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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    BentFranklin (profile), Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 9:25am

    "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."

    If they say it is simply not true, it must be true complexly.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      It may be not true because they are sifting through more than 75% of the data, like maybe 99%!

       

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        Noah Callaway, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 10:14am

        Re: Re:

        "Only 75%? Those damn rat-bastards at the WSJ! Do they have any idea how hard it was to capture 99% of internet traffic! That took a shitload of our time and money. And now they short-sell us with this 75% bullshit??" -The NSA

         

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      That One Guy (profile), Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 11:06am

      Re:

      No no, I think I've figured out how they manage words now.

      Much like the 'not wittingly' and 'under this program' lines, when he says they don't go 'sifting through 75% of US communications' what he means(yet is leaving off) is '...at one time'. Rather they do it in smaller chunks, 25% here, 37% there, 45% there...

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 10:00am

    Bets?

    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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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 10:06am

    Is it sad that I would prefer Prenda Law to read my email than the NSA?

     

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    Paul, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 10:17am

    Stand up commedians ??

    With as many Pro NSA defenders as there are spewing lies and making fools of themselves, I wonder; Is NSA trying to infiltrate and take over the "stand up comedy" industry in an attempt to quickly spread their sickening bullsh!t by tickling our funny-bones?? If so, it ain't gonna work here. I've lost my sense of humor due to an overwhelming fear of what is the next revelation. The corrupt elected & appointed officials who have been lying need to be charged and hopefully get jailed using the same guidelines as they did on Manning or pressured into ending their own lives as did Aaron.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 10:37am

    Holy crap! gotta hand it to 'em! best defense is attack!!

     

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    HumptyDumpty, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 10:54am

    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."


    In other words, they lie. How is redefining "relevant" and "target" to mean something they don't actually mean in the English language any different than me redefining "no" to mean "yes" when I respond to the question, "Do you collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"

     

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    Christopher Weigel (profile), Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 11:37am

    I find it amusing that they try to obfuscate (again) by saying "What? 75% of American online communications? We only look at 1.6% of worldwide internet activity" as though the two are the same thing.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 11:44am

    I'm sure if you knew the NSA's definition of 'reports,' 'impression,' 'NSA,' 'sifting,' 'as much as,' '75%,' 'United States',' 'communications,' 'simply,' and 'Wall Street Journal' you'd 'think' the 'Wall Street Journal' was 'misleading' too.

    Also that's not what irony means.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 12:04pm

    One should remember that this isn't today that these events occurred. The NSA data center in Bluffdale, Utah I understand has just been completed. Reputedly housing an up-to-date supercomputer to crack encryption as well as store data.

    These events of spying on emails for the Olympics happened in 2002, 11 years ago. Since then, many improvements in computer capacity, speed, programs that handle multicore processes, and improved internet spying have continued on. What was then possible is totally different than what is today possible and they've had 11 years of 'improvements'.

    The officials of the NSA are already on record as to what they are willing to say vs what really is. They will lie in a heartbeat to those charged with overseeing the process so what gives you the idea that putting out for public consumption that has no where near the same weight as an oversight committee would be the truth?

    Again anything that the NSA says can not at this point be believed. Nor can it be believed from those top officials in charge of oversight, FISA court, the Executive branch, the Intelligence committee, and so far from any official source. So it amounts to be what you could call a puff piece for it's accuracy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 12:06pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46bBWBG9r2o&list=PL1CC1860B5BC7C443

    Crap is King, and yet the King makes sure he is the one who looks the least filled with it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 2:04pm

    Do the government really believes that anybody believes them?

     

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    FM Hilton, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 4:01pm

    A classic line

    "The NSA doth protest too much, methinks."

    Apologies to Shakespeare.

     

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