The National Security Agency and its closest allies planned to hijack data links to Google and Samsung app stores to infect smartphones with spyware, a top-secret document reveals…
The main purpose of the workshops was to find new ways to exploit smartphone technology for surveillance. The agencies used the Internet spying system XKEYSCORE to identify smartphone traffic flowing across Internet cables and then to track down smartphone connections to app marketplace servers operated by Samsung and Google.
Branded "IRRITANT HORN" by the NSA's all-caps random-name-generator, the pilot program looked to perform man-in-the-middle attacks on app store downloads in order to attach malware/spyware payloads -- the same malicious implants detailed in an earlier Snowden leak.
In addition to discovering that phone ID info, along with geolocation data and search queries, was being sent without encryption, the researchers also found that clearing the app cache failed to remove DNS information -- which could allow others to reconstruct internet activity. Citizen Lab has informed the makers of UC Browser of its many vulnerabilities, something the Five Eyes intelligence agencies obviously had no interest in doing.
But IRRITANT HORN went beyond simply delivering malicious implants to unsuspecting users. The Five Eyes agencies also explored the idea of using compromised communication lines to deliver disinformation and counter-propaganda.
[The agencies] were also keen to find ways to hijack them as a way of sending “selective misinformation to the targets’ handsets” as part of so-called “effects” operations that are used to spread propaganda or confuse adversaries. Moreover, the agencies wanted to gain access to companies’ app store servers so they could secretly use them for “harvesting” information about phone users.
As is the case with each new leak, the involved agencies have either declined to comment or have offered the standard defensive talking points about "legal framework" and "oversight," but it's hard to believe any legal mandate or oversight directly OK'ed plans to hijack private companies' servers for the purpose of spreading malware and disinformation. And, as is the case with many other spy programs, IRRITANT HORN involves a lot of data unrelated to these agencies' directives being captured and sifted through in order to find suitable targets for backdoors and implants.
The nice thing about hating both of America's stupid political parties is you get to make fun of everyone. That said, occasionally one political candidate or another says something so stupidly wrong to support a stupidly wrong political position that your brain screeches to a halt aghast. Today's cerebellum stopper is Chris Christie, who most commentators seem to think is going to be running in the next presidential election. If he continues this line of, "Civil liberties are for extremists and NSA spying concerns are baloney because 9/11" rhetoric, however, it's probably going to be a short foray into the primaries.
Civil liberties advocates’ fears about the government’s intelligence efforts are “baloney,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will say Monday during a speech in the early primary state of New Hampshire, calling for expanded American military and intelligence programs.
The government is not the enemy when it comes to fighting terrorist threats, he will say, according to a copy of his prepared remarks provided by his political action committee.
Christie went on to say in that speech that the American people should not listen to Edward Snowden, because Snowden is a criminal, and also Vladimir Putin, and especially because 9/11, obviously. It's an interesting political move, I think, considering that a majority of Americans believe the government has overreached on domestic spying, but I'm not here to tell Christie how to run his campaign. I am here to tell him that he isn't allowed to make plainly false claims about this country's ideals and the people that developed them, however.
“There are going to be some who are going to come before you and are going to say, ‘Oh, no, no, no. This is not what the Founders intended.’ The Founders made sure that the first obligation of the American government was to protect the lives of the American people, and we can do this in a way that’s smart and cost-effective and protects civil liberties. But you know, you can’t enjoy your civil liberties if you’re in a coffin.”
This, in case you're confused, is absolute nonsense. That's not to say that protecting American lives wasn't high on the founding fathers' list of things to do. It certainly was. It appears just below protecting their freedom, however. Christie suggesting that it was the founding fathers' intention to negotiate some compromise between freedom and safety is fiction. Man, if only there was some catchy phrase from a historical figure that could some this all up for me in an easily reproducable, easy-to-tweet to Christie fashion.
Damned extremists, always trying to, you know, start the country that Christie is now going to run for chief executive of. There are other examples, of course, although the chief example of the founding fathers' willingness to put freedom before safety is probably, oh I don't know, the Revolutionary War. I wasn't there, but I'm pretty sure that war wasn't all that safe.
Look, the point of all this is that 9/11, while certainly not forgotten, is in the rearview mirror and can't be invoked as the boogeyman to push bad, freedom-thieving policy on Americans any longer. We've had over a decade of that and it just isn't going to work any more. But, hey, if Chris Christie wants to make himself un-electable, I'm all for it. Give me a better candidate or give me death.
