What NSA Transparency Looks Like: [Redacted]

from the that's-not-transparency dept

A couple weeks ago, the Washington Post published an internal audit finding the NSA had violated privacy rules thousands of times in recent years.

In response, the spy agency held a rare conference call for the press maintaining that the violations are "not willful" and "not malicious."

It's difficult to fully evaluate the NSA's track record, since the agency has been so tight-lipped on the topic.

What information about rule violations has the agency itself released? Take a look:

That is the publicly released version of a semiannual report from the administration to Congress describing NSA violations of rules surrounding the FISA Amendments Act. The act is one of the key laws governing NSA surveillance, including now-famous programs like Prism.

As an oversight measure, the law requires the attorney general to submit semiannual reports to the congressional intelligence and judiciary committees.

The section with the redactions above is titled "Statistical Data Relating to Compliance Incidents."

One of the only unredacted portions reads, "The value of statistical information in assessing compliance in situations such as this is unclear. A single incident, for example, may have broad ramifications. Multiple incidents may increase the incident count, but may be deemed of very limited significance."

The document, dated May 2010, was released after the ACLU filed a freedom of information lawsuit.  

As the Post noted, members of Congress can read the unredacted version of the semiannual reports, but only in a special secure room. They cannot take notes or publicly discuss what they read.

A few days later, the Obama Administration declassified the most recent version of the semiannual report to Congress and posted it online. The document includes some information about rates of "compliance incidents" but is also heavily redacted.

For more on the NSA, see our story on how the agency says it can't search its own emails, and what we know about the agency's tapping of Internet cables


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, 27 Aug 2013 @ 12:59pm

    Bringing in pals because Mike isn't covering NSA enough!

    Looks like 5:26am was Mike's last post directly on NSA. Way down from the 16th when he was churning them out in less than 50 minutes.

    The lack of conclusion means this is only an attempt to get traffic on your own site. -- Talk about transparent!

    Masnicking: daily spurts of short and trivial traffic-generating items.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2013 @ 1:28pm

    this whole report is an insult to my intelligence!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Aug 2013 @ 1:30pm

    This report...

    Sobering findings indeed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    A single incident..., 27 Aug 2013 @ 1:38pm

    "A single incident, for example, may have broad ramifications."

    EXACTLY! That's why we care so much about even a "relatively" small number of abuses! I'm glad the NSA is finally starting to understand our point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2013 @ 3:09pm

    I really wish I knew how profitable black ink would become to the government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2013 @ 3:19pm

    All taken care of

    See. There it's nothing to worry about. It's all there in black and white (mostly black). I feel so much better now that those who spy on me, then lied about it, have shared so much with us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 27 Aug 2013 @ 3:53pm

    "have shared so much with us"

    Don't you mean "have shared the complete list of abuses with us"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), 27 Aug 2013 @ 4:04pm

    This is what should happen:

    Whenever the press is handed a heavily redacted document, it gets to make up whatever horrible shit it wants that makes the redacter look as bad as possible. Like, "according to my non-redacted copy, in this paragraphs it says 'top NSA officers enjoy clubbing seals and eating kitties'". If the NSA wants to dispute said observation, it has to disclose the actual contents of that paragraph.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Andrew Lee (profile), 27 Aug 2013 @ 4:20pm

    That's pretty fucked up, they should have just sent a stack of blank paper and a bucket of blank ink.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Watchit (profile), 27 Aug 2013 @ 5:40pm

    My favorite is page 8, where you will notice they have graciously left the position of the 11th and 13th on the page un-redacted. As you will notice the contents of the footnotes 11, 12, and 13 are redacted, but the existence of a 12th foot note is indisputable.

    So, the question remains, why redact the position of the 12th foot note whilst the others remain free for terrorist to see? It can only mean that the position of the 12th footnote on page 8 is of grave and strategical importance for our national security! Handing over the position of foot note 12 to the public would cause irreparable damage to the nation. If we gave away its secrets the terrorist win. Bombs and Taliban everywhere. Thanks Obama.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    HegemonicDistortion (profile), 27 Aug 2013 @ 5:56pm

    Unredacted Text

    What wasn't redacted? Misleading statements about the quality of safeguards and oversight such as this (p. 31):

    "The addition of the targeting rationale [redacted] is helping to provide explanatory information to further understand why a particular [redacted] is being tasked."

    As disclosed previously, however, analysts were instructed to withold information beyond a very basic statement "no longer than one short sentence."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sinister, 27 Aug 2013 @ 10:19pm

    ██████████████&# 9608;████.W ██████████████&# 9608;█████████████` 08;█████████ T,██████████████ █████ F ██████████████&# 9608;█████████████` 08;█████████
    ████` 08;██████████████ ;██████████████& #9608;█████████████ 608;█████████████π 8;██████████████ .██████████████& #9608;████ ██████████████&# 9608;████

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2013 @ 2:25am

    The NSA looks transparent if you hold it in a dark night against the sky, it also looks like the invisible man that nobody can see it, because is so transparent, you people should know better than to judge without even seeing something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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