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March 27, 2015

Digging Through the NSA Document Dump

The Director of National Intelligence declassified portions of a number of documents shedding light on the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities. Lawfare has an insightful series detailing “what these documents actually are and the story they tell, individually and collectively.” Below are a number of highlights.

The initial problem: “The document that will surely capture the lion’s share of the public’s attention—and rightly so—is the October 3, 2011 FISC opinion by Judge John D. Bates, then the presiding judge of the FISC… He finds that the NSA collection was, while not targeting Americans, capturing a large number—tens of thousands—of email communications per year that were either purely domestic or that involved U.S. persons whose communications were not of foreign intelligence value.”

The government’s response: While it contemplated an appeal, it did not bring one. Instead, it adopted a series of alterations to the NSA’s collection program…and it went back to Judge Bates to get those approved… Less that two months after finding the NSA’s program deficient, Judge Bates approved the government’s amended minimization procedures… First, the amended minimization procedures require the NSA to segregate and restrict portions of its upstream collection post-acquisition… Further, for all multi-communication transactions acquired through the NSA’s upstream collection, NSA analysts must make a series of determinations in order to use a single discrete communication within the larger internet transaction.”

Reporting to Congress: “Many members of Congress have spent the last few months appearing shocked by information leaked about the NSA’s surveillance programs. The documents…however, make clear that any member of Congress who did not know what was going on with respect to Section 702 surveillance did not choose to know—including with regard to the government’s 2011 setback before the FISA Court.”

  • mstep

    Congress is unable to provide oversight because they only work on a part-time basis. Their full-time job is fundraising. If I had a crucially important job, I wouldn’t assign it to a part-time employee.

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