Against all the odds, legal challenges to UK surveillance are succeeding, as Techdirt has reported. At the forefront of bringing cases against GCHQ is the rights group Privacy International. In May 2014 it asserted that GCHQ's activities were illegal under the UK's Computer Misuse Act (CMA), which criminalizes breaking into digital systems. A year later, and just hours before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal hearing of Privacy International's complaint against GCHQ, the UK government revealed the following:
only a few weeks after the claim was filed, the [UK] Government quietly introduced legislation on 6 June 2014 that would amend the CMA to provide a new exception for law enforcement and GCHQ to hack without criminal liability. The change not only affects Privacy International's claim, but also grants UK law enforcement new leeway to potentially conduct cyber attacks within the UK.
That is, the UK government was implicitly admitting that GCHQ's activities were, once again, illegal, but fixed that problem with the simple expedient of changing the law to make them legal. That on its own is questionable, although some might say that spies and the police need to have immunity when carrying out certain authorized acts. But the real issue here is another: the fact that this change was pushed through with none of the usual scrutiny or debate accorded to laws with important effects. As Privacy International explains, although the UK government published an explanatory note about the proposed amendment, it neglected to mention its true impact. Moreover:
It appears no regulators, commissioners responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, the Information Commissioner's Office, industry, NGOs or the public were notified or consulted about the proposed legislative changes. There was no published Privacy Impact Assessment. Only the Ministry of Justice, Crown Prosecution Service, Scotland Office, Northern Ireland Office, GCHQ, Police and National Crime Agency were consulted as stakeholders. There was no public debate.
This is essentially secret law-making, where the only people consulted are the ones who will benefit. That's troubling at the best of times, but especially so in the context of a government abusing its powers to avoid yet another embarrassing defeat in the courts.
Earlier this week, the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of the USA Freedom Act, which takes some small steps towards limiting the NSA's surveillance efforts. And, in fact, as Rep. Justin Amash has pointed out, many of the no votes actually came from people who felt USA Freedom doesn't go nearly far enough (which is true). As we mentioned at the time, the fight now moves to the Senate, and the opening gambit is that Senator Mitch McConnell has pushed out a "short term" reauthorization, that would just renew Section 215 through July 31st, supposedly to give the Senate more time to "debate" this issue. This is as opposed to his original bill that renewed it through 2020.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday issued a clear and direct joint statement declaring their intent to oppose any extension of the Patriot Act's expiring surveillance authorities that does not end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of U.S. call data.
"We will not agree to any extension of the NSA's bulk-collection program, which has already been ruled unlawful by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals," the group, which includes Sens. Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee in addition to Reps. Bob Goodlatte, John Conyers, Jim Sensenbrenner, and Jerrold Nadler, said.
Meanwhile, on the flip side, you have McConnell and Senate Intelligence Committee boss Senator Richard Burr spewing pure nonsense about how not renewing Section 215 will somehow put us all at risk:
"We're not taking up the House bill," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, another defender of the NSA, told reporters Wednesday. "The program as designed is effective, and members are reluctant to change things that are effective just because of public opinion."
Burr said he views the USA Freedom Act as "one and the same" as allowing the Patriot Act provisions to expire entirely. "Because when you do away with bulk storage, you basically have an unworkable system in real-time," he said.
Almost everything Burr states above is totally false. First of all, the program "as designed" is not effective. That's the conclusion of almost everyone who has looked at the details. The White House task force set up to study the program said that it couldn't find any terror attacks stopped by the program. Three Senators on the Intelligence Committee have said the program has never been useful. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) could find no justification for the program. A district court judge, Richard Leon, spoke out about how surprised he was that the DOJ presented no evidence that the program was useful.
How stupid does Burr think everyone is to then go out there and claim that the program is "effective" and that the Senate believes it's effective.
Separately, the argument that "doing away with bulk storage" creates an "unworkable system" makes no sense either. Given the recent 2nd Circuit ruling, it also appears to be advocating for a program that is both illegal and unconstitutional.
And, of course, that raises a separate point. Even if the Senate does a clean renewal of Section 215, the court has already ruled that that law does not allow for such bulk collection/storage. So, Burr can't claim it's necessary to renew 215 to keep bulk collection, since the law does not actually allow that.
A lot of this is just idiotic political posturing. As Amash notes, this may all just be a game by McConnell and other surveillance state supporters in the Senate to water down an already weak USA Freedom Act bill to make it even less useful (or worse).
Either way, this is all going to come to a head next week. The Senate wants to get this done by the 22nd of May (even though Section 215 doesn't expire until the end of the month), as they're not supposed to be in session the final week of the month. Stay tuned for next week...
