NSA Defender Claims Thousands Of Abuses By NSA Shows 'The System Is Working Well'

from the they-can't-be-serious dept

Been wondering how the usual pack of NSA defenders would be trying to spin the revelations of massive violations of the law by the NSA? I’ve assumed that most would focus on the fact that it’s claimed (without real evidence) that these abuses were “accidents” or “typos” (by which you also alert NSA agents exactly how to abuse the system without getting in trouble for it: just make it look like a typo). And here we have a version of this that I expect to see a few politicians trot out. Jason Healey, who is a former “director of cyber infrastructure” for the White House from 2003 to 2005. has trotted out the trial balloon claiming that these thousands of abuses mean “the system is working.”

We’ll wait while you try to stop laughing. Need a bit more time? Okay. Glances at watch Okay, now, seriously, I’m assuming his argument is that the fact that there was a secret report noting all of these thousands of abuses means that the “auditing” and “review” process within the NSA proves that those processes “work” in “catching” abuses. This is wrong on so many levels. Let’s discuss just a few, because, really, we don’t have all day:

  1. Just because this report notes thousands of abuses, it doesn’t mean that many other, potentially worse, abuses didn’t happen and just didn’t make it into the report. In fact, given how widely the systems appear to be abused, this seems almost certain. The NSA argues that random errors, typos and accidents lead to the mistakes in the first place, yet now we’re supposed to believe that there were no such errors in collecting the list of violations and abuses? Really?
  2. As we’ve been discussing, the way these abuses are classified actually makes it painfully obvious to any NSA analyst worth his or her pocket protector just how to abuse the system and get away with it. If these abuses were rare, and not an everyday occurrence, it would be harder to get away with. But with multiple abuses every single day, it’s not difficult to disguise a purposefully abusive search into one that looks “accidental.”
  3. The fact that there are so many abuses, and that the number has grown over time shows that the system is clearly not working. If it was, they’d be reducing the violations consistently.
  4. Just because an abuse is written up, it doesn’t excuse the abuse happening in the first place.

And, as mentioned we could go on and on and on. But, honestly, how can anyone want to be taken seriously and then argue that thousands of abuses of the law and violations of the privacy of Americans “reflects [the] system working well”? About the only way it shows the system is working well is if the plan was to spy on Americans against the law all along.

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Comments on “NSA Defender Claims Thousands Of Abuses By NSA Shows 'The System Is Working Well'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Well isn’t that interesting.

Would Jason Healey like to go on record as embarrassing himself publicly? After all that seems to be what is going on with all the others that are defending the NSA.

How about we hear from Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall on this matter since they have just released a new statement.


Anonymous Coward says:

Context please: is the "working well" regarding ...

So what’s the context of the statement… are we talking purely audit here? that just means that _if_ someone bothers to look in to previous access they can see what you accessed…

That doesn’t speak to prevention of abuse from occuring in the first place…

The public is screaming that you shouldn’t be doing this and the politicians respond that there are controls in place to prevent abuse…
but when we get details, we get “we’ve been keeping track of the abuses” so don’t worry about it…

WTF, we (the people) are concerned about the abuse occuring in the first place… It’s nice that you can follow up later an point the finger at someone actually abusing the system… but doesn’t that prove our (the peoples) point about it being abused in the first place.

Just ignore this man, he’s not speaking to the issue, he’s blowing some smoke that we can use to our advantage! (see, there’s a program to report abuses… im sorry, violations… so we know they’re happening)

Anonymous Coward says:


*takes deep breath*


That’s absurd.

Things that are also absurd, yet no less ridiculous than his assertion:

1) When we lie to you, we’re really tell you the truth.
2) When we punch you in face, it was really a giant teddy bear hug.
3) When we stick a hot poker in your eye, it was actually a sweet kiss on the mouth.

Do these people not understand how utterly stupid they sound sometimes?

pmcall (profile) says:

Here’s another ridiculous propaganda piece by NSA/OBAMA defender, Bob Cesca. He has no shame. If you read all three WaPo pieces and then read this Cesca piece you should clearly see why you should never read anything written by Cesca again.


