Greenwald’s Shocking Bombshell: NSA Analysts Can Analyze NSA Intelligence

FILED TO: Politics

greenwald_panic_buttonGlenn Greenwald leaned heavily on his overworked panic button yet again on Sunday during an appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. In a rare spoiler, Greenwald revealed the subject of his next bombshell article for The Guardian before it goes live sometime in the coming days. I suppose he calculated that, technically, his next article, about another set of leaked documents from fugitive Edward Snowden, is based upon something Snowden said nearly two months ago.

Greenwald told Stephanopoulos that he plans to release information about the software programs used by NSA analysts to achieve what Snowden described in the following quote:

“I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the President, if I had a personal e-mail.”

Subsequent to this quote’s appearance in Greenwald’s first video interview with Snowden in Hong Kong, many of us spent a considerable amount of time debating and discussing what exactly Snowden meant by it. Was this occurring as a matter of legally sanctioned policy? Or could low-level analysts like Snowden engage in this dubious behavior without permission or a court order? Was he literally wiretapping Americans in real time? What? Later, during an online Q&A with Snowden, a reader asked Snowden about the line, to which Snowden replied:

“US Persons do enjoy limited policy protections (and again, it’s important to understand that policy protection is no protection – policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens) and one very weak technical protection – a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points.”

So not only is it a matter of policy that warrants are required for NSA analysts to wiretap Americans and foreigners living in America, but there’s actually a digital “filter” to prevent it. Nevertheless, he didn’t clarify whether he could wiretap in real time from his desk, with or without warrants, which is indicative of the routinely coy behavior that’s become synonymous with Snowden and Greenwald.

Speaking of Greenwald, let’s get back to his Stephanopoulos appearance. The Guardian writer said with his usual urgent tone that this software, which looks similar to “screens” used by “supermarket clerks,” allows analysts to read emails, listen to phone calls, read Google search terms and so forth:

“All they have to do is enter an e-mail address or an IP address, and it does two things, searches the database and lets them listen to the calls or read the e-mails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories and Google search terms.”

Okay. So we’re supposed to be shocked by the idea that a spy agency employs analysts who can search and read signal intelligence (SIGINT) that was previously gathered? Crazy, I know. It stands to reason that if NSA gathers data, NSA analysts might actually look at that data. This is sort of like urgently revealing that FBI agents listen! to mobsters via wiretaps and wired informants. Yes, of course they listen!

It gets sillier. The following Greenwald statement could be referred to as an outrage sandwich: two outrageous claims surrounding a throw-away mention of delicious, meaty truth that mitigates the outrageousness of the two claims.

“It’s done with no need to go to court, no need to get approval. There are legal constraints for spying on Americans, you can’t target them without going to the FISA court. But it allows them to listen to whatever e-mails they want, telephone calls, browsing history, Microsoft Word documents.”

Put another way: No need for court oversight! (But there’s court oversight and warrants.) They can listen to whatever they want! In the midst of inciting outrage, these mitigating news blips manage to pop up in nearly every article. But the blips are considerably out-gunned by all of the bloated hyperbole preceding and following each one.

Whenever the government determines there’s probable cause for targeting American citizens or “U.S. persons” with surveillance, requests are submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Court (FISC or “FISA Court”) and warrants are issued. This is standard operating procedure as sanctioned by Congress. Warrants are likely the “policy protections” that Snowden hedged about in his online Q&A. But the hyperbole has led many Americans, and even members of Congress, to believe that NSA is eavesdropping on all of us without cause or judicial oversight.