Showing that Congress realizes that at least something needs to be done to reform the surveillance state, the House voted overwhelmingly for the USA Freedom Act today, 338 to 88 (a significantly higher margin than when they approved last year's -- much weaker -- bill). Now, the big question is what will the Senate do? It can try to push forward with Mitch McConnell's preferred plan of just re-upping Section 215 for another few years with no changes and no restrictions. It can pass basically the same USA Freedom Act. Or, it can pass an even stronger surveillance reform bill. Chances are that it will pass the same bill that the House just passed -- but many are pushing for a stronger bill.
Senator Ron Wyden has said that he's looking to strengthen the Senate version, in particular trying to end backdoor searches under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act:
“I am working with Senate colleagues to pass additional reforms, particularly ending the warrantless backdoor searches of Americans' personal electronic communications under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. And I have made it clear I will fight any effort to extend mass surveillance of Americans’ records through a straight renewal of the Patriot Act – even a short-term one.
“Supporters of dragnet surveillance are fighting to preserve the status quo, but the American public is rightfully demanding a change. It is time for mass surveillance to end, and I will filibuster any attempt to extend this illegal surveillance, which violates core American rights without making our country any safer.
Meanwhile, Rep. Zoe Lofgren expressed similar concerns in the floor debate before the passage of the bill, noting that it could have been better. She voted for it, but hoped that her colleagues in the Senate would fix things like the backdoor loophole. As she noted, it's an important step forward, but it did not go far enough:
"The USA FREEDOM Act makes meaningful reforms to a few of our nation's surveillance programs. I applaud the bill's authors who worked to make sure these improvements were included.
"But this bill does not end all of the warrantless bulk collection of US persons' communications and data. While the legislation does not create these privacy violations, it fails to address widely reported privacy violations that occur under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act and Executive Order 12333.
"The House voted last year to close these backdoor forms of warrantless bulk surveillance by an overwhelming margin of 293-123. Reformers were blocked by Leadership and the Rules Committee from considering those much needed improvements to this bill today.
"Continuing these backdoor surveillance programs is wrong, detrimental to our economy, our competitiveness abroad, and the public's trust. It's time to end these serious privacy violations so that our government adheres to the constitution and protects electronic privacy.
"This bill is an improvement over the status quo. During Committee consideration the Judiciary Chairman and others assured reformers that once this bill passed we will quickly address backdoor surveillance loopholes under Section 702 and Executive Order 12333. If these commitments are not kept, reformers will reconsider their support for this legislation when it returns to the House from the Senate."
Again, this bill is a step forward, and the very fact that this debate is happening at all is a sign of how much impact the Snowden leaks have legitimately had on this debate. But, as most people recognize, there is still much to be done -- and the first part of that should happen over the next week in the Senate.
Senator Bob Corker, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appears to now be calling for the NSA to spy on more Americans, rather than fewer, arguing that the metadata collection program that is currently being debated in Congress is so small that he considers it negligent.
"It's almost malpractice," Corker said at a breakfast for reporters hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. "That's the best word I can use to describe the amount of data that is being collected."
Corker, who said the NSA's data collection needs to be "ramped up hugely", was reacting to a closed-door briefing that national security officials held Tuesday to brief senators on federal surveillance programs....
"I think there was an aha moment (Tuesday) for people on both sides of the aisle when we realized how little data is being collected.... It's beyond belief how little data is part of this program, especially if the goal is to uncover terrorists."
Now, this is the same Senator Corker who originally was quite disturbed when he first heard about the very same program after it was leaked by Ed Snowden (suggesting he was completely unaware of it prior to it leaking, despite being a Senator). Back in June of 2013, he sent an angry letter to the President about how such "broad collection" raised "extremely serious concerns."
But now he thinks the NSA should actually be spying on more Americans? It sounds like the NSA briefing that was just given to Senators was designed to really ramp up the fear-mongering.
Compared to its early days, when releases of material like Collateral Murder dominated public discourse for weeks, Wikileaks is now only a shadow of its former self, eclipsed largely by Snowden's leaks. That's understandable, perhaps: Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for nearly three years, and it has been hard for the organization to raise funds to pay Wikileaks' running costs. However, that reduced visibility and activity doesn't mean it's not still releasing valuable material, particularly in the area of trade agreements. Today, it has published another interesting set of documents, this time from the field of surveillance:
WikiLeaks releases ten months of transcripts from the ongoing German Parliamentary inquiry into NSA activities in Germany. Despite many sessions being technically public, in practice public understanding has been compromised as transcripts have been withheld, recording devices banned and reporters intrusively watched by police.
