“The FISA Court said that the NSA had been routinely ignoring
the privacy protections that the NSA had said had been put in place
governing the use of the telephone records database that it has amassed.
... Turns out the database was queried tens of thousands of times
without that being true.”
- Gregory Nojeim, Atty., Center for Democracy and Technology
Top headline September 10, 2013, U.K.'s The Guardian
with Spencer Ackerman in Washington, D. C.
September 26, 2013 Washington, D. C. - On September 6, 2013, more NSA documents were released from whistleblower Edward Snowden. The leaked documents were reprinted by U. K.'s TheGuardian, its columnist Glenn Greenwald now in Brazil, The New York Times and ProPublica.
Edward Snowden copied thousands of NSA documents about the intelligence agency's highly classified massive surveillance and data collection program of the American people called PRISM. Snowden did this while working for the NSA and CIA under contract at Booz Allen Hamilton, a technology consulting firm in Washington, D. C. and 80 other U. S. offices.
Video screen capture of Richard Snowden, 30,
in a June 6, 2013, interview from a Russian airport he gave
to U. K. Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald
after fleeing from the U. S. On June 14, 2013, U. S. federal prosecutors
charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property.
Snowden fled the United States prior to the publication of his disclosures,
first to Hong Kong, China, and then on to Moscow, Russia, where he was
granted political asylum by the government of Russia at the end of July 2013,
and where he now resides at an undisclosed location.
Documents released by Richard Snowden indicate that NSA's PRISM is “the number one source of raw intelligence used for NSA analytical reports. PRISM accounts for 91% of the NSA's internet traffic acquired under FISA section 702 authority.” That leaked information came the day after the shocking facts that the American FISA Court had been ordering a subsidiary of Verizon Communications to turn over to the NSA daily logs tracking all of its customers' telephone calls.
Wikipedia: PRISM logo for the NSA's clandestine mass electronic
surveillance data mining program known officially by the SIGAD US-984XN,
spying since 2007 when the Protect America Act was passed
under the George W. Bush Administration. The Prism program collects
stored internet communications based on demands made to web
companies such as Google Inc. under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments
Act of 2008. The NSA can use these PRISM requests to target communications
that were encrypted when they traveled across the internet and to focus on
stored data that telecommunication filtering systems discarded earlier.
There is also a classified NSA program code-named BULLRUN in which the NSA hacked encrypted websites and forced Google, Microsoft and other companies to give NSA “back doors” into each company's encryption software.
DNI Clapper Declassifies Some Documents
About NSA “Misrepresentations to FISA Court”
Four days after those disturbing revelations and in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in Washington, D. C., posted some newly declassified NSA surveillance program documents at the DNI website and issued a press release about NSA in 2009 making “unintentional misrepresentations in the way the data collection was described” to the FISA Court, but that all had been rectified by adding 300 people to NSA's gigantic work force of some 40,000 people to provide a compliance program. Director Clapper asserted that only a “handful of compliance incidents each year” since 2009 have occurred.
However, the next day on September 11, 2013, Greg Nojeim, Senior Counsel and Director of the Project on Freedom, Security and Technology at the Center for Democracy and Technology responded to DNI Clapper: “The newly declassified documents from the office of the Director of National Intelligence make clear that the NSA is either unable or unwilling to abide by legal restrictions and properly consider the privacy interests of Americans.”
Yahoo CEO Afraid to Defy NSA
One day after that on September 12, 2013, at the TechCrunch DISRUPT conference in San Francisco, an audience member asked Yahoo's CEO Marissa Meyer why she didn't protect Yahoo users from the "tyrannical government" of NSA and other spy agency requests for information about Yahoo users. Mayer said she was afraid to defy the NSA: “If you don't comply, it is treason. We can't talk about it because it is classified. Releasing classified information is treason, and you are incarcerated. In terms of protecting our users, it makes more sense to work within the system.” Further Mayer explained, “Data requests authorized by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court come with an order barring anyone at a company receiving the request from disclosing anything about them, even their existence” - meaning in George Orwell's 1984 newspeak that NSA requests through the FISA Court aren't supposed to exist.
