Privacy And National Security Concerns Play Second Fiddle To Administration's Attempts To Control The Narrative

from the privacy-violations-are-coming-from-inside-the-house! dept

Rep. Devin Nunes, who heads the House Intelligence Committee, has been all over the privacy/security map in recent weeks. He's publicly decried the supposed "illegal surveillance" of former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn while trying to avoid undercutting the NSA programs and presidential authority that make it all this spying possible.

His hypocrisy knows no bounds. Nunes has repeatedly suggested NSA spying activities (under Executive Order 12333) should receive even less oversight. Now he's complaining the spy infrastructure he wholeheartedly supports is too big and dangerous, now that it's resulted in Mike Flynn's departure.

But it goes even further than that. Nunes is utilizing an informal network of what he calls "whistleblowers" to leak him details of investigations. Then he immediately goes and discusses these investigations in public. Barton Gellman (who handled some of Snowden's leaks) points out just how far Nunes has gone in defending both Mike Flynn and Trump White House.

Three named officials—two Trump appointees and arguably his leading defender on the Hill—appear to have engaged in precisely the behavior that the president describes as the true national security threat posed by the Russia debate...

The offense, which in some cases can be prosecuted as a felony, would apply even if the White House officials showed Nunes only “tearsheet” summaries of the surveillance reports. Based on what Nunes has said in public, they appear to have showed him the more sensitive verbatim transcripts. Those are always classified as TS/SI (special intelligence) or TS/COMINT (communications intelligence), which means that they could reveal sources and methods if disclosed. That is the first apparent breach of secrecy rules. The second, of course, is the impromptu Nunes news conference. There is no unclassified way to speak in public about the identity of a target or an “incidentally collected” communicant in a surveillance operation.

When communications of US persons is "incidentally" collected, the information is minimized and the names redacted. Gellman points out "customers" (other government agencies/officials) can ask for the names to be revealed. But the policies governing dissemination mean the NSA doesn't just hand out this info to anyone. The fact that Nunes knew whose communications were swept up along with the targets means the real breach of privacy isn't the NSA's incidental collection, but the unmasking of those incidentally-collected. That means the same White House that's so upset about Trump being spied on is the one asking for an unminimized copies of the collected communications.

The names could only have been unmasked if the customers—who seem in this case to have been Trump’s White House appointees—made that request themselves. If anyone breached the president’s privacy, the perpetrators were working down the hall from him. (Okay, probably in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door.) It is of course hypocritical, even deceptive, for Nunes to lay that blame at the feet of intelligence officials…

This raises an even more interesting question about what's going on at the White House. Officials are asking for unminimized reports on incidental collections. But for what reason? Gellman theorizes it may be some form of an unofficial backdoor search.

There is no chance that the FBI would brief them about the substance or progress of its investigation into the Trump campaign’s connections to the Russian government. Were the president’s men using the surveillance assets of the U.S. government to track the FBI investigation from the outside?

If so, it's an interesting way to obtain information a government agency (the FBI) won't share with you: get it from the intelligence agency that's feeding it to the FBI. If this is what's happening, it's another example of the Trump White House -- and those subservient to it -- ignoring national security rules to further their own ends. This abuse likely isn't unusual, but it's definitely hypocritical for those engaging in it to make comments about the sanctity of privacy and/or national security while doing damage to both.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 6:33am

    Incompetence running rampant in the present administration has been a load of laughs, but it's getting a bit old - feels like rerun season already.

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

    • icon
      Berenerd (profile), 3 Apr 2017 @ 9:04am

      Re:

      I would agree if not for the fact that it is really happening and we will end up in WW3 because of it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 9:27am

      Re:

      That is what is sad, you are completely duped by this.

      There is nothing incompetent about any of this. It is just engineered to appear that way so that you can be kept off balance. Sure there is a lot of stupid running around on Congress, but that is because we accept it readily, laugh like it is a joke, and vote for the same next election.

      The driving force of government has been, and will always be, removing liberty to assert complete control over the citizens lives because they cannot resist the temptation of power. And remember, even crazy parents that prevent their children from seeing a doctor for their medical conditions do believe they are doing the best thing for their child. That is how fucked up their minds are! Anything is justified in the pursuit of protecting Americans and that is why they decided that it was good to import terrorism to create a regulation by fear atmosphere in America. It worked damn well too! Just as history says it does!

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

      • icon
        sorrykb (profile), 3 Apr 2017 @ 9:44am

        Re: Re:

        There's no reason the Trump Administration can't be both incompetent and evil. In fact all evidence points to that.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 9:54am

          Re: Re: Re:

          You do have a point, they definitely could be both and by all appearance they are.

          However, my problem is, if this much incompetence is really going on... how in the hell are they able to keep it so well controlled? I think the incompetence claims are overblown. There is always a lot of information we are not going to be privy too.