WikiLeaks is releasing 1,380 pages of transcripts from the unclassified sessions, covering 34 witnesses – including 13 concealed witnesses from Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). The transcripts cover from the start of the inquiry in May 2014 through to February 2015.
WikiLeaks has also written summaries of each session in German and English as the inquiry, due to its subject matter, is of international significance.
This underlines an important aspect of Wikileaks' work: the fact that it seeks to make the documents it releases useful by providing commentary, summaries and indexes. Those valuable additions are often overlooked, but can play a crucial role in helping people understand the raw material provided.
The German parliamentary inquiry has been rumbling on for a year now, but has gained renewed importance with the recent revelations that the German spy service, the BND, has been searching through its databases using "selectors" (keywords) provided by the NSA, with apparently no oversight. Not only were many of the targets for those selectors EU citizens, but they included senior politicians and industry figures, too. Here's Wikileaks' summary:
One of the biggest scandals to emerge from the inquiry so far is the recent "selector" spy target list scandal where a BND official revealed that the agency was expected to spy on thousands of targets at the instruction of the NSA. These targets included members of the French government and European industry. This put into question Germany's suitability in taking a leadership role in the European Union. It also showed that international co-operation on mass surveillance, which has been marketed in public as a counter-terrorism measure, is in practice also used by the United States for the purposes of industrial espionage and geopolitical advantage vis-a-vis members of the European Union. The committee requested the full "selector" list of targets provided to the BND by the NSA. The committee was told that the US would first need to be asked permission for the list to be revealed to the committee (even in confidence). Last Wednesday, 6 May 2015, when the answer was meant to be delivered, stalling tactics were used, leaving the German public, and the Parliamentary inquiry, without any ability to understand what their own secret services are up to.
The "selector" scandal has now reached the highest political echelons in Germany, with Angela Merkel's earlier outrage over NSA spying -- not least against herself -- looking hypocritical at best, or dangerously naive at worst. Wikileaks' latest release therefore comes at just the right moment for those seeking to understand what has been going on in Germany. It's also a timely reminder that Wikileaks is still able to perform an important service in this respect, despite its straitened circumstances.
There has been some concern all along that the new USA Freedom Act, isn't necessarily a good deal -- but for the most part folks in the civil liberties world tended to agree with the general view well presented by Access, that the USA Freedom Act is "better than nothing, but less than we deserve." That is, it is reform in the right direction, if very limited. Yes, there were some who disagreed, leading to a bit of a split among individuals and groups who are normally together on issues like this. Last week's big ruling about NSA surveillance under Section 215 throws a wrench in just about everything, however.
It was a huge win, but it immediately raised a bunch of questions. Currently on the table (and requiring some sort of vote before June 1st -- or Section 215 disappears...) are two main proposals. The USA Freedom Act, which renews Section 215, but somewhat limits the ability of the NSA to use that authority for bulk collection, and Mitch McConnell's bill that just re-authorizes Section 215 straight up, through 2020. Before the ruling last week, McConnell's plan seemed absolutely ridiculous. But revisit it under last week's ruling. One could make the argument that if Congress just took up McConnell on his offer, and renewed 215... it would still lead to the end of the bulk data collection, because the Second Circuit has now said that Section 215 doesn't authorize such a program. This, of course, would be subject to an appeal and a big fight and an eventual Supreme Court decision, so there's some risk involved and it might not end up where things are now. But, suddenly, one could argue that McConnell's bill actually would cut off the program that people are so focused on killing off (leaving aside the other surveillance programs).
And, given that fact, the USA Freedom Act seems like even less of a good deal, because it actually lays out more specifically ways in which the NSA can collect data, if probably not quite everyone's data. So, under that ruling again, it's arguable that the current USA Freedom Act would lead to greater NSA surveillance than even renewing Section 215! That's kind of mixed up and crazy.
Either way, this shakeup has made people realize that USA Freedom may no longer be the best option on the table. There's a new ground floor to deal with here -- and that means that folks like the EFF, who grudgingly supported USA Freedom as an interim step, have now pulled their support, arguing that USA Freedom needs much more in it to make it worthwhile again:
In light of the Second Circuit’s decision, EFF asks Congress to strengthen its proposed reform of Section 215, the USA Freedom Act. Pending those improvements, EFF is withdrawing our support of the bill. We’re urging Congress to roll the draft back to the stronger and meaningful reforms included in the 2013 version of USA Freedom and affirmatively embrace the Second Circuit’s opinion on the limits of Section 215.
