Wyden Siren: Coats Is Answering A Different Question About Surveillance Of US Persons

from the tricky-coats dept

Remember, folks, when Senator Ron Wyden asks certain questions or suggests something nefarious is going on behind the scenes, you'd best listen. Time and time again over the past six years or so, whenever he's brought up such an issue, he's been right. Some on Twitter have now dubbed this the Wyden Siren. Pay attention when Wyden is hinting at something. So... it's time to pay attention. On Thursday, Wyden sent a letter to Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, complaining that he is answering a different question than the one Wyden asked. This is, of course, a fairly typical move in political circles, but especially in the intelligence community. You word answers in very tricky ways, such that you know the public will be misled, but if pressed in the future, you can argue that your answer was not untruthful -- just semantically misleading in the extreme.

This case goes back to Wyden questioning Coats on June 7th about whether Section 702 can be used to collect purely domestic communications. There were already some people screaming "Wyden Siren" on Twitter about the question, even to the point of arguing that the question was setting up Coats the way that James Clapper was setup a few years back (in which he lied about NSA surveillance on Americans). Coats stated that such a thing would be against the law -- leading Marcy Wheeler to point out not only that the statement is incorrect, but that Coats signed a memo saying it's incorrect.

After the hearing, as Wyden's new letter to Coats points out, Coats gave Wyden an answer. But, as Wyden now points out, it was an answer to a different question:

Dear Director Coats:

At the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's open hearing on June 7, 2017, I asked you the following question and requested a yes or no response: "Can the government use FISA Act Section 702 to collect communications it knows are entirely domestic." You responded: "Not to my knowledge. It would be against the law." After the hearing, in response to questions from reporters, the ODNI sent the following:

"Section 702(b)(4) plainly states we 'may not intentionally acquire any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States.' The DNI interpreted Senator Wyden's question to ask about this provision and answered accordingly.

That was not my question. Please provide a public response to my question, as asked at the June 7, 2017, hearing.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,
Ron Wyden

Pay attention, folks. The Wyden Siren is blaring... and that usually means more awful surveillance revelations will be coming soon...


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2017 @ 4:03pm

    ha h aha...

    have you stopped beating your wife yet?

    Whatever. Mr Wyden is surfing for brownie points. When congress decides to actually do something about it, they will. Until then... bluster. nothing but bluster.

    Tell Wyden to go home and pack up his bags, I don't see him getting anything meaningful done. Sure I like that at least someone is doing something but if that effort is going to be weak he is more likely to cause damage instead of repair.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2017 @ 4:20pm

      Re: Wyden sent another letter

      One would think that by now even the most ardent Senator Wyden supporters ... would notice that Wyden's timid approach to this problem does not work at all.

      Snowden was 10,000% more effective than the entire Congress

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2017 @ 4:36pm

        Re: Re: Wyden sent another letter

        He is also 10,000% more likely to be killed while attempting to take him into custody. I don't think it is a good trade-off.

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

        • identicon
          David, 16 Jun 2017 @ 1:16am

          Re: Re: Re: Wyden sent another letter

          "For him" I wanted to add. But then I considered the available amount of intelligent, conscientious, outspoken and politically active U.S. citizens.

          I have to admit the deal doesn't look good for America either. I mean, look what they are electing for president these days out of desperation more than anything else.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2017 @ 4:45pm

        Re: Re: Wyden sent another letter

        As a Wyden supporter and a constituent who has voted for him repeatedly, I fully support his efforts. His progress isn't a result of lack of effort but a result of the opposition that he faces. And even if he fails to make changes, at least he is fighting the good fight.

        How much is your senator doing for your interests and the interests of the country?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2017 @ 5:50pm

          Re: Re: Re: Wyden sent another letter

          My senator is doing jack fucking shit. Like around here, I have to face an uphill battle against sycophantic idiots. My only recourse is to attempt to verbally beat some sense into these idiots.

