NSA and FBI: Bosom Buddies in Creepiness



A while ago I wrote about an ACLU report that the NSA and FBI work hand-in-hand when it comes to domestic surveillance. The civil liberties organization reported that the NSA relies on the Bureau for much of the authority for its snooping within the country's virtual borders. Now, declassified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders make it clear that it's a two-way street. The documents illustrate how the FBI wields its authority on behalf of the NSA, and that it receives lots of information in return.

Says a 2006 order:

A verified application having been made by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for an order pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978…requiring the production to the National Security Agency (NSA) of the tangible things described below….

The tangible things to be produced are all call-detail records or "telephony meta data"…

The order goes on to specify continued production of the data on an "ongoing daily basis."

It's a partnership made in privacy hell, with the spy agency originally established to snoop on foreign governments essentially borrowing the jurisdictional authority of the domestic law-enforcement agency.

And what does the FBI get for its efforts? "The Court understands that the NSA expects that it will continue to provide on average approximately three telephone numbers per day to the FBI," reads a footnote in a 2007 order. That's an annotation to an assurance that:

With respect to any information the FBI receives as a result of this Order (information that is passed or "tipped" to it by the NSA), the FBI shall follow minimization procedures set forth in The Attorney General's Guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection.

So the FBI is supposed to control the intrusiveness of data collection it commissions the NSA to perform on its behalf in an arrangement that defies the jurisdictional boundaries established to keep spies focused outwards and away from the law-enforcement agencies that interact with the American people. Got it.

On the plus side, federal officials seem to play well together. That's nice.

More seriously, this illustrates the artificial and permeable nature of the firewalls supposedly established between government agencies to keep the use of certain powers within presumably appropriate limits, and to keep agencies from sharing information they have no business sharing. Yes, there are institutional turf battles and power struggles, but at the end of the day, it's all the government. And paper limitations are just obstacles to be worked around, redefined, or ignored.

NEXT: Former Va. Governor, Wife Charged with Illegally Accepting Gifts

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  1. FBI: We’re not allowed to spy, but we have arrest powers.

    NSA: We don’t have arrest powers, but we’re allowed to spy.

    FBI: You got your spying in my law enforcement!

    NSA: You got your law enforcement in my spying!

    FBI and NSA: Two great tastes that go great together!

    And that’s where Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups come from. True story.

    1. Zzzzzzzz.

      1. You know, I’m sleepy too. It might be all that cough syrup I drank.

        1. He liked the version with golden alien poop in it better. A little weird that way.

          1. Alien coprophilia is always popular with, uh, “certain types”, you know?

    2. Head over to Belmont Club for a verious serious and insightful couple of essays on this very topic (espionage v law enforcemetn, not the origin story of Peanut Butter Cups).



      Seriously, some of the best thinking on the intertoobz is at Belmont Club.

  2. What we need is a new super-agency to oversee all of this.

    1. We laugh, but if there is ever significant political pressure to reform either agency, that will be their safety valve to avoid losing power.

      1. The Dept. of Homeland Security will just take up oversight duties. Looking on the bright side, that’ll put the law enforcement and spying missions under one agency. Increased efficiency, FTW!

  3. Speaking of creepy:

    The Texas Gov race is getting super-entertaining, with pro-choice heroine Wendy Davis getting caught out in a series of lies about her really pretty dreadful past.

    Today, she lashed out at her opponent, who is in a wheelchair, by saying he hasn’t walked a mile in her shoes. Positively Biden-esque.

    1. The more Biden-esque we get, the more entertaining it will be. Bring it on.

      1. If Abbott is smart, he’ll run her remarks over footage of him in his wheelchair at some AG function, followed by a close-up of him looking kind of woeful, saying “You know, she’s right. I haven’t even walked a mile in my shoes, much less hers.”

        That ad would get zillions of free media hours, make him look like a good guy who can take a joke, and make her look like a real dick. Can’t miss, from a brand-building/opponent-defining POV.

        1. You latch yourself to a chick who can keep her bladder shut down for eighteen hours, you shouldn’t expect anything less than batshit crazypants with a history that is one long skid mark making its way into Oblivion, and ready to nail you to the grill for the ride.

    2. Aren’t some Hollywood comedians like Silver Sarahman doing a little shindig for her soon? Maybe that was just some material they slipped her way.

      1. Totally not intentional, and on a Freudian level, I have no idea what it is suppose to mean.

        1. “Sarahman” is probably intended to imply that she’s a dude, while “Silver” as her first name is a subtle jab at her being Jewish and therefore obsessed with money?

          1. Hmmm, I decoded it. Sarahman, is indeed dude. A subconscious wish on my part that she be a tranny. Silver here doesn’t refer to greed, but to a monetary transaction which must mean I wish Sarah Silverman was a transvestite hooker.

  4. Calling the judiciary! Anyone home, you worthless gatekeepers?

  5. Do these agents ever take a step back and ask, “What the hell am I doing?”

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