Confirmed: There Is No Real Oversight Of The NSA's Surveillance

from the debunk-that-myth dept

Throughout these revelations of NSA spying, the common refrain from supporters of the program was that there was strong oversight “from all three branches of government.” We’d already questioned those claims, but with the recent revelations of widespread abuses, combined with the head of FISC (judicial branch) admitting that he relies on what the NSA tells him to do the oversight, and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein claiming to have never even seen a key document concerning abuses, not to mention that the NSA teaches its analysts how to hide relevant info from those in charge of oversight, it seems pretty clear that the idea of real oversight is a joke.

The EFF has now broken down exactly why the truth is that none of the three branches of government have been able to do real oversight:

First, the Executive. After a review of internal NSA audits of the spying programs provided by Edward Snowden, the Post lays out—in stark detail—that the claims of oversight inside the Executive Branch are empty. The article reveals that an internal NSA audit not shown to Congress, the President, or the FISA Court detailed thousands of violations where the NSA collected, stored, and accessed American’s communications content and other information. In one story, NSA analysts searched for all communications containing the Swedish manufacturer Ericsson and “radio” or “radar.” What’s worse: the thousands of violations only include the NSA’s main office in Maryland—not the other—potentially hundreds—of other NSA offices across the country. And even more importantly, the documents published by the Post reveal violations increasing every year. The news reports and documents are in direct contrast to the repeated assertions by President Obama (video), General James Clapper (video), and General Keith Alexander (video) that the US government does not listen to or look at Americans’ phone calls or emails. So much for official pronouncements that oversight by the Executive was “extensive” and “robust.

Second, the FISA Court. The Post presents a second article in which the Chief Judge of the FISA Court admits that the court is unable to act as a watchdog or stop the NSA’s abuses: “The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court,” its chief, US District Judge Reggie B. Walton, said in a written statement. “The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance.”  Civil liberties and privacy advocates have long said that the FISA Court is a rubber stamp when it comes to the spying, but this is worse—this is the Court admitting that it cannot conduct the oversight the President and others have claimed it is doing. So much for claims by officials from the White House (video), NSA, DOJ, and Intelligence Committee members of Congress that the FISA Court is another strong pillar of oversight.

Third, the Congress. Last week, Representative Sensenbrenner complained that “the practice of classified briefings are a ‘rope-a-dope operation’ in which lawmakers are given information and then forbidden from speaking out about it.” Members of Congress who do not serve on the Intelligence Committees in the both the House and Senate have had difficulty in obtaining documents about the NSA spying. Last week, it was even uncovered that the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, failed to provide freshmen members of Congress vital documents about the NSA’s activities during a key vote to reapprove the spying. Senators Wyden and Udall have been desperately trying to tell the American people what is going on, but this year the House Intelligence committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight has not met once and the Senate Intelligence committee has met publicly only twice

So, the next time an NSA defender trots out those claims of strong oversight from all three branches, don’t let them get away with it, since it’s clearly not true.

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Comments on “Confirmed: There Is No Real Oversight Of The NSA's Surveillance”

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Wally (profile) says:

Those of us in the civilian populous who were defending the NSA can now look at various local news paper who are affiliated with the Associated Press and read it…my mom and dad’s local news paper in rural Ohio just did an outstanding report. Headline was front page and red

“The NSA Has Violated the Constitution Thousands of Times!”

There is now absolutely no excuse to support the NSA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Again, keep in mind that this is only the tip of the iceberg. All has not been revealed. So there is more, lots more.

So far everyone that has gotten up to defend the NSA and this spying on American citizens has fallen flat on their face with it being revealed it’s all a pack of lies within days at best.

Yah, it’s that bad. It’s bad enough that no one should believe any longer any official statement that says it has authority, has oversight, or is acting in a responsible manner.

This is what a real scandal looks like.

out_of_the_blue says:

You left out the endless opportunity for blackmail.

As no one in gov’t is guilty of numerous real common law crimes, there’s zero chance they’ll stand up to NSA. — Remember Eliot Spitzer in New York? Began investigating Wall Street, and was soon exposed with info that almost certainly came from NSA spying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You left out the endless opportunity for blackmail.

For once I actually agree with you, ootb. I don’t find it hard to believe that politicians either toe the line, like Obama who has pulled a complete 180 on his stance against NSA overreach, or you end up disgraced or worse with the dirt the NSA has on everyone. No one who gets to the level of US Congress has a skeleton free closet, and the NSA, I’m convinced, uses that to their advantage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You left out the endless opportunity for blackmail.

Ootb made a comment similar to what I was thinking, the people in charge of oversight likely have something to hide and the NSA knows what that is.
Eg J. Edgar Hoover

I often click the report button on ootb but when he/she/it makes a comment on topic and logical hitting the report button feels wrong.

