NSA

You Know Who Else Thought NSA Mass Metadata Collection Was Bad? The NSA.

Prior to Edward Snowden's revelations, there was a push to end it.

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Against it, before they were for it.
NSA

An Associated Press exclusive today notes that the National Security Agency (NSA) knew full well that its mass telephone metadata collection program was actually contributing very little to the war on terror. And in fact, prior to Edward Snowden leaking the existing of this program—as well as many others—there was an internal push to end it. The effort probably wouldn't have succeeded, the Associated Press says, but it's definitely important information given the consistent defense of sweeping up the call metadata of millions upon millions of people (which is still going on, by the way). From the AP:

The internal critics pointed out that the already high costs of vacuuming up and storing the "to and from" information from nearly every domestic landline call were rising, the system was not capturing most cellphone calls, and the program was not central to unraveling terrorist plots, the officials said. They worried about public outrage if the program ever was revealed.

After the program was disclosed, civil liberties advocates attacked it, saying the records could give a secret intelligence agency a road map to Americans' private activities. NSA officials presented a forceful rebuttal that helped shape public opinion.

Responding to widespread criticism, President Barack Obama in January 2014 proposed that the NSA stop collecting the records, but instead request them when needed in terrorism investigations from telephone companies, which tend to keep them for 18 months.

Yet the president has insisted that legislation is required to adopt his proposal, and Congress has not acted. So the NSA continues to collect and store records of private U.S. phone calls for use in terrorism investigations under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Many lawmakers want the program to continue as is.

The Associated Press noted that there is a precedent for the NSA stopping mass data collection programs. They had also been mass-collecting metadata about e-mail but suspended the practice years before Snowden actually leaked the program's existence. That program ended up being a big mess at the NSA because they could not figure out technology that collected metadata (to and from information, et cetera) about e-mail that did not also provide actual e-mail content. They could not stop collecting inappropriate information from emails, no matter how much they promised the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that they would.

Also of note, the internal NSA critics of the metadata collection point out that it hasn't been helpful in fighting terrorism. But as we also know by now, though defenders of these metadata searches my attempt to scare us with spectres of terrorists, the NSA (along with other federal agencies) are interested in using this data in perpetuating the drug war and in matters that having nothing to do with terrorism. So even the NSA acknowledging it doesn't fight terrorism isn't enough to kill it.

NEXT: Connecticut Issues Hypocritical Travel Boycott Against Indiana Over RFRA

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  1. I don’t care if it works. They’re breaking the law in spying indiscriminately on domestic communications. So when does the practice stop and officials get prosecuted?

    1. “So when does the practice stop and officials get prosecuted?”

      During the final Libertarian Moment?

      1. During the final Libertarian Moment?

        You blinked and missed it!

      2. The Final Libertarian Moment- Coming to Theatres Soon.

        In the future, Carlos Rodriguez is your ordinary fast food truck owner who likes smoking pot at his favourite gay bar on the side. But when bureaucrats of the Greater North American Union show up to close down his truck, he becomes a fugitive from the law. With the cops performing no-knock raids on his loved ones, can Carlos save his life, his family, his truck, and possibly the entire free market system?

        1. Luc Besson is stealing this and adding Liam Neeson to the cast.

    2. As soon as you can find someone to enforce the law against the people they play golf with.

      1. I’m willing to do it. In fact, I’m willing to do it using a putter of egregious chastisement.

        1. They wouldn’t even let you caddy with an attitude like that.

          1. But they can’t stop me from being the greenskeeper.

    3. So when does the practice stop and officials get prosecuted?

      Only after the majority of the voting population is outraged by it. But since most people are fine with surrendering their rights….don’t hold your breath.

      1. Perhaps we should send out chain letters to people, telling them this is a big deal. You know, through the mails. The non-electronic kind. No, no, not faxes. The paper letters that you seal in an envelope and put in your mailbox. No, dammit, not e-mail.

        1. What are you, some kind of schill for the Post Office?

      2. Only after a majority is told to be outraged. Echo chamber instruction is the only way you get outrage these days. You knew but didn’t care, but now an election is coming so fake it. Oh yeah #bring our girls home (and our privacy if you don’t mind).

        1. Make outrage a status symbol. If the coolest people oppose NSA shenanigans, then people will join in their outrage, purchase iOutrages, and social media the world about their Outrage?.

  2. There are actually three things that are certain: death, taxes, and bureaucrats writing CYA memos.

    It is my understanding that the oldest baked clay tablets containing cuneiform that we have were bureaucrats writing about what they were collecting and what they were distributing–they were CYA memos!

    You can’t have a bureaucracy without CYA memos. And once they started developing a bureaucracy in Sumer, they had to invent writing.

    Hillary Clinton had her own email server in an attempt to avoid CYA memos from her underlings. You can make bureaucrats go against policy without writing CYA memos; Hillary knew that. Head ministers stonewalling on what they knew and when they knew it is even older than CYA memos.