          I care far more about the underlying sinister intentions being brought to us by "self approved good men". The fox really is guarding the hen house here. Heck, some people are insane enough to think they are the good guys when they say... in order to protect you, we have to take all of your liberty away... don't you understand that? They may not be aware that they are made pawns by their ignorance, but their simultaneous obliviousness cannot be forgiven either.

          So yea, their evil cannot possibly go very far, if they are TOO incompetent.

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

          • identicon
            Thad, 3 Apr 2017 @ 4:26pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            how in the hell are they able to keep it so well controlled?

            What part of the Trump Administration says "so well controlled" to you, the constant leaks, the failure to pass a healthcare bill, the immigration bans that keep getting defeated in the courts, or the approval ratings worse than Bush's were after Katrina?

            So yea, their evil cannot possibly go very far, if they are TOO incompetent.

            I suppose that's true on some level, but failing to act can cause a tremendous amount of harm too.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 6:48am

    "If so, it's" and "If this is" -- is your usual accusation by innuendo.

    A short lesson:

    First, this is too complex to follow. Effective propaganda needs be simple.

    2nd, don't wander off point with conditionals: JUST STATE YOUR WHOPPERS.

    3rd, insinuating that The Administration is concerned about what it knows didn't happen -- the alleged Russia connection -- just doesn't work.

    4th, The Administration DOES have legitimate authority to find out what the hell supposedly subservient agencies (actually quasi-government corporations) are up to. "The buck stops here" means also the office has over-arching authority to jump almost any bureaucratic procedure. We The People must rely on character to great degree, simply fact. I'm more concerned than you about what Trump is actually doing, and yet I sure don't see THIS as worrisome.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 6:48am

    "If so, it's" and "If this is" -- is your usual accusation by innuendo.

    A short lesson:

    First, this is too complex to follow. Effective propaganda needs be simple.

    2nd, don't wander off point with conditionals: JUST STATE YOUR WHOPPERS.

    3rd, insinuating that The Administration is concerned about what it knows didn't happen -- the alleged Russia connection -- just doesn't work.

    4th, The Administration DOES have legitimate authority to find out what the hell supposedly subservient agencies (actually quasi-government corporations) are up to. "The buck stops here" means also the office has over-arching authority to jump almost any bureaucratic procedure. We The People must rely on character to great degree, simply fact. I'm more concerned than you about what Trump is actually doing, and yet I sure don't see THIS as worrisome.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 7:02am

    rerun season already

    So what is the specific, long term solution to all this... from the citizens' perspective ?

    Hammering Nunez and current White House in particular... misses the big picture and solution. All 3 branches of the Federal government have vigorously supported this U.S. surveillance-state over many decades. It's the same "rerun" every decade -- it's a systemic problem, not something caused by a few bad people now in Washington D.C.

    Get away from the daily nit-picking on trivial personalities and incidents.
    What is the core problem and solution in all this ?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 10:46am

      Re: rerun season already

      "...the daily nit-picking on trivial personalities and incidents."

      That's how you know the deep state's propaganda is working. The basic formula being; Distract, Divide, Profit.

      What never ceases to amaze me is how many otherwise intelligent people don't seem to be aware of the degree to which they're being manipulated into serving the deep state's interests by discussing/analyzing events in terms of the framing of the manufactured narrative that the DS incessantly serves up to them every news cycle.

      Timmy here is the perfect example of doing exactly that. He spends 9+ paragraphs on what amounts to little more than the typical/lame identity politics when his entire post should be dedicated the first half of his last sentence; "This abuse likely isn't unusual,..." The rest of the discussion amounts to little more than noise.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 3:02pm

        Re: Re: rerun season already

        Deep state... Sorry you somehow mistook this site for infowars. Better luck next time.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 7:19pm

          Re: Re: Re: rerun season already

          Ah, resorting to the ol' argumentum ad hominem right off the bat. Always a sign of someone with immense value to add to the discussion.

          Btw - If you're equating the term "deep state" with Alex Jones, be confident you're exactly the type of simple-minded sheeple your current government leadership approves.

          Now, I'll let you get back to CNN - or is it Breibart? ...whatever, it's getting so hard to tell you apart; all you contards and libtards start looking the same after awhile.

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

          • identicon
            Thad, 4 Apr 2017 @ 11:59am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: rerun season already

            Btw - If you're equating the term "deep state" with Alex Jones, be confident you're exactly the type of simple-minded sheeple your current government leadership approves.

            What if I equate the term "sheeple" with Alex Jones?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 11:37am

      Re: rerun season already

      "What is the core problem and solution in all this?"

