Surprise: NSA Stops Collecting Americans' Emails 'About' Foreign Targets

from the this-is-big dept

There aren’t many details yet, but Charlie Savage at the NY Times has a major scoop: apparently, the NSA has halted “about” email collections. This is important. As we’ve discussed in the past, under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, the NSA can collect info on approved “foreign targets.” But here’s where it got sketchy: they could collect the communications “to” them or “from” them — which most people would expect — but also they could collect any communications “about” them. In other words, did you joke about Osama bin Laden in an email? It’s possible that under Section 702, the NSA could collect that email without a warrant. That was massively concerning because the “about” emails from Americans could contain lots of other info, and once sucked up into the NSA’s system and made available to the FBI for “backdoor” incidental collection searches, could expose people to lots and lots of trouble. There have been pushes over the past few years to limit the collection to no longer include “about” communications, but those had been (as far as we knew!) unsuccessful.

And, for an unclear reason, the NSA has stopped doing that. Trevor Timm speculates that perhaps the FISA court ruled that collection illegal, which is possible (also we just noted that there were no new 702 approvals by the FISA Court last year), so perhaps the FISC is finally taking its job a bit more seriously. We’ve also pointed out that there have been legal fights over the fact that the DOJ lied to the Supreme Court about the nature of these “about” collections, which may have created more pressure to stop them from happening.

I’m sure that we’ll find out more about what happened in the near future, but this will certainly play a large role in the upcoming debate about renewing Section 702.

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Comments on “Surprise: NSA Stops Collecting Americans' Emails 'About' Foreign Targets”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Or, as they have done before, they are simply lying.

Probably redefined "stop" and/or "about"; or it’s technically true, because one of their partners is "collecting" it now. (Or whatever they call scooping up emails; they already redefined "collecting" such that it’s not happening.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: NSA lying-- as usual

very vague sourcing on this alleged “this-is-big” story.

Oddly, the referenced NYTimes article does not list a specific source or details on this supposed “BIG” story– it just generally mentions an unidentified NSA statement. So much for the ‘newspaper-of-record’.

Senator Ron Wyden is prominently mentioned — so it’s a good bet this NYTimes story actually came from Wyden’s office. Apparently the NYTimes is unable to directly contact the NSA itself to verify simple things (??)
NSA has successfully rope-a-doped Wyden for many years.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Tricky choice...

Let’s see, trust an agency that has a vast history of lying to be telling the truth this time, or assume they’re lying or at the very least being misleading in their comments.

The NSA has completely and utterly destroyed any trust or benefit of the doubt they might have enjoyed, the default assumption on anything that might decrease their power should always be that they’re lying through their teeth about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Tricky choice...

Although interesting, your distinction is irrelevant.

The reality is that the opinions/advise that these Generals (and other high level officials that head our IC) give, is attributed near god-like deference by our politicians and corporate media. After all, everyone knows the IC are the ever vigilant "good guys" selflessly protecting the public good. Right?

And as you implied, it’s not surprising to find that professional liars lie in the course of doing their job. The problem is, even knowing that, our politicians and corporate media continue to behave as though they (and the public) should trust them to necessarily act in the public’s best interests. Something they continue to encourage currently, even in the presence of much evidence to the contrary. In fact, there’s so much evidence to contrary that I can now only conclude that our dear politicians are in willing collusion.

Given the outrageous nature of just the lies we’re aware, neither our IC nor politicians should ever be trusted without audited, adversarial, third party vetted evidence to support whatever claim they are currently making.

But instead, what we almost certainly will get is that much more unverifiable, anonymous, no-consequences, appeals to "national security" and pinky-swear reassurances. While behind the scenes they will continue to act lawlessly based solely on secret interpretations of a secret laws decided in a secret courts enforced on defendants eternally gagged by national security letters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: nevermind


your reference is bogus — it lists no identifying author or source … your Aunt Annabelle could have written it. There’s even a reader comment under it directly pointing out that it is an anonymous statement, as posted.

besides, there is NO way to police or monitor the NSA to ensure they do what they say. Even the top management at NSA can’t control what the underlings are actually accessing. NSA is literally out of control — it should be abolished and its legitimate national defense functions mover to the Pentagon.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 nevermind

It just depends on how you read it and what dictionary you’re using.

‘Oversight bodies’ = The boss of their particular department/office.

‘Appropriate solution’ = Remember not to tell the boss the next time so they don’t have to spend five minutes reminding you that the public doesn’t have privacy when it comes to the NSA.

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