The next day on September 13, 2013, Judge F. Dennis Saylor – one of eleven federal judges, who takes turns sitting on the FISA Court – directed the government to review for possible public release the FISA Court's classified opinions on the NSA's collecting logs on American phone calls. Judge Saylor focused on two FISA court rulings in 2009 and 2011 in which the FISA Court judges said the NSA had not only violated its own privacy protection rules, but had repeatedly misled the FISA Court.
Recently I asked Gregory Nojeim, Senior Counsel and Director of the Project on Freedom, Security and Technology for the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, D. C., what provoked him to reply to James Clapper's September 10th declassification of some FISA Court documents highly critical of the NSA misleading the Court about its massive surveillance of American citizens.
Play MP3 interview.
Gregory Nojeim, Senior Counsel and Director, Project on Freedom, Security and Technology for the Center for Democracy and Technology, Washington, D. C: “The DNI (Director of National Intelligence James Clapper) released some opinions from the FISA Court. The opinions were disturbing. (The FISA Court under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act oversees the conduct of intelligence surveillance once that intelligence is provided for by statute).
The FISA Court said that the NSA had been routinely ignoring the privacy protections that the NSA said it had put in place governing the use of telephone records. What we learned from this disclosure is that the NSA’s repeated assurance that it only queries the databas, when it has a reasonable suspicion, is hollow.
The data that was released in these opinions shows that tens of thousands of times this data base was queried without that (reasonable suspicion) standard being met even though the NSA was allowed to gather up the data only because it said it would only query it because a person (under surveillance) was tied to terrorism.
Turns out that was not true. Turns out the database was queried tens of thousands of times without that being true. And it also turns out that the FISA Court, the court that is supposed to be enforcing the rules, was mislead by the NSA about exactly what it (NSA) was doing. The FISA Court was none to happy about that and everyone should be concerned because that means there is no real oversight over what the NSA is doing.
IT APPEARS THROUGHOUT ALL OF THIS IN THE SNOWDEN REVELATIONS AND AS THINGS CONTINUED TO EVOLVE - THAT THE FISA COURT, WHICH HAS ALWAYS BEEN PRESENTED TO THE PUBLIC AS BEING A PROTECTOR, HAS IN FACT BEEN WORKED AROUND AND GAMED BY THE NSA FOR A VERY LONG TIME.
That’s right. The FISA court has not been able to play the oversight and control role that it was given in the enabling legislation because the NSA has given the FISA Court false information about what it (NSA) was collecting and what it was doing with the data that it collects. It’s extremely difficult for any court to perform an adequate oversight function when it’s not receiving true data.
I think that one result of these disclosures is going to be added impetus for the legislation that would require that there be a second voice in front of the FISA court when it’s making important decisions and that would be a voice for privacy – a special advocate as envisioned in a bill that Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced back in August 2013. A special advocate would argue for privacy rights in front of a FISA court when the government comes in and says we want to be able to collect and use this very personal data.
NSA'S Utah Data Center
“The former NSA official (Wm. Binney in December 2012)
held his thumb and forefinger close together: ‘We are that far
from a turnkey totalitarian state.’”
- James Bamford, Author, The Shadow Factory (NSA)
1 million square feet is needed for the NSA's Utah Data Center now
going online in Bluffdale, Utah, south of Salt Lake City. How many
below ground levels are there? Is 1 million square feet only the first level?
Photo: Name withheld; digital manipulation by Jesse Lenz for Wired.com.