Most importantly, the Second Circuit’s correct interpretation of the law should be expressly embraced by Congress in order to avoid any confusion going forward about what the key terms in the statute mean, especially the terms “relevant” and “investigation.” This recognition could be in the bill itself or, less preferably, in legislative history. The House Judiciary Committee has already included such language in its report to the full House of Representatives, but now the Senate must include the language in the bill or in its own legislative history. This easy task will make sure that the law is not read as rejecting the Second Circuit’s reading and will help ensure that the USA Freedom Act actually accomplishes its goal of ending bulk collection.
As the EFF statement notes:
This is also an opportunity and a new context for Congress to address the shortcomings of the newly introduced USA Freedom Act that we previously wrote about. Congress should put back key provisions that were dropped along the way as well as remove those that were introduced at the behest of the intelligence community.
First, the "super minimization" procedures, which were key privacy procedures that mandated the deletion of any information obtained about a person not connected to the investigation, should be reintroduced. Key provisions establishing a higher legal standard and compliance assessment for the use of pen register/trap-and-trace devices, legal standing to sue the government over surveillance practices, and the original transparency provisions allowing government and corporate disclosure of surveillance orders should also be resuscitated.
Second, provisions introduced by the intelligence community that must be deleted include an increase in the maximum sentence for material support to terrorism to 20 years. Another change was the introduction of a clause allowing the intelligence community to obtain an emergency exception to spy within the United States on a “non-United States person” for 72 hours—without any court order. These were added as “sweeteners” without any public showing that they are necessary.
The next few weeks are going to be rather interesting. At the very least, last week's ruling threw a bit of a wrench into the way most people expected this fight to play out.
The Second Circuit decision has changed the playing field. Members like Senators Leahy and Mike Lee and Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner, Robert Goodlatte, and John Conyers should be applauded for working incredibly hard to get the USA Freedom Act through Congress. Yet as a result of the Second Circuit decision, the USA Freedom Act's modest changes appear even smaller compared to the now judicially recognized problems with the mass collection of Americans’ records. We've supported the USA Freedom Act through allthreeiterations, more reluctantly each time, but with this new court opinion we’ve decided that Congress can significantly strengthen the bill if we are to support it.
The Second Circuit aptly compared the current debate to the troubledtimes of the 1970s. Two years ago Senator Leahy mentioned that his first vote in the Senate was for the Senate resolution that created the Church Committee. The Church Committee investigated the intelligence community for three years and ushered in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978—one of the most robust surveillance reform bills ever. In that same speech, Senator Leahy vowed to "recalibrate" a failing surveillance system via the USA Freedom Act.
We urge Senator Leahy and others to draw upon the vigor of that first vote to push for a stronger reform bill. The Second Circuit’s decision mandates we not settle for less and that we strengthen the USA Freedom Act so it better protects our rights and freedoms.
The document cites Zaidan as an example to demonstrate the powers of SKYNET, a program that analyzes location and communication data (or “metadata”) from bulk call records in order to detect suspicious patterns.
Now, there are a few interesting things that come out of this. First, the NSA has phone metadata on phones in Pakistan. That's found in the other released presentation on the NSA's "SKYNET" (yes, SKYNET) program:
But, perhaps the much more interesting tidbit is that this detailed report showing why they think Zaidan is a key Al Qaida courier shows a huge problem with metadata. When you think about it, it really should not be at all surprising that a journalist who is one of the leading reporters covering Al Qaeda might have phone metadata similar to someone who is actually in Al Qaeda. It's likely that he tries to contact them a lot and that he goes to where they are a lot. That's called being a reporter. But, to the NSA, those sorts of distinctions don't matter. Remember, former NSA boss Michael Hayden has outright admitted that "we kill people based on metadata."
Metadata reveals an awful lot, but there may be alternative explanations for those patterns. But when you get so focused on the data itself, you fall into this trap of believing what the data suggests may be true, because it looks so analytical. The idea that it might be a "false positive" and that there might be an alternative explanation (i.e., a reporter covering Al Qaeda is likely to have similar metadata) doesn't even seem to enter into the equation...
By now, one hopes, you've seen this video of James Clapper lying to Senator Ron Wyden and the American public while testifying before Congress in early 2013:
Here's the key transcript:
Wyden: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
Clapper: No sir.
Wyden: It does not?
Clapper: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect—but not wittingly.
