Then And Now: What The NSA Said About PRISM vs. What Latest Declassified Document Says
from the note:-they're-not-the-same dept
As you may recall, the NSA and its supporters really tried to play down this program as being small and highly targeted:
According to the NSA fact sheet, this program "does not allow the government to target the phone calls or emails of any U.S. citizen or any other U.S. person anywhere in the world, or any person known to the in the United States. It only allows the targeting of communications of foreigners, and even then only when those communications may have foreign intelligence value." The agency further notes that "any information about U.S. persons that may be incidentally acquired" is subject to "minimization procedures."Targeted communications of foreigners, only when those communications may have foreign intelligence value. Okay. So, that actually makes some sense. We expect the NSA to be, for example, trying to get access to Al Qaeda bosses' emails. But... the reality as shown in the FISC ruling suggests it's not limited, it's barely targeted and those minimization procedures aren't taken very seriously. As you may recall, this is the very same fact sheet that Senator Wyden called out for being near-complete bullshit and which the NSA then removed.
The Obama administration, however, put up a similar defense:
The Government may only use Section 702 to acquire foreign intelligence information, which is specifically, and narrowly, defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This requirement applies across the board, regardless of the nationality of the target.Except, of course, as we've been seeing over and over again, "foreign intelligence information" is not narrowly defined, and it doesn't appear that the NSA is very careful about all of this. From the FISC ruling we learn that this "small" and supposedly "targeted" project is something much much larger:
NSA acquires more than two hundred fifty million Internet communications each year pursuant to Section 702, but the vast majority of these communications are obtained from Internet service providers and are not at issue here..... Indeed, NSA's upstream collection constitutes only approximately 9% of the total Internet communications being acquired by NSA under Section 702.If you don't follow this closely, it can be a bit difficult to parse out. The "upstream" collection is the stuff we were just talking about concerning snarfing up data directly from telcos. This "non upstream" data that is "obtained from Internet service providers" is PRISM (as noted in a footnote), and is the program that the NSA and the White House kept insisting above are narrow and targeted. Yet, here, they're admitting that via PRISM, they're getting 91% of the internet communications they're collecting -- which is 228 million records. Collected from tech companies via PRISM.
That's not targeted. Those 228 million communications are not "only when those communications may have foreign intelligence value." And I have difficulty seeing how anyone can call it "incidental" given the size. It appears to be an absolutely massive program that, once again, the NSA, the administration and their supporters have continued to misrepresent.