NSA vast surveillance. DNI releases vast amount of documents.

This was posted on the EFF ( Electronic Frontier Foundation) website a couple weeks ago. The director of National intelligence released over 1000 pages of semi secret documents this morning/ overnight.

In preparation to the articles covering the new release I wanted to highlight some of what the EFF points out.

Time and again we’ve seen the National Security Agency (NSA) defend its vast surveillance apparatus by invoking the spectre of terrorism, discussing its spying powers as a method to keep America safe. Yet, the truth is that counterterrorism is only a fraction of their far broader authority to seek “foreign intelligence information,” a menacing sounding term that actually encapsulates all sorts of innocuous, everyday conversation.

The New York Times demonstrated this disconnect last week, reporting, “the [leaked NSA] documents make clear, the focus on counterterrorism is a misleadingly narrow sales pitch for an agency with an almost unlimited agenda. Its scale and aggressiveness are breathtaking.”

Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, NSA is given a mandate for collecting “foreign intelligence information” but this is not a very substantive limitation, and certainly does not restrict the NSA to counterterrorism—rather, it is defined to include “information with respect to a foreign power … that relates to … the conduct of the foreign affairs of the United States.”

Read that carefully for a minute. Anything “that relates to the foreign affairs of the United States.” Interpreted broadly, this can be political news, anything about economics, it doesn’t even have to involve a crime— basically anything besides the weather. Indeed, given the government penchant for warping and distorting the definitions of words in secret, we wouldn’t be surprised if the government would argue that weather could fall under the umbrella of “foreign intelligence information” too.

Article states further….

So let’s get one thing straight: when the NSA vacuums up millions of innocent people’s communications and metadata, the agency is not limiting itself to counter-terrorism uses. Pretending there is a narrower scope is not an honest way to have a debate.


Electronic Frontier Foundation



The 1000 page release from the DNI

First a quote from Clapper.

In June of this year, President Obama directed me to declassify and make public as much information as possible about certain sensitive programs while being mindful of the need to protect sensitive classified intelligence activities and national security. Since then, I have authorized the declassification and public release of numerous documents pertaining to the government’s collection under Sections 501 and 702 of FISA.

Today I authorized the declassification and public release of additional documents relating to collection under Section 501, bringing the total to nearly 2000 pages of documents released to the public so far, including 20 orders and opinions of the Foreign Surveillance Court, 11 pleadings and other documents submitted to the Court, 24 documents provided to Congress, and 20 reports, training slides, and other internal documents describing the legal basis for the programs and how they operate. The information released today includes a number of internal NSA documents, training slides and internal guidance, which demonstrate the care with which NSA’s foreign intelligence collection pursuant to Section 501 is run, managed, and overseen. Also included is the United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18 which details policies and procedures to ensure NSA’s missions and functions are conducted in a manner that safeguards the constitutional rights of U.S persons, and two opinions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court concerning a now-discontinued NSA bulk electronic communications metadata program. These documents were properly classified and their declassification was not done lightly.

Release of these documents reflects the Executive Branch’s continued commitment to making information about this intelligence collection program publicly available when appropriate and consistent with the national security of the United States. Additionally, they demonstrate the extent to which the Intelligence Community kept both Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court apprised of the status of the collection program under Section 215. Some information has been redacted because these documents include discussion of matters that continue to be properly classified for national security reasons and the harm to national security would be great if disclosed. These documents will be made available at the website of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and at ICOntheRecord.tumblr.com, the public website dedicated to fostering greater public visibility into the intelligence activities of the U.S. Government.

All 1000 plus pages of Documents can be found here.

What the Washington Post article highlights

The director of national intelligence on Monday night released what appeared to be the original court document authorizing the National Security Agency to conduct sweeping collections of Americans’ communications records for counterterrorism purposes.

The order, signed by the then-chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, was among nearly 1,000 pages of documents being released by James R. Clapper Jr. in response to lawsuits and a directive by President Obama. The documents also describe the NSA’s failure to abide by court-imposed rules to protect Americans’ privacy, and show that the agency was more interested in collecting cell site location data than it had previously acknowledged.

The opinion signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly permitted the NSA to gather in bulk information about e-mail and other forms of Internet communication such as e-mail addresses, but not the content. Its true scope, however, was unclear. Three pages describing the categories of “metadata” that the NSA proposed to collect were redacted.

Although the date was blacked out, the opinion appeared to be the order that placed the NSA’s Internet metadata program under court supervision in July 2004, according to an NSA inspector general report leaked this year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Prior to that date, the NSA had been collecting the e-mail records without court or congressional approval as part of a secret terrorist surveillance program authorized by President George W. Bush in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

The 87-page order lays out what was apparently the initial, albeit by-now familiar, argument for bulk collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the court’s reasons for accepting it. Kollar-Kotelly found that a relatively low standard of “relevance” to collect the information was necessary “to permit, as is the case in criminal investigations, the use of this very valuable investigative tool at the critical early stages of foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations.”

She acknowledged that the volume of data collected would be “enormous,” though the amount estimated by the NSA was redacted. And she said the NSA asserted that it needed such massive amounts of data to identify unknown people who may be in contact with terrorists’ whose e-mail addresses would be used to search the database. “Analysts know that terrorists’ e-mails are located somewhere in the billions of data bits; what they cannot know ahead of time is exactly where,” the judge wrote.

The judge said the NSA could use two methods to search the data. One is “contact-chaining,” or using computer algorithms to identify all e-mail accounts that have been in contact with the suspect’s e-mail account, as well as all accounts that have been in contact with an account in that first tier of results. The second method was redacted.

Kollar-Kotelly said Americans do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy for the metadata they generate, citing Supreme Court cases, including a 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland.

Post article on document dump

Read the last paragraph again…

Kollar-Kotelly said Americans do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy for the metadata they generate, citing Supreme Court cases, including a 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland.

I can not disagree more. She is using a ruling from 1979 which predates the Internet as justification for the Governments intrusion into our Internet activities. I would argue that the 4th Admendment does in fact guareentee us protection from unreasonable search and seizure as well as the right to feel secure in our property and effects.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.[1]

Fourth Admendment


The American Revolution was fought, in part, to create a system of government in which the Rule of Law would reign supreme. The rule of law is often identified with the old saying that the United States is a nation of laws and not of men. Under the rule of law, the actions of government officials are prescribed by the principles and laws that make up the U.S. legal system and do not reflect the Arbitrary whims and caprices of the government officials themselves.

A distinction is sometimes drawn between power and authority. Law enforcement officers are entrusted with the powers to conduct investigations, to make arrests, and occasionally to use lethal force in the line of duty. But these powers must be exercised within the parameters authorized by the law. Power exercised outside of these legal parameters transforms law enforcers into lawbreakers, as happened when Los Angeles police officer Laurence Powell was convicted for using excessive force against rodney king, who had been stopped for speeding. Powell repeatedly struck King with his night-stick even though King was in a submissive position, lying prone on the ground.

legal dictionary definition


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