Rather Than Ending NSA's Key Surveillance Tool, White House To Now Let Other Agencies Use It

from the uh...-what-now? dept

Late last night, the NY Times broke a very troubling story. Rather than finally putting an end to Executive Order 12333, it appears that President Obama is going to expand the power of it in dangerous ways. We've written about EO 12333 a bunch of times, but for those of you unfamiliar with it, it's an executive order signed by President Reagan that basically gave the NSA pretty free rein to collect signals intelligence outside of the US. Because it's not (technically) about domestic surveillance, what the NSA does under EO 12333 is not subject to Congressional oversight. That is, Congress is mostly as much in the dark as everyone else is on what the NSA is doing overseas. And, as former State Department official John Napier Tye revealed a couple of years ago, for all the talk of domestic surveillance programs revealed by Ed Snowden, the NSA's real power comes almost entirely from 12333.

And it has no limitations. Napier noted that the other programs -- things like Section 215 (now morphed into whatever the USA FREEDOM Act allows) and Section 702 -- were merely used to "fill in the gaps" not covered by 12333.

And it almost certainly involves both foreign and domestic intelligence. Basically, if any of your data goes outside of US boundaries, the NSA is free to capture it under 12333. Remember those stories of the NSA hacking into datacenters of companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft? Those datacenters were in Singapore. And the reason the target was Singapore rather than the US, was because of 12333.

Meanwhile, the NSA likes to insist that it respects the privacy of Americans thanks to its vast minimization program that is supposed to dump inappropriate data on Americans, or in stripping out private information when sharing data with other agencies.

But apparently that's going away. Instead, the White House has plans to let the NSA share data collected under 12333 with other government agencies without any minimization. Basically, whatever the NSA collects overseas might now be freely available to the FBI or Homeland Security or the IRS or the DEA. Doesn't that seem at least somewhat problematic? From the NY Times:
The Obama administration is on the verge of permitting the National Security Agency to share more of the private communications it intercepts with other American intelligence agencies without first applying any privacy protections to them, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.

The change would relax longstanding restrictions on access to the contents of the phone calls and email the security agency vacuums up around the world, including bulk collection of satellite transmissions, communications between foreigners as they cross network switches in the United States, and messages acquired overseas or provided by allies.

The idea is to let more experts across American intelligence gain direct access to unprocessed information, increasing the chances that they will recognize any possible nuggets of value. That also means more officials will be looking at private messages — not only foreigners’ phone calls and emails that have not yet had irrelevant personal information screened out, but also communications to, from, or about Americans that the N.S.A.’s foreign intelligence programs swept in incidentally.
This is crazy. For all the talk of the NSA having access to all of this information, and even a fair number of reports of NSA staff "abuse" of their access to data, in general, the NSA certainly has a reputation for being serious about not allowing any abuse of the data. Other agencies? Not so much. The FBI, CIA, DEA and ATF, for example, have long and colorful histories of abusing data to harass and intimidate people. Giving them much wider access to whatever the NSA slurps up overseas, and then trusting those agencies to handle "minimization" (as is the apparent plan) is downright frightening.

And despite this massive change, the public won't get to weigh in. Instead:
Intelligence officials began working in 2009 on how the technical system and rules would work, Mr. Litt said, eventually consulting the Defense and Justice Departments. This month, the administration briefed the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent five-member watchdog panel, seeking input. Before they go into effect, they must be approved by James R. Clapper, the intelligence director; Loretta E. Lynch, the attorney general; and Ashton B. Carter, the defense secretary.
Oh sure. They just need approval from the folks who will benefit most from all of this, and no real discussion with the public who will be impacted by it. What a surprise...

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2016 @ 9:43am

    I have no words....

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2016 @ 9:48am

    Name That Government

    Is it a tyrannical republic or a democratic tyranny?

    How long before the dissembling is removed and it is just plain tyranny?

    Should other adjectives be involved, or would they just confuse the issue?

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

  3. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), Feb 26th, 2016 @ 10:20am

    Spy on anyone we feel like?

    Yes we can!

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

  4. icon
    Peter (profile), Feb 26th, 2016 @ 10:36am

    How many more administrations will it take ...

    ... before the EO12333-data will be shared with the copyright industry?

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2016 @ 10:46am

    Soo...

    Obama is just like Bush...

    Liberals and Conservative alike fooled into thinking otherwise while calling each other fools.

    yea, nothing new here folks.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2016 @ 11:06am

    Typical anti-american whitehouse action

    The gov better get its fema camps ready to go (if they are real to begin with). The frog in boiling water has had enough.