          Yes I appreciate what Wyden is doing at least "something". You are right that at least there is a voice up there, but has Wyden done anything to force the issue? (that is NOT a rhetorical question). He is not my guy so I do not watch him as close as my worthless fuck, but based on TD's reporting, most of his actions are light touch, designed to look like tough questioning, but really is not when it comes down to it. I know how to sound tough too. But the intel community has been calling his bluff for long enough. He is either playing games or just too scare to do anything more than he is. Any maybe that is a smart play... I just cannot consider it genuine at the moment.

          congress has mostly done nothing on just about everything. all they do is break the constitution by passing illegal laws that are shit and giving government agencies law making power which was NOT granted to them by the Constitution.

          Well, it's not like anyone here actually gives a fuck about that either, so who actually cares, amiright?

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2017 @ 7:07pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Wyden sent another letter

            Shouldent you have taken your own advise and moved to your regulation free utopia of Somolia by now? Lazy ass hypocrite.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2017 @ 7:57am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Wyden sent another letter

            Certainly, it is everyone else who is wrong about everything - right?

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

          • identicon
            Chip, 16 Jun 2017 @ 9:46am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Wyden sent another letter

            Laws are illegal, you sycophantic idiots! The CONSTITUTION! I TOLD YOU SO!

            Tevery nation eats tha Paint Chips it Deserves!

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

          • icon
            BearGriz72 (profile), 17 Jun 2017 @ 12:07am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Wyden sent another letter

            Remember that as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Wyden is given far more information and access than the public and even the rest of Congress, so he already knows a lot more than we do, but he has classification restrictions and non-disclosure agreements that he has to follow.

            Therefore, sometimes all he can do is drop hints to point us (that are paying attention anyway) in the right direction. Just because he's not being more aggressive, doesn’t mean he's playing it soft, he may not have a choice in the matter. After all, if he breaks those rules, then he looses his position & access (and possibly even goes to jail)... Then nobody is there to try and shine a light into those dark little corners that the intelligence community likes to hide in.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2017 @ 9:08pm

        Re: Re: Wyden sent another letter

        And yet, Senator Wyden both remains in office, is not assaulted with espionage charges, AND provides us signals that we need to be paying attention to things.

        Snowden, on the other hand, despite being a public hero, has espionage charges hanging over his head, and having delivered the secrets he had access to, has access to no further ones.

        Resigning, which is effectively what Snowden did, and what you are asking Wyden to do, can only be done once (per person). And after which, you no longer have influence at the institution you resigned from.

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

      • identicon
        David, 16 Jun 2017 @ 2:06am

        Re: Re: Wyden sent another letter

        Wyden's approach demonstrates that the NSA does not consider the Senate their superiors and reports but rather their enemies that they need to trick using word games and deception in order to cajoole them out of more money for their sinister unlawful purposes.

        You really need to fire the entire department lead and try them for treason, if necessary a few times in a row, until the message of who they are serving and who they are reporting to gets across.

        When the Senate asks a question, they need to provide answers. And answers are words that are reasonably expected to convey the requested information to the person asking it. Not some marginally mathematically correct uttering that serves to detract from the information.

        This is not a question of whether they are playing the right kind of word games, and until they get that point in questions of national security, identity, and lawfulness, they need to be reminded that their oaths of office are not sophistry either.

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 15 Jun 2017 @ 4:55pm

      Re: ha h aha...

      have you stopped beating your wife yet?

      I'm not sure how that expression is pertinent to the conversation at hand. I don't see any examples of trick questions in the story, only evasive answers.

      Whatever. Mr Wyden is surfing for brownie points. When congress decides to actually do something about it, they will. Until then... bluster. nothing but bluster.

      You understand that Wyden is part of Congress, yes?

      Tell Wyden to go home and pack up his bags, I don't see him getting anything meaningful done. Sure I like that at least someone is doing something but if that effort is going to be weak he is more likely to cause damage instead of repair.

