NSA Abuses Never End

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor

The instances of reported abuse of our country’s laws by our Intelligence services seems never-ending.  The National Security Agency, or NSA is at the top of the list when it comes to violations of our laws and even its own rules and procedures that are allegedly designed to protect our privacy.

Pursuant to a court order in a case brought by the ACLU, the NSA is required to provide a list of its abuses on a quarterly basis.  Of course, the NSA redacts most of what it puts in its own disclosures.

“Every quarter, the National Security Agency generates a report on its own lawbreaking and policy violations. The reports are classified and sent to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board. It’s unclear what happens once they get there.

Those reports are now online dating back to late 2001.

The NSA has posted redacted versions of the documents to its website. “These materials show, over a sustained period of time, the depth and rigor of NSA’s commitment to compliance,” the agency’s self-congratulatory introduction declares. “By emphasizing accountability across all levels of the enterprise, and transparently reporting errors and violations to outside oversight authorities, NSA protects privacy and civil liberties while safeguarding the nation and our allies.”

These NSA characterizations are not credible.

Even the uninformed observer will be suspicious of the spy agency’s account upon learning that far from voluntarily releasing redacted versions of these documents, it was forced to do so by Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the ACLU. The NSA fought to continue suppressing these documents from the public, even though the redacted versions in no way harm U.S. national security.  A court ordered the documents released.” Reader Supported News

Only in Washington, D.C., would anyone, let alone a government agency, claim it is being transparent in reporting its mistakes, when it refused to release a listing of those “errors” until a court ordered them to do so! This is the same agency that the New York Times disclosed in February of 2014 was caught spying on American attorneys working on behalf of a foreign government.

Professor Turley discussed this case here.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this willful violation of the law was only learned through the Snowden document disclosures.  So much for willing transparency.

The NSA has been caught violating a client’s right to discuss their legal case with their attorneys in private and numerous instances of spying on individual citizens and what repercussions have resulted?  It is hard to find any substantial penalties or sanctions due to exposed or disclosed illegal activities by the NSA.

To further the point that the NSA seems immune to prosecution or sanctions for its illegal activities is one case that was uncovered in the quarterly reports discussed earlier.

“For the most part, the reports don’t appear to contain anything especially new, but I was struck by this particular violation:

The OIG’s Office of Investigation initiated an investigation of an allegation than an NSA analyst had conducted an unauthorized intelligence activity. In an interview conducted by the NSA/CSS Office of Security and Counterintelligence, the analyst reported that, during the past two or three years, she had searched her spouse’s personal telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting….Although the investigation is ongoing, the analyst has been advised to cease her activities.

Wait a second. She was caught using NSA surveillance facilities to spy on her husband and was merely told to cease her activities? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to, say, fire her instantly and bar her from possessing any kind of security clearance ever again in her life? What am I missing here?” Mother Jones

While the idea of spying on a spouse or maybe a significant other might not be a danger to National Security, it is still an obvious violation of the law, or at the least, a violation of the NSA’s rules that this analyst was supposed to be working under.  As the Mother Jones link above suggests, shouldn’t this analyst be fired or maybe, God forbid, be prosecuted for illegally spying?

Who can forget the case Professor Turley discussed in 2009 when it was discovered that the NSA was illegally attempting to wiretap members of Congress?  Of course, Congress was outraged, just like Sen. Diane Feinstein was outraged when it was discovered that the CIA has been spying on the Senate’s computers.

Of course heads rolled when the CIA admitted hacking into Senate computers, right?  Uh, no, just a few apologies and the Senate moved on. The same immunity to the law and to common sense can be found at the NSA.

What do we have to do to bring the NSA into legal bounds and prevent illegal and unauthorized spying on ordinary citizens and other agencies and branches of the government while at the same time acknowledging our need to spy on legitimate enemies?

It seems obvious to this observer that the internal controls that are in place at the NSA are ineffective at best and likely useless at worst. Can The NSA or any intelligence agency investigate itself?  Are internal agency watchdogs a waste of time?

Would a civilian agency or board set up to oversee these rogue intelligence agencies be useful in bringing these agencies into compliance, and is that even possible in our current political climate?

A quick review before the pop quiz; the NSA admits to spying illegally and not doing anything about it and there are no repercussions.  How stupid are we to allow this to happen?

Additional Source: Bloomberg

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101 thoughts on “NSA Abuses Never End”

  1. Ross said …

    One could even argue that smaller agencies are leaner, meaner and more effective at preventing terrorism and crime.

