Former Top NSA Exec Claims He Challenged The Bulk Phone Records Program... And Was Rebuffed

from the and-everyone-laughed-at-him dept

The AP has a big story out claiming that, back in 2009, a "now-retired" but "senior NSA official" found out about the Section 215 program collecting bulk phone records from the telcos and argued that it went too far and should be stopped:
Years before Edward Snowden sparked a public outcry with the disclosure that the National Security Agency had been secretly collecting American telephone records, some NSA executives voiced strong objections to the program, current and former intelligence officials say. The program exceeded the agency's mandate to focus on foreign spying and would do little to stop terror plots, the executives argued.

The 2009 dissent, led by a senior NSA official and embraced by others at the agency, prompted the Obama administration to consider, but ultimately abandon, a plan to stop gathering the records.
The "former official" apparently found the whole program to be problematic and correctly predicted that if it ever became public it would be a problem:
The former official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because he didn't have permission to discuss a classified matter, said he knows of no evidence the program was used for anything other than its stated purpose — to hunt for terrorism plots in the U.S. But he said he and others made the case that the collection of American records in bulk crossed a line that he and his colleagues had been taught was sacrosanct.

He said he also warned of a scandal if it should be disclosed that the NSA was storing records of private calls by Americans — to psychiatrists, lovers and suicide hotlines, among other contacts.
The article notes that these concerns did lead the Justice Department, Congress and the White House to take a closer look at the program -- and then choose to keep it going. This contradicts the narrative that some have suggested that the White House didn't fully understand the program in the past because it was preoccupied with other issues. Now it seems clear that not only were officials well aware of the program, they chose not to rein in the program when they had the chance.

The article further notes that this official and others within the NSA who were concerned with the program had offered up some suggested changes, not unlike what was actually in the USA Freedom Act that was just rejected. Perhaps more interesting, the article concludes by pointing out that if this change had been put in place, there's a decent chance that Ed Snowden never would have revealed everything else -- because this was the main program that so concerned Snowden, and which has been the centerpiece of most of the discussions since the Snowden revelations.

Filed Under: bulk collection, nsa, patriot act, section 215


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 10:47am

    Y'know? It's nice to know that all of them weren't completely morally bankrupt, and that a few had the balls to voice some complaints.

    Too bad they are no longer there.

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

    • identicon
      David, 20 Nov 2014 @ 11:14am

      Re:

      Too bad they are no longer there.

      And there is likely a reason for that.

      Why would you retain disloyal employees valuing the words of their superiors 200+ years ago over the word of their current superiors?

      People who consider an oath more binding than a paycheck?

      They are a liability. In "Die Hard 2", there is an anti-terror elite unit on the way to the airport, and they have a newcomer who just transfered fresh into the unit and is proud and excited to serve with them. He gets knifed before they arrive on-site since it would take too long to explain to him the unit's particular mode of interpreting the law.

      That's actually a rather close depiction of what the NSA looks like now. Fiercely loyal. Just to themselves and what their mission has morphed into, not to the Constitution.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 11:22am

        Re: Re:

        You assume they were "let go". It's entirely possible that this individual quit on the basis that they disagreed with what their employer was doing...

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 12:45pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "You assume they were "let go". It's entirely possible that this individual quit on the basis that they disagreed with what their employer was doing..."

          Yeah, because the NSA is totally about embracing limits and would never dream about retaliating against perceived dissent.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 11:43am

    The phone records are a drop in the ocean of the problems with the surveillance state. The whitehouse and friends have continually tried to represented this as being the entirety of the US domestic mass surveillance program.

    What about location data and internet data and financial data?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 12:05pm

    So much for Obama's lie of getting informed by reading the newspaper.

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

  • identicon
    the threat to peace is the USA, 20 Nov 2014 @ 12:29pm

    @1

    "ALL"
    ya um like ONE GUY is not reason for your comment

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 1:49pm

      Re: @1

      FTFA

      "some NSA executives voiced strong objections to the program, current and former intelligence officials say."

      executives plural

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

  • identicon
    Edward Teach, 20 Nov 2014 @ 2:09pm

    Ken Dilanian wrote this article.

    Check the author of the AP article: Ken Dilanian.

    This is the same guy, that when writing for the LA Times, ran drafts of articles past contacts at the CIA: http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2014/09/ken-dilanian-sent-cia-drafts-of-stories-194906.html

    At the very least, one needs to suspect this article of being vetted by the NSA or CIA or some one outside of AP editorial control. If the article is CIA originated or edited, then one might write it off as an attack in an inter-bureau turf war: the article clearly shows the NSA upper management as being not responsive to employee alerts. If the article is NSA-edited or approved, that same slant is a bit harder to understand. That is, it shows that Edward Snowden was correct in claiming that there are no "internal channels" by which to report abuse of dragnet surveillance.

    Overall, it's too bad this article came out associated with Dilanian. It's hard to see how to read it because of his past unethical behavior.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 20 Nov 2014 @ 5:41pm

    The ones with morals get fucked

    There were multiple people working there who disagreed with the collections. Their lives were turned upside down by the Feds...

    Start here...
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/05/23/the-secret-sharer

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

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 21 Nov 2014 @ 7:14am

      Re: The ones with morals get fucked

      Yes, and now we know multiple people voiced their objections to the powers that be, so they couldn't have not known what was going on.

      When are charges going to be brought against those who allowed it to continue after they were warned? When are those who accused Drake of being a traitor going to be fired?

      When do impeachment proceedings begin?

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

  • identicon
    me, 21 Nov 2014 @ 3:41am

    as stated

    Its nice to know some in the NSA had a conscience, but ultimately all parties involved in this program have lied to the american people proving that the government as a whole is essentially culpable.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2014 @ 5:32am

    Impeachment yet?

    So when are y'all going to impeach obama? How many times does he have to straight out lie to you and overstep his power?

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


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