      How do you figure? I acknowledge that Wyden is a lonely figure whose efforts haven't resulted in the reforms I'd like to see. But in what way are we worse off than we would be if nobody was speaking out about these issues?

      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, 15 Jun 2017 @ 5:37pm

        Re: Re: ha h aha...

        "I'm not sure how that expression is pertinent to the conversation at hand. I don't see any examples of trick questions in the story, only evasive answers."

        Trick Questions & Trick Answers... get it yet? It has everything to do with being dishonest in discussion about the problem. I guess I over estimated my crowd here?

        "You understand that Wyden is part of Congress, yes?"

        The same congress were Republicans quickly submitted bills to repeal Obamacare KNOWING that it would only vetoed by Obama? They just did that to appease base. Now that they have power... well you see how dishonest they are. I don't really see much else from Wyden other than bluster. When you are the lone warrior on a hill you get you to say a lot because you don't have to worry about consequences since he knows no one is giving him any serious time.

        "How do you figure? I acknowledge that Wyden is a lonely figure whose efforts haven't resulted in the reforms I'd like to see. But in what way are we worse off than we would be if nobody was speaking out about these issues?"

        Like another poster said... Snowden has done more for America than Bush, Congress, Obama, or Trump. It's sad that most American just don't give a flying fuck. Like most of the mouth pieces around TD. You all are too busy focusing on window dressings and meaningless ideals. Next election most people here are only going to do one thing. Vote in another Obama or Trump depending on their political color.

        I notice that a lot of snowflakes already flagged my post. Struck a nerve, did I? But I get it, far easier to join the mindless crowd and follow like an obedient human.

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

        • identicon
          Vel the Engimatic, 15 Jun 2017 @ 5:54pm

          Re: Re: Re: ha h aha...

          You're really not as much of a rogue as you think you are. You play the part of the public outcast on here, but I'm willing to bet you're just like the rest of us in reality. Stop trying to sound like tough shit. You look silly.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2017 @ 7:59am

          Re: Re: Re: ha h aha...

          Hold on a sec ... politicians lie????
          OMG!!!!!

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

        • identicon
          Chip, 16 Jun 2017 @ 9:48am

          Re: Re: Re: ha h aha...

          I really sruck a nerve, you sypophantic idiots! You can tell I said something smart because of how stupid everyone thinks it was! It is you who are all stupid! I am smart! you can tell I am smart because I keep saying it all the time! That's how you know somebody is smart!

          Every nation eats the Paint chips is Deserves!

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2017 @ 10:05am

          Re: Re: Re: ha h aha...

          You seem to be forgetting one of the reasons Snowden decided to do what he did can be attributed to the answers to questions Wyden asked.

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

    • icon
      stderric (profile), 15 Jun 2017 @ 5:05pm

      Re: ha h aha...

      When congress decides to actually do something about it, they will.

      What, all the other representatives are stealthily sharpening their daggers and keeping 03/15/18 clear on their calendars, and they just plain forgot to tell Wyden about the party?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2017 @ 12:59pm

        Re: Re: ha h aha...

        "When congress decides to actually do something about it, they will."

        They haven't done a damn thing for over eight years, why start now?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    My_Name_Here, 15 Jun 2017 @ 4:29pm

    Hate to break it to you, Masnick, but Wyden 2020 is never going to happen.

    The US will never, ever be led by a pirate apologist.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2017 @ 4:40pm

    He already knows the answer

    Since we know that multiple agencies can have access to the raw feed of intelligence gathered by the NSA, he clearly is using reasoning skills to put two and two together based on the evidence. If he is seeing access to domestic communication based intelligence, it has to be coming from somewhere.

    Of course we could just let one of the other four eyes do the collecting and then pass it on, it isn't a domestic issue at all in that case.

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

    • identicon
      SpaceLifeForm, 15 Jun 2017 @ 5:23pm

      Re: He already knows the answer

      Correct. It has to be happening purely in US. It is only way to explain various events for many years.