In other words, what Snowden said in his Hong Kong video interview about his “authorities” to read the president’s email apparently had to do with his illegal, extrajudicial ability to do so. Snowden and others could evidently use this software (to be revealed this week) to hack into the president’s email, for example. Yet these analysts would be doing it outside the purview of American law since the president is an American citizen and targeting him for eavesdropping requires a warrant as well as this mysterious “technical protection” or “filter” (maybe Greenwald will tell us about the filter, but I’m not holding my breath). Likewise, NSA analysts must attain warrants and surmount the mystery filter in order to listen to your calls or to read your emails; not unlike various legal requirements that any law enforcement official must satisfy. It’s sad that we have to remind Greenwald’s disciples that from low-level deputies on up, the law requires similar orders in order to conduct a search, per the Fourth Amendment, and those orders can only be attained if there’s a suspicion that an American citizen might be breaking the law.

But you’ll never hear it described this way by Glenn Greenwald because it renders his bombshells impotent.

With another crafty display of agenda-spin, he explained to Stephanopoulos that there’s past evidence of NSA stepping beyond its mandate, citing two or three examples including a New York Times article from April 2009. In this case, NSA “exceeded legal limits,” according to the Wall Street Journal, and was caught by the Obama Justice Department which enacted new privacy safeguards. Greenwald conveniently and predictably never mentioned the part about the Justice Department because a central thread in Greenwald’s narrative is that the Obama administration is making things worse, not better.

In addition to suffering from a particularly tenacious case of Obama Derangement Syndrome, Greenwald still appears to be caught in the throes of an adrenaline rush that’s accompanied his acquisition of Snowden’s top secret documents — documents that he’s using as kindling for his anti-government agenda. Once again, he’s telling us things we already know generally: NSA analysts analyze SIGINT. Duh. Obviously. They use software to do it. Also duh. And they need a warrant for analyzing data gathered on Americans. Yes. We know.

The only way that mundane news about NSA software can achieve big headlines and big traffic is for it to be packaged in sensationalism and misleading claims delivered with frantic urgency and melodrama. That’s Greenwald’s con. If nothing else, he knows how the internet works and he routinely exploits the idea that most online and social media observers only read headlines and excerpts. From there, misinformation spreads virally and a tsunami of outrage sweeps over the internet. Again and again, with more to come this week.

Bob Cesca is the managing editor for The Daily Banter, the editor of, the host of the Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show podcast and a Huffington Post contributor.


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  • Lex

    Bob Cesca is a hypocrite partisan hack, because its your guy in the white house you totally agree with everything he does just because he a democrat, but when bush did you were angry.

  • NintendoWii10

    I have to enjoy the irony of the Greenwaldians ranting about the NSA/government spying on them on PUBLIC internet forums like Facebook, Twitter, and of course here on Disqus, yet the government has yet to come after them. They apparently have more of an issue with the NSA who couldn’t give two shits about the conversation you have on the phone with your buddies discussing your plans for the weekend as opposed to websites like Google who use your information to have follow you or to get you to buy things.

    The fact is, most Americans don’t give a shit about privacy, heck that’s why we have Facebook, Twitter, Disqus, etc, we WANT the world to know what we do! Apparently the Greenwaldians want it both ways: they want to be paranoid about the government collecting metadata on them and invading their privacy, but they also want to be able to rant about privacy violations on these PUBLIC internet forums. If you want a truly private life, start by closing all your bank accounts, close your Facebook/Twitter/Disqus etc accounts, find a way to some deserted island and live your life in a cave. The days of privacy died when the Internet became big and successful.

    • Fat Pierre

      1. When I make a comment on Disqus, I intentionally use a pseudonym to keep my identity private.
      2. When I tweet something, I do so because I want to make my point publicly.
      3. When I use privacy settings on Facebook, it’s because I don’t intend for my posts to be publicly accessible.
      4. When I call a suicide hotline, the fact that I use Disqus, FB, and twitter DOES NOT mean that I abandon my expectation that my call will be confidential.

      • NintendoWii10

        Yet you give your information to these companies like Google who have ads follow you or to get you to buy certain things you like. You seem to be more concerned about what the government does with this metadata (which in all honesty they couldn’t give a shit if you post your vacation pics on FB or whatnot), but not the telecoms following you with ads using the metadata.