Paul says:

When are charges going to be brought against these liars?start

With as much corruption and lies already learned from “just the tip of the iceberg”, I’d like to know when are some charges going to be brought against these liars? If I lied under oath I’d find myself in jail, not still in office trying to get another raise or a bonus for a job well done.

When are those criminals finally going to be held accountable??

GITMO sound much too good for them!

Anonymous Coward says:

Evidently, the town hall meetings various congress critters are holding in the districts they represent, are getting an earful from their constituents. The American people are not only concerned; they’re pissed!

There are a raft of proposals being readied for return to the Hill. Most look toothless for real meaningful change.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I do not think this community hates the government, we hate that the government is breaking laws without consequence.

We hate:
secret courts
secret sealed subpoenas
violations of our basic rights as outlined in our Constitution
politicians who lie
selective enforcement of laws

I suspect most of the people here also hate the war on terror which, in my opinion, only exists to justify the police state that is being created.

Anonymous Coward says:

Does it bother you ?

Does it bother you Mr Masnick how badly you have handled this entire NSA / Snowden event ?

You’ve totally miss timed everything, in that when you should have been focusing on the NSA you focused on Snowden and not the real issues he revealed, and as a result you completely missed the news cycle for anything, now it’s all simply too late.

Everyone has moved on, they have forgotten about Snowden, and were never really clearly informed about Snowden’s message.

Now simply no one really cares, or have been so confused by the thousands of assumptions based in little evidence no one knows what to think anymore!

When this thing did have some momentum you failed to utilise it, now it has lost that momentum and you cannot appear to revive it.

Now from you it’s an endless list of things you think they “might” be doing each one more tenuous that the previous.

You’ve already convinced everyone you are going to convince, blocked or ‘reported’ all those that you have not.

Now your just using this to attack the Obama administration, not really addressing the actual issues, you hate your Government, we get that, ok that’s your right. What else do you have for us ?

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Does it bother you ?

We do not hate the government, just most of the scumbag politicians, and appointees currently running it.

You seem to fear free speech and people speaking out about government abuses.

You seem afraid that sites like Techdirt are changing peoples opinions slowly but surely.

You seem to subconsciously realize that something has changed in the world. That the event that happened in the middle east, could actually happen here also.

You seem tiny and small …

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Does it bother you ?

I am not at all afraid of free speech, I applaud it, does not mean I have to agree with the speech, but that is what free speech is all about.

Nor do I have any fears about Techdirt, quite the opposite, I note how ineffective it is, you say changing opinions slowly but surely. I personally don’t see that, no ones opinions are changed here, you come here to have your opinions re-enforced or to see what the limited few supporters here have to say.

But it’s the same thing every time from the same people, Masnick has been doing this for a long time now, but the number of supporters does not see to be growing with him.

It is clear to me why, because Masnick never has anything new to offer, and his timing of what he does offer is hopeless.

But I was simply reading comment after comment after comment, that are CLEARLY I HATE THE GOVERNMENT comments.

Observation on opinion, not in itself opinion.
It does appear TD has degenerated to a “I hate the Government” and everything it stands for.

It’s a clear degeneration of this web site, that at least used to try to act as a tech community reporting site.

It’s simply not that anymore..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Does it bother you ?

You say Techdirt is ineffective, and yet you still feel the need to post? You still feel the need to sling a few insults at Mansick and the writers here at Techdirt despite the fact this sight is not gaining new supporters and is, apparently, only filled with his devout followers? That really only leaves us a few options:
– you enjoy engaging in what you yourself has described as fruitless situations which ultimately serve no purpose,
– You feel pity for the futile efforts of the writers and wish to let them know they can give up (Which given the slinging of insults is very unlikely)
– Your attempting to undermine this site because you know it is working and you are afraid of what it represents

Personally for me I can say Techdirt has been quite insightful on a number of issues. I don’t always agree with the writers but I compare its opinions on topics to other sites and blogs I visit and use that to form my own opinion. You may think TD has degenerated into a “I hate the Government” site, but frankly its just calling out the blatant abuses the government seems to be engaged in these days, and if pointing out where the government is being deceitful and wanting the truth now means a person hates the government, then sign me up for the Hate wagon

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Does it bother you ?

I don’t need to post, I enjoy posting and providing alternative perspectives. But I have no illusions that posting on TD makes any difference to more than about 10 or so people. These people already believe everything masnick says, it’s amusing to see you try though..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Does it bother you ?

Ah my mistake, I must have missed you providing your alternative perspective to the discussion among your post consisting of little more than insults against Techdirt and Mansick. Could you be so kind as to point out the alternative view on the topic of the post at hand from this chain of replies, I can’t seem to find it among all the veiled insults riddling your comments

Anonymous Coward says:

“This person said that !!!”

“A congressmen said this !!!”

“Someone else said that !!!”

Who gives a flying fuck what they say ? is the issue now not about Snowden or the NSA is it about who said what to who ?

