Congressional Reps Tell NSA To Cease Sharing Unminimized Data With Domestic Law Enforcement Agencies

from the the-fed's-Big-Brother-program:-'adopt'-a-domestic-agency! dept

The FBI announced (without going into verifiable detail) that it had implemented new minimization procedures for handling information tipped to it by the NSA's Prism dragnet. Oddly, this announcement arrived nearly simultaneously with the administration's announcement that it was expanding the FBI's intake of unminimized domestic communications collected by the NSA.

So, which was it? Was the FBI applying more minimization or was it gaining more raw access? The parties involved have so far refused to offer any further details on either of the contradictory plans, save for vague assurances about the lawfulness of both options.

Fortunately, a few legislators have stepped up to do something about it. Megan Geuss of Ars Technica reports that Reps. Ted Lieu and Blake Farenthold have sent a letter to the NSA telling it to hold off on its plans to share unminimized data and communications with domestic intelligence agencies… at least until it's been discussed publicly.

We respectfully request you confirm whether the NSA intends to routinely provide intelligence information-collected without a warrant-to domestic law enforcement agencies. If the NSA intends to go down this uncharted path, we request that you stop. The proposed shift in the relationship between our intelligence agencies and the American people should not be done in secret. The American people deserve a public debate. The United States has a long standing principle of keeping our intelligence and military spy apparatus focused on foreign adversaries and not the American people.
The letter points out that while Congress has granted the NSA "extraordinary authority" to conduct warrantless surveillance and harvest massive amounts of data, it has not done so for domestic intelligence and law enforcement agencies. But that deliberate limitation of powers has been undone by the administration's expansion. It may be indirect -- requiring the assistance of the NSA -- but it accomplishes the same purpose: giving warrantless surveillance and bulk collection powers to domestic agencies by proxy.

The letter -- sent to the heads of a variety of Congressional committees -- pulls no punches in its comparative depiction of this overreach.
We believe allowing the NSA to be used as an arm of domestic law enforcement is unconstitutional. Our country has always drawn a line between our military and intelligence services, and domestic policing and spying. We do not -- and should not -- use U.S. Army Apache helicopters to quell domestic riots; Navy Seal Teams to take down counterfeiting rings; or the NSA to conduct surveillance on domestic street gangs.
What's most amazing about the administration's move is that it followed -- directly -- two and a half years of NSA document leaks, their accompanying protests, lawsuits and backlash, the passage of the USA Freedom Act and an intense debate over the lawfulness of the PATRIOT Act. Add to that the fact that it was dropped right in the middle of a heated legal battle that has shown the FBI to be both grasping for power and incapable of telling the truth -- and it clearly shows the administration is so insulated from the collateral damage of a decade-plus of constantly expanding surveillance powers as to be completely unable to detect shifts in tone.

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Filed Under: blake farenthold, data sharing, doj, dragnet, fbi, minimization, nsa, ted lieu

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  1. icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 24 Mar 2016 @ 4:12pm

    I often wonder if there is a quantitative way to analyze at least what is known about domestic surveillance and other activities, and compare this across time. The FBI seems problematic at least half of the time, and the CIA was the super obvious illegal operator for decades. Maybe they didn't interface as much with local law enforcement, but there is enough history of them behaving badly throughout history.

    It certainly seems that with increased capabilities, they are worse than ever, but how does the general illegal and quasi-legal activity and intent trend? And how much worse are they now with the increased capabilities and apparently less oversight and more support to just do whatever they like?

    And really, at this point, could several successive administrations and Congresses change this institutional culture if they suddenly came over all sensible and were united against such things? The inertia must be staggering at this point.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 4:24pm

    One day the NSA will share data with the MAFIAA.

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

  3. identicon
    Vin, 24 Mar 2016 @ 4:31pm

    ... yeah right... the NSA & FBI are now scared silly and abandoning their very long history of lawlessness -- because they just got a "letter" from a couple of 2-Bit politicians.

    Be sure to watch for the Easter Bunny this Sunday... since apparently you'll believe anything.

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

  4. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 24 Mar 2016 @ 5:29pm

    Boy that'll scare NSA and FBI

    "Come on, NSA, hold off on sharing data with the FBI until we can discuss it, or else...or else...or else...we swear to you, we will get very choked up. Honestly, there could be tears."

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 6:55pm


    They already have. It was confirmed years ago that info the NSA shared with New Zealand was used in the New Zealand Police's investigation of Kim Dot Com for a copyright infringement case.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 8:46pm

    I am sure being told to stop doing what they have illegaly been doing will work.

    You better behave or else nothing will come of it.

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

  7. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 24 Mar 2016 @ 10:17pm

    Aww, that's adorable

    They think the NSA, FBI or any other government agency cares what a bunch of spineless do-nothings that can write up an angry letter but lack the ability to do anything beyond that say.

    The NSA should buy a fridge just so they can place it someone prominent in their building and stick the letter to it via some nice magnets, with a sticky note next to it, 'Look what little Ted and Blake made.'

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2016 @ 7:23am

    I was speaking to an Oracle rep recently.

    He said that no Australian public service agencies are permitted to use any Oracle cloud products/services because of the Patriot Act.

    I am guessing that most of the rest of the developed world has similar policies.

    US must be losing billions because of it's insistence on being a data thief.

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

  9. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 25 Mar 2016 @ 8:41am


    That's pretty good. Even better would be that no public or private agency that handles data about private citizens should be permitted to use any cloud services to do so.

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

  10. identicon
    Liberty's Son, 25 Mar 2016 @ 9:30am

    Once a GREAT Nation

    Americans used to be united in the pride knowing the world looked up to us as Americans, but today? Rampant globalizationISM by political (scientists, lol) eager to rule the world (which will NEVER happen by the way) has divided America.

    Sprinkle my ashes on Lady Liberty's breasts.

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

  11. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 25 Mar 2016 @ 11:46am

    Yeah, not seeing as how this will do any good.

    I highly suspect that minimizing procedures are nothing more than a handwave.

    If they were more before, they won't be now.

    And since there's no oversight, there's really no way to verify what they've done.

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

  12. icon
    GEMont (profile), 25 Mar 2016 @ 11:45pm

    Eyes Wide Shut

    "to be completely unable to detect shifts in tone."


    they just don't give a shit what the American public think about their domestic spying, because they're:

    1. totally insulated from any and all repercussions for their unconstitutional actions by secret interpretations of US laws that trump the standard interpretations of those same laws whenever these agencies are involved.

    2. completely protected by a government that refuses to rein in the activities of their spy agencies, and which in fact, desires the expansion of surveillance on US citizens due to the Wars on Druggies, Hackers and Terrorists.

    3. utterly unafraid of a judicial/court system that is wide open to blackmail and coercion by the spy agencies, when its members are not openly rooting for the surveillance state.

    To put this another way:

    Can anyone out there give me one good reason why the Surveillance Corporation of Ameri Co. Inc should do anything but thumb their noses at all Americans and all their demands of constitutional behaviour??

    No. Not a moral reason. They obviously have no morals. Otherwise they would respect American's privacy, tell the truth in court, and stop beating their spouses.

    I'm asking for a reason that would compel them to stop domestic spying... you know - like punishment, repercussions, sanctions, loss of employment - that sort of thing.

    That's right. There is no mechanism or process available to the American Public that can cause these agencies or their employees any grief whatsoever, no matter how heinous their actions. They are beyond all American laws.

    Which pretty much makes them all non-Americans.

    Why is it so difficult for the vast majority of Americans to see the writing on the wall??

    Who are you people and what have you done with my America??


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

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