us from foreign threats, foreign armies, foreign regimes bent on our destruction.

Finding it more and more difficult to sleep well at night lately.

In many ways, were it not for the dubious antics of a certain Mr. Snowden, how many seriously believe that any of this recent rash of NSA nonsense would otherwise be coming out?

Show of hands?

And Rep. Justin Amash’s attempt to rein in NSA was unpatriotic?

..

coldwarrior on August 16, 2013 at 3:50 PM

Feinstein didn’t know about NSA’s audit of privacy violations

Most likely, because she was busy getting Felt Up by Filner…

..yeah, I went there…

ToddPA on August 16, 2013 at 3:54 PM

The NSA, it seems, really is an island unto itself inside the federal government

And that is disturbing. How do you ever stop something like that? Will a new president cut these ridiculous programs? We know the current one won’t, he pooh poohs every aspect of them.

scalleywag on August 16, 2013 at 3:55 PM

I’m pretty sure that someone at the NSA entered a few digits incorrectly and ended up with taps on all phones used by Governor Romney’s campaign. It probably took a couple of months to correct.

IRS-level corruption at the NSA? Well that’s just impossible!

slickwillie2001 on August 16, 2013 at 3:55 PM

Second look at this?

The Amash-Conyers amendment ends NSA’s blanket collection of Americans’ telephone records. It does this by requiring the FISA court under Sec. 215 to order the production of records that pertain only to a person under investigation.

The amendment has three important practical effects. First, it ends the mass surveillance of Americans. The government no longer is authorized under Sec. 215 to hold a pool of metadata on every phone call of every American. Second, the amendment permits the government to continue to acquire business records and other “tangible things” that are actually related to an authorized counterterrorism investigation. The government still has access to this tool under the amendment, but it’s forced to comply with the intent of Congress when it passed Sec. 215. Third, the amendment imposes more robust judicial oversight of NSA’s surveillance. The FISA court will be involved every time NSA searches Americans’ records, and the court will have a substantive, statutory standard to apply to make sure the NSA does not violate Americans’ civil liberties.

Happy Nomad on August 16, 2013 at 3:57 PM

I was just hearing that the nsa has a massive facility in Utah that stores all our information, all our phone calls, everyones entire internet history.

anotherJoe on August 16, 2013 at 3:30 PM

There’s also one in San Antonio.

RickB on August 16, 2013 at 3:59 PM

Maybe Feinstein didn’t want to say anything about this because she thought the NSA might be close to getting the Zodiac killer.

oldroy on August 16, 2013 at 4:00 PM

OT:

Barbara Bush, Daughter of George W. and Laura Bush says
Hillary should run.

“She’s unbelievably accomplished”

HAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH!!!!

Wow, so the 2016 campaign will feature an ARMY of
Republicans touting this woman??

Yes, America it’s been nice knowing you…

ToddPA on August 16, 2013 at 4:00 PM

Feinstein didn’t know about NSA’s audit of privacy violations

To tell the truth, if it isn’t about making money for her hubby she doesn’t know much.

RickB on August 16, 2013 at 4:01 PM

Exit quotation from Barack “Transparency” Obama, one week ago: “[A]ll the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s emails.”

Does that include all the stuff leaked to OFA you stupid rat-eared criminal?

It’s too bad you aren’t a white Republican because you’d already have been impeached by now and those who committed crimes on your behalf- Clapper, Alexander, Jarrett, etc. would already be on their way to jail where they belong.

Happy Nomad on August 16, 2013 at 4:01 PM

I wonder how Michelle Bachmann is feeling today.
Resist We Much on August 16, 2013 at 3:28 PM

Feinstein deserves him.
Schadenfreude on August 16, 2013 at 3:29 PM

Both television shows “Continuum”, with Arc, and “Person Of Interest” with The Machine are starting to look prophetic.

The e-mails of Richard Blum (Feinsteins husband) and Paul Pelosi (Nancy Pelosis husband)are probably somewhere in the NSA archives, as well as their business associates.

I’m sure they have nothing to worry about.

Every celebrity, politician and businessman in the country…..

MichaelGabriel on August 16, 2013 at 4:02 PM

All written as though these abuses are occurring under the umbrella of good intentions. And that’s immaterial. The issue isn’t the abuses but the storage of data, cataloged for the sole purpose of being used against Americans at a later date, most likely to influence behavior.

BKeyser on August 16, 2013 at 4:06 PM

The only logical solution, according to bureaucrats, is to create an agency to oversee the NSA.
That agency will report independently to another agency that will then report it to a congressional committee, and will create an agency to properly handle the data.

Shouldn’t cost more than a few billion the first year…

right2bright on August 16, 2013 at 4:13 PM

Btw, give the WaPo a (rare) thumbs-up for being steadfast… apparently the WH had second thoughts about honesty being the best policy.

Go figure…

CPT. Charles on August 16, 2013 at 4:13 PM

It sounds a lot worse than it really is… Aplombed on August 16, 2013 at 3:33 PM

“Like a Wagner symphony.” -Mark Twain

Akzed on August 16, 2013 at 4:15 PM

and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC public face of a very, very secret organization.”

FIFY

ss396 on August 16, 2013 at 4:25 PM

I’m sure wh tried to change this story too

cmsinaz on August 16, 2013 at 4:37 PM

IRS-level corruption at the NSA? Well that’s just impossible!

slickwillie2001 on August 16, 2013 at 3:55 PM

BHO’s re-election was akin to one of those old soviet tyle elections…..nice work.

Deafdog on August 16, 2013 at 5:03 PM

An enormous agency that operates in secret? Of course we will never be able to control it. Of course the overseers only know what they’re told. We have to assume they are overstepping the boundaries every day in every way. And are willing to abuse what they learn.