    It’s what CYA memos were invented to remedy.

    It doesn’t surprise me that the NSA people were writing CYA memos. And it shouldn’t fool anyone to see some suddenly dug up as evidence that the NSA was actually tortured about the whole thing all along. I’m sure there’s a memo everywhere up and down the chain of command saying that they were both for and against everything that was going on at the NSA. There always is–in every bureaucracy.

    Without CYA memos, there is no bureaucracy.

    1. “CYA memos endure. As well ask men what they think of stone. CYA memos were always here. Before man was, CYA memos waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and always will be.”

      1. I’m pretty sure it was Hitler.

        1. Well, maybe cyborg Hitler. Original Hitler is in suspended animation and has been nonstop since the end of WWII.

  3. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link,
    go to tech tab for work detail ????????????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  4. “No really officer. I swear this was going to be the last time I drove home drunk. I wasn’t going to go it again.”

    “I didn’t want to hit her, but she made me.”

    “Just the tip. I’ll pull out.”

    1. “This will only hurt a little”

  5. What is so annoying is that NSA should have these capabilities. National security would be improved if there was a research division within NSA chartered to figure out how to do these things in the event they are ever actually needed. But this division must be separated entirely from ongoing operations. By mixing what NSA can do with what NSA does do, the volume and therefore the risk of detection increases by orders of magnitude. Everyone knows that such discovery both exposes what they can do and irritates the populace to limit what they will be allowed to do in the future.

    So it positively boggles the mind that anyone at NSA would so compromise future national security by using their capabilities at scale. It frankly borders on treason to use vital and secret national security apparatus for petty data collection.

    1. Which would indicate that even at the NSA, our spooks don’t take their work seriously as a national security measure. They’re pushing the boundaries because it’s a bureaucracy and bureaucracy is nothing without mission creep.

    2. What is so annoying is that NSA should have these capabilities. National security would be improved if there was . . .

      OK

      1. No the NSA should not have these capabilities.

      2. National security is not the end-all, be-all of our government. Individual freedom and autonomy are. If we were all for ‘national security’ then there’d be no warrant requirement, no 5th amendment protections against self-incrimination, no 2nd amendment protections for keeping arms, no 1st amendment protections for freedom of speech.

      By your reckoning, if it were ‘necessary’ then all those protections could be swept away.

      1. “National security” is certainly a spectrum. When I say “these capabilities” I mean specific capture and decoding techniques that can produce targeted operational results. I don’t mean “the capability to store and mine every phone call made last year” or “the capability to put back doors into marketed products”.

        Should the FBI be allowed to tap phones with a warrant? How would they tap phones when they got a warrant if they didn’t know how to tap phones? That’s what I mean by NSA capabilities.

        If nothing in the NSA could possibly do meets the test of the compelling national security interest versus violated individual rights, then indeed the NSA should be shut down. I doubt their uselessness is that great though.

        1. A warrant. That’s cute.

        2. Well, the thing is – they *already* had the capability to capture and decode . . targeted operation results.

          Then they went and pushed into ‘collect everything’.

          The first is within their remit, the second is waaaaaaay outside it and should never have been even attempted.

          1. I fully agree. My point was, that by executing the blanket petty collection, they are risking exposure and loss of the crown jewels of their actually useful, actually legitimate, and actually critical capabilities.

  6. They worried about public outrage if the program ever was revealed.

    Will the public be dragged from their houses and forced to witness firsthand the facilities in Utah before they’re outraged? I’m thinking shame is the better word given the public knew already and didn’t care. Ashy soot falling from smokestacks? I never thought about it.

  7. Good article.

    “The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program.” – Ronald Reagan

    1. Yeah I remember him, he’s the one who doubled down on the War on Drugs, right?

      1. His wife was hot, though.

  8. Yet the president has insisted that legislation is required to adopt his proposal, and Congress has not acted.

    OK, I’m not getting this.

    The president, the *head of the executive branch*, the guy who says he has unilateral authority to start wars and assassinate American citizens – inside the US – the guy who ‘has a cell phone and a pen’ and makes law through executive order.

    That guy – he can’t tell an executive branch agency what not to do?

    Isn’t he supposed to be some sort of ‘constitutional scholar’ or something?

    1. Beat me by 2 minutes, Ag.

    2. Executive power is a fickle thing. Some days he feels it quite strongly, and issues an order on immigration control. Other days it’s fleeting and he feels it hardly at all.

      1. Ah, he has ED–Executive Dysfunction. Explains much, really.

      2. “The day before yesterday, I thought I was going to have to go to the extreme of decreeing a national emergency, but today I don’t think I will have to.”
        -Hugo Chavez

  9. “Yet the president has insisted that legislation is required to adopt his proposal, and Congress has not acted. So the NSA continues to collect and store records of private U.S. phone calls for use in terrorism investigations under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.”

