FBI Asks Congress To Permanently Reauthorize The Phone Record Collection The NSA Voluntarily Shut Down

from the IC's-make-a-wish-foundation dept

Earlier this year, the NSA -- after a few months of hedging -- finally mothballed its phone record collection program. The modified phone metadata collection had posed problems for the NSA since its remodeling with the enactment of the USA Freedom Act, which forced the NSA to ask telcos for specific records, rather than just demanding they hand over everything on a rolling 90-day basis.

Whatever benefits this program provided to the NSA was apparently outweighed by the technical problems it created. After hinting at its impending death on a podcast of all things, the NSA made it (sort of) official in May, saying it didn't see any reason to move forward with the collection, not after it had already been unofficially shut down for several months by that point.

The NSA may not need the phone records collection but it appears the FBI thinks it does. The easiest way for Congress to codify the program's shut down would be to let it expire at the end of this year. FBI Director Chris Wray is hoping to prevent a do-nothing Congress from doing nothing and letting the clock run out on the metadata collection.

Wray's testimony to the Senate Intelligence Community asks legislators to flip the switch back to "ON."

NSA’s decision to suspend the CDR program does not mean that Congress should allow the CDR authority to expire. Rather, that decision shows that the Executive Branch is a responsible steward of the authority Congress afforded it, and that the numerous constraints on the government imposed by the FREEDOM Act, including oversight by the FISC, are demanding and effective. As technology changes, our adversaries’ tradecraft and communications habits continue to evolve and adapt. In light of this dynamic environment, the administration supports reauthorization of the CDR provision so that the Government will retain this potentially valuable tool should it prove useful in the future.

Yeah, I know. He said the NSA is trustworthy. It isn't, of course. And neither is the FBI for that matter. But the FBI feels strongly that the program the NSA can't operate without violating the law might be useful at some point in the future for whatever reason. And the FBI wants this authorization to be permanent, so it doesn't have to come down to the SSCI and make this pitch every half-decade. But "just in case" isn't really a compelling reason to keep a questionable authority alive, much less forever.

It's not the only thing the FBI wants permanently authorized. It wants the rest of the business records collection -- the stuff that isn't phone records (but IS bank records, hotel records, car rental records, apartment lease records, etc.) -- permanently reauthorized. This gives the FBI and other members of the Intelligence Community (which now includes the CBP) warrantless access to a wealth of records our courts and Congresspeople haven't declared worthy of Fourth Amendment protections.

Then there are the roving wiretaps. The FBI wants those reauthorized forever, despite its history of abuse. And it wants to be able to target random people for almost no reason whatsoever with the "lone wolf" provision. Normally, it's only able to target individuals in terrorism-related investigations by showing they're tied to an international terrorist group. With this provision, it can target non-US persons based on the hunch they might be their own personal terrorist cell.

The FBI says it has never used this provision, which seems like a clear indication it's not really needed. Nevertheless, the FBI feels this -- like the phone metadata collection -- might become useful at some undetermined point in the future and wants to keep its options open.

This is why surveillance reform is an ongoing battle, not something that can be patched up here and there with legislation. Every reform effort contains sunset periods and when those appear on the horizon, IC members start petitioning Congress to not only reauthorize powers they're not even using, but to do so permanently so they don't have to ask for another renewal every half-decade or so. Every sunset contains the potential for a "forever" authorization of powers the IC doesn't like to discuss in public and have likely been abused periodically, if not frequently. At minimum, IC members should be forced to justify the continuance of expiring collections and authorizations. If they can't offer something better than the FBI's offering here, the programs should be allowed to fade from existence.

Filed Under: 4th amendment, congress, fbi, mass surveillance, metadata, nsa, phone metadata, section 215, surveillance


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2019 @ 12:41pm

    Fingers crossed we'll at least have this one drop in the surveillance ocean removed....

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2019 @ 3:48pm

      Re:

      If they're voluntarily giving up this drop, it's because they have a new river they're not telling anyone about.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2019 @ 12:42pm

    To be fair, the current congress passed a really good animal cruelty law and good criminal justice reform.

    Let's hope they call that enough unless they really want to take their budget authority back. However, if they do, they may get bad press for the budget again defeating the whole point of passing budget authority to the White House to begin with.

