James Clapper Says Feds Will Start Releasing Some FISA And NSL Metadata, But Not The Kind That Matters

from the it's-just-metadata... dept

We were just mocking the government’s position that it cannot reveal the “metadata” on the numbers of FISA orders (and the number of people impacted) when those same people insist that we shouldn’t worry about many NSA surveillance programs since they’re “just metadata.” And, now, the Director of National Intelligence has said that it will begin releasing some metadata on some key programs that had been secret before:

Specifically, for each of the following categories of national security authorities, the IC will release the total number of orders issued during the prior twelve-month period, and the number of targets affected by these orders:

  • FISA orders based on probable cause ( Titles I and III of FISA, and sections 703 and 704).
  • Section 702 of FISA
  • FISA Business Records (Title V of FISA).
  • FISA Pen Register/Trap and Trace ( Title IV of FISA)
  • National Security Letters issued pursuant to 12 U.S.C. &sec; 3414(a)(5), 15 U.S.C. &sec;&sec; 1681u(a) and (b), 15 U.S.C. &sec; 1681v, and 18 U.S.C. &sec; 2709.

Our ability to discuss these activities is limited by our need to protect intelligence sources and methods.

For what it’s worth this is a step forward — and something the government should have done ages ago, but perhaps not nearly as big as Clapper would like everyone to believe. Note that they only say they’ll reveal the number of “targets” rather than people impacted. Given that each person “targeted” may lead to scooping up records on many, many others, this seems fairly weak. Remember, for a “target” they can scoop up all kinds of records, and then go three hops deep. So, one target could impact thousands or possibly hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of people. This is a baby step forward, but it still seems designed to mislead.

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Comments on “James Clapper Says Feds Will Start Releasing Some FISA And NSL Metadata, But Not The Kind That Matters”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Not seems designed to mislead. Look at their methodology ever since the Snowden leaks began. Everything is either lied about, misleading trails are laid, or just plain out stonewalling. Anything that slows the process down, claims they are legal, claims they have oversight, all of which has proven false.

This is just one more step in misdirection. I no longer believe anything coming out of any of our politicians in support. It’s just as bad was we suspected and with them worried over what is contained in those data piles being released tells me it’s worse than what we’ve heard so far.

There is no longer ANY creditability coming out of the NSA, out of the executive branch, nor out of congress with the rare exception of those two or three that have been historically against this stuff.

I don’t believe a bit of it that is now being attempted to clear the air. None of it would have happened without Snowden and without the public frowning heavily on it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Rather important distinction there...

When the difference between ‘targeted’ and ‘accidentally gathered information on’ is such an insanely large scale, releasing data only dealing with how many people they ‘targeted’ is just lousy PR damage control to make things look less serious than they actually are, while hiding the numbers that actually matter.

Beech says:


” it still seems designed to mislead.”

Come on, Mike! I was all ready to believe everything in this article until you dropped this bomb. Are you really accusing our gentle benefactors in the NSA of trying to give us an incorrect impression of their activities based on incredibly slick wordplay? Unbelievable, this ruins your credibility. For shame. You should really look at your priorities. I just hope reading this website doesn’t put me within a “hop” of you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Whaaaaa?

Dear Beech:

We already know that you read Techdirt. We know what you post there. We know what you post elsewhere. We know where you work, bank, shop, play, and worship. We know all of the connections to all of those things, within 3 hops. Still doesn’t get you to Kevin Bacon, but that’s your fault.



beltorak (profile) says:

words words (and numbers too)

let me put on my nsa-tinted glasses and have a look here.

* what is meant by “target”?
* what is meant by “orders”?
* what were the standards of probable cause?
* what is meant by “affected”?
* what is meant by “release”?
* what is meant by “total”?
* what is meant by “number”?

Did I miss anything?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: words words (and numbers too)

One more. What is the constitutional basis for national security letters?

Not some executive stated privilege, but where in the constitution does it explicitly state that national security letters must be kept secret. The government gets their marching orders from the constitution, not from executive orders. For that matter, where does the constitution actually allow for executive orders (not being a constitutional scholar and being incredibly pessimistic about those that claim to be constitutional scholars like Scalia and Thomas who tortuously twist the plain meaning of the words in the constitution)?

What would happen if everyone in receipt of a national security letter exposed their notices at the same time? Would it keep the FBI (the only agency with domestic authority) too busy to create their own conspiracies? Would ALL of those entities really need to go to court? Probably, for a while. The public might have something to say about what is being claimed in those letters.

Anonymous Coward says:

all metadata the NSA has should not be released, it should be completely destroyed, with any back ups they or others may have unless they can prove that there is a need to keep certain bits. by proof, i mean that those who know far more than any of us mere mortals can determi9ne the relevence to something specific that could be linked to something bad. those looking at the info to make this determination should be members of the FISA court and those members should have sufficient knowledge to make a decision. you wouldn’t ask a brain surgeon to repair a rocket engine, for example would you?

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