    One could, and should, in fact.

  2. Paul:

    It all has to be governed by our Bill of Rights/U.S. Constitution if the government is going to search or punish citizens – if the probable cause and evidence exists then that is the likely result. I have supported the SPLC in the past but don’t support violating the U.S. Constitution in the process.

    When you bypass constitutional due process it actually increases the number of “color of law” crimes and harms more innocent Americans. One of the big problems today is the federal government is also violating constitutional rights so there is no real check & balance on local & state governments like during the Civil Rights era.

    Making the figurative “haystack” bigger (to include non-probable cause cases) makes it harder to find the real bad guys making us less safe.

    One could even argue that smaller agencies are leaner, meaner and more effective at preventing terrorism and crime. Huge bureaucracies many times actually are the biggest obstacle (Ex: August 6, 2001 PDB memo).

    1. Ross – I appreciate your idealism, but pragmatically it is not working. The lists from the SPLC are being used as targets for the US Army, etc. Since some (many) are not ‘hate’ groups, what you have is a socialist organization targeting its enemies and then getting others to go after them.

  3. Paul:

    Not sure what you are referring to exactly, but that would be included in the “subversive” category. Any questionable speech or guilt-by-association is still governed by the Bill of Rights as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court [judicial branch] – not as defined by executive branch agencies.

    In real practice, executive branch agencies usually use false labels against legal Freedom of Speech exercises to illegally punish citizens or groups they dislike.

    Ex: a former FBI agent. Michael German (specialist in domestic terrorism), publicly stated last year that the #1 domestic terror threat at the FBI since about 2005 were “Environmental Rights Activists” even though they have never killed anyone. Maybe you dislike Robert Redford but he is not in the same league as OBL and has constitutional protections.

    This type of fraudulent mission-creep normally would be swiftly struck down by the judicial branch but is common practice with executive branch agencies.
    Executive branch agencies can loosely throw around labels to slander citizens but the U.S. Supreme Court determines whether it’s constitutional or not.

    Calling someone a name doesn’t make it true or make it probable cause.

    1. Ross – the SPLC has a list of ‘hate’ organizations that government agencies use to target ‘hate’ groups. Where are their protections? BTW, terror threat does not mean just killing people, it also means blowing stuff up, disrupting things, etc. Personally, I think OWS was/is a terrorist organization.

    1. Ross – thanks for the very biased report on agloso. It did remind me of who had started it, FDR.

  4. Paul:

    Except for rare happenstances like “plain view” searches, the 4th Amendment is chronological for U.S. citizens or foreign persons on U.S. territory:

    First a real crime must occur. If the real evidence or real witness testimony (made under penalty of perjury) points to the real crime then the constitutional officer (police, FBI, NSA, etc.) files a sworn affidavit and submits it to a magistrate judge. If the magistrate approves the request, the court will then issue a judicial search warrant. It should also be noted that the U.S. Supreme Court hadn’t yet ruled on the “Terry v. Ohio” case (which gutted 4th Amendment protections) when these MLK searches were taking place.

    In James Madison’s “constitutional democratic republic” model of government “ALL” ideas are allowed for debate by political groups as long as those groups are advocating through constitutional due process. It’s only illegal if a group is trying to subvert constitutional due process. Madison and the Framers didn’t want a nanny-state where the federal agencies play a paternal role over it’s rulers – the voters and the U.S. Constitution. Harry S. Truman (fierce anti-communist) actually debated this very point and concluded the American voters were to smart to support communism or fascism – they didn’t need a nanny-state FBI or NSA deciding for them.

    What crime originated the probable cause evidence against Martin King, Jr.? Without a real crime and without real evidence pointing to MLK for that crime there was no basis for any invasion of his privacy or searches.

    What was his alleged crime?

    1. Ross – overthrowing the United States government is still considered a crime.

  5. Paul Schulte:

    You make some valid points but that is why using our Bill of Rights as guideposts during wartime and crisis is so important.

    Then and now, the abuse and exploitation of “labels” is used to broad-brush entire groups outside of constitutional law.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. essentially promoted the values of James Madison and the Founding Fathers – not Lenin or Stalin. The problem was at that time the ruling class had contempt for the values of James Madison and our constitutional rule of law government. As a result J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and other agencies exploited the “labels” of our enemies and used those labels to broad-brush and discredit real heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Today MLK has a mega-monument next to Lincoln, Jefferson and FDR on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Hoover’s name is being permanently removed from all government buildings.