        • Fat Pierre

          Yes, and as I explained in a far more detailed post below, that concerns me. However, my concerns are largely ameliorated by the possibility of publicly discussing private companies’ use of this data, by the possibility of limiting such collection through the legislative process should abuses come to light, and the lack of a history of the sort of blatant abuses that the intel community has perpetrated.

          • 624LC .

            Your “concerns” are ameliorated on some amazing leap of faith that you are willing to give a multimillion dollar company who will take whatever suicidal thoughts you have and create pop up ads for Zoloft to follow you. Just stop with the bullshit….

  • Barbara Striden

    I’ve developed an app called “The Greenwaldizer”. Type or say something innocuous, and the app translates it into the sort of click-bait that could get you invited on a national television political talk show. For example, this:

    “I went to Starbucks.”

    becomes this, when processed through the magic of The Greenwaldizer:

    “I walked into a store and saw the open selling of a product that kills millions, causes thousands of children to be born with birth defects, and leads to the subjugation of dark-skinned people throughout Latin America. It was being sold by sociopaths who weren’t bothered in the least by the fact that they were complicit in a medical Holocaust.”

    Besides generating traffic, the app enhances the sense of personal well-being that is inevitably derived from peerless moral vanity.

  • Fat Pierre

    “And they need a warrant for analyzing data gathered on Americans. Yes. We know.”

    That’s simply not true. They need a warrant to INTENTIONALLY TARGET Americans’ communications. Their policies, however, allow them to gather, store, analyze, and disseminate purely domestic communications in a wide variety of circumstances if they claim such interceptions are “inadvertent” (I.e. if, based on the top secret criteria they have invented, they claim to believe that the probability that the target is an American person is less than 50%).

    I guess in choosing whether to believe that these programs are responsibly conducted, I should simply ignore the intelligence community’s long and ongoing history of committing crimes and blatantly lying about them.

    • ak1287

      ‘I guess in choosing whether to believe that these programs are responsibly conducted, I should simply ignore the intelligence community’s long and ongoing history of committing crimes and blatantly lying about them.’

      Probably the same way you should ignore the fact that private citizens, every nation in existence, every group in existence, and every race in existence, have committed heinous crimes and deeds. The minute you start to categorize a group of people, be it race, religion, or profession, and say ‘Previous members of this group did this, so all subsequent members are not to be trusted,’ you’re profiling. Which is fine, if that’s what you want to do, and are willing to admit it.

      • Fat Pierre

        That’s a joke, right? Taking history and institutional culture into account is “profiling???” I’ll bet you opposed the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Voting Rights Act. I know I did. Now tell me: is it “profiling” to point out the fact that the South has a history of racism.

        • ak1287

          Would it be profiling to point that out? No, it’d be historically accurate. It IS profiling to assume that every southern state and every southern political entity would be racist, though.

          Assuming the future behavior of an institution or group based primarily or solely on the past behavior of the group or institution IS profiling.

          • Fat Pierre

            Again, I’m confused. I’m not supposed to draw conclusions about institutions based on previous actions? So I shouldn’t consider the what the GOP has done in the past when I judge the claims they make during the next campaign? If that’s what profiling refers to, then the word has completely lost its meaning.

            You don’t have to look very far back to see that the intelligence community has built up a professional culture in which lies and crimes are not only shielded but even encouraged A few very recent examples:


            -CIA station chief Robert Lady overseas the kidnapping and rendition of a Muslim cleric in Italy. He is flown to Egypt, tortured, and then released without charges. Before being tried in absenting Bryan Italian court, he makes this statement during an interview:

            “I’m not guilty. I’m only responsible for carrying out orders that I received from my superiors … When you work in intelligence, you do things in the country in which you work that are not legal. It’s a life of illegality … But state institutions in the whole world have professionals in my sector, and it’s up to us to do our duty.”Of course it was an illegal operation. But that’s our job. We’re at war against terrorism.”

