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.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    Dirkmaster (profile), 9 Jul 2013 @ 8:27am

    If everything they collect is classified....

    but much of it is freely available. That means that others could collect it too. That would mean that they have unauthorized access to classified materials.

    I'm thinking that all those Big Data Advertising companies will need to be raided and shut down.

    And then every ISP will have to be raided and shut down, since they have all the classified info as well, and they certainly don't all have security clearances that would allow them to access this data.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer
Anonymous number for texting and calling from Hushed. $25 lifetime membership, use code TECHDIRT25
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.