6 Whopping Government Misstatements About NSA SpyingPosted: September 13, 2013
Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA spying have set off a fierce global debate about security and privacy in the internet age.
The revelations of the United States performing mass surveillance on an international scale have also unleashed an avalanche of government misstatements aimed at defending, or even denying, the NSA’s dragnet surveillance. We’ve gone through them and picked out some of the biggest whoppers.
“… NSA takes significant care to prevent any abuses and that there is a substantial oversight system in place,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), said August 23.
The statement was clearly contradicted Tuesday by James Clapper, director of national intelligence. Clapper said that the reason why the NSA illegally accessed phone call metadata on thousands of targets was because the NSA was unable to conduct any oversight of itself.
“The compliance incidents discussed in these documents stemmed in large part from the complexity of the technology employed in connection with the bulk telephony metadata collection program, interaction of that technology with other NSA systems, and a lack of a shared understanding among various NSA components about how certain aspects of the complex architecture supporting the program functioned,” Clapper said in a blog post.
NSA chief Keith Alexander was either speaking untruths or was delusional when he gave a June 25 speech to his spy network:
“The ongoing national dialogue is not about your performance. The NSA/CSS work force has executed its national security responsibilities with equal and full respect for civil liberties and privacy.”
A 2009 order by a secret court, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), declassified Tuesday said that, “since the earliest days” of the NSA phone-call spying program’s 2006 inception, the agency has carried out thousands of inquiries on phone numbers without any of the court-ordered screening designed to protect Americans from illegal government surveillance.
Attorney General Eric Holder must not have remembered or been familiar with that order when speaking June 15 to a U.S.-European Union ministerial meeting in Dublin, Ireland.
“The government cannot target anyone under the court-approved procedures for this program unless there is an appropriate and documented foreign intelligence purpose for the acquisition, such as for the prevention of terrorism, hostile cyber activities or nuclear proliferation,” he said.
President Barack Obama, too, has said everything was hunky-dory and that the spy powers were “not abused.”
“Now part of the reason they’re not abused is because they’re — these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC,” the president said August 9.
A key function of FISC is to ensure the NSA’s activities target communications of those “reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.” The surveillance must also be designed to “prevent the intentional acquisition of any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of the acquisition to be located in the United States.”
All the while, in a 2011 FISC opinion the government declassified August 21, the court said the NSA misrepresented the reach of its “upstream” internet surveillance, where it has tapped into the internet to vacuum up electronic communications as they travel through the internet’s backbone.
“Indeed, the record before this court establishes that NSA’s acquisition of internet transactions likely results in NSA acquiring annually tens of thousands of wholly domestic communications, and tens of thousands of non-target communications of persons who have little or no relationship to the target but who are protected under the Fourth Amendment,” according to the 2011 opinion. (.pdf)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said at a June 6 press conference, however, that the NSA’s actions were lawful.
“The administration is obeying the law, but the fact is we want more oversight.”
Perhaps the biggest lie to date came three months before the Snowden leaks.
Consider this exchange between Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Clapper during a March 12 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing:
Wyden: “So what I wanted to see is if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question: 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.”
Reporter’s note: Government officials have uttered plenty of other untruths in the wake of Snowden’s revelations. In the comments section, cite us your favorite ones we didn’t mention today.
- 11. 6 Whopping Government Misstatements About NSA Spying (12160.info)
- Google’s Eric Schmidt says government spying is ‘the nature of our society’ (theguardian.com)
- Citing Snowden leaks, FISA court orders government to review secretive NSA surveillance rules (EndtheLie.com)
- Declassified files detail blatant violations, abuse of NSA domestic spying program (rt.com)
- Citing Snowden leaks, FISA court orders government to review secretive NSA surveillance rules (rt.com)