The NSA Turns Everyone Into A 'Threat To National Security' By Instantly Classifying All Data It Scoops Up

from the and-the-people-you-talk-to?-also-threats dept

Now that it's common knowledge the NSA is collecting metadata on pretty much any American with a working phone and/or internet connection, some Americans are trying to find out what's been collected. Multiple FOIA requests have been sent to the NSA, but each one is receiving the same form letter -- one that states that any information, including affirmation or denial, would result in "exceptionally grave damage" to national security.

The DailyKOS has a writeup on another citizen's attempt to get some info on their info, only to be stonewalled by the NSA's rejection form letter. David Gershon Harris, the author of the DailyKOS piece, says that "dozens of others" have received similar letters.

It's not as if there aren't protections in place that allow redactions of certain information. The problem with the letter this person (IT specialist Clayton Seymour) received is that it points to a specific executive order.

[T]he central problem is this: Seymour's letter from the NSA points to Executive Order 13526, signed by President Obama in 2009, as justification for the NSA's FOIA exemption.

This order signed by Obama established a uniform system for classifying national security information, and stipulates that "information shall not be considered for classification unless its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause identifiable or describable damage to the national security."

This qualification appears in section 1.4 of the executive order, after which follow many categories of information which may be marked as classified. The category the NSA points to in justifying the classification of all its data is this:

"(c) intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology"
By securing the metadata on millions of Americans through covert action, the NSA has given itself an "out." It will never have to reveal this information via a response to a FOIA request because all data collected is, by this definition, instantly classified. The use (or abuse) of this executive order implies something very unseemly about the NSA's thought processes.
The NSA, it seems, has classified every single piece of data on American citizens that it has seized and saved, even benign data culled from people like Seymour, who are no threat to U.S. national security.
What does this mean? In the eyes of the NSA, every person in the US who has had data collected covertly (in order to skirt Fourth Amendment protections), is a "threat to national security." The gathered data, even if incidentally gathered in the pursuit of terrorists, is instantly classified and stashed away securely. FOIA requests won't pry it loose.

There's no way the NSA truly believes every American is a threat, but that hasn't stopped it from gathering up everything it can and locking it up. The data that is supposed to be flushed from the system or otherwise protected from abuse by its holders? You can't have access to that either. Even the data it doesn't need has been given the same protection as that which could cause "identifiable or describable damage to national security."

This is the NSA's America. Everyone's a security threat. It just a matter of connecting the dots.


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2013 @ 5:30am

    Re:

    I am curious, I've read so many comments callin the US a "Police State".

    What exactly do you mean by "Police State"?

    Read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism for a clearer picture, it's like you guys don't even know the word.

    Here's a small introduction:

    "Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism[1][2] that came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. Fascists seek to unify their nation through a totalitarian state that promotes the mass mobilization of the national community,[3][4] relying on a vanguard party to initiate a revolution to organize the nation on fascist principles.[5] Hostile to liberal democracy, socialism, and communism, fascist movements share certain common features, including the veneration of the state, a devotion to a strong leader, and an emphasis on ultranationalism and militarism. Fascism views political violence, war, and imperialism as a means to achieve national rejuvenation[3][6][7][8] and asserts that stronger nations have the right to obtain land and resources by displacing weaker nations.[9]"

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