With Repeated Reports Of Long-Term NSA Abuses, Does Anyone Actually Believe NSA Is Following The Law Today?
from the simple-question dept
Throughout this process of discussing the NSA’s surveillance efforts, thanks to Ed Snowden and his whistleblowing, defenders have continued to insist (1) that the NSA isn’t abusing its powers and (2) that there’s tremendous oversight of the NSA’s activities, mainly by FISC. Yet, with this week’s declassification of a second FISC ruling in which a judge detailed major, long-term abuses by the NSA, with no consequences, does anyone actually believe the NSA has stopped abusing its powers to violate everyone’s privacy?
As a reminder, back in September it was revealed that FISC judge Reggie Walton was pretty angry about abuses by the NSA:
The minimization procedures… have been so frequently and systemically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall BR regime has never functioned effectively.
Then there was Judge John Bates’ ruling just revealed this week:
…the government acknowledges that NSA exceeded the scope of authorized acquisition continuously during the more than [redacted] years of acquisition under these orders.
These are different violations. And, yet, in both cases, they seemed to indicate rather systematic abuses by the NSA, and very little concern on the part of the NSA to get it right. After all, these problems appeared to go on for years, and were either unreported or not clearly reported to the FISC, which could do little about it.
And that raises a key question, pointed out by Steve Vladeck — Given these two relatively recent rulings, detailing systematic, widespread and long-term abuses by the NSA in violation of the law, how can any NSA defender claim with a straight face that the NSA is now in compliance?
There may well be explanations for each of the compliance incidents documented in the Walton and Bates opinions; that’s not the point. Instead, the larger message that comes through these newly disclosed opinions is the pervasiveness of compliance incidents, and the extent to which careful supervision by the FISA Court, while apparently able to produce some accountability in response to such incidents (as in the opinions released yesterday), simply does not seem to have mooted these concerns. That is to say, with every new FISA Court opinion responding to new compliance incidents, it becomes that much harder to trust that compliance concerns are ancient history.
Of course, when there’s no real “cost” for being non-compliant, why would the NSA care that much about being compliant?