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?

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “With Repeated Reports Of Long-Term NSA Abuses, Does Anyone Actually Believe NSA Is Following The Law Today?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Kind of reminds me of DMCA notices. There’s nothing preventing them from being douches so they will be douches. No penalty for it.

It would be nice if we didn’t have NSA defenders quite so far up the NSA’s ass. As was mentioned in another article they sound like NSA publicists rather than oversight.

Would you like to know more….

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

I dunno. Did anyone believe they were following the law 20 years ago? The laws themselves aren’t so hot , and they just keep getting worse, yet some agencies just have to exceed them no matter what. The intersection of authoritarianism, the worst elements of bureaucracies, and the collector/hoarder impulses is just too much.

I remember right after The Big Terrorist Attacks? watching Congressional hearings where this spokesperson for the FBI was saying that we didn’t need new laws, expansion of old laws, or other new crap (like the DHS), we just needed to interact and do our jobs better. I wonder what ever happened to him.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Does anyone believe they were following the law 30years ago? or 40 or 50 or 100?

NSA and its previous equivalents have been listening (illegally) to peoples phone calls since phones existed.
(Charlie Chaplin’s phone was regularly monitored without a warrant or any sort of evidence other than he “sort of looked wrong – same for Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and endless others)

They’ve been opening mail since the Pony Express (again illegally) and they’re just continuing what they’ve always been doing its just that now its easier to collect data in bulk via the internet.

383bigblock (profile) says:

Damage Contro....full swing

The answer is “HELL NO”. They are already doing damage control. I watched the latest NCIS show last night that portrayed an NSA agent (who will most likely be joining the NCIS Team) who was an analyst. They made a joke (kinda) several times where the character Abbey accused the NSA of spying…. and the canned response was so bad, “You know we can’t do that without a court order”. She said it on 3 different occasions as if that is the definitive testimony to the truth. It’s the old adage, if you repeat a lie enough times it becomes the truth. I wonder if Dianne Feinstein (Frankenstein) had her liberal cronies write that into the script.

383bigblock (profile) says:

@4 ......idiot

Who taught you English. you’re not even ranting coherently (sorry was that too big of a word). Maybe you haven’t realized just how politics and the machine works. Feed crap to the sheeple as much as you can and as often as you can and you can rewrite history. I saw the show since my wife had it on, thought it was a pretty lame attempt to “set the record straight”. Maybe you didn’t catch that nuance from the liberal left (that’s Hollywood to you). Pull you head out…….then wash your face.

Araldo (profile) says:

General Alexander and his minions in the NSA, GCHQ and other secret agencies already have more secret power and information about us citizens, than Lavrentiy Beria or Heinrich Himmler both infamous secret services chiefs during Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union or Hitler’s rule of Nazi Germany. Now, they want to destroy the freedom of the press in order to have total control. They are no different from other human beings anywhere, when given uncontrolled power they become corrupt, arrogant, paranoid and quite dangerous to us all. It is high time to stop them using any available non-violent means of resistance as our freedoms and democracies are at stake!

I am sending a link to a an article by Sheldon Wolin which everyone should read it:

A Kind of Fascism Is Replacing Our Democracy


Guardian says:


i go tthinkin other day about grammer nazis….they enter a thread and whil3 i had no 1ssue r3@ding what he wr0te you do….now the mantra of a neo con is to attack when the message one says is true….

i call then what he says from your actions to be a validation of it….and i got think!ng y0ur a l@wyer or NS@ typ3 whom needs us to typ3 p3rfectly so you can h0ld !t against him/me/us/any0n3 in da n3ar future….

have a nice fcking day

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...