If It Took Seven Years And An Employee Confession To Reveal Intentional NSA Abuse, How Can NSA Say It Knows All Abuses?

from the how-can-anyone-take-them-seriously dept

We partly made this point last week, but I'm kind of in shock that so few people have paid attention to it, it seems worth highlighting again: the NSA revelations last week about the supposed "only" cases of intentional abuse show that there's likely a ton of abuse that went undiscovered. After all, remember that NSA boss Keith Alexander has insisted that its auditing is near perfect:
"The assumption is our people are just out there wheeling and dealing. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have tremendous oversight over these programmes. We can audit the actions of our people 100%, and we do that," he said.

Addressing the Black Hat convention in Las Vegas, an annual gathering for the information security industry, he gave a personal example: "I have four daughters. Can I go and intercept their emails? No. The technical limitations are in there." Should anyone in the NSA try to circumvent that, in defiance of policy, they would be held accountable, he said: "There is 100% audibility."
Given that, you'd assume those twelve cases of intentional (and at times flagrant) abuse of the system, often to spy on "love interests" would have been caught by those audits. But no. By our count, only three out of the twelve were caught by audits. And four of the revelations appear to have been self-reported. And one of the abuses (one of the self-reported ones) happened seven years before the confession.

Given all of this, how can anyone (especially those in charge of the NSA and its oversight) argue that those are the only intentional abuses -- or that their audits can catch everyone? That's clearly untrue because they didn't.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 10:15am

    Two Words

    "Plausible Deniability"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 10:24am

    One interesting point I noticed was the audits pinged on military members. Are there seperate audit systems

     

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  3.  
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    Jerrymiah, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 10:43am

    Should anyone in the NSA try to circumvent that, in defiance of policy, they would be held accountable, he said: "There is 100% audibility.

    If you consider that during an Audit, the auditors only review a sample of about 10% of the files, how can our SS General Alexander say that there is a 100% auditability. All files are there to be audited but only a small sample are in fact audited.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 10:52am

    his technical limitations

    "I have four daughters. Can I go and intercept their emails? No. The technical limitations are in there."

    i.e., "I don't know how to run an SQL query. I have other people do that."

     

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  5.  
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    RyanNerd (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 10:54am

    Re: Should anyone in the NSA try to circumvent that, in defiance of policy, they would be held accountable, he said: "There is 100% audibility.

    Ahhh... look how this is worded. He didn't say that everything is audited 100%. No no no. He said there is 100% audibility. You know like providing the least untruthful answer.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 11:03am

    Re: his technical limitations

    +1 sad but true*/backspaces* highly probable

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Michael, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 11:15am

    "I have four daughters. Can I go and intercept their emails? No. The technical limitations are in there."

    So this billion-dollar program is being outwitted by his daughters.

    Money well spent.

     

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  8.  
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    Transmitte (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 11:20am

    C'mon Mike!

    You're making the NSA look bad...wait, nevermind.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 11:33am

    NSA is full of shit, literaly.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 11:44am

    Totally correct.... at the time they found 100% of the abuses cases. How could you find more than 100% if you do not find the other cases?

     

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  11.  
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    Paul Renault (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 11:46am

    Re: Re: Should anyone in the NSA try to circumvent that, in defiance of policy, they would be held accountable, he said: "There is 100% audibility.

    Correct. He didn't say that they were 100% audited.

    Just that they were audit-able...if they feel like it...and Snowden has already posted the documents online.

    And if no one is in the room. Of course, that 'no one' includes the auditor.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 12:55pm

    "Should anyone in the NSA try to circumvent that, in defiance of policy, they would be held accountable"

    Except that the majority of those revealed to have intentionally abused the system last week were not held accountable.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 3:22pm

    Re: Re: Should anyone in the NSA try to circumvent that, in defiance of policy, they would be held accountable, he said: "There is 100% audibility.

    And he says "audibility" not even "auditability." So, if you speak out about how you abused the system, they can hear you. But if you just shut up about it, not so much.

     

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  14.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 30th, 2013 @ 4:09pm

    Re: Should anyone in the NSA try to circumvent that, in defiance of policy, they would be held accountable, he said: "There is 100% audibility.

    how can our SS General Alexander say that there is a 100% auditability.


    If viewed through the lens of how lawyers talk (lying without uttering a single untruth), this may be entirely correct.

    He claimed 100% autidability. That means that it is technically possible to audit everything. I can easily see this being true.

    He didn't claim that this technical ability was actually used in 100% of the cases.

     

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  15.  
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    Annie, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 2:39am

    Re: Should anyone in the NSA try to circumvent that, in defiance of policy, they would be held accountable, he said: "There is 100% audibility.

    "Auditability" means they can audit it. If they choose to. Which of course, it is neither in their interests nor their mind to do.

    This guys weasel words have so many holes in them you could use them as a sieve. The guy is transparently a liar.

    And all of it is just fine with Clapper the crapper and Obama the hopeless. I cannot understand why there is so much fire and all Americans can think to do is hold their hands against it for warmth.

    This is potentially the biggest scandal since Watergate but there seems to be remarkably little actually happening.

    Annie

     

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  16.  
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    Pragmatic, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 3:28am

    Yesterday I was reading a Wired article about this, and one of the commenters claimed to be an NSA employee. The upshot is, if you're against what they're doing, "...you must be a Liberal Socialist (sic)." I presume that makes us targets as the implication is that liberal socialists, or those considered to be so inclined, are terrorist-loving enemies of the state, and therefore valid targets.

    This guy was replying to "Thank you for spying on me and my family" and saw nothing wrong in what he is doing.

    If that was the response from an employee, is it the exception or the rule?

    Because that's how they're justifying it.

     

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  17.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 9:18am

    Re:

    "...you must be a Liberal Socialist (sic)."


    Even if that guy's rather distorted view of the politics of this were accurate, it's still a strange argument to make. Is he really asserting that one cannot be a "Liberal Socialist" and a patriotic American at the same time? That's an incredibly unpatriotic stance to take.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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