NSA Manipulators Treated by Post With the Scorn They Deserve


This is the NSA's Director of Compliance. Not even kidding. |||

The Washington Post's bombshell story about the National Security Agency violating surveillance privacy rules at least 2,776 times, which Scott Shackford blogged about last night, included a delightfully in-your-face sidebar from national security reporter Barton Gellman, titled "NSA statements to The Post."

The whole thing is worth a read, but the last two paragraphs provide an object lesson of how news organizations should treat government attempts to dictate and manipulate the terms of their own attribution:

The Obama administration referred all questions for this article to John DeLong, the NSA's director of compliance, who answered questions freely in a 90-minute interview. DeLong and members of the NSA communications staff said he could be quoted "by name and title" on some of his answers after an unspecified internal review. The Post said it would not permit the editing of quotes. Two days later, White House and NSA spokesmen said that none of DeLong's comments could be quoted on the record and sent instead a prepared statement in his name. The Post declines to accept the substitute language as quotations from DeLong. The statement is below.

Who's got two thumbs and takes his internal-safeguard work very seriously? THIS guy! |||

We want people to report if they have made a mistake or even if they believe that an NSA activity is not consistent with the rules. NSA, like other regulated organizations, also has a "hotline" for people to report — and no adverse action or reprisal can be taken for the simple act of reporting. We take each report seriously, investigate the matter, address the issue, constantly look for trends, and address them as well — all as a part of NSA's internal oversight and compliance efforts. What's more, we keep our overseers informed through both immediate reporting and periodic reporting. Our internal privacy compliance program has more than 300 personnel assigned to it: a fourfold increase since 2009. They manage NSA's rules, train personnel, develop and implement technical safeguards, and set up systems to continually monitor and guide NSA's activities. We take this work very seriously.

The only thing that would have made this exchange more delicious is if Gellman had quoted DeLong's original comments from the 90-minute interview in the main article. Next time, hopefully! 

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  1. If they had just refrained from those last one thousand violations, we would have all heard that number, saluted the flag and moved on.

    Speaking of moving on, I can’t wait until the state has custody of all our medical records.

    1. Yeah, and that time they mixed up the Washington DC area code with the Egypt country code was an accidental coincidence, and not for the purposes of spying on political enemies and reporters at all.

  2. Looks like someone wants to keep his job under Bezos.

    1. And expect more than a few political appointees to wonder out loud about running Bezos through the IRS ringer.

      1. Will no one rid me of this troublesome Bezos?

  3. “Listen people, everyone knows where this is going. If this was a legit op, and I can’t imagine how it could be, then so be it. But if this was someone’s unilateral wet dream, then that someone is going to prison.”

    NSA Director Admiral Shaffer NSA Director of Compliance John DeLong

  4. no adverse action or reprisal can be taken for the simple act of reporting.


    1. I almost believed him.

  5. NSA, like other regulated organizations…

    It seems we’re using the term regulated very loosely.

    1. Except when it applies to Militias.

    2. The original meaning of regulated, as far as I’m aware, was simply to make regular; incompetence, corruption, and overreach are standard practice in government, so the NSA is in fact pretty well regulated.

    3. Perhaps the 18th century meaning well equipped and trained? Like a well regulated militia… NSA is certainly we’ll equipped…

  6. Do you guys know how many 12 year old nitwits with Ivy League degrees have important jobs in Washington? If you did, you would have even less faith in the government than you already do.

    1. Important or impotent?

    2. I really doubt any of them are 12. Lots of them are 23 though.

  7. “…director of compliance…”

    Why does that creep me out so badly?

    1. Oh come on, look at that cute face in the photos! How could he creep you out?

  8. That guy has as punchable a face as I’ve ever seen.

    1. Well, he looks like if you just yell at him he would probably break down and sob.

      Then again, he might be some martial arts expert or something.

  9. Why is there a picture of a night manager at Denny’s attached to this story?

    1. Ironically that was his previous position before he knocked-up and quickly married some congressman’s daughter.

  10. The Washington Post is standing up to Team Obama’s propaganda machine? Bad news, Barack, bad news…

    1. Spy on enough people, including reporters, and eventually someone gets ticked off. Why do you think the govt is hastily trying to define who a “journalist” is, if not to get the press off their backs?

  11. We want people to report if they have made a mistake or even if they believe that an NSA activity is not consistent with the rules.

    How would we fucking know about the SECRET SURVEILLANCE that no one is allowed to say anything about?

    1. So Snowden can come home now and won’t be prosecuted? No?

      I guess you mean, the only place you can “report” mistakes or activity not consistent with the “rules” is to the NSA?

  12. Good for the Post. See guys, doesn’t it feel better to actually tell those who think they’re above the law to fuck off?

  13. Two days later, White House and NSA spokesmen said that none of DeLong’s comments could be quoted on the record and sent instead a prepared statement in his name.

    If the roles were reversed… what would the charges be?

  14. I feel the need to state the unstated with respect to the photo, in all seriousness.

    A 20-something college freshout is not going to be able to control the behavior of a staff of thousands of analysts who are twice his age and far more politically savvy. Moreover, a 20-something freshman at the NSA is much more interested in pleasing other people, networking, and advancing his career. You don’t hire a kid who needs to win friends and influence people to do a job that involves pissing people off.

    This kid is there because (A) he’s got some sort of familial connection and was able to get the job via nepotism, and (B) his superiors don’t want him to actually stop anyone from doing anything, they want him to make the numbers look good.

    Or possibly (C), someone who hates him gave him this job cause they expected him to fail.

    1. If they were serious about “compliance”, they would have hired a grizzled 60-year old asshole who is a few years away from retirement.

    2. I vote for B. He’s an NSA mouthpiece trotted out to make it look like they’re doing something about breaking numerous laws.

    3. Please report for your mandatory anti-ageist sensitivity training, Citizen.

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