THE NSA IS COMING ONLINE IN FALL OF 2013 AT AN INSTALLATION CALLED THE UTAH DATA CENTER IN UTAH WITH MORE THAN A MILLION SQUARE FEET IN THE STRUCTURE ALONE. ACCORDING TO WILLIAM BINNEY, WHO WAS ONE OF THE CHIEF ARCHITECTS OF THE NSA’S SOFTWARE OVER SEVERAL DECADES UP TO 9/11 WHEN HE SAID HE WAS ASKED TO TURN THE NSA ON THE AMERICAN PUBLIC. THAT’S WHY HE LEFT THE NSA AND HAS BECOME A WHISTLEBLOWER. WILLIAM BINNEY SAYS THAT THE UTAH DATA CENTER IS GOING TO BASICALLY NOT BE CONTROLLABLE.
IT APPEARS THAT THE NSA IS GOING TO HAVE ACCESS TO EVERY( gigaFLOP, teraFLOP, petaFLOP) DIGITAL BIT THAT IS PRODUCED.
[ Editor’s Note: Wikipedia - In high-performance computing, gigaFLOPS, teraFLOPS, and petaFLOPS are terms used to quantify the rate at which computer systems can perform arithmetic operations on floating-point numbers.]
I don’t know what’s going to happen at the Utah Data Center. I do know that it’s massive. And I do know that the controls and current law are not adequate to prevent abuse.
Can NSA Be Reined In?
A number of ideas are being considered on Capitol Hill to rein in the NSA. I think the most important reform would be more transparency – a requirement that significant decisions by the FISA court be released to the public, possibly in redacted form so that classified information is protected. There needs to be more transparency about the numbers of surveillance requests and the numbers of people whose data is exposed to the NSA as a result of those surveillance requests. There’s legislation to compel that as well.
There also needs to be additional limits on the collection of information about people in the United States, particularly under the Patriot Act. The government has interpreted language in the Patriot Act to mean that it can collect irrelevant data under a relevant standard so long as it only queries the data when a standard is met. This is very different from what Congress authorized. It's very different from one of the lead authors of the Patriot Act said was authorizing the government to do.
And there needs to be additional limits so that the only information that’s collected pertains to a terrorist or a spy or an agent of a foreign power or people who are contacting those terrorists and spies.
I don’t see why it is the case that a record of every phone call made to or from or within the United States has to be collected by the NSA for counter-terrorism reasons. Even intelligence community officials admit that most of those records are never looked at and therefore, I think they are irrelevant.
Is NSA Changing U. S. into Police State?
DON’T YOU THINK THAT ONE OF THE BIG PROBLEMS IS THAT IT’S ONLY PEOPLE WHO UNDERSTAND THAT LEVEL OF TERAFLOP PROGRAMMING AND ACCESSING INFORMATION – WHO CAN EVEN GRASP WHAT IS HAPPENING?
ONE PERSON IN WASHINGTON SAID TO ME: ‘THE NSA IS ACTING LIKE A MAURADING 800-POUND-GORILLA ON WHAT WAS ONCE A DEMOCRACY AND IS NOW BECOMING A POLICE STATE’
I wouldn’t throw in the towel on privacy just yet. Instead, I think we need to put in place mechanisms to protect privacy from overreach by agencies like the NSA. For example, if there is a special advocate who represents the public’s interest at the FISA Court, I see no reason why that special advocate shouldn’t be given the resources to hire some former NSA officials to help him understand exactly what the NSA is doing and what it isn’t doing. Some of those officials now, who have left in frustration, become whistleblowers.
Wouldn’t it be great for some of those officials, who are frustrated and concerned about the NSA’s data collection activities to be advising this (public) advocate about exactly how the NSA does its work so the advocate could be more effective.
IT WAS LESS THAN A YEAR AGO THAT I INTERVIEWED JAMES BAMFORD AFTER HIS (WIRED.com) INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM BINNEY, THE NSA WHISTLEBLOWER, WHO TOLD JAMES BAMFORD THAT FROM HIS POINT OF VIEW OF HAVING WORKED IN THE NSA FOR THREE DECADES AND LEFT BECAUSE HE DID NOT WANT TO TURN THE EARS AND EYES OF THE NSA ON THE AMERICAN PUBLIC – WILLIAM BINNEY PUT HIS THUMB AND INDEX FINGER ONLY A QUARTER-INCH APART AND EXTENDED IT TO JAMES BAMFORD AND SAID, ‘WE ARE THAT CLOSE TO A TURNKEY TOTALITARIAN STATE’ HERE IN AMERICA.
