What NSA Transparency Looks Like: [Redacted]

from the that's-not-transparency dept

A couple weeks ago, the Washington Post published an internal audit finding the NSA had violated privacy rules thousands of times in recent years.

In response, the spy agency held a rare conference call for the press maintaining that the violations are “not willful” and “not malicious.”

It’s difficult to fully evaluate the NSA’s track record, since the agency has been so tight-lipped on the topic.

What information about rule violations has the agency itself released? Take a look:

That is the publicly released version of a semiannual report from the administration to Congress describing NSA violations of rules surrounding the FISA Amendments Act. The act is one of the key laws governing NSA surveillance, including now-famous programs like Prism.

As an oversight measure, the law requires the attorney general to submit semiannual reports to the congressional intelligence and judiciary committees.

The section with the redactions above is titled “Statistical Data Relating to Compliance Incidents.”

One of the only unredacted portions reads, “The value of statistical information in assessing compliance in situations such as this is unclear. A single incident, for example, may have broad ramifications. Multiple incidents may increase the incident count, but may be deemed of very limited significance.”

The document, dated May 2010, was released after the ACLU filed a freedom of information lawsuit.  

As the Post noted, members of Congress can read the unredacted version of the semiannual reports, but only in a special secure room. They cannot take notes or publicly discuss what they read.

A few days later, the Obama Administration declassified the most recent version of the semiannual report to Congress and posted it online. The document includes some information about rates of “compliance incidents” but is also heavily redacted.

For more on the NSA, see our story on how the agency says it can’t search its own emails, and what we know about the agency’s tapping of Internet cables

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Comments on “What NSA Transparency Looks Like: [Redacted]”

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17 Comments
out_of_the_blue says:

Bringing in pals because Mike isn't covering NSA enough!

Looks like 5:26am was Mike’s last post directly on NSA. Way down from the 16th when he was churning them out in less than 50 minutes.

The lack of conclusion means this is only an attempt to get traffic on your own site. — Talk about transparent!


Masnicking: daily spurts of short and trivial traffic-generating items.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

This is what should happen:

Whenever the press is handed a heavily redacted document, it gets to make up whatever horrible shit it wants that makes the redacter look as bad as possible. Like, “according to my non-redacted copy, in this paragraphs it says ‘top NSA officers enjoy clubbing seals and eating kitties'”. If the NSA wants to dispute said observation, it has to disclose the actual contents of that paragraph.

Watchit (profile) says:

My favorite is page 8, where you will notice they have graciously left the position of the 11th and 13th on the page un-redacted. As you will notice the contents of the footnotes 11, 12, and 13 are redacted, but the existence of a 12th foot note is indisputable.

So, the question remains, why redact the position of the 12th foot note whilst the others remain free for terrorist to see? It can only mean that the position of the 12th footnote on page 8 is of grave and strategical importance for our national security! Handing over the position of foot note 12 to the public would cause irreparable damage to the nation. If we gave away its secrets the terrorist win. Bombs and Taliban everywhere. Thanks Obama.

HegemonicDistortion says:

Unredacted Text

What wasn’t redacted? Misleading statements about the quality of safeguards and oversight such as this (p. 31):

“The addition of the targeting rationale [redacted] is helping to provide explanatory information to further understand why a particular [redacted] is being tasked.”

As disclosed previously, however, analysts were instructed to withold information beyond a very basic statement “no longer than one short sentence.”

Sinister says:

███████████████████.W ██████████████████████████████████████ T,███████████████████ F ██████████████████████████████████████
████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████.███████████████████ ███████████████████

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