            When Lady is detained in South America, the US government secures his release and gets him on a flight to America.

            – A federal judge explicitly orders the CIA to preserve video recordings of torture. CIA official Jose Rodriguez directly defies the order and destroys the tapes. He is not prosecuted for obstruction of justice. Instead, he is allowed to profit from his crimes by writing a book in which he boasts about them.

            -Senator Ron Wyden asks DNI James Clapper if the NSA collects, “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper says no. Once it becomes clear that Clapper was lying through his teeth, he struggles to explain his answer. First he pretends Wyden was asking whether the NSA gratuitously pores over private emails. Then he says that he gave the “least untruthful” answer he could. Finally, he admits that his answer was clearly “erroneous” and apologizes, claiming that he just plumb forgot about the millions of cell phone records that the NSA collects every single day. He ignores the fact that Wyden provided him with the question a day before the hearing and offered him the chance to correct the record afterward.

            Now anyone with a working brain can see that Clapper intentionally lied under oath on the assumption that he’d never have to answer for his lie. When the truth came out, was he indicted for perjury? No. Was he forced to resign? Of course not. He still has his job.

            – Rep. Hank Johnson asks NSA director Keith Alexander if the NSA has the technical capacity– NOT the legal authority– to read Americans’ emails. Alexander lies and says it does not.

            This is exactly the sort of conduct you would expect from folks who have been led to believe that they’ll never be prosecuted for anything remotely related to “national security.” If mentioning these facts is “profiling,” then I guess I’m guilty as charged.

          • ak1287

            … Yes, that is profiling. That’s actually a definition OF profiling. Once again, you are perfectly allowed to do so; it saves time, and there’s no real repercussion.

  • Fat Pierre

    Anyone who is interested in these issues should really read James Bamford’s piece from the NYT Book Review

    Bob likes to quote Bamford when he thinks he supports his argument, but he hasn’t mentioned this article. Bamford explicitly claims that the NSA is behaving in an Orwellian fashion and closes by quoting Sen. Church’s warning about a pervasive surveillance system aimed at the American public. Apparently Bamford has never blocked Bob on Twitter, or whatever Greenwald did to raise his ire in the first place, so we’re not going to hear about how overblown Bamford’s accusations are.

    • Bob Cesca

      I’ve quoted Bamford’s reporting, not his opinions. There’s a huge difference.

      • Fat Pierre

        I’d be interested in hearing your response to my post from two hours ago on the issue of the NSA’s lies to Congress. Do you: 1) think that Greenwald’s claims, if true, demonstrate that NSA officials have lied to Congress, sometimes under oath? and 2) think that if they have lied under oath that this makes any difference in how we evaluate their other claims?

        • Cobbler Besca

          Crickets ftom Bob. I expected nothing else actually.

          • 624LC .

            More like boredom.

          • Cobbler Besca

            Agreed. I’m bored of the same formula employed by Bob. Unrelenting stupidity in the face of world wide outrage and bald faced lying by intelligence officials and his beef is with the messenger. Bored. Bored. Bored.

          • 624LC .

            Leave it to you to not get what is boring here. Namely you and the rest of the greenwald fanboys . Super boring ….Borepoluzza…Boringstock… The rolling bores…the Bore identity….gone with the Bore. You get it now?

          • Fat Pierre

            If you are so bored, why don’t you try to answer the two questions I asked above? Maybe that will amuse you.

          • 624LC .

            You haven’t asked anything worth responding to in a while. All you and cobbler are doing is your trained Greenwald seal act and barking all over the place.

          • Cobbler Besca

            Clearly the record of Bob’s writings over the past few months refutes this blatantly wrong headed conclusion. Bob excitedly analyzes and speculates about Snowald’s every move without any mention of the any of the social and political upheaval in this country or abroad. Or the lies (felonies minds you). Clearly he’s not bored with the subject, he’s absolutely enthralled with it. His day of shame is coming. Just like the Bushies before him his unbridled fealty to O and his inability to question this administration will be his scarlet letter.

