60 Days After Being Asked, James Clapper Finally Answers Ron Wyden's Question About Collecting US Citizens' Communications

from the and-it's-a-'yes;'-it's-ALWAYS-a-'yes' dept

The game of 20 questions (National Security Edition) has finally paid off, weeks after the question was asked. Ron Wyden, one of the few legislators willing to pin down (or at least attempt to -- the NATSEC reps are a slippery bunch) exactly what the NSA is up to, has received a response to one his pointed questions. (Wyden's ability to ask precisely the right question has pretty much turned any intel official's answer along the lines of "we can't discuss this publicly for national security reasons" into a de facto "yes.")

[I]n a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the intelligence committee, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has confirmed for the first time this backdoor had been used in practice to search for data related to “US persons”.

“There have been queries, using US person identifiers, of communications lawfully acquired to obtain foreign intelligence targeting non-US persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States,” Clapper wrote in the letter, which has been obtained by the Guardian.

“These queries were performed pursuant to minimization procedures approved by the Fisa court and consistent with the statute and the fourth amendment.”
So, there's the admission Wyden was seeking back on January 29th, but the story goes back much further than that. This is something that has been denied and obfuscated since the leaks began back in June of last year. The NSA (along with other agencies most likely) can grab American's communications without a warrant. It claims this is all legit because the agency "reasonably believes" these communications serve its foreign intelligence directive.

Clapper disingenuously points out that this was discussed during the debate over the renewal of Section 702 late last year.
“As you know, when Congress reauthorized Section 702, the proposal to restrict such queries was specifically raised and ultimately not adopted,” Clapper wrote.
Of course, no one had access to this information as Clapper and others had yet to officially acknowledge this backdoor.

But someone did know about this backdoor, and he's known about it for months: new director of the NSA, Mike Rogers.
It has taken just 9 months for Clapper to admit that, contrary to months of denials, the NSA (and FBI, which he doesn’t confirm but which the Report makes clear, as well as the CIA) can get the content of Americans’ communications without a warrant.

But Clapper’s admission that this fact was declassified in August should disqualify Vice Admiral Mike Rogers from confirmation as CyberComm head (I believe he started serving as DIRNSA head, which doesn’t require confirmation, yesterday). Because it means Rogers refused to answer a question the response to which was already declassified.
Again, the NSA, for all intents and purposes, has no oversight. Ron Wyden serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee and he's one of the few in this position who will actually attempt to extract info from closed-lipped intelligence officials. Despite his efforts, it took two months for him to obtain an answer that was declassified in August 2013. That's how the system actually works, but those defending the obfuscation artists charged with national security keep foisting their utopian dreamscape of checks and balances on the agency's many critics.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2014 @ 12:35pm

    So, can Wyden finally refer this to the AG to have Clapper arrested for treason? Or will he have to suffice with 50 million counts of criminal hacking?

    MY guess is, 'Clapper gets a raise and a promotion'. Talk about failing upwards.

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

    • icon
      akp (profile), 1 Apr 2014 @ 2:38pm


      It's not treason. Once again, "Treason" has a very specific legal definition: Waging war against the United States, or giving aid and comfort to its enemies."

      "Aid and comfort" is defined as material aid, not just "gave our enemies a chuckle."

      Nothing anyone has done here (including Snowden) qualifies as Treason. There are likely many other crimes committed, but let's stop trotting out treason.

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

      • icon
        Anonymous Howard (profile), 2 Apr 2014 @ 5:34am

        Re: Re:

        Giving aid:
        - Providing backdoors to nearly every system to foreign hackers.
        - Messing up internet security standards.
        - Providing moral highground and reason to hate the usa to foreign tehrroris organizations. (AQ HR dept thank you very much)

        Waging war on the USA:
        - Eavesdropping on most of the population of the USA.
        - Providing ways to selectively enforce laws on anyone in the US.
        - Collecting blackmail material on government officials to wrestle control from them.
        - Wasting B$s of taxpayer money that could save lives.

        Just a few that came into my mind

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

  • identicon
    RD, 1 Apr 2014 @ 12:54pm


    user Jospheen needs to be BANNED FROM THIS SITE!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2014 @ 1:12pm

    Next time some spy sympathizer says "there is oversight" the correct response should be "prove it."

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

  • icon
    GeneralEmergency (profile), 1 Apr 2014 @ 1:18pm

    This is baaaaad,


    Also with this admission, every attorney of a client convicted using evidence supplied by any Federal agency has reasonable grounds to challenge the conviction based on the theory that the evidence originated via unlawful NSA surveillance and was backdoored to another Federal entity to conceal it's origin.

    These men have no idea of the immense damage that they have caused.


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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Apr 2014 @ 7:40pm

      Re: This is baaaaad,

      Bad in the short-term sure, but if having to deal with a whole bunch of re-opened cases is what it takes for them to actually care enough to stop doing this, then much like surgery, it may hurt now, but the healing will come after.

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

  • identicon
    Digger, 1 Apr 2014 @ 1:37pm

    FISA court is illegal, entire operation violates 4th Ammendment

    Sorry, but you cannot state that an illegal court gave permission to perform an illegal operation.

    You violated the 4th ammendment, the FISA court itself is an illegal entity and every member on it a traitor to this country.

    All alphabet organizations, the FISA court on up through the president should be tried for treason.

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

    • icon
      akp (profile), 1 Apr 2014 @ 2:40pm

      Re: FISA court is illegal, entire operation violates 4th Ammendment

      Please see my comment above regarding the definition of treason.

      TL:DR it's not Treason. None of it.

      It's shady, illegal, immoral... All of those things. But not treason.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 2 Apr 2014 @ 2:37am

    On another news Mr Clapper was seen showing his support for the Confederate cause last week.

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

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