Saturday, August 17, 2013

Only the NSA Knows what it Knows

Wonkbook: Two gamechanging NSA stories you must read

NSA report on privacy violations in the first quarter of 2012

This is the full executive summary, with names redacted by The Post, of a classified internal report on breaches of NSA privacy rules and legal restrictions.
The report covers the period from January through March 2012 and includes comparative data for the full preceding year. Its author is director of oversight and compliance for the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, but the scope of the report is narrower. Incidents are counted only if they took place within “NSA-Washington,” a term encompassing the Ft. Meade headquarters and nearby facilities. The NSA declined to provide comparable figures for its operations as a whole. A senior intelligence official said only that if all offices and directorates were included, the number of violations would “not double.”

In a companion story today, the chief judge of the U.S. surveillance courts made clear how much he doesn’t know, telling the Washington Post that “The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court. The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing [government] compliance with its orders.”
This is the reality of the NSA spying programs: Aside from Snowden’s leaks, we only know what the government is telling us. Of course, that’s always the case with intelligence operations. What’s scarier is that the oversight bodies only know what the government is telling them, too.

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