Dianne Feinstein Won't Let Declassified Facts Get In The Way Of Defending 'Professional' NSA Personnel

from the it's-not-as-if-this-info-is-hard-to-find,-what-with-the-internet-and-all dept

It appears Dianne Feinstein can’t be bothered to read (or be read to via briefings) the latest ODNI releases in order to stay on top of the situation she’s supposedly overseeing. In Mike’s article about her most recent defense of the NSA (TL;DF: “The NSA would never abuse its powers because it’s staffed with ‘professionals.'”), she made the following claim:

And this goes to where this metadata goes. Because the N.S.A. are professionals. They are limited in number to 22 who have access to the data. Two of them are supervisors. They are vetted. They are carefully supervised.

But that’s simply not true. First off, many of the documents note that 23 members of the NSA hold the power to approve queries and contact chaining. Being off by a single person isn’t a big deal. Recent personnel changes could have temporarily reduced that number to 22. (However, the number does hold steady at 23 in the boilerplate attached to many of the orders spanning 2008-2011.)

Where she’s completely wrong is the number of people who have access to the metadata. Here’s what the court order from Feb. 2010 says:

Subject to the restrictions and procedures below, up to 125 analysts may be authorized to access the BR metadata for purposes of obtaining foreign intelligence information through contact chaining [xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] (“queries”) using telephone identifiers, as described in the [xxxxx] Declaration at paragraphs 8-13.

That’s quite a few more than Dianne Feinstein admits to while trying to downplay instances of abuse by NSA personnel. The fewer analysts you have dipping into the data, the fewer chances you have of someone abusing their powers. But 22 sounds a lot more careful than “up to 125.” Twenty-two people may be approving queries, but many, many more analysts have access to the metadata.

This number doesn’t even include those tasked with organizing the haystack by removing “high-volume identifiers” like restaurants, retail outlets and other businesses that are used by many people but hold very little significance in the contact chain. That is another set of analysts with access, the number of which has yet to be publicized.

In addition, these analysts (number unclear but certainly more than the 22/23 authorized to make query decisions) have access to much more than phone metadata. Another document from the ODNI release (Jan. 2008) points out that the NSA dumps all of its collections (Section 702 is mentioned specifically earlier in the order but others are alluded to) into one big pile — a pile these “professionals” also have access to.

The Court understands that for purposes of analytical efficiency a copy of meta data obtained pursuant to the Court’s Orders in this matter will be stored in the same database with data obtained pursuant to other authorities and data provided to NSA from other sources. Access to such records shall be strictly limited in accordance with the procedures set forth in paragraphs A-G.

So, it’s not just metadata abuse we need to worry about. The potential exists for these approved analysts to abuse nearly everything the NSA collects. Obviously, walls between collections would make intelligence gathering much more difficult, but Dianne Feinstein and the other members of the NSA pep squad need to get their facts right before making statements so easily proven false.

This is the famous oversight we’ve heard so much about (which seems to fill any remaining lung space not taken by 9/11 invocations): it starts out wrong and gets worse. It can’t even stay current with documents released to the great unwashed (i.e., constituents) and that are for all intents and purposes historical. There’s nothing “new” here as everything released this past week dates from 2006-2011. If anything, Dianne Feinstein should be 2-7 years ahead of the rest of us. Instead, she opens her mouth to release canned defensive statements and removes all doubt that “NSA oversight” is nothing more than distorted jingoism that mistakes subservience to the surveillance state for patriotism.

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Comments on “Dianne Feinstein Won't Let Declassified Facts Get In The Way Of Defending 'Professional' NSA Personnel”

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Trevor says:


Since the meta data is “dumped” with other information obtained via other authorities, does this mean there possibly exists some interface where someone could search for “meta data” on John Doe, see that he sent five texts and two emails on January 22, 2014, and click on each time stamp for those messages to view the actual messages?

Assuming* the NSA collects content beyond meta data, this seems like it would be the most efficient (I know, stop laughing) way for information to be culled. Kind of like Google.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Question

We know they collect the content of text messages. There was an article in the Gaurdian (week ago) discussing the collection of “content metadata”. It seems that this is things like reservation confirmations and so on with known formats. They say they don’t “look” at the message otherwise, but this tells us two things:
– They are collecting all text message data (or this would not work)
– They are capable of, and actually looking at content.
The term “content metadata” isn’t metadata – it is content, pure and simple.
If they are doing it with texts, would you be surprised that they are doing it with other protocols – you’d have to be naive to assume that e-mail isn’t suffering similar invasions.

Trevor says:

Re: Re: Question


My question was more rhetorical than not, seeing how much we know about what the NSA is doing these days.

However, what I really want to know is the interface used by these analysts. Since it’s dumped in the same place as all the content data (your actual messages and emails and phone conversations, etc.) is it a separate search, or has one of the geniuses the NSA employs made it as simple as clicking on a link to view a drop down of the message itself?

Query: John Doe
>Date: 1/1/14
>Date: 1/2/14
>Date: 1/3/14

>Date: 1/22/14
>>8:22am (Text sent [555-123-4567] to [555-345-6789])
>>8:25am (Text received [555-345-6789] to [555-123-4567])
>>8:28am (Text sent [555-123-4567] to [555-234-5678])
>>>”Hey, my wife just said she would be gone until 10pm, want to come over at 8?”
>>10:00am (Email sent [Johdoe@yahoo.com] to [Janedoe@yaoo.com])
>>>”Got to cancel tonight, the Senate investigation comittee meeting I chair regarding NSA oversight is going to run over, I’ll let you know next time she’s out of town!”