Perhaps now we know why seemingly good people go to Washington and suddenly act like they’re taking crazy pills.

S. Weasel on August 16, 2013 at 5:10 PM

Whinestein says the same thing about her hubby’s shady COSCO dealings.

viking01 on August 16, 2013 at 5:37 PM

It seems that more and more evidence points to the veracity of the Whistleblower Snowden ,…. this from his Twitter feed

NSA Bosses Mantra: Who Cares What The Law Says, ‘Collect It All’ | Techdirt http://j.mp/15zwQbP

NSA Leaker: I Had Authority ‘To Wiretap Anyone’ http://bit.ly/18Z5kay

(including the POTUS … I wonder what Snowden may have up his sleeve to drop on The Phoney, or Feinstein … or any of these CORRUPTOCRATS in DC …. I really hope this becomes NUCLEAR and the fallout benefits the goal of Constitutional America’s Restoration)

Snowden is a young and courageous American …a whistleblower who is loyal to The Constitution FIRST rather than the currently CORRUPT Govt

He selected the documents to leak very carefully, so that only the CORRUPTOCRATS would be damaged, and not people put at risk, or national security compromised

very clever indeed

If the Bushie NEOCONS R guilty of also conducting ILLEGAL SPYING on Americans via NSA before Obama ramped it up ON STEROIDS they must ALL BE EXPOSED, and dealt with by The Law

Stay with Snowden America! …the one who has exposed the TRAMPLING of your 4th Amendment RIGHTS!

#BeClingers ———> #AmericaRISING

exodus2011 on August 16, 2013 at 5:54 PM

the NSA has so much damning info on members of Congress that if they want to stay elected, they had better not question the powers of the NSA or info will get leaked

burserker on August 16, 2013 at 5:59 PM

Exit quotation from Barack “Transparency” Obama, one week ago: “[A]ll the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s emails. What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused. Now, part of the reason they’re not abused is because these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC.”

This will be the extent of the media coverage of this latest scandal, the low-information voter will take Obama at his word, having never heard of the Washington Post, and Obama will once again get by unscathed.

ncconservative on August 16, 2013 at 6:13 PM

the NSA has so much damning info on members of Congress that if they want to stay elected, they had better not question the powers of the NSA or info will get leaked

burserker on August 16, 2013 at 5:59 PM

very likely I think

but that’s the BEAUTY of this whistleblower Snowden, champion of the American “Little Guys”

he is no respecter of these CORRUPTOCRATS

Bring them all down Edward!

CLEAN HOUSE

- BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE

- ALL OVER CAPITOL HILL

- INCLUDING THE WHITEHOUSE

YEAH

#BeClingers ———-> #AmericaRISING

exodus2011 on August 16, 2013 at 6:19 PM

New Steyn…

Idiot Big Brother

Resist We Much on August 16, 2013 at 6:21 PM

The lack of oversight is stunning, and what’s the first thing congress wants to do? Why pass it off to the judges. Oh yeah, watch as we law makers pass on our sworn duties TO A BUNCH OF UNELECTED GUYS IN BLACK.(If I wrote what I really think, I be banned from HA for life.)

flackcatcher on August 16, 2013 at 6:43 PM

I wonder how Michelle Bachmann is feeling today. Paraphrasing her:

‘I interrogated Keith Alexander and he told me that the NSA is not listening to Americans’ phone calls or reading their emails.’

That would be the same Keith Alexander, who has already lied under oath before Congress.

Resist We Much on August 16, 2013 at 3:28 PM

Maybe she’s paying for the investigation of her campaign to be ended. She definitely sounded like a dolt on this subject (of course she’s always been a parade of talking points, but DEFINITELY more so on this subject).

She made about as much sense as Rubio or Paul Ryan trying to explain that 20 million MORE ILLEGALS in this country won’t lower wages.

Idiots.

PappyD61 on August 16, 2013 at 7:30 PM

DiFi didn’t know?
And the Sun came up this morning in the East.

Another Drew on August 17, 2013 at 9:43 AM

Getting HAL to turn himself off have been easier than getting rid of an entrenched program like nsa and that unconstitutional patriot act and fisa court. Secret court sounds like something from the 40s in Germany or the USSR.

Kissmygrits on August 17, 2013 at 9:52 AM

Getting HAL to turn himself off would have been easier.

Kissmygrits on August 17, 2013 at 9:53 AM

“…the NSA J.Edgar Hoover has so much damning info on members of Congress that if they want to stay elected, they had better not question the powers of the NSA FBI or info will get leaked…”

What goes around, comes around.

Another Drew on August 17, 2013 at 10:01 AM

And Sci-Fi writers of almost every stripe from Aldous Huxley to Orson Scott Card have been predicting this for almost the last 100 years. To update and paraphrase George Santayana, “Those who do not remember future history are doomed to create it.”

If you look at it in terms of software, the Soviet Union was a release candidate. The USA is destined to be the final release, if we don’t get into the code and create a massive number of bugs first.

falcon on August 17, 2013 at 10:55 AM

The NSA is collecting every piece of information on every person in the US WITHOUT any warrents! The NSA only asks for a warrent when the NSA decides a warrent is appropriate.

The courts have no jurisdiction to punish ANYONE that uses this information. This is CLEARLY illustrated by the complete lack of ANY prosecutions of the NSA insiders who regularly violate the law.

The FISA court is now simply a cover for the massive surveilance state that is documenting everything that it can! Including this very comment, and as much information regarding WHO is typing it as they can.

It is only a matter of time until someone at the NSA decides to hunt down their philosophical, political, or any other sort of ‘enemy’ as they see fit!

The 4th ammendment is no longer relevant to the thugs running this totalitarian program!

Freddy on August 18, 2013 at 3:08 AM