The NSA Will Apparently Still Be Accessing The Old Phone Metadata It Said It Would No Longer Be Accessing

from the 'reform'-as-in-'maintain-status-quo' dept

The NSA's bulk phone metadata collection may no longer technically be a "collection" (the NSA now has to seek responsive metadata from telcos using targeted court orders), but that doesn't mean the agency isn't still seeking ways to keep the "dragnet" in "dragnet surveillance."

The NSA was only supposed to have access to previously collected bulk metadata for "analytic purposes." Apparently, "analyzing" the data also means searching the data, as was pointed out by FISA Court on Twitter (not affiliated at all with the actual FISA Court).

Fascinating: the Court will let NSA compare old bulk call data to new responses for a while.
The court finds that the USA Freedom Act did not expressly dictate limits on use of the metadata collected under Section 215 previous to the enactment of the surveillance reform bill. Because of this lack of statutory specificity, the court has agreed to grant NSA both access and extended retention of the data for two reasons.

The first is to verify the completeness of phone records obtained with targeted FISC orders.
[F]or a period ending on February 29, 2016, appropriately trained and authorized technical personnel will have access to the BR Metadata solely for the purpose of verifying the completeness and accuracy of call detail records produced under the targeted (i.e., non-bulk) production orders issued by the Court after November 28, 2015. According to the government, verification will involve a comparison of the two sets of records (i.e., the BR Metadata and call detail records received pursuant to subsequent, targeted orders). See Government Response at 9. NSA technical personnel will compare the number of call detail records produced for a specific selection term with the number of call detail records identified in response to a query of the BR Metadata using the same identifier. See id at 9-10. Such comparisons will help provide assurance that the new collection process is working as intended.
Extended retention of the bulk metadata will be permitted because the records themselves are still the subject of multiple lawsuits.

Analysis of the data will also double as a search of the data, mixing newly-obtained phone records with the old ones and muddying the line between what is explicitly permitted under USA Freedom and what isn't explicitly forbidden.

Once the NSA has obtained the responsive records, they will stay in the agency's hands for five years, presumably. At that point, they will become part of the larger collection -- some of which will never be destroyed.
Information obtained or derived from call detail records which has been previously disseminated in accordance with approved minimization procedures will not be recalled or destroyed.[2] Also, select query results generated by pre-November 29, 2015, queries of the bulk records that formed the basis of a dissemination in accordance with approved minimization procedures will not be destroyed.

[2] This practice does not differ from similar circumstances where, for example Court-authorized electronic surveillance and/or physical search authorities under Title I or III expire. While raw (unminimized) information is handled and destroyed in accordance with applicable minimization procedures, prior authorized disseminations and the material underpinning those disseminations are not recalled or otherwise destroyed.
It would appear that minimization, as far as the NSA is concerned, occurs at the point of handover from telcos. Records considered "minimized" by the FISA Court include those swept up by the agency's contact chaining, and these also will be compared to the "old" database for analytical purposes. As Marcy Wheeler explains, the dragnet isn't dead yet.
This means that everyone within two or three degrees of a target that the NSA has found interesting — potentially over the last decade — will remain available and subject to NSA’s analytical toys from here on out.
So, while some of the bulk metadata "ages off" at the five-year point, the NSA apparently considers "material" it has previously disseminated to other agencies or to its own analysts to be excluded from this time limit. How much data that involves is only known to the agency, which is being trusted to abide by the stipulations of the USA Freedom Act and destroy its Section 215 records once given the go-ahead from the FISA Court.




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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2015 @ 11:06am

    You DO realize this is a smokescreen btw?
    the NSA hasn't and isn't stopping anything its been doing for the past 10years.

    All they've done is relocate the phone tapping hardware to another site, and left an empty server shell setup to fool the non-technical 'inspectors' who won't be able to tell that the blade server boxes are in fact completely motherboard-less.

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

  • icon
    limbodog (profile), 8 Dec 2015 @ 11:35am

    Even if the NSA said they wouldn't, would you believe them at this point? Haven't they proven they are not trustworthy when they speak to the American public?

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 8 Dec 2015 @ 12:00pm

    Reverse Permission culture

    When citizens do anything it is assumed illegal unless expressly allowed by law.

    When government does something or is legal unless expressly forbidden by law. And that law oz upheld by a court.

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

    • identicon
      David, 8 Dec 2015 @ 12:55pm

      Re: Reverse Permission culture

      You mean "even if" rather than "unless" in that last sentence of yours. Don't forget: the Constitution is nominally still the highest law of the United States.

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

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 8 Dec 2015 @ 12:10pm

    I used to hear the claim "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it!"

    Bruce Sterling gave the counterpoint: "The NSA interpreted privacy as damage and routed around it."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2015 @ 12:39pm

    Admittedly, i don't blame the NSA for not wanting to recall derivative datasets. It's a huge pain.

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

  • identicon
    David, 8 Dec 2015 @ 12:52pm

    But but

    But they pinko-swore it.

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

  • icon
    Steve R. (profile), 8 Dec 2015 @ 1:48pm

    Another Useless Concept that Refuses to "die".