    If it’s a U.S. citizen (or foreign person on U.S. territory) – there must be probable cause of a crime where the constitutional officer (FBI, NSA, etc) testifies (under penalty of perjury) as to those facts before they are even allowed to wiretap or tape a citizen’s private activities. The FBI can be a good organization but in this case the FBI committed a crime just by it’s domestic spying and illegal searches on MLK without a judicial warrant.

    King’s crime: supporting James Madison and the constitutional rule of law.

    1. Ross – as someone said “follow the money.” Where was King’s money coming from?

  6. Issac

    Sir, I would suggest a bit more study on your part regarding the actual execution of what we call Gulf War 1.

    What led up to the invasion by Iraq is up for debate. The execution is not. At no time were we going to go to Bagdad and take out Saddam. Those of us who were in Vietnam were not getting sucked into that march into hell. Remember “The Bear” knew Soutwest Asia very well…remember his upbringing and his wartime experience. Powell, a grunt infantry officer vet of the same war in which I served on the rivers and off the coast, was not going to let us get sucked into another Westmoreland experience. If we were going in, it was going to be massive and all at once with a set exit end game. The goal was well published. BTW my ribbons include a “V” and the CAR. You?

    My dad (3 Air Medals – 1 pinned by Doolittle and 3 Purple Hearts) a WWII B-17 POW and Korea B-29 crash survivor, and I had our only major verbal fight when I said we just could not take out the Hitler of the Tigris. He thought I doubted the resolve and spirit of our troopers. I could not get it across that in the following year we would be running out of equipment and weapons and cuts in forces. Procurement cuts had already been made.

    I was a program manager in the Navy surface warfare part of DOD until I retired in 1989. All of us with that experience saw the massive drawdown coming after the Wall came down and the Curtain fell. I also said to him that the American public would not stand for extending the strategy north. We barely made it through WWII and dad was still p***ed that Patton was restrained from going east and solve a future problem. What most didn’t (don’t) know is that we were out of nucs and Stalin actually now had the single most powerful army in the world. If we had swung out towards Bagdad, we would have done it alone except for the French. Ahhh before anyone takes potshots at the French, have your facts well researched.

    Then “the highway of death” and a lot of us remembered Cronkite’s using the now iconic picture of the Saigon sheriff’s on the spot execution of the killer and wrongfully declaring our defeat by the VC during Tet ’68. Actually very few died on that hwy but the image is still stunning…..even if there was a slaughter, so what….remember what they had done to the civilians in Kuwait? But the public was done…you could just feel it.

    Now off that subject….I am one of many who really wanted MacNamara and Rumsfeld in federal lifetime solitary to contemplate how they got our people slaughtered and, by extension of the conflicts, the innocents on the “other side.”. Still working on my forgiveness issues…. Mac’s tears didn’t work for me. Do hope he found redemption.

    Notice I am not partial to da Dems or da Repubs.in this instance.

  7. Thanks to those who referenced historical events and actions. This issues are bigger and more complex than “Obama’s problem” and one needs to be mindful of history and its players.

    The events giving rise to the Intel apparatus go back many administrations. I am reminded of a comment by Prince Bandar bin Sultan in about 2006 where he expressed difficulty of working with the United States since elected officials such as the president and members of Congress were elected for short terms such that it was difficult to establish continuity and relationships. Perhaps the “other side” of the Bush House of Saud criticism is that Bush provided continuity of relationship and familiarity with issues. On the other hand, what are the motives of a government that is entrenched for generations of one ruling family, etc.? What have we learned?

    We have an Intel apparatus that appears insubordinate to its master. Can it be that our politicians are uninformed or misinformed so as to deal with Intel matters and agency oversight? Are the Intel agencies providing the longer term perspectives to the president and Congress?

    I’d like to think that the issues can be resolved by the people who are currently positioned in the Administration and the Congress (and their respective staffs). The American people need to get educated and up to speed to ensure that competent people are elected. I see an awful lot of obstacles to his happening.

  8. “Because it’s so easy to judge the idiocy of others, it may be sorely tempting to think this doesn’t apply to you. But the problem of unrecognized ignorance is one that visits us all. And over the years, I’ve become convinced of one key, overarching fact about the ignorant mind. One should not think of it as uninformed. Rather, one should think of it as misinformed.