    Anyway, my computer and phone are still incredibly hacked by at least one probable government and likely more if the people doing it are still fighting it out in my electronics.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2019 @ 12:51pm

    Eat shit, Chris

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Nov 2019 @ 1:33pm

    It would certainly be easier for us

    "NSA’s decision to suspend the CDR program does not mean that Congress should allow the CDR authority to expire. Rather, that decision shows that the Executive Branch is a responsible steward of the authority Congress afforded it, and that the numerous constraints on the government imposed by the FREEDOM Act, including oversight by the FISC, are demanding and effective. As technology changes, our adversaries’ tradecraft and communications habits continue to evolve and adapt. In light of this dynamic environment, the administration supports reauthorization of the CDR provision so that the Government will retain this potentially valuable tool should it prove useful in the future."

    To begin with, the Executive branch has NOT shown itself to be a responsible steward of authority in anything. They operate under the premise that it is better to ask forgiveness than permission, and after having followed that premise they now want it sanctioned.

    Oversight by the FISC has been abysmal. They keep giving permissions where only foreign targets should apply to targeting US targets, and generally, it seems (they won't release enough information to tell for sure) without probable cause. And they won't grant standing when serious questions about the integrity of their decisions are legitimately asked by responsible people and/or groups.

    Then there is the Five Eyes problem. Anything the can't get here they get from them. I am guessing that asking for so many favors from their four partners causes a severe deficit in the favor category and the Executive is now trying to get out from under those burdens.

    They should spend their time and money locking down all those 'dangerously' evolving technologies that regularly adapt to our severely antiquated electronic security. That is if that security exists at all.

    I also have doubts about whether they can keep us 'safe' (whatever that means today) using other methods. Those methods might have other issues, but they worked for a long time before all this 'push button' spying came into vogue.

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

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 12 Nov 2019 @ 1:51pm

    the Executive Branch is a responsible steward of the authority Congress afforded it, and that the numerous constraints on the government imposed by the FREEDOM Act, including oversight by the FISC,

    And here we have proof that Director Wray is preparing for a career in stand up comedy.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2019 @ 2:30pm

    This remake of "The President's Analyst" is really messed up.

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

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 12 Nov 2019 @ 2:56pm

    Bridge for Sale - Cheap

    Earlier this year, the NSA -- after a few months of hedging -- finally mothballed its phone record collection program.

    Did NSA really - cross their pitch black hearts and hope to die - shut down the Patriot Act's section 215 phone collection progeam?

    Would NSA ever tell a lie?

    How would we know.

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

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 12 Nov 2019 @ 3:31pm

    FBI Eavesdroppers are not Good Coppers

    The easiest way for Congress to codify the program's shut down would be to let it expire at the end of this year. FBI Director Chris Wray is hoping to prevent a do-nothing Congress from doing nothing and letting the clock run out on the metadata collection.

    The myopic leadership at FBI ignores 800 billion dollars worth of various forms of waste, fraud and abuse in the US health care system to focus on eavesdropping on Americans private communications.

    Italicized/bold text was excerpted from jamanetwork.com a report titled:

    Waste in the US Health Care System

    Conclusions and Relevance In this review based on 6 previously identified domains of health care waste, the estimated cost of waste in the US health care system ranged from $760 billion to $935 billion, accounting for approximately 25% of total health care spending, and the projected potential savings from interventions that reduce waste, excluding savings from administrative complexity, ranged from $191 billion to $282 billion, representing a potential 25% reduction in the total cost of waste. Implementation of effective measures to eliminate waste represents an opportunity reduce the continued increases in US health care expenditures.

    https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2752664?guestAccessKey=bf8f9802-be69 -4224-a67f-42bf2c53e027&utm_source=For_The_Media&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=ftm_li nks&utm_content=tfl&utm_term=100719

    It is good to see FBI has it's priorities in order.

    PS Nor has FBI refered to DoJ for prosectution any corporate executives responsible for the financial crash of 2008

    Italicized/bold text was excerpted from nytimes.com a report titled:

    In Financial Crisis, No Prosecutions of Top Figures

    It is a question asked repeatedly across America: why, in the aftermath of a financial mess that generated hundreds of billions in losses, have no high-profile participants in the disaster been prosecuted?

    https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/business/14prosecute.html

    FBI clearly is not interested in law enforcement.

    FBI is and has been America's gestapo charged with defending the status quo.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 12 Nov 2019 @ 7:47pm

      Re: FBI Eavesdroppers are not Good Coppers

      Is waste in the health care system really in the FBI's purview?

      In Financial Crisis, No Prosecutions of Top Figures

      Now that should have been a much bigger scandal.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2019 @ 2:32am

    Nothing should be forever.

    No law, no power - and no not even no freedom or right - should ever just be approved forever without possibility of reevaluation.
    The idea that something could just be approved for all future time is preposterous and especially when it is powers that allow for severe consequences for the population.

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


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