Dianne Feinstein Won't Let Declassified Facts Get In The Way Of Defending 'Professional' NSA Personnel
from the it's-not-as-if-this-info-is-hard-to-find,-what-with-the-internet-and-all dept
It appears Dianne Feinstein can't be bothered to read (or be read to via briefings) the latest ODNI releases in order to stay on top of the situation she's supposedly overseeing. In Mike's article about her most recent defense of the NSA (TL;DF: "The NSA would never abuse its powers because it's staffed with 'professionals.'"), she made the following claim:
And this goes to where this metadata goes. Because the N.S.A. are professionals. They are limited in number to 22 who have access to the data. Two of them are supervisors. They are vetted. They are carefully supervised.But that's simply not true. First off, many of the documents note that 23 members of the NSA hold the power to approve queries and contact chaining. Being off by a single person isn't a big deal. Recent personnel changes could have temporarily reduced that number to 22. (However, the number does hold steady at 23 in the boilerplate attached to many of the orders spanning 2008-2011.)
Where she's completely wrong is the number of people who have access to the metadata. Here's what the court order from Feb. 2010 says:
Subject to the restrictions and procedures below, up to 125 analysts may be authorized to access the BR metadata for purposes of obtaining foreign intelligence information through contact chaining [xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] ("queries") using telephone identifiers, as described in the [xxxxx] Declaration at paragraphs 8-13.That's quite a few more than Dianne Feinstein admits to while trying to downplay instances of abuse by NSA personnel. The fewer analysts you have dipping into the data, the fewer chances you have of someone abusing their powers. But 22 sounds a lot more careful than "up to 125." Twenty-two people may be approving queries, but many, many more analysts have access to the metadata.
This number doesn't even include those tasked with organizing the haystack by removing "high-volume identifiers" like restaurants, retail outlets and other businesses that are used by many people but hold very little significance in the contact chain. That is another set of analysts with access, the number of which has yet to be publicized.
In addition, these analysts (number unclear but certainly more than the 22/23 authorized to make query decisions) have access to much more than phone metadata. Another document from the ODNI release (Jan. 2008) points out that the NSA dumps all of its collections (Section 702 is mentioned specifically earlier in the order but others are alluded to) into one big pile -- a pile these "professionals" also have access to.
The Court understands that for purposes of analytical efficiency a copy of meta data obtained pursuant to the Court's Orders in this matter will be stored in the same database with data obtained pursuant to other authorities and data provided to NSA from other sources. Access to such records shall be strictly limited in accordance with the procedures set forth in paragraphs A-G.So, it's not just metadata abuse we need to worry about. The potential exists for these approved analysts to abuse nearly everything the NSA collects. Obviously, walls between collections would make intelligence gathering much more difficult, but Dianne Feinstein and the other members of the NSA pep squad need to get their facts right before making statements so easily proven false.
This is the famous oversight we've heard so much about (which seems to fill any remaining lung space not taken by 9/11 invocations): it starts out wrong and gets worse. It can't even stay current with documents released to the great unwashed (i.e., constituents) and that are for all intents and purposes historical. There's nothing "new" here as everything released this past week dates from 2006-2011. If anything, Dianne Feinstein should be 2-7 years ahead of the rest of us. Instead, she opens her mouth to release canned defensive statements and removes all doubt that "NSA oversight" is nothing more than distorted jingoism that mistakes subservience to the surveillance state for patriotism.