NSA Agents Told To Withhold Target Information From Those In Charge Of Oversight
from the and-the-hits-keep-coming dept
There’s so much information that’s coming out of last night’s Washington Post bombshell that just continues to yield incredible information about what defenders of these programs have been saying as compared to what’s actually happening. Here’s another one. One of the documents released with the report, via Ed Snowden, shows that NSA agents were directly told to give their overseers as little information as possible. The document explains to agents the process for justifying why they were requesting targeting (i.e., a more detailed look concerning an individual or group — not just at that person’s communications, but potentially anyone even remotely connected to them), and makes it clear that they are to give the bare minimum necessary to fulfill their reporting requirements, but not even the slightest bit beyond that. In fact, they’re told to give a single short sentence, and to make sure it includes no “extraneous information.”
The basic premise of this process is to memorialize why you the analyst have requested targeting. This rationale will be provided to our external FISA Amendment Act (FAA) overseers, the Department of Justice and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, for all FAA targeting.
While we do want to provide our FAA overseers with the information they need, we DO NOT want to give them any extraneous information…. This rationale can be no longer than one short sentence.
[….] Your rationale MUST NOT contain any additional information including: probable cause-like information (i.e., proof of your analytic judgment), how you came to your analytic conclusions, any RAGTIME information, classification marking or selector information.
The document goes on to list a variety of “example” rationale sentences, all pretty short and sweet, which basically demonstrate to NSA agents how to remove any pertinent information for oversight, while still giving a “reason” for targeting someone. It’s a lesson in stripping out information and, as the Washington Post notes, replacing it with “generic” info that will pass muster with the folks supposedly in charge of oversight. As an aside, while parts of them are redacted, there are a few “fake” names given, including “Mohammad Badguy” and “Muhammad Fake Name.” No profiling there.
Either way, this once again suggests that the “oversight” going on here is something of a joke. Analysts are directly being told to be careful not to explain very much at all, giving the briefest (“one short sentence, no extraneous information”) basis for getting access to all sorts of information concerning a “target” — which might include a variety of communications and metadata concerning a huge number of people very, very, very loosely connected with that target. It certainly suggests that this idea of “oversight” is pretty laughable. Concoct a one sentence “rationale” that sounds vaguely plausible, and it appears that no one’s going to ask any questions at all.