    The NSA meta-data program will be nearly as useless as the supposed "Golden Key" in combating terrorism.
    1. The "bad" people can change phones and/or number on a periodic basis.
    2. The "bad" people can use fake names. Old phones linked to a name can be tossed. A new phone with a new number and new name can be bought.
    3. Before, during, or after an incident the entire set of cell phones used for that incident can be replaced during each phase. (that would imply using 3 cell phones per person)

    Off course the NSA data-collection effort could work if the "bad" people are stupid; such as keeping the same phone for several years.

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

  • icon
    Steve R. (profile), 8 Dec 2015 @ 4:21pm

    A Troubling After-Thought

    Once the politicians realize that the NSA meta-data program will be essentially useless; they will come up with a new scheme. Cell phone registration.

    Everyone buying a cell phone will have to prove who they are with some sort of government ID. Similar to auto registration, periodically (once a year maybe) you will have to renew your "registration" and re-prove who you are. Just think a whole new security role for the idle TSA employees!!! Those failing to renew would have their cell phones disabled immediately.

    PS: Each time you renew, all the phone calls will be downloaded into a friendly NSA computer.

    Too far fetched?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2015 @ 9:57pm

    Did any of us expect them to follow the new ruling? They have been committing openly treasonous acts for decades now, I just don't see them suddenly following the laws and people's rights because they got their hand slapped and told "behave or else nothing will happen"

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

  • identicon
    MI6, 9 Dec 2015 @ 2:43am

    Does anyone truly believe that even if new legislation were made that the ALPHABET groups will adhere to such and that oversight bodies will do / be allowed to do there jobs?

    If any of you answered 'yes'to the above then I suggest you wake the f**ck up

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

  • identicon
    JB Smith, 15 Dec 2015 @ 11:24am

    Ask your senator if you don't believe me!

    The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and the brain initiative are the worst scams ever perpetrated on the American people. Former U. S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin Warns: Biochips Hazardous to Your Health: Warning, biochips may cause behavioral changes and high suicide rates. State Attorney Generals are to revoke the licenses of doctors and dentists that implant chips in patients. Chip used illegally for GPS, tracking, organized crime, communication and torture. Virginia state police have been implanting citizens without their knowledge and consent for years and they are dying! Check out William and Mary’s site to see the torture enabled by the biochip and the Active Denial System. See Terrorism and Mental Health by Amin Gadit or A Note on Uberveillance by MG & Katina Michael or Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer or Mind Control, Microchip Implants and Cybernetics. Check out the audio spotlight by Holosonics. The truth is the biochip works like a sim card. It received pulsed modulated laser beams and millimeter wave which it converts into electromagnetic waves that your brain interprets into digital images and sound. It then takes what your brain sees and hears and converts electromagnetic waves into digital and acoustic waves that a computer translates into audio and video. In other words, it allows law enforcement to see what you see, hear what you hear and communicate directly with your brain.

    “Former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) director and now Google Executive, Regina E. Dugan, has unveiled a super small, ingestible microchip that we can all be expected to swallow by 2017. “A means of authentication,” she calls it, also called an electronic tattoo, which takes NSA spying to whole new levels. She talks of the ‘mechanical mismatch problem between machines and humans,’ and specifically targets 10 – 20 year olds in her rant about the wonderful qualities of this new technology that can stretch in the human body and still be functional. Hailed as a ‘critical shift for research and medicine,’ these biochips would not only allow full access to insurance companies and government agencies to our pharmaceutical med-taking compliancy (or lack thereof), but also a host of other aspects of our lives which are truly none of their business, and certainly an extension of the removal of our freedoms and rights.” Google News

    The ARRA authorizes payments to the states in an effort to encourage Medicaid Providers to adopt and use “certified EHR technology” aka biochips. ARRA will match Medicaid $5 for every $1 a state provides. Hospitals are paid $2 million to create “crisis stabilization wards” (Gitmo’s) where state police torture people – even unto death. They stopped my heart 90 times in 6 hours. Virginia Beach EMT’s were called to the scene.
    Mary E. Schloendorff, v. The Society of New York Hospital 105 N. E. 92, 93 (N. Y. 1914) Justice Cardozo states, “every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body; and a surgeon who performs an operation without his patient’s consent, commits an assault, for which he is liable in damages. (Pratt v Davis, 224 Ill. 300; Mohr v Williams, 95 Minn. 261.)

    This case precedent requires police to falsely arrest you or kidnap you and call you a mental health patient in order to force the implant on you. You can also be forced to have a biochip if you have an infectious disease – like Eboli or Aids. Coalition of Justice vs the City of Hampton, VA settled a case out of court for $500,000 and removal of the biochip. Torture is punishable by $1,000 per day up to $2 million; Medical battery is worth $2.05 million.

    They told my family it was the brain initiative. I checked with the oversight board, and it is not! Mark Warner told me it was research with the Active Denial System by the College of William and Mary, the USAF, and state and local law enforcement. It is called IBEX and it is excruciating.

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


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