Andrew F (profile) says:

Makes Sense

This actually makes sense if you accept the basic premise of the NSA’s argument re privacy — there is nothing wrong with collecting information so long as we don’t act on it in an inappropriate manner. By way of analogy, Google’s collection of Wi-Fi data via StreetView was incorrect, but ultimately harmless since it deleted the data collected without sharing or doing anything with it. The fact that it’s happening 1000s of times is meaningless if you consider each violation unimportant (1000 times nothing is still nothing).

The more damning argument, IMHO, is the revelation that the NSA data is, in fact, not merely being improperly collected but improperly used against U.S. citizens. Specifically, there is no reason for NSA data to be shared with the IRS or the DEA, no matter how broad a definition of national security you throw out there. Full stop. But it is. And that’s wrong even under the NSA’s rules.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Makes Sense

@ “Andrew F” “there is nothing wrong with collecting information so long as we don’t act on it in an inappropriate manner. By way of analogy, Google’s collection of Wi-Fi data via StreetView was incorrect, but ultimately harmless since it deleted the data collected without sharing or doing anything with it.”

NO, THERE IS MUCH WRONG. Want to live in a fishbowl, do you? Better learn to push back against SPIES because they aren’t going to stop on their own. — Also, you have ZERO evidence beyond statements by a Google employee as to what processing was done on the data.

And it’s been determined was NO accident or brief:
“Google knew its Street View cars were slurping personal data from private Wi-Fi routers for three years before the story broke in April 2010.

An investigation by the Federal Communications Commission leaves no ambiguity: an engineer discussed the collection of the personal data with a senior manager, and that between May 2007 and May 2010, wireless traffic was captured by Street View cars.”


Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:


It makes me wonder how all this actually works. In my (admittedly incomplete) minds eye I see bull pens of cubicles with supervisors walking the aisle’s looking over searcher results. Got anything yet?

I can imagine morning orders: To the collections groups; Group A has the Middle East, Group B has the Far East Group C Europe, Group D Africa, Group E Oceania, Group F Special Interests…

Then to the analyst groups: We are looking for a Caucasian male, late 40’s with a van dyke plus soul patch, brown and brown, anywhere from 5’8″ to 6’2″ and 165 to 220 pounds, depending on who you listen to. He has extensive email contacts with [redacted] and phone with [redacted] and is suspected of maybe leaning toward a center right left liberalism with violent tenancies. He is probably traveling. We need him apprehended ASAP as his Aunt who works upstairs says he needs to call his mother.

Senior Analyst Group: Terrorists, I SAID Terrorists. What is all this crap about van dyke plus soul patch?

Anonymous Coward says:

*falls out over ootb’s statement*

At least it’s on topic and no report vote here on that.

One time in all these thousands you actually get on topic with some point actually from the article and lay claim to asking who says you don’t read closely?

Tell me ootb, ever considered going into politics… or even better the NSA? I’d say they have a position for you given past behavior.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re:

@ AC: “Tell me ootb, ever considered going into politics… or even better the NSA? I’d say they have a position for you given past behavior.”

I’ll field the question and this once attribute your totally egregious dig to my own awry wit.

Yes, I have, both: decided against because I’m — in DND terms so you’ll understand — of Lawful Good alignment. (And you all know what a pain those are, in game terms.)

SeattleGuy says:

Proof of required report for DoJ

This report is SOP for the NSA. It is required by law to show inadvertent discovery. It does NOT show any government wrongdoing although you can get that through the heads of the govmint haters.

By the way, techies. Why don’t you tell me how you could determine BEFORE getting a warrant and gathering content whether or not the node at the other end of the connection with a terrorist is American or a legitimate target? In other words, how could the NSA avoid incidents like this? It’s not humanly possible to know beforehand if you’re onto a traveling American or a new terrorist. Duh!

That’s why the minimization procedures are in place.

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