    Unless Section 215 explicitly states “The intelligence agencies of the United States shall henceforth hoover up the call logs of every American citizen” this is an utterly bullshit and cowardly position by the president. Where there is latitude to expand government power there is latitude to retract it. This cunt just chooses not to do the latter.

  10. OT: What Really Happened to Harry Reid?

    Anyone who saw Reid would say that he looked like he had been beaten up by a guy with a hard left, maybe using brass knuckles. Even now, Reid apparently doesn’t have the use of his right eye.

    When a guy shows up at a Las Vegas emergency room on New Year’s Day with severe facial injuries and broken ribs, and gives as an explanation the functional equivalent of “I walked into a doorknob,” it isn’t hard to guess that he ran afoul of mobsters. Yet the national press has studiously averted its eyes from Reid’s condition, and has refused to investigate the cause of his injuries. To my knowledge, every Washington reporter has at least pretended to believe Reid’s story, and none, as far as I can tell, has inquired further.

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/a…..art-2.php#!

    1. I find it far more likely that his wife pushed him, *hard*, when he wasn’t looking.

      She’s got to be even more tired of him than the rest of us.

    2. Las Vegas emergency room on New Year’s Day. Now that would be good reality TV.

    3. he looked like he had been beaten up by a guy with a hard left, maybe using brass knuckles.

      Like he said, EAP — “an accident with an exercise machine”.

    4. It is an interesting point. I don’t know how you get that set of injuries falling, even on exercise equipment.

      Even more interesting since his story isn’t entirely consistent.

      OTOH, somebody actually beating the shit out of a US Senator? Seems unlikely. Even Harry Reid.

      1. Hey, R C — ever see the film “Flatliners”?

      2. Somebody watched The Godfather II

  11. I’ve just spotted something more rare than a libertarian who doesn’t love drugs and Mexican ass sex:

    I present to you, the rare Brasileiro de Libertario

    I found one!

    A few years ago, I even created this website to trick people into thinking that libertarians exist outside of the USA.

    Libertarios

    1. Everybody knows that non-white ‘libertarians’ (its in quotes because there are no real libertarians, just conservatives in disguise) are suffering from false consciousness. The fact that this rabble-rouser is a teenager is just more proof. He’s probably simply rebelling against his parents.

    2. Ah, I see they can be safely discredited from polite company because the Koch Bro.s funding card is mentioned about three times in this article. If only the Kochs were as powerful as their opponents made them out to be. I’d be on a steak, strippers and blow diet in Brazil with my diety, rotten Koch money.

      1. We all would Brett.

        We *all* would.

      2. If Dilma’s labor party stays in power much longer, you won’t be able to afford any of those things in Brazil, even with the dollar exchanging at nearly 3 to 1.

    3. Some media in Brazil have railed against the young libertarians, accusing them of receiving money from right-wing groups in the U.S. ? specifically the billionaire energy mogul Koch brothers, strong supporters of American conservative causes.

      Lol

  12. Why not just take the Hillary Clinton approach to collecting data for the NSA? Simply let the originator of the call/email decide whether it should be retained.

    1. Speaking of Clinton and the NSA, Congress should subpoena any emails the NSA has retained from Hillary’s account.

  13. Hey, speaking of Hillary, why not ask the NSA a few questions:

    (1) Did you know the Secretary of State was running private darknet? If not, why the hell not? Why shouldn’t we fire you on the spot for missing such a massive security breach?

    (2) If you knew she was running a private darknet, why didn’t you tell anyone? If not, why the hell not?

    I don’t suppose you kept copies of the traffic over her darknet, did you? Again, if not, why the hell not?

    1. You already know the answers to those questions, so why bother asking?

    2. It’s not in the NSA’s charter to spy on government officials, silly. Unless they threaten NSA funding, then, of course, all is permitted.

      1. Funny thing is, by *their* definition, this wouldn’t be spying.

        They’re just collecting the email metadata. Of everyone who communicates with foreigners. Especially swarthy foreigners who may have ties to terrorism.

        Which is a not insignificant part of the Secretary of State’s job description.

        I mean, remember Wikileaks and the State Department diplomatic cables? All that Top Secret stuff being discussed, released to the public, irrepairably harming national security?

        If nothing else, the very fact that State Department officials and staff were sending email from their government accounts to a private server should have tripped OpSec bells.

        1. Lies within lies within lies. This government isn’t operating even under the facade of legal limits. It is illegitimate.

    3. (2) If you knew she was running a private darknet, why didn’t you tell anyone? If not, why the hell not? Why shouldn’t we fire you on the spot for missing such a massive security breach?

      I don’t suppose you kept copies of the traffic over her darknet, did you? Again, if not, why the hell not? Why shouldn’t we fire you on the spot for missing such a massive security breach?

      Fixed that for you.

  14. Hey, since when are the bloggers here allowed to use “You know who else…?”

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