So what a congressmen complains what worthy of ‘reporting’ ??

Or what a politician changes policy or makes a decision based on current information (not historical information) that is something bad ?

Because other people and courts interpret the constitution differently to how you do does that make them instantly wrong ?

Seems you writers of TD seemed to have gotten a little off track, what has this got to do with ‘Techdirt’ more so than a Government hate site ?

That what it appears to have degenerated in to.

So the next time a congressmen says “rope a dope” is it going to make new here on ‘techdirt’ ?

Or when we want a detailed analysis on the US constitution this is the place to be ?

Because constitutional debate is all about ‘techdirt’ right ?

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t hate the government. I don’t even hate the lying and unconstitutional officials currently in government. Though I do think they should stand trial for violating the constitutional laws, they swore an oath to uphold.

Hating criminals isn’t a prerequisite in order to call for their prosecution for breaking the law.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Then again, the evil and corrupt government “
” and have let their government run amok.”
“Except to line their pockets.”
“like Obama who has pulled a complete 180 on his stance against NSA overreach”
“‘d like to know when are some charges going to be brought against these liars?”

“Way too many turncoats have sold America down the river, hung her out to dry”

If Obama ever told the truth I would just assume that he’s infected with a goa’uld.”

“we hate that the government is breaking laws without consequence. “

“We hate:
secret courts
secret sealed subpoenas
violations of our basic rights as outlined in our Constitution
politicians who lie
selective enforcement of laws

So you don’t have the Government, just everything it does and stands for !!.

Looks to me like a hate site.. it is hard to find posts not expressing HATE against the Government !!!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Wait, you’re saying the government stands for secret courts, secret laws, lying, infringement of rights, etc.?

If that’s true, then yes, I hate that government.

I don’t think that’s actually what we stand for, though. I think the government has lost its way, and out of a love for my country and countrymen — not to mention the world — I feel the need to agitate and work for action that will fix it.

People who hate the government don’t bother speaking out against its wrongdoing. Speaking out against wrongdoing is an act of love for county, and is an act of patriotism.

“The citizen who sees his society’s democratic clothes being worn out and does not cry out is not a patriot but a traitor.” — Mark Twain

Anonymous Coward says:

Federal law regulating oath of office by government officials is divided into four parts along with an executive order which further defines the law for purposes of enforcement. 5 U.S.C. 3331, provides the text of the actual oath of office members of Congress are required to take before assuming office. 5 U.S.C. 3333 requires members of Congress sign an affidavit that they have taken the oath of office required by 5 U.S.C. 3331 and have not or will not violate that oath of office during their tenure of office as defined by the third part of the law, 5 U.S.C. 7311 which explicitly makes it a federal criminal offense (and a violation of oath of office) for anyone employed in the United States Government (including members of Congress) to ?advocate the overthrow of our constitutional form of government?. The fourth federal law, 18 U.S.C. 1918 provides penalties for violation of oath office described in 5 U.S.C. 7311 which include: (1) removal from office and; (2) confinement or a fine.

The definition of ?advocate? is further specified in Executive Order 10450 which for the purposes of enforcement supplements 5 U.S.C. 7311. One provision of Executive Order 10450 specifies it is a violation of 5 U.S.C. 7311 for any person taking the oath of office to advocate ?the alteration … of the form of the government of the United States by unconstitutional means.? Our form of government is defined by the Constitution of the United States. It can only be ?altered? by constitutional amendment. Thus, according to Executive Order 10450 (and therefore 5 U.S. 7311) any act taken by government officials who have taken the oath of office prescribed by 5 U.S.C. 3331which alters the form of government other by amendment, is a criminal violation of the 5 U.S.C. 7311.

Reinterpreting the US Constitution in a secret court, while denying US citizens the ability to read that reinterpretation, is bad enough.

Attempting to redefine or change it’s meaning, in any way shape or form, other than directly amending the Constitution for all citizens to read and study, is a criminal violation as defined by 5 U.S.C. 7311 of Federal Law.

James (user link) says:

I’m wondering when the NSA surveillance will have its “Bork Blockbuster” moment. For those with short memories, it used to be legal to share video rental history data … until Robert Bork’s video rental history was revealed during his confirmation hearings.

Now that every conversation in Washington DC (the 202 area code)has been monitored, will Congress finally realize that they are targets too? After all, they are simply citizens, USPs to the NSA.

Jasmine Charter (user link) says:

Who polices themselves?

Seriously… this whole policing themselves thing is absurd. Anyone who suggests – let alone believes it – are complete morons and should be thrown into a padded room so they can’t hurt themselves or others.

People DON’T police themselves. PERIOD. When was the last time you pulled up to a cop and told them you had been speeding? When was the last time you were late to work and ran to your bosses office to tell them?

We don’t really believe people police themselves either. The next time you get audited by the IRS, try telling them that they can go home… that you police yourself… and see how far that gets you.


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