      Wyden is trying to get someone to admit this publicly.

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

    • icon
      pixelpusher220 (profile), 15 Jun 2017 @ 6:16pm

      Re: He already knows the answer

      What we need is to have the laws say that our intelligence services may not POSSESS, Collect or Receive, domestic communications.

      As it is now, the Five Eyes simply collect each others domestic comms and give them to each other.

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

  • icon
    Daniel Audy (profile), 15 Jun 2017 @ 6:30pm

    Maybe I'm slow but I don't see what linguistic trickery was employed here. Can someone fill me in?

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

    • icon
      stderric (profile), 15 Jun 2017 @ 8:51pm

      Re:

      Gotta say that any nuanced linguist tricks are so subtle (or blindingly obvious) they're lost on me, but follow the link to Marcy Wheeler's post on the topic and you'll find a big ol' "unless..." clause following the "we can't collect it" bit.

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

    • identicon
      Chip, 16 Jun 2017 @ 9:53am

      Re:

      Guess I overestimate the crowd here! Again!

      The Linguistic Trickery is "obvious." So "obvious" that I don't have to Eplain it or provide any Supporting evidence, like all the brilliant, very smart "statements" that I always make here, because I am "very smart" and you are all sycophantic idots. I am so "Smart" that I don't have to "prove" or "support" or "back up" any of my claims, ever, even though I have, a lot of times, I just don't have any examples, because I am very Smart.

      Every nation eats the Paint chips it Seserves!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2017 @ 10:59pm

    Wyden siren reminds me if the old adage that a broken watch is still right twice a day. Throw enough conspiracy theories up next to word games and symantic plays and sonetimes you hit it.

    Some people also win at casinos.

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

  • identicon
    My_Name_Here, 16 Jun 2017 @ 2:42am

    For what it's worth

    I checked on twitter. I searched for #wydensire Wyden Siren and wydensiren. I got a total of 6 items, 2 from the same guy.

    So when you say " Some on Twitter have now dubbed this the Wyden Siren." it appears that the only one to really do so is a guy called Zack Whittiker. Taking over / under bets on you either knowing the guy or even that you may have worked together on things.

    6 posts is not a twitter trend. By those standards, "qwerty" is a monster term, better watch it!

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 16 Jun 2017 @ 9:54am

      Re: For what it's worth

      In other words, the only thing in this article that you can argue with is the popularity of a hashtag.

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

      • identicon
        My_Name_Here, 16 Jun 2017 @ 1:17pm

        Re: Re: For what it's worth

        There is much more to disagree with (such as Wyden playing very narrow word games), but I was merely pointing out that the whole framing or the article is bordering on deceptive.

        It's almost as if Techdirt was trying to create a phrase to promote Wyden in 2020 or something.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2017 @ 9:48pm

          Re: Re: Re: For what it's worth

          Narrow word games... Like Comey, Dodd, Clapper, Bainwol, Sherman and Duckworth?

          Funny, you didn't seem to have a problem with "narrow word games" before.

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

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 16 Jun 2017 @ 10:03am

      Re: For what it's worth

      It was Zack? Cool.

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

    • identicon
      My_Name_Here, 16 Jun 2017 @ 7:02pm

      Re: For what it's worth

      Fuck you, Leigh. Stop making me sound like such an ass.

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

  • icon
    Philip (profile), 16 Jun 2017 @ 11:14am

    Am I missing something?

    Can somebody explain this for me?

    That was not my question

    "Can the government use FISA Act Section 702 to collect communications it knows are entirely domestic."

    "Not to my knowledge. It would be against the law." [...] "Section 702(b)(4) plainly states we 'may not intentionally acquire any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States.'"

    I don't get it. That answers the question to the T. Wyden said Can. He did not say Has or Would.

    What am I missing here? Does Wyden not know about English grammar? You ask if you can: Yes, I can, but would I? That's a different question. Can does not imply action. It only states if the possibility exists to for action.