    An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge.” David Dunning

    http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/confident-idiots-92793/

  9. Paul

    Both Bushes didn’t handle the wars in Iraq beautifully. The first one was part of an international coalition that had little if anything to do with what caused the second one. The first one was an example of a missed opportunity, taking down Hussain. However, the second one was not only unnecessary but stupidly bungled. The three stooges did not have to go into Iraq. They could have sealed off the air space, surgically bombed the military sites, and called for a coup. Hussain installed himself through a coup d’etat. That is how things are done in the Middle East. After a few months of being shut off from the world, having palaces and military bases bombed, some general would have offed Saddam.

    Instead, not only did the three stooges invade, but they sat on their thumbs for eight months while chaos created the insurgents that were not there in the first place, then they disbanded the structure of the police and military that could have been the one tool to maintain a balance. The list goes on. The arrogant incompetence will enter the history books as one of the world’s biggest missed opportunities.

    There was no beauty in anything. The world’s preeminent military force invading and taking out a bunch of hapless subjects of a dictator who runs at the first bomb and whose people hate him, is not beautiful. The lack of beauty is only eclipsed by the ineptitude with which the three stooges followed up.

    So, Paul, think a little, reread the events, and see the Iraq war for what it really was, the expression of two petty officials that had hung around power so long that they simply could not wait to get their hands on the reins. When they did it was through one of the most inept straw men in American history. When the dust settles there may be movies like ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ made but now it is simply too soon. That does not erase the magnitude of the shame. The fact of the matter is that the US learned nothing from Viet Nam. The fact of the matter is that enough people elected W. The only bright ‘fact of the matter’ is that America still exists and hopefully will learn through this. Gore would have invaded Afghanistan but he would not have created the shame of Iraq. We could have done a lot better than W. I find it hard to realize that anyone still exists in the US that can give W any credibility at all.

    1. issac – hindsight is 20-20 but progressives always seem to love an air war. However, that never wins. You have to put boots on the ground. Ask “Bomber” Harris how well that strategy works.
      Saddam has a 1m man army left over from his war with Iran. It is tested. He has Soviet tanks and updated fighters. What is your plan? Since you have the perfect plan, let us know what it is.

  10. Ok.
    .it’s getting warm

    Re. Falcon code

    In 1991, a classmate of our daughter taunted her with a version of FC 775, she happened to have a pic of mom……so dressed in Saudi Arabia. Oh did I get a kick out of that one.

  11. Chuck Stanley … “Falcon One One Seven” …oh, wait, I didn’t say that 🙂 Call that just a “Falcon One Twenty.”

  12. Canon,
    The tit for tat thing is the trap I brought up earlier. I understand your point here but I seriously doubt the stone-throwers care a great deal about their own dirty laundry. My blog resolution this year is to avoid acknowledging these ideological comments; it accomplishes exactly nothing.

  13. Bill McWilliams … I normally don’t make silly jokes, but, for f’ing sake, what drugs are you on? I want some! Gotta be better than crystal meth. Tell us! Don’t be shy. You usually are not with your conspiracy theories.

    PS: I know about, and feel worse about, killing “brown -ish” people than you can ever imagine. You are a flipping phony. Where do get your ideas and theories? I suspect out of your butt is where. You dang sure weren’t there done that, if yanowadahmeen?

    No matter, carry on … first Amendment and all that. You really are entitled to be a jacka$$.

    I am not a fan of Gen Colin Powell, however, I will never disrespect his service in combat. He is entitled to his opinion. We all are, vis a vis fighting…except, I suspect, you.

    You correct me if I am wrong.

    Full disclosure: you just pi$$ me off and finally I had to say so.

  14. paul

    They don’t. The problem they have is with right-wingers who are ignorant of history. You only seem to know right-wing propaganda, talking points, and juvenile insults which you direct at people who know more than you.

    1. Bill McWilliams – nice ad hominem attack, but it is not true. I bet I know more history than you.

  15. Poppy bush tricked Saddam into believing the U.S. would not oppose his actions against the Pedophile Emus of Kuwait who had been using slant drilling to steal oil that belonged to Iraq.

    Bill Clinton destroyed the water supply in Iraq.

    george bush sent colin powell to lie to the world at the U.N. – holding in his hand a vial with white powder — that could have been from gw’s stash or maybe from the poison they planted in the office of Senator Daschle — and then gw used the powell propaganda speech to start HIS illegal invasion and war on Iraq.

    Yessir, the bush crime family knows how to get thousands of brown civilians killed, along with thousands of young American military personnel. All the while
    enriching U.S. war profiteers.

    When it comes to managing wars, those bush boys have a lot of experience.

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