      Core problem:

      Due to legitimate conflicts of interests, certain secrets are necessarily required to exist to conduct a healthy society and industry. Mass corporate/governmental surveillance violates ALL secrets - and not just the secrets that harm the public good - and is therefore a "bad" thing.

      Solution:

      Develop, promote, audit, and refine systems (technical and procedural) that enforce the integrity and unassailability of secrets that should be kept secret (esp., concerning personal, medical, legal, political, and trade secrets that do not infringe on the public good).

      Solution specifics are way beyond the scope of any comments section reply. However, much of it would have to do with the creation and meaningful enforcement of publicly vetted (and re-vetted as new information presents itself) laws. Btw - many such laws currently exist but are either not being meaningfully enforced or are being enforced only when they apply to non-"establishment" violators (or have been repealed/written-over to cover up violations after the fact).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 7:19am

    "If so, it's" and "If this is" -- your usual accusation by innuendo.

    First, this is too complex to follow. Effective propaganda needs be simple.

    2nd, don't wander off point with conditionals: JUST STATE YOUR WHOPPERS.

    3rd, insinuating that The Administration is concerned about what it knows didn't happen -- the alleged Russia connection -- just doesn't work.

    4th, Any Administration DOES have legitimate authority to find out what the hell supposedly subservient agencies (actually quasi-government corporations) are up to. "The buck stops here" means also the office has over-arching authority to jump almost any bureaucratic procedure. We The People must rely on character to great degree, simply fact. I'm more concerned than you about what Trump is actually doing, and yet I sure don't see THIS as worrisome.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 7:55am

      Re: "If so, it's" and "If this is" -- your usual accusation by innuendo.

      I can tell that you are way more concerned than me. You've never met me and would have no way of knowing how concerned I am but I believe your claim that you know more than I do based on your comment alone.

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

    • icon
      The Wanderer (profile), 3 Apr 2017 @ 7:56am

      Re: "If so, it's" and "If this is" -- your usual accusation by innuendo.

      >First, this is too complex to follow. Effective propaganda needs be simple.

      Perhaps that should be taken as a hint that this is not, in fact, intended as propaganda?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 7:20am

    OKAY, so you forced me to get Random Agent Spoofer again!

    Techdirt censors opinions.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 7:45am

      Re: OKAY, so you forced me to get Random Agent Spoofer again!

      Nobody forced you to do anything. We just don't like the garbage you spew. If you don't like it then piss off.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 9:37am

        Re: Re: OKAY, so you forced me to get Random Agent Spoofer again!

        You are showing some good signs of being a garbage spewing producer yourself.

        I wonder how you feel when your opinions are marginalized and you are in the minority. When you tell people to piss off, you become a hypocrite. You are here to give your opinion just like he is... why should we listen to you instead of them? Why do you desire to silence them... worried about an uncomfortable truth coming out?

        Because you are better than them? More informed? Lets just say "delusions of grandeur" are quite common among the many people of this earth.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 9:52am

          Re: Re: Re: OKAY, so you forced me to get Random Agent Spoofer again!

          You sure to seem projecting quite a bit there chum. My opinion was he is an idiot. As are you. Perchance the same idiot.

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

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 10:04am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: OKAY, so you forced me to get Random Agent Spoofer again!

            Ouch I was called an idiot, I just don't know how I will be able to live with myself.

            To be clear, I am a different idiot... as far as we know, you could be the same idiot that you are calling an idiot.

            My point is that only the bankrupt feel the need attempt to marginalize or silence others. Next time try winning with your exceptional logic and linguistic legerdemain? What's that? Dont got none? For shame!

            Perhaps you should hone your skullduggery instead, the cost of bread is going up after all, and you are going to be hungry!

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 Apr 2017 @ 8:14am

      Re: OKAY, so you forced me to get Random Agent Spoofer again!

      The stupid opinion that's fully visible above?

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

      • icon
        Berenerd (profile), 3 Apr 2017 @ 9:07am

        Re: Re: OKAY, so you forced me to get Random Agent Spoofer again!

        He is part of the Trump group where facts are not as important as alternative facts.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 9:26am

      Re: OKAY, so you forced me to get Random Agent Spoofer again!

      My comments are always held as well- occasionally never appearing, with no reasonable content related explanation- perhaps moderators too busy. TD used to have the absolute best comment system on the net- anonymous, no scripts or captcha's- it was an open system that really made them stand out. I've assumed the change was because the vpn I use is full of nutters and ranters who've given the servers IP a bad reputation- Moderating posts made from the IP is an effective, if hamhanded solution.

      I doubt it will, but lets see if disguising myself as Win10 with Chome somehow solves the censorship. If there's no immediate followup post, readers can assume it didn't.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 4 Apr 2017 @ 12:10am

        Re: Re: OKAY, so you forced me to get Random Agent Spoofer again!