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 16 Jun 2017 @ 11:47am

      Re: Am I missing something?

      The question Wyden asked was whether it would be possible.

      The question Coats answered was whether it would be legal.

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

      • icon
        Philip (profile), 16 Jun 2017 @ 12:26pm

        Re: Re: Am I missing something?

        i.e. Is he's asking if there are any legal loop holes in the text?

        It just seems pretty obvious the answer would be "no": The text of the law says the government "may not intentionally" - that's a very obvious answer "No, the government cannot use 702 to intentionally collect[...]"

        So, is he really asking if there's anyway the government can interpret 702 differently to allow it?

        This is why people get frustrated in government. People answer to the text. And people get pissed off: "That's what what I meant"

        Yes, I get there's a lot of shit the other way, too: they answer to the "text" without answer the question. However, in this instance, Wyden's intended meaning of the question is clearly--based on Coats's reply--not obvious.

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

        • identicon
          Thad, 16 Jun 2017 @ 1:05pm

          Re: Re: Re: Am I missing something?

          Wyden's intended meaning of the question is clearly--based on Coats's reply--not obvious.

          I disagree. When a high-ranking intelligence official is asked "would it be possible for your agency to [x]" and the official responds, "that would be illegal," he knows exactly what the intent of the question was and is deliberately evading it.

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

          • icon
            Philip (profile), 16 Jun 2017 @ 1:11pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Am I missing something?

            "would it be possible for your agency to [x]"

            I touched on that already:

            Does Wyden not know about English grammar? You ask if you can: Yes, I can, but would I? That's a different question. Can does not imply action. It only states if the possibility exists to for action.

            "Would" and "could/can" mean two different things. Wyden clearly stated "Can" not "Would."

            Coats stated they cannot, show him the text clearly states they cannot. Nowhere, in either statements, did "would" ever come up.

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

            • icon
              Philip (profile), 16 Jun 2017 @ 1:21pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Am I missing something?

              Side Note: I understand "would it be possible" would also mean "can."

              However, in this contact of his question, 'Can' would mean: "Can the government", in which Coats stated, the document says the government cannot.

              Do note, nowhere in Wyden's question, to the text, did he ask "would/can" Coats's agency, which you implied.

              Yes. Text of the sentence. What word used matters so much, whether you're asking or answering.

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

            • identicon
              Thad, 16 Jun 2017 @ 2:20pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Am I missing something?

              But "would" is a question of opinion; it's a value judgement. "Can" is a question of physical possibility.

              Wyden is operating on the (entirely reasonable) assumption that if an intelligence agency has an opportunity to do something shady, it will do so, even if it's against the law.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2017 @ 6:22pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Am I missing something?

                It is also possible that it received conversations from ETs.

                It's possible.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2017 @ 2:21pm

    "Not wittingly."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2017 @ 12:31am

    "Remember, folks, when Senator Ron Wyden asks certain questions or suggests something nefarious is going on behind the scenes, you'd best listen."

    Why? Nothing has ever been forthcoming from this person. Nothing. Of course, he knows the answers to the questions he is asking. When the ones he asks the questions of refuse to acknowledge said questions he remains the only one with the answers, because despite any threat that he may reveal the answer when others will not, he has never done so. Not once. Not ever. There is nothing special about Wyden at all. Not one thing.

    Quit trumping fellow jews because they're jews. You're too systematic about doing that to "not be doing that". YOU'RE DOING THAT.

    My toejam has more credibility than Wyden (and you).

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

    • icon
      The Wanderer (profile), 20 Jun 2017 @ 5:40am

      Re:

      Because the fact that he asks the question serves as a signal that there is something going on behind the scenes, even if he doesn't explicitly reveal what that something is.

      (Also, flagged for blatant anti-Semitism. If it's somehow supposed to be some kind of metaphor, you're being too subtle about it.)

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


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