This was a lie. Many people believed it was a lie at the time, but that was confirmed thanks to the documents leaked by Ed Snowden, who later claimed that seeing that bit of testimony helped convince him that he needed to go through with his plan to leak this information.
James Clapper, of course, is the Director of National Intelligence, and the heads of the various intelligence agencies basically report in to him. He's still in that job, which many people argue is a complete travesty. He flat out lied to Congress and got away with it.
What's been really odd is that the story as to why Clapper lied seems to keep changing. When questioned about this, Clapper's initial response was that he thought that Wyden was asking about collection of email information, which is clearly not the case if you just listen to the actual question. Wyden, pretty clearly, says "any type of data at all." About a week later, Clapper changed his story, saying that he believed the question was an unfair "loaded question" (he compared it to the "when did you stop beating your wife" type of question -- even though it's not that at all) and then said that he gave "the least untruthful answer."
This didn't make much sense either -- and it made even less sense when Senator Wyden revealed that he didn't just spring this question on Clapper, but had sent it to Clapper's office a day ahead so he could review the question and be aware of what he was to be asked. On top of that, Wyden revealed that after Clapper's answer -- which Wyden knew was false -- Wyden staffers sent a letter to Clapper asking him if he wanted to amend his answer, and Clapper's office refused to do so.
Finally, about a month later, Clapper finally admitted that he lied, now claiming that it was all a "mistake."
"mistakes will happen, and when I make one, I correct it."
Except... he had been given the chance to correct it and he didn't. It was only after it was publicly revealed (via Snowden and Glenn Greenwald) that Clapper was outright lying that he claimed he made "a mistake." But, even then, it only came after pretending he misheard the question, then claiming that it was a loaded question (when it was not). And then, of course, months later, Clapper could pretend, with the benefit of hindsight, that he should have been more forthright about the program, but that's difficult to believe. And none of it matters, because the DOJ refuses to investigate Clapper for lying.
And yet, Clapper's story continues to keep changing. Late last year, he tried to rewrite the story, suggesting that he was sandbagged and caught off-guard, rather than lying:
“When I got accused of lying to congress because of a mistake ... I had to answer on the spot about a specific classified program in a general, unsecure setting.”
“This was not an untruth or a falsehood. This was just a mistake on his part,” Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said during a panel discussion hosted by the Advisory Committee on Transparency on Friday.
“We all make mistakes.”
Litt on Friday said that Clapper merely did not have a chance to prepare an answer for Wyden and forgot about the phone records program when asked about it on the spot.
“We were notified the day before that Sen. Wyden was going to ask this question and the director of national intelligence did not get a chance to review it,” Litt said.
“He was hit unaware by the question,” Litt added. “After this hearing I went to him and I said, ‘Gee, you were wrong on this.’ And it was perfectly clear that he had absolutely forgotten the existence of the 215 program.”
Instead, Litt said, Clapper had been thinking about separate programs authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the NSA has used to collect massive amounts of foreigners’ Internet data. The law explicitly prohibits the government from gathering the same kind of data about Americans, unless t is “incidental.”
“If you read his answer it is perfectly clear that he was thinking about the 702 program,” Litt said. “When he is talking about not wittingly collecting, he is talking about incidental collection.”
Litt, he said, also erred after the hearing by not sending a letter to the panel to correct the mistake.
First of all, while Litt at least is admitting that Wyden had sent the question in beforehand, he leaves out the part about Wyden asking Clapper's office the next day if it wanted to amend Clapper's answer. If it's true that Litt immediately told him that Clapper was wrong, then you would think when asked by Wyden if he wanted to amend his answer, he would have done so. He did not. So either Litt told Clapper he was wrong and Clapper said, "Hey, let's let that lie stand," or Litt is not being truthful here either. It wasn't just them not sending a letter correcting the mistake, but it was directly rejecting Wyden's staff specifically asking them if they wanted to correct the record. That shows that any claim that Clapper just "forgot" or even "misspoke" has to be a flat out lie, since he had a clear opportunity to correct the mistake and was even asked to do so, and consciously chose not to do so.
But much more importantly, considering just how much Clapper and others have been prattling on for years about how "crucial" and "important" the bulk phone records collection is in protecting the American public, it is simply unbelievable to argue that Clapper would "forget" about the program. Either that means the program is not important at all... or that someone is lying.
The fact that Clapper's story on this keeps changing suggests he still can't come to admit the obvious answer: he didn't want to reveal his beloved secret program, and so he lied. He just flat out lied. And he's still lying in failing to admit that.