        "My comments are always held as well- occasionally never appearing"

        My comments occasionally get held for moderation, too. I'm not vain enough to keep checking back on every thread to see if they're greened later or not, although I will certainly reply to any replies later that I'm notified of via email notifications.

        I just understand what probably triggered the filer (in my case, usually posting too many links or posting too often within a short time limit), don't take it personally and don't spend the next 30 minutes ranting and trying to bypass the filter. The guy who keeps doing that has clear mental issues.

        "TD used to have the absolute best comment system on the net"

        Then, the site was swamped by commenters who deliberately try to derail every conversation. Mike has stated that he doesn't like the idea of removing anonymous comments for various reasons, so the next best thing is to filter through other means. IP filtering alone is relatively ineffective, but combined with the "snowflake" system and the ability to report repeat offenders, it's probably the best way to retain anonymous cowards without annoying regular posters too much.

        The issue is the people who don't seem to be able to understand that the main problem with being so obnoxious that the community repeatedly tells you to get out, is not the need to find new disguises when you try to get back in.

        "I doubt it will, but lets see if disguising myself as Win10 with Chome somehow solves the censorship"

        If the filter is via IP, why would that make any difference? Also, as often stated here, there is no direct censorship - either you're held in a queue for moderation or if you're reported then your posts are hidden. Neither of these count as direct censorship, unless you're also going to claim that email spam filters and automatic pagination are also censorship.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 10:23am

      Re: OKAY, so you forced me to get Random Agent Spoofer again!

      Techdirt censors opinions.

      Which one?

      The one you posted above or a different one?

      Might want to try waiting a bit before whining, snowflake.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 3:06pm

        Re: Re: OKAY, so you forced me to get Random Agent Spoofer again!

        No the other two he posted under different IP addresses.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 4 Apr 2017 @ 12:13am

          Re: Re: Re: OKAY, so you forced me to get Random Agent Spoofer again!

          I'd love it if instead of filtering messages from reported IPs to the spam queue, the site would simply hold them for an hour before posting them in the thread with an automatic reported status.

          It wouldn't last long and would probably lead to further arguments, but it would be interesting to see how much time and effort these idiots are wasting trying to force comments into a community that doesn't want them.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 8:00am

    The unmasking was done by Obama officials, and spread through the agencies before the transition. But of course Trump did something fucked up...somehow...right?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 8:19am

      Re:

      Did you try finishing the article?

      This abuse likely isn't unusual, but it's definitely hypocritical for those engaging in it to make comments about the sanctity of privacy and/or national security while doing damage to both.

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

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 3 Apr 2017 @ 2:00pm

    The US Government Fiddles While America Burns

    Privacy And National Security Concerns Play Second Fiddle To Administration's Attempts To Control The Narrative

    Why shouldn't the Trump administration attempt to control the narrative? There are/were persons operating within the government who have potentially committed multiple felonies in leaking NSA intercepts to the press in order to create the appearance of a scandal in the Trump administrations first days in office. The only way to confront the specious allegations that have been bandied about by an all too pliant media (ie stenographers) and delusional politicians is To Control The Narrative.

    There is no unclassified way to speak in public about the identity of a target or an “incidentally collected” communicant in a surveillance operation.

    Unfortunately this particular horse (ie the Flynn fiasco) left the barn months ago via leaks to the media from anonymous government source(s) seeking to carry out an overt act of political character assassination in the form of a whisper campaign based upon innuendo and half truths.

    The fact that Nunes knew whose communications were swept up along with the targets means the real breach of privacy isn't the NSA's incidental collection, but the unmasking of those incidentally-collected.

    Horse cocky! NSA's incidental collection is as untoward (and unconstitutional) as the unmasking of those person whose communications were incidentally-collected. The creation/operation of the total surveillance state are the actions of a totalitarian control freak of a government and have zero place in a nation that supposedly prides itself on life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

    If so, it's an interesting way to obtain information a government agency (the FBI) won't share with you: get it from the intelligence agency that's feeding it to the FBI. If this is what's happening, it's another example of the Trump White House -- and those subservient to it -- ignoring national security rules to further their own ends.

    The president (right/wrong) has the authority to classify, change classification or declassify any intelligence data that has been classified at any level. This presidential authority is derived from presidential executive order 13526 (signed into effect 29Dec2009) under section 1.3 classification authority.

    https://www.archives.gov/isoo/policy-documents/cnsi-eo.html

    Nine months after FBI supposedly began their investigation and FBI has turned up zero evidence. This smells more like a fishing expedition then a national security investigation.

    Nice government. What could possibly go wrong?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2017 @ 2:06pm

      Re: The US Government Fiddles While America Burns

      Yeah I'm with ya. Can't believe Tim would give NSA spying a pass like that. As if masked it's okay but unmasked crosses a line. It's the same damn thing.

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


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