The Faulty Google Search That Set Off A Constitutional Crisis

from the code-is-law dept

We already wrote about Jason Leopold “accidentally” receiving a letter the CIA never actually sent that was an apology for spying on Senate staffers, but there was a lot more that Leopold received in that FOIA dump as well. Beyond the document Leopold wasn’t supposed to receive, the 300 pages handed over by the CIA (not by its voluntary desire to respect FOIA stipulations, but rather because a judge told it to) provide additional details about the alleged Senate breach and its “investigative” spying — and the ensuing fight that set off something of a Constitutional crisis in the separation of powers between the executive branch and the legislative branch.

Leopold’s article goes into great depth on the subject and is well-worth reading in its entirety. One of the many, many details worth noting is that the CIA’s “firewall” between it and Senate staffers wasn’t really anything of the sort. A Google-powered custom search function allowed staffers to search CIA documents, but only the documents the CIA wanted them to see. The problem was that the search didn’t work correctly. Keyword searches were returning documents the CIA hadn’t approved for Senate perusal. This was how the hidden Panetta Report was discovered.

The CIA claimed Senate staffers had abused their privileges by accessing and downloading documents the agency hadn’t meant to make available. But the blame was misplaced. The search “appliance” configuration itself was faulty, and had been for years. And, from there, the CIA decided it was okay to spy on the Senate staffers’ work, raising questions about the separation of powers.

“In November 2012, the RDI team learned of a vulnerability with the Google appliance, related to configuration settings that had been in place since the initial installation in November 2009,” the OIG’s report says. “[The Office of Inspector General] reviewed an April 2013 email between members of the RDINet IT staff detailing the existing settings, which indicated an access control deficiency for search results. The RDI IT team updated the Google appliance in April 2013 to reflect this change. Prior to this update, the settings provided to the [Office of Inspector General] showed that the Google appliance was not configured to enforce access rights or search permissions within RDINet and its holdings.”

Weaver explained that the Cyber Blue Team concluded the Google appliance “wasn’t enforcing permissions properly, and revealing accessible locations for the [CIA] files.”

A problem the CIA was aware of but had never bothered to fix was now being portrayed as a breach of trust (at best) by the Senate staffers compiling the Torture Report. Brennan knew about the misconfigured search tool but still went after Feinstein and Senate staffers, accusing them of “hacking” the CIA’s system and making off with a purloined copy of the Panetta Review.

Considering the Panetta Review was the former CIA director’s own investigation into the CIA’s torture programs, one would assume these documents would be highly relevant to the task at hand — the compilation of the torture report. But the findings contained in it were so toxic the CIA immediately began burying the documents using every opaque agency’s favorite hiding place: the oft-abused “deliberative documents” exemption.

US officials told VICE News that the Panetta Review was shut down for one reason: the CIA team conducting it discovered damning inconsistencies in reports agency officials made to Congress about the efficacy of the program, and horrific details about the way detainees were treated. These revelations by the CIA’s own employees contradicted agency officials who had continued to publicly defend the program’s value. The internal reports the Panetta Review team wrote, US officials told VICE News, were so troubling that a decision was made by agency lawyers to mark them as “deliberative” draft documents, thereby protecting them from disclosure via FOIA.

Leopold’s article is a fascinating study of CIA deception, duplicity and retaliatory abuse. The only way the CIA could have made the aftermath of the Torture Report’s release worse was to do all the things it actually did. It made false accusations against a Senate oversight committee. It made blatantly false claims about Senate staff and their “hacking.” It stabbed its own Inspector General in the back, publicly impugning him and his findings. It performed an “internal investigation” that managed to “uncover” only the wrongdoing of others. The only act of contrition in this whole debacle went unperformed when CIA head John Brennan chose to toss his apology to the Senate in the nearest file cabinet. The CIA may have had a chance to salvage a small part of its reputation, but instead attempted to bluster its way back to respectability. And, in doing so, lost any respect it had remaining.

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Comments on “The Faulty Google Search That Set Off A Constitutional Crisis”

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Anonymous Coward says:

"A Google-powered custom search function allowed staffers to search CIA documents, but only the documents the CIA wanted them to see."

Hey, news for you: Google only lets YOU see what it wants! That hidden censoring is the most insidious part of the SPY AGENCY.

That most interesting fact is slipped in as if incidental!

You KNOW that Google tailors and targets advertisements just for you, well, it also picks news stories according to “algorithm” to keep you in your own happy little ideological bubble with no counter-facts. (Some academic termed it “propaganda bubble”?)

Now, here’s the goal of your “friend” Google, which is actually a globalist corporation, as the number one search engine: You’ll soon never be able to find anything but The Official Story. It’s the Ministry Of Truth’s dynamic memory-hole, suppressing all counter-evidence (“BB speech chocolate ration malquoted, rectify”), while at same time those with clearance can see figures that they’ll like more! BUT NEITHER necessarily the truth! There is no longer such a thing as “the truth”, it’ll be exactly as in Orwell’s “1984”, the most hideous aspect of the novel if you made it that far: you’re to say whatever The Party wants you to say.

This is the start of that. There’s Google right at center of the CIA, the essential component to shaping views.

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: "A Google-powered custom search function allowed staffers to search CIA documents, but only the documents the CIA wanted them to see."

I don’t know. I’ve been able to find stuff about creationism on there (that’s pretty obscure and unpopular), giants, aliens, illuminati stuff, conspiracy theories galore.

I’m not sure what “truth” you think is missing from Google, but I haven’t been made aware of it by anyone who says it’s missing, and I’ve researched some pretty obscure topics.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Jobless

Because the post 9/11 War Measures Constitution states that these agencies are no longer answerable to American Law for the duration of the wars, and that any acts they perform, “in the furtherance of their duty”, are all consequence-free acts.

Remember, you’re government is “at war” with Druggies and Terrories and so all federal agents and military forces are only answerable to war time laws, which are of course totally secret laws that the public cannot know because Druggies and Terrories might indeed be members of the public.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Google Custom Search"

I’ve seen this on various websites. That custom search is supposed to only search the website it’s on. You’re supposed to toggle an option if you want that search to go out onto the whole web. Guess what: it doesn’t always work that way; sometimes you get a search of the entire web when you only wanted that one site searched. And sometimes when it does do only the site you get “sponsored links”. I’ve learned to avoid those custom search buttons unless I absolutely have to use it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m confused about this Google Search ‘appliance’ the CIA is using. Did the CIA contract Google to deploy customized, private search software inside their LAN network? Then CIA employees somehow managed to misconfigure the search software settings causing to to leak all sorts of classified information?

Sounds about right, but I just want to make sure I’m understanding what happened.

GEMont (profile) says:

Do as I say, not as I do.

Odd how any the members of any civilian agency/business caught doing these very same criminal activities – cover-up, false accusation, hiding evidence, lying to federal officials, etc., would definitely be considered as criminals and these acts would in and of themselves likely incur criminal charges above and beyond the charges for the crimes being covered up.

When the Federal Snoop and Scoop Agency does these things, its just business as usual and incurs not even a raised eyebrow from the so-called Justice Department, let alone a symbolic wrist slapping of those employees blatantly interfering with the investigation.

Two Tiered Justice is alive and well in America today.
One massive set of laws for the Public, and a single law for the Elite: The Donot Law; “Do Not Get Caught and if you do, Admit Nothing Ever.“.

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