NSA Tries Hand At Irony, Accuses WSJ Of Misleading Public

from the well,-look-at-that dept

Oh, that wacky NSA. Late on Tuesday, the WSJ revealed some new info about the NSA. A lot of it had actually been covered elsewhere before, but they got some confirmations, and some new tidbits of information, such as spying on all emails in Salt Lake City during the Olympics, and the fact that the massive violations which led to the FISC ruling about how the NSA violated the 4th Amendment went on for far longer than most people had expected.

Of course, some more details of that FISC ruling were revealed late on Wednesday. Right before the documents were released, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, apparently held an "on background" (i.e., not for quotations) press call, which, according to various reports, involved a refusal to answer any questions about the WSJ article, and an insistence that all questions had to be about the documents ODNI was declassifying, even though none of them had yet been released.

However, while everyone was focusing on those documents (which were released moments later), the NSA did push out a laughable "response" to the WSJ article, in which they don't deny any of the major claims -- such as the spying on every email during the Olympics -- but rather take issue with the opening ("the lede," as they say) of the WSJ article, which talked about how the NSA "has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic." Admittedly, that 75% number was in the headline of the WSJ piece, and was what many focused on. We didn't put as much emphasis on it, because having the capability to see that much is different than actually doing so and the full article did make clear that the NSA doesn't actually sift through that much (except, you know, during the Olympics).

So, the NSA's response mostly focuses on how unfair that 75% number is:
The reports leave readers with the impression that NSA is sifting through as much as 75% of the United States' online communications, which is simply not true.
Well... there's truth and then there's "truth." And the article does make it pretty clear that the NSA isn't sifting through all of that, but rather the telcos who were "compelled" to assist the NSA, who then pass along chunks of content that trigger certain interest.

But, really, this is the NSA we're talking about. The very same NSA who has basically made sure that at nearly every public appearance it utters claims that are either outright false -- sorry, "least untruthful," -- or, more accurately uses exceptionally carefully worded phrases to say something that might technically be true, while giving the public the impression of something entirely different. Sometimes this involves redefining words like "relevant" and "target." Sometimes this means using weasel phrases like "under this program" (leaving out the obligatory "but not under others.") The NSA spends an awful lot of time deliberately saying things designed to "leave the public with the impression" of something that is untrue.

So I don't see how it gets to complain if the WSJ may have done the same thing with its headline and opening. At least with the WSJ, if you read the article, you get much more of the full picture. When the NSA offers its misleading bullshit, the full story is often kept shrouded in secrecy.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2013 @ 10:00am


    The reports leave readers with the impression that NSA is sifting through as much as 75% of the United States' online communications, which is simply not true.

    Give their previous track record, anyone want to take bets that he REALLY means the number is much HIGHER than 75%?

    Seriously, these guys are by far the least trustworthy assholes that I have ever had the displeasure of hearing about.

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