          • 624LC .

            I know that you are being either an idiot or trying hard to pretend that you are not the bore in this scenario. “Day of shame”…LOL. Now, you managed to be both

          • Lady Willpower

            Show me on the doll where Bob hurt you.

          • Fat Pierre

            [points to brain]

          • Cobbler Besca

            Well aren’t you the happy little trained seal. Yes you are!

          • Lady Willpower

            Huh. Your original answer was almost clever. But then you realized that made you sound like a well-adjusted member of society, and your Greenwald training kicked in. Can’t let the Great Champion for Civil Liberties see you joking around with the enemy!

  • Aaron Litz

    DAMMIT! I just wrote a long post and my computer crashed right as I finished!

    OK, condensed version:

    It’s like I said weeks ago, when this whole thing started; if these people actually believe “Policy Is No Protection” then why are they just starting to freak out NOW?! The government doesn’t need to use fancy computer programs to read your email to spy on you, nor does it need to h4xx0r all your metadatas, pour water on your firewall, or even “TCP your IP” or Direct Access your Software with their Hard Drive (or whatever lame half-literate pseudotechnical BS Glenwald spouts next) to get what it wants; all they need to do is simply send a thug to rifle through your apartment when your away and take anything they want. Or Hell, while you’re HOME, and then just shoot you in the head if you complain.

    After all, policy is no protection!

    Why doesn’t the government send people to break into your house at night, steal all your underwear, and shoot your dog? Because it’s against government policy to break the law. But if they TRULY believe that Policy Is No Protection, then we’d BETTER start hearing those screams of outrage over the government’s ability to steal everyone’s underwear and the impending government mandated extinction of dogs across America.

    And another thing:

    Glenwald needs to stop pretending and just start working at Fox News openly. He’s been shilling for the Republicans long enough. This entire “Obama is spying on you” is just the latest manufactured scandal, after Benghazi and the IRS BS failed to gain traction. And Glen knows exactly what he’s doing; getting people to think of Obama in a bad light, which they will then transfer to Democrats in general, and cause them to vote Republican in 2016. That’s the plan, engineering the Republican return to the White House. (Wait, I should qualify that statement: either he’s in on the plan and knows exactly what he’s doing, or he’s the single biggest moron Republican dupe who has ever walked the face of the Earth.) And yet, even though it’s not subtle in the slightest, countless “Liberal” hipsters keep swallowing it hook, line, and sinker, because they don’t look any further than Edward Snowden’s pretty face and their brain’s lock up and go into a feedback loop of “grrrr NSA ggggrrrrrrr OUTRAGE bbbrrrrraaagggghhhh!”

    It’s disturbingly similar to all the teeny-bopper girls who just SWOON over Tsarnaev, and who cares if he blew up a coulpe people? He’s DREAMY! Giving state secrets to Russia and China? Oh who cares?! Look at his pale, perfect face!

    There we go, there’s our slogan: Tarnaev and Snowden, too dreamy to be wrong!

    • Fat Pierre

      “Glenwald needs to stop pretending and just start working at Fox News
      openly. He’s been shilling for the Republicans long enough.”

      Yeah, Glenn Greenwald is clearly a “Republican shill.” That explains why he would write a book entitled “Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics.” It also explains why he would write things like this:

      -“The Republican presidential primaries – shortly to determine who will
      be the finalist to face off, and likely lose, against Barack Obama next
      November – has been a particularly base spectacle. That the contest has
      devolved into an embarrassing clown show has many causes, beginning
      with the fact that GOP voters loathe Mitt Romney, their belief-free,
      anointed-by-Wall-Street frontrunner who clearly has the best chance of
      defeating the president. In a desperate attempt to find someone less slithery and soulless (not to mention less Mormon), party members have lurched manically from one ludicrous candidate to the next, only to watch in horror as each wilted the moment they were subjected to scrutiny.”

