NSA Seeks To Reassure Family & Friends Of NSA Employees & Contractors By Sending A Letter With More Lies
from the turning-inward dept
Think all these stories about the NSA's surveillance overreach and abuses are getting to the folks there? Kevin Gosztola at Firedoglake has the details on a letter the NSA has given to all of its employees and contractors, which it tells them they can print out to share with "loved ones" to reassure them that their NSA-working spouse/parent/child/best friend isn't, technically, evil. Or at least I think that's the idea. The letter suggests no self-reflection. It suggests no recognition of why people are concerned about both the breadth of the surveillance, as well as the thousands of reported abuses. It's very much a circling of the wagons approach, insisting that the coverage has been unfair and biased. Gosztola has a thorough debunking of pretty much the entire letter at the link above (go read it), but I wanted to highlight a couple sections:
In concert with our mission, NSA/CSS employees are trained from the first day on the job, and regularly thereafter, to respect the privacy and civil liberties of US citizens. We go to great lengths to achieve our goal of no mistakes. However, we are human and, because the environment of law and technology within which we operate is so complex and dynamic, mistakes sometimes do occur. That's where the unique aspect of our culture comes into play. We self-report those mistakes, analyze them, and take action to correct the root causes.First off, being trained to respect privacy and civil liberties and actually doing so are separate things. And the NSA doesn't have a good track record there at all. Gosztola highlights many historical examples of blatant abuse by the NSA. But I'd highlight a different point. Yes, they self-report mistakes, but they are assuming (almost certainly incorrectly) that they are catching and reporting every mistake. Considering, as has been stated repeatedly, that it's taken them months to figure out what Snowden himself did, then it's pretty clear that the NSA is not catching, self-reporting and analyzing every mistake -- and it's highly likely that many more are occurring without anyone noticing.
Furthermore, the fact that their system requires "self-reporting" to guarantee compliance shows the lack of real oversight here. Yes, it's great when they do self-report those mistakes. But that doesn't excuse the abuses, and there are a lot of abuses. Furthermore, the fact that the NSA then bent over backwards to keep the reports of those abuses (and the overreaches) classified to keep it all out of public scrutiny speaks volumes.
But, more importantly, there's no denying that this letter flat out lies about the NSA's activities:
The other big story being missed by many in the media is how effective NSA/CSS is in accomplishing its mission. In open hearings this year, we spoke to Congress about how NSA/CSS actions contributed to keeping the Nation and its allies safe from 54 different terrorist plots.That's not true. Not only is it not true, it was admitted to be not true by John Inglis, Deputy Director of the NSA and the guy who co-signed this letter with Keith Alexander. As we had just recently discussed that "54" number is highly misleading. First off, it is not, as the letter states, 54 plots. Rather, it was "potential terrorist events" and they include providing "material support to terrorists." In other words, some of those 54 include things like someone trying to send some money to groups designated as a terrorist group. While it's great that this was stopped, it's quite misleading to claim that's a terrorist "plot." Furthermore, when push came to shove, Inglis admitted under oath that the NSA's efforts "made a contribution" to the efforts against those plots but was only "critical" in one actual plot -- the Zazi NYC subway case. And, as others have pointed out, the details suggest that the NSA's involvement there wasn't that important and traditional police work did the real heavy lifting.
But, it appears, the NSA has committed itself to repeating the myth of stopping 54 "plots" even though their own statements show that's not true.
And really, that's what this all comes back to. The NSA can't seem to stop misrepresenting the truth. And that's even when sending a letter to their loved ones. Yes, the intelligence community is one in which misdirection, half-truths and outright lies are how you do your job -- but that's antithetical to the concept of oversight. And that's where the problem lies. Sure, the NSA believes it's "unique" in that it self-confesses certain abuses -- the ones it catches -- but it works very hard to misrepresent its own activities to pretty much everyone. It misrepresents to Congressional oversight committees, to the FISA Court, to the general public and now to their loved ones as well.