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2016 @ 12:22pm

    Nothing but comodoties we are

    Represented MY ARSE!!

    The biggest gangs is what they are, a class that subjucates, convinces itself that their good for everyone, when its their actions, their GAMES that make the lroblems ten times worse

    If we all TRY to get along, what need would we have for a ruling class........just thought i'd say that before it becomes illegal to do so

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

  8. identicon
    s2lim, Feb 26th, 2016 @ 12:37pm

    It is this netizen's staunch opinion that even the tiniest amount of NSA's data stream making it into any arm of the DOJ is thoroughly unconstitutional. Encryption, quite literally, is one's only real defense - the deal is off, the tenets broken, government has fully shifted into self-preservation mode. Go fuck your mothers.

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2016 @ 1:13pm

    Disheartened but not surprised by the privacy invasions Obama's administration has been responsible for...

    He really knows how to use that Constitutional law degree he has...

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2016 @ 1:30pm

    When I pointed this out of Facebook, I immediately had someone tell me I was "upset that a black man is in the White House."

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2016 @ 1:35pm

    Maybe it is good that they are sharing/consolidating it with the other agencies.

    It is obviously going to take a massive scandal, possibly something very nasty indeed, for us to learn that state mass surveillance, warehousing and modeling of citizen communication, association, geolocation and economic data, is unsustainable and unacceptable.

    Giving it to the nobs at FBI etc will hasten that.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2016 @ 2:49pm

    More alphabet letter agencies given the go ahead to commit cyber terrorism against the world.

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

  13. icon
    tqk (profile), Feb 26th, 2016 @ 3:25pm

    Re:

    ... government has fully shifted into self-preservation mode.

    I'd call it attack mode.

    The NSA ran it in beta test on foreigners (accidentally on purpose snagging US citizens), now it's being rolled out to production handing it to FBI, IRS, DEA, and sundry PDs who come asking in order to attack residents on US soil.

    Your tax dollars at work.

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

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2016 @ 5:46pm

    More bad news from the "most open and accessible" and, we can now add, "shamelessly disingenuous" administration in U.S. history. With every passing day I cringe further at having voted for Obama. Gag me with a spoon.

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2016 @ 7:30pm

    yes, our incredibly stupid govt is amassing info on us all to make it easier for the foreigners to still.

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

  16. identicon
    Justme, Feb 26th, 2016 @ 8:26pm

    Hang your head. . .

    They should hang their head in shame. . when they finally reach the point that the private sector is fully public and the public sector is fully private, then there will be nothing left to protect.

    Maybe they will see the value in it, if it's encrypted.
    ####
    cmcakduvo onfhzldtn kodfvgdrk rpumbllsw sigmivgio
    htfkgedee qqimwwvwv ufymsqzxi tjrscstvt aprmfcdpy
    lvikgyona dnunpmqeb jmidicpaj jiftweokd svwwajshc
    vcvovubum atsbjvbll qarynbojh zponydqni vghuoaahg
    pisbiqrag mzymvfers shslhzkbv ksianvmmq dzqnuirdx
    nfdcsmlzj kotjauqbn wqqpwwrin nviykbots siaktqmax
    uxhlzoecb tcshbrken ajxashbww aeemgeeei yeegqjohm
    nrwiapjeh fjhsqvaxm bjuauqxik mjdhitrgq avdlkbnad
    nupffzlsa ufuopueru uqkpsxryr ugasemjhl rabzszrjl
    bctttkuid rxkoccgwq lczkvkemg qwupdmpgg wgnfghquf
    pombtrjcb vaxderoij myuflqbas vvaytrxmx dkwrsdxsg
    jgtyjrg
    #### 3cce65c6c65d39bc7671852bb6e964ca

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

  17. icon
    marcus (profile), Feb 28th, 2016 @ 2:48am

    Re:

    It isn't just the Democrats and Obama. All the current Republican Candidates are for more surveillance. Remember that it was during the George W. Bush administration that the Patriot Act was passed and the NSA began bulk collection of data.

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

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2016 @ 3:06am

    Isn't there precedent that the president can't pass laws to expand the surveillance state in his last 6 months of office?

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

  19. identicon
    Justme, Feb 29th, 2016 @ 10:18pm

    Re:

    That depends on who gets to define the words, expand, surveillance and month.

    And not to sure we ever clearly defined the meaning of, is, during the Clinton hearing either?

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


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