Note that the > and >> are meta data, whereas the >>>’s are the actual content.

I have a feeling it’s that easy…

Clownius says:

Re: Re: Question

I do like the idea of “content metadata”. We know they keep the text message content metadata. What makes anyone think they dont keep content metadata on calls, emails etc?

They claim not but we would never do that doesnt sound real trustworthy these days. Every time they say they dont do something the evidence appears that they in fact have in the past and still do it.

MadAsASnake (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Question

I think the point about “content metadata” is that they have extended the idea of metadata to cover absolutely everything.

So when they say “we only collect metadata”, this can more succinctly and truthfully written “we collect data without restriction”

When they redefine known and highly specific words with such a broad brush as that, you come to realize that nothing they say can be trusted. If you go back through all the NSA statements with this reinterpretation, you will find them pretty vacuous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Senator Feinstein along with Rep. Rogers have a problem on their hands. What if the public starts questioning why they haven’t done their jobs according to what the purpose of the Intelligence Committee is supposed to do? Best thing to take care of that is provide a three ring circus. Which they are dead in the middle of.

Three ring circuses don’t have to be truthful, they have to be entertaining.

The whole Intelligence Committee has failed in it’s one major reason for existence and we would not be having this debacle of over reach by the NSA had they done that job. Saying that the NSA personnel are professionals is akin to saying soldiers are professionals for the same reason; they get paid. Being a professional says nothing for their character, nothing about the guidelines they use, nor anything about how trustworthy they are. It only means they sell their time. It’s another smoke and mirrors ploy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

oh and Snowden did not start his own little three ring circus ?? Of Course he did, did he lie to gain access to the data.. OF COURSE HE DID (and admitted that), did he steal? Of course he did, (and admitted that).

Did Snowden offer his services to other countries? Of Course he did, did he offer his services in return for ‘protection’, that would again be YES.

But he’s a pirate, freetard, liar, and thief, so in TD’s eyes he’s the greatest hero alive.

I forgot amazingly says:

Re: Re:

And judging by all the fecal waste that has hit the fan in the last four or five decades involving American politics that good honest Americans have had to shoulder the brunt of the global embarrassment and condemnation for from acts impossible to understand without some inside scoop on just what these people are capable of doing to further their agenda, remarkably that they likely unleashed the ilks of E. sNOwden on us all is more likely than one schooled in the arts of logic and all good will could possibly imagine.

Jerrymiah (profile) says:

Dianne Feinstein Won't Let Declassified Facts Get In The Way Of Defending 'Professional' NSA Personnel

Well, Well… Feinstein is a professional congress critter and along with ather congress critters, they cannot be trusted to do their job, and they are a bunch of liars. That says a lot about the professional NSA employees. The names of all those NSA cheerleaders should be put on a list of “NON RELECTABLE” prior to the next elections.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Dianne Feinstein Won't Let Declassified Facts Get In The Way Of Defending 'Professional' NSA Personnel

But Snowden LIED and stole and cheated as well, I guess that is ok, because it allowed you to vent your hatred for your Government.. So fair enough I guess.

we know Snowden lied, he said so, we know he stole, he said so, we know Snowden is using what he stole for his own gains, and to offer his ‘services’ to other nations.

but to you Snowden is a lying and stealing thief, but YOUR HERO !!!! what does that say about you?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Dianne Feinstein Won't Let Declassified Facts Get In The Way Of Defending 'Professional' NSA Personnel

I would rather have Snowden as a hero than the lying, murdering corrupt scum that you seem to hold close to your heart.

Are you one of the ones who’s corrupt illegal acts were outed by Snowdens revelations?

Your heros lie to congress, lie to the public. They accept bribes to cover up other’s illegal acts.

You, along with the rest of the traitorous corrupt scum are the problem with America.

As trustworthy as a $2 whore.

Anonymous Coward says:

OMG 22 and not 23 !!!! SAVE US.....

OMG stop the world, it used to be 23 now its 22 and she said 22 … HELP US LORD.

WOW, TD how petty is that !!

“Subject to the restrictions and procedures below, up to 125 analysts may be authorized to access the BR metadata”

so the 22 (or is it really 23 !!!!) approve OTHER people to analyse that data..

Again, where is the news here ?

But good article if you want to show how the NSA is acting in a responsible and appropriate manner, and how desperate you people are getting trying to find fault with them.

I guess you just don’t know when to give up when your beaten.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: OMG 22 and not 23 !!!! SAVE US.....

So was she correct in that she said that only 22/23 have access to the data or is it 125?

Was she lying or is she just incompetent?

Name once the NSA has acted in a responsible manner, name once where they have actually done good, name once where they have stopped a terrorist attack.

You can’t because they havn’t.

The only losers who have been beaten are you and your corrupt friends.

quawonk says:

Actually, I take the opposite view. The fewer people that are ‘in the know’ the easier it is to keep abuses secret.

Example: you and I have a secret. So far so good. We bring in another person. The likelihood of that secret getting out just increased. And it will increase proportionally to how many more people are added.

The less people who are in on it, the safer the operation.

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