I think we need to put in mechanisms to make sure that key is not turned.
WELL, DO YOU THINK WE ALREADY ARE A POLICE STATE PRETENDING TO BE A RED, BLUE AND WHITE DEMOCRACY?
I don’t think we live in a police state. I do think that we need better protections and that there are ideas that are being considered now to improve the situation.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MIGHT UNFOLD IN CONGRESS ABOUT TRYING TO TAKE MORE CONTROL OF THE NSA?
I think that some members are going to be reluctant to embrace substantive reforms out of fear that they will be accused of letting the terrorists loose on us.
NSA Spying On Own Families and Lovers
U. K.'s The Telegraph, August 24, 2013.
ISN’T IT TRUE THAT IT WAS REVEALED FROM INSIDE BY SOME WHISTLEBLOWER IN COMBINATION WITH SNOWDEN’S REVELATIONS THAT NSA PEOPLE HAVE BEEN USING THE SAME NSA TECHNOLOGY TO LISTEN IN ON THEIR HUSBANDS, WIVES, SISTERS, LOVERS – PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO RELATIONSHIP TO TERRORISM WHATSOEVER, BUT (the NSA) IS JUST SNOOPING ON THEM WITH NSA TECHNOLOGY?
I do recall some revelations about ten incidents in the past few years of NSA personnel using NSA resources to spy for private reasons. And that’s very disturbing.
One would think that there would be adequate audit controls to uncover and prevent that kind of activity. Also disturbing is that so far I haven’t heard of anybody being fired for doing that.
IS THERE ANY WAY THAT CONGRESS COULD PROVIDE MUCH GREATER INSULATING PROTECTION TO WHISTLEBLOWERS IN AGENCIES SUCH AS THE NSA, CIA, DIA, NRO AND SO FORTH?
Yes. Whistleblower protection legislation has been kicking around on Capitol Hill, but has not yet been enacted. I think without the whistleblowers, it is very difficult for the public to learn about abuses. And it’s very difficult for the government and for Congress to learn about abuses. These protections for whistleblowers need to be beefed up.
Protecting whistleblowers, particularly against retaliation and abuse, is critically necessary for the public and for Congress to understand how intelligence authorities are being used. Without the whistleblowers, there isn’t sufficient knowledge and public awareness to allow for reforms.”
September 2013: Obama NSA Spy
Review Panel Meets Secretly
Albuquerque Journal, September 23, 2013.
As some Congressional representatives such as Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have called for new legislation to rein in the NSA's black-budget-fed massive spying on the U. S., the Associated Press reported on Monday, September 23, 2013, that a panel of advisers selected by President Barack Obama in August as “independent experts to scrutinize the NSA's surveillance programs” are in fact working under the name and thumb of James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence.
Associated Press points out the panel is named “Director of National Intelligence Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies. All the panel's meetings in recent weeks with technology industry and privacy groups have been closed to the public even though no classified information was discussed, according to participants.” One of the panel members, Sascha Meinrath, Director of the Open Technology Institute and Vice President at the New America Foundation told AP: “No one can look at this group and say it's completely independent. The closed meetings leave the public out of the loop.”
For further reports about NSA abuses of privacy and U. S. Constitution in prior Earthfiles reports, please see below from Earthfiles Archive.
• 06/16/2013 — ACLU Lawsuit: NSA Massive Spying Unconstitutional
• 06/07/2013 — NSA Is Building America's Largest Spy Center
• 06/06/2013 — Top Secret FISA Order Requires Verizon to Deliver Daily Millions of American Phone Records to NSA
• 03/30/2012 — NSA Is Building America's Largest Spy Center