from the let's-try-that-anywhere-else dept
"These are not willful violations, they are not malicious, these are not people trying to break the law," John DeLong, NSA director of compliance, told reporters.Except... the NSA also admitted separately:
Mr. DeLong reported, however, "a couple" of willful violations in the past decade. He didn't provide details.Wait, hadn't Keith Alexander just told us that there had never been a willful violation?
Meanwhile, Senator Feinstein is trying a similar "but they didn't mean it" argument with her statement:
The majority of these ‘compliance incidents’ are, therefore, unintentional and do not involve any inappropriate surveillance of Americans.Two points in response to this. First, John DeLong admitted during the call that there have been willful violations. Feinstein -- the person in charge of oversight -- is claiming that she's never heard of an instance of intentional abuse. Either she's really, really, really bad at her job and should be removed from the Intelligence Committee, or she's lying (and should be removed from the Intelligence Committee).
As I have said previously, the committee has never identified an instance in which the NSA has intentionally abused its authority to conduct surveillance for inappropriate purposes.
Second, the next time someone is accused of a crime, can they just say they didn't intend to violate the law and get away with it? Because that seems to be what the NSA and Feinstein are saying here. Good news for Ed Snowden and Bradley Manning, right? Both of them have made it abundantly clear that they didn't "intend" any harm at all. In fact, they "intended" to help America. So, based on Feinstein and the NSA's reasoning, they should be in the clear, right?
The other talking point, which we'd briefly discussed last week is this idea that because these abuses are such a small part of the NSA's overall surveillance, this isn't a problem. The NSA's DeLong tried this line of reasoning as well:
The official, John DeLong, the N.S.A. director of compliance, said that the number of mistakes by the agency was extremely low compared with its overall activities. The report showed about 100 errors by analysts in making queries of databases of already-collected communications data; by comparison, he said, the agency performs about 20 million such queries each month.Other defenders of stamping out the 4th Amendment, like commentator David Frum, bizarrely argued that as long as the NSA does more spying, that's actually better because the ratio of abuse to spying is so low. Uh, that's not how it works.
Again, going back to the Snowden and Manning examples, for the vast, vast majority of their lives, neither of them leaked a damn thing. It was really just one day in their life that they leaked something. So, according to the reasoning of the NSA and Frum, they couldn't have broken the law, since it was such a tiny, tiny part of their lives, right?
Does anyone actually think these arguments make sense? Systematic abuses of the system are not okay just because they're not "intentional," and they're not okay just because they're a small percentage of all the spying the NSA does. This is still about the NSA breaking the law, and then failing to have any real oversight concerning its activities (not to mention lying about these abuses repeatedly).