      – “And the core emotions driving the Bush extremists are not hard to see.
      It is a driving rage and hatred – for liberals, for Muslims, for anyone
      who opposes George Bush. The rage and desire to destroy is palpable.”

      – [On Occupy Wall Street] “Financial elites and their political servants are well aware that exploding wealth inequality, pervasive economic anxiety, and increasing hostility toward institutions of authority (and corresponding
      realization that voting fixes very little of this) are likely to bring London-style unrest — and worse — to American soil.”

      I mean the guy is clearly pretty much indistinguishable from Geraldo Rivera!

  • gardeniabee

    To Bob: p.s. I’m not referring to personal attacks I’ve experienced here; but rather observed upon others, and yes, experienced myself elsewhere online. I figure, if a person can’t ask a question without being ridiculed or dismissed as an anarchist, non-patriot, or worst of all a conspiracy-theorist, then that leaves little room for earnest and rigorous investigation and exploration. It puts a damper on exchange of ideas and leads to group-thinking and propagandist boxed thinking. No thinking outside the approved boxes.

  • gardeniabee

    Bob, I appreciate reporters’ efforts to hold one another accountable. It is a crucial aspect of reporter ethics, imo. And I agree that many consumers of media read only portions of articles, or take only clips of videos and tv or audio streams and draw distorted claims — to fit a bias perhaps. I enjoy exchanging ideas online to explore events and their impact upon society or me as an individual, their meanings, and their possible evolution to a better society. What I find difficult and discouraging online is the snarkiness of some respondents. I realize that there is no need to take their comments personally even when they are meant as personal attacks. Still, it muddies the waters.

  • Fat Pierre

    “Okay. So we’re supposed to be shocked by the idea that a spy agency employs analysts who can search and read signal intelligence (SIGINT) that was previously gathered? Crazy, I know. It stands to reason that if NSA gathers data, NSA analysts might actually look at that data. ”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Bob recently argue that claims that the NSA is gathering millions of gigabytes a day were nothing more than fear mongering? And isn’t his argument now, “Of course the NSA is gathering millions of gigabytes of content! We all knew that?”

    • Bob Cesca

      Whoa! You got me! Actually, no you didn’t. There’s a world of difference between “gathers data” and the undersea 21PB theory. (I used the word “theory” because that’s what The Guardian reported.)

  • Fat Pierre

    Here’s the issue. If what Greenwald says is true, then it means the NSA has been lying about their technological capabilities.

    For an example of what I’m talking about see this video of Rep. Hank Johnson questioning Keith Alexander.

    Johnson sets up a hypothetical in which the intercept would clearly be illegal and asks if the NSA has the technological capacity to do it. Alexander, who is a much better liar than James Clapper, repeatedly insists that the NSA lacks the precise capabilities that Greenwald, Snowden, Bamford, and Tice have all claimed they have.

    That’s been the line that the NSA has consistently adopted: it is not only illegal for the NSA to monitor domestic communications, but it is also not possible with their current technology.

    That’s why Saxby Chambliss, a staunch defender of the NSA who appeared immediately after Greenwald, said that he would be shocked if what Greenwald said was true. The NSA has clearly been telling him that they can’t do what Greenwald says he has proof they can do.

    Why does all this matter? The supposed “rigorous oversight” that exists depends entirely on the NSA’s honesty. The agency submits their procedures to the FISC, but the court does nothing to actually make sure they are being followed. If the NSA has no problem with lying under oath to Congress, then it is reasonable to assume that they might just lie to the FISC.

    • Fat Pierre

      The clip is worth watching purely for the sake of hearing Rep. Johnson’s sonorous voice.

    • Fat Pierre

      14 hours and three down votes later and not a single person has even attempted to address this point. Interesting.

      • 624LC .

        addressing a hypothetical based on something Greenwald has yet to prove…yeah, