NSA More Or Less Admits To Spying On Congress

from the of-course-it-does dept

On Friday, we noted that Senator Bernie Sanders had asked the NSA if it spied on members of Congress. He was very explicit in how he defined "spying" such that the NSA couldn't legitimately deny it -- since the definition included collecting metadata on their calls -- something the NSA absolutely does. In response to press requests, it appears that the NSA has issued a statement to a variety of publications, basically admitting that of course it spies on Congress, because it collects everyone's data.
NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of US persons. Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons. NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress. Our interaction with Congress has been extensive both before and since the media disclosures began last June.

We are reviewing Senator Sanders’s letter now, and we will continue to work to ensure that all members of Congress, including Senator Sanders, have information about NSA’s mission, authorities, and programs to fully inform the discharge of their duties.
The key line: "Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons." Meaning, basically, that they have no privacy protections when it comes to the NSA collecting data.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 9:07am

    I am Jacks's

    Utter lack of surprise!

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 9:08am

    "The key line: "Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons." Meaning, basically, that they have no privacy protections when it comes to the NSA collecting data."

    Nonsense Mike! Throwing your data and everyone else's in a giant pile is plenty of privacy protections! That way, they MAY look at your data, or because there's so much of it to look through, they MAY decide they don't have the time to look at the intelligence their spying has gathered on you, which means you 'technically' weren't spied on!

    It's just like when a peeping Tom installs a hidden camera in a bathroom or dressing room. Sure it gets lots of pictures of people exposing themselves or naked, but if the peeping Tom doesn't even look at those pictures, then they didn't do anything illegal and can't be arrested for the pictures their hidden cameras took!

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 9:09am

    Another jewel from the NSA whom can not tell the truth at any point. It hedges every thing, redefines words, and tries misdirection.

    There is no oversight on the NSA. Every type of organization, every opportunity to exercise that oversight is blocked in any manner that can be thought of to prevent it. Lying to the oversight committee, no problem, claiming National Security issues to prevent data getting out, no problem, getting politicians to speak up for it, no problem. What you don't see is meaningful oversight at all.

    Exactly why is congress and congress's privacy more important than the average citizens?

     

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  4.  
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    Trevor, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 9:12am

    Oops

    The NSA admitted that it treats elected officials the same as everyone else. The NSA also claimed that it gives everyone in the US high privacy protections subject to oversight.

    A while ago, this came out:
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/11/nsa-americans-personal-data-israel-documents

    It was discovered that the NSA gave raw data (unfiltered nor censored) to Israel. This data included information on US Citizens.

    Therefore, the NSA gave private information of elected officials to Israel. and SNOWDEN is the one guilty of treason? ;)

    /rant

     

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  5.  
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    Phillip (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 9:21am

    As it should be

    If they are going to collect this information congress should have the same or less protections than the rest of America. This is the only way to get them to pay attention or care. Normally they carve out exceptions for themselves, and thus don't pay attention to or care what they're law create. Like the TSA, congress gets to skip them.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 9:23am

    Re:

    Wrong. You will be arrested for the 'intent' of the crime whether you look or not. Next you'll argue it's ok to download child porn if you don't look at it.

     

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  7.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 9:23am

    Re:

    High court - Low court.

     

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  8.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re:

    *woosh*

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 9:35am

    Re:

    E

     

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

  10.  
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    Baron von Robber, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 9:37am

    Re: As it should be

    Of course they will get an exception. Congress is more equal than the rest of us.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 9:39am

    Re: Re:

    Don't Know What went wrong reposting...

    Exactly why is congress and congress's privacy more important than the average citizens?

    So that the politicians can misbehave and remain in power.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 9:50am

    How long does that take?

    We are reviewing Senator Sandersís letter now

    The letter was less than a page long, with only 1 question in it. How long does it take to review?

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 9:51am

    Re: Re: As it should be

    To get the exception they will have to tell NSA all their phone numbers, and keep the list up to date. Unless they hand over this data NSA does not know that they are collecting information about a politician.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 10:06am

    Well, would YOU trust a US congressman?

    I mean, have you seen the way those guys act? They're clearly untrustworthy. Plus, they can stroll right past the TSA without having their underwear scanned or body cavities probed; they're clearly a threat to the American way of life.
    The NSA has displayed great foresight in anticipating the impending rise of congressional terrorists, or "terrorgressts". The next 9/11 is going to happen any day now, after all. (The current one's getting a little stale.)

     

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  15.  
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    Trevor, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 10:06am

    Re: How long does that take?

    They have to figure out what they meant by "it" and "the" and "a" and every other word in the letter. BECAUSE CONTEXT PEOPLE.

    Also, from what we know about the NSA's capabilities, I wouldn't be surprised if they had a copy of the letter before it was even sent across the hall to the office printer...

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 10:14am

    Re:

    Exactly why is congress and congress's privacy more important than the average citizens?


    Because if someone blackmails members of Congress the outcome could be much more severe than if they blackmailed some random person.

    Of course, they don't have to resort to blackmail - that's far too dangerous because the person might then report that the NSA is blackmailing them, and that could be enough to bring the entire organization down. Much safer would be to simply make sure their opponents get all their dirty laundry aired. An anonymous tip that candidate X is having an affair, and which hotel they use, given to the right investigative reporter, could ruin their chances of being elected. If favorable candidate Y is having an affair, just ignore it.

    I'm not saying they do this. I'm merely saying that since they collect so much information, they COULD. And nobody would know.

     

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  17.  
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    Quiet Lurcker, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 10:21am

    Re: How long does that take?


    How long does it take to review?


    However long it takes to come up with an answer that seems truthful and seems to answer the question.

     

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  18.  
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    Charles (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 10:29am

    What chaps me most...

    ...is that the NSA did NOT answer the question. This should have been a yes or no answer. But what do you get? Doublespeak.

    "1984" was a sitcom compared to these guys.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 10:31am

    How can anyone trust these guys! Its impossible. Turns out they never deserved our trust in the first place.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 10:39am

    And this is currently on Bernie's official website: "NSA Sidesteps Questions on Congressional Spying"

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re:

    Yes I know, that was the point of my post, to use sarcasm to make a point that the NSA is violating the law. And to make fun of the bizarre logic they use to justify why it isn't illegal or isn't spying.

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymoose, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 10:46am

    When all you have is a global surveillance apparatus, every problem looks like a silent coup.

     

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  23.  
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    wto605 (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 10:50am

    Re: Re:

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re:

    ...or joking that "Hey we already had your number" and leaving it to the imagination when they lobby congress to protect these programs.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 11:00am

    Re: Oops

    How can an average citizen stop a government agency from committing treason?

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 11:03am

    Re: Re: As it should be

    We keep hearing the "political class" mentioned in the news when talking about elected officials. That has always struck me as a very anti-American ideology. If only a certain class of people gets elected, does that not work counter to the American idea of a government of, by, and for the people? Our country has been hijacked. We all know it.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 11:05am

    Re: Re: How long does that take?

    First they have to translate it into their own version of English.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 11:11am

    Re: Oops

    It is a philosofical question:
    Can a rogue government secret service commit treason? I highly doubt it can be defined as such. The treason would have to fall back on the persons responsible for the acts!

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 11:14am

    Wait until they use the info on political opponents

    As I have been saying here and elsewhere, they will eventually, if they haven't already, use the info they have gathered against political opponents. Right now the NSA answers to Obama, with his track record it would be easy to believe that he is using the info against his opponents.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 11:39am

    it is a trick question anyway. The senator knows they are spying on them. the NSA can't give a satisfactory answer. if they say yes, they admit to essentially treason, if they say no, they additionally lie to the people overseeing their action. the NSA has to evaluate how to minimise the damage to themselves.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re: Re: As it should be

    You are right. All the early presidents walked away from the presidency after just 2 terms. The rest of the worlds leaders could not fathom that. Now we have career politicians who feel we are to be subjugated as we are inferior.

     

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  32.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 11:54am

    Re: How long does that take?

    The NSA's delay in 'reviewing' a one page letter with only one question may be due to issues they are having with their 'truth management' software.

    This innovative new class of government software, licensed from SCO, keeps track of which truths you've told to which parties, and helps you to manage the picture of overall truth that each party sees over time without presenting them with conflicting truths.

    The NSA is being truthful to the extent that the NSA is capable of telling the truth.

     

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  33.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 12:00pm

    I read somewhere that this was just stupid grandstanding on the part of the Senator. I think there is a more interesting point being missed, CongressCritters are now aware that they are not immune from this. They often think they are left out of rules and laws (they write them that way). Now imagine how many CongressCritters might be sweating knowing that some smartass 20something could still pull a Snowden and walk their metadata out.
    It is one thing to suspect that Congress is bought by corporations, it is another to connect all of those dots with hard data.

     

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  34.  
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    avideogameplayer, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 12:08pm

    Wouldn't surprise me if all sorts of scandals pop up before November...

     

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  35.  
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    Namel3ss (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re: How long does that take?

    However long it takes to come up with the least untruthful answer.

    FTFY

     

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  36.  
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    ECA (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 12:27pm

    who DO YOU WANT SPYING..

    Who do you want spying on our Reps??
    the only problem is we dont GET any of the info, of who is doing who..WE dont even get pictures..

     

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  37.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Re: Oops

    Step 1: understand what "treason" is and is not. The activity that Trevor is pointing to is not legally treason.

     

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  38.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Wait until they use the info on political opponents

    'The NSA answers to-'

    Hah, that's a good one!

     

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  39.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 2:16pm

    Re:

    '...just stupid grandstanding...'

    On the contrary, this seems to be one of the rare cases of political action that isn't little more than grandstanding and PR, this is, I imagine, exactly what the one who sent the letter hoped for, which is making the others in the government aware that they are having their communications tapped just like everyone else.

    On it's own that would be bad enough, but due to their positions, and ability to dramatically change things by writing new laws and changing/repealing old ones, that automatically makes every last one of them 'persons of interest' to a spy agency like the NSA, meaning that while most people who have their data scooped up probably won't ever have it looked at by a living person due to the sheer volume, their data does not share that same status.

    And as you say, it's one thing to suspect that those in government have been bought and are working for corporations, having proof of it's another matter entirely, proof the NSA would be able to obtain through their spying quite easily, which is likely to really get the congressmen and senators' attention, even if they didn't particularly care before.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Wait until they use the info on political opponents

    I wonder. Remember that video of a vibrant candidate Obama, boldly declaring that he'd stop the surveillance, compared with a recent president Obama, pale and drawn, trying to explain how harvesting metadata totally isn't surveillance?

    The NSA has dirt on everyone. We already know they spy on world leaders, US citizens, and US elected officials. I'd honestly be surprised if they weren't able to blackmail Obama.

    Of course, if that's the case, it means Obama isn't willing to put everything on the line for what he thinks is right. Which wouldn't really be news, I suppose.
    (I don't suppose we could have Ed Snowden as a presidential candidate in 2016?)

     

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  41.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 3:13pm

    Re: Re: Wait until they use the info on political opponents

    The NSA may have dirt on everyone, but we don't need to hypothesize blackmail to explain the actions of Obama or congress.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 3:35pm

    SOMEBODY should be spying on Congress.

     

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

  43.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 3:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Wait until they use the info on political opponents

    I think it's mostly wishful thinking, the idea that they would act in the public's best interest, if they didn't have something like that hanging over their head keeping them from doing so.

    The alternative, that those in charge, elected by the people, and who are supposed to serve and represent the people, instead couldn't care less about the people, and only care about their own power and prestige... that's quite the bitter pill to swallow for most people.

     

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  44.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 3:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Wait until they use the info on political opponents

    I doubt there are many people left who actually think that congress represents the people's interest in any way. They do have a 9% approval rating, after all.

     

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  45.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 3:57pm

    Re:

    That's not a "trick" question. It's a legitimate question. That the NSA will be hurt regardless of how they answer is there own fault.

     

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

  46.  
    identicon
    Trevor, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 4:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Oops

    Eh, "treason" wasn't the right word to use, but it highlights how someone who exposes arguably illegal activity, and active spying on ELECTED OFFICIALS and then giving that information to ANOTHER COUNTRY with NO SAFEGUARDS, is the one hunted for and labeled as committing "treason" but the people and organizations that perpetuate that activity feel no adverse effects (other than wrist slapping at "hearings").

    /rant /rant

     

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

  47.  
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    beltorak (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 6:31pm

    Re: What chaps me most...

    "1984" was a comedy of errors. they are here to show us how to do it right.

     

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

  48.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 12:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Wait until they use the info on political opponents

    True, but there's thinking they're incompetent, vs. thinking they're corrupt.

     

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

  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 6:41am

    Re: Re: What chaps me most...

    "1984" + comedy = "Brazil".

     

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

  50.  
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    QuietgyInTheCorner (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 7:56am

    Our interaction with Congress has been extensive....

    Translating this, it means:
    "We've been asked a lot of hard-hitting questions by congress that we've had to think hard about before
    (1) evading the question
    (2) using misdirection to appear to answer the question without actually doing so, and/or
    (3) being somewhat "untruthful".
    But this is all ok, because
    (1) we're the NSA,
    (2) we didn't use a computer to do it, and
    (3) well, you know .. "terrorists" ...

     

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

  51.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 11:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Wait until they use the info on political opponents

    Perhaps, but most everyone I know doesn't care if it's incompetence or corruption. For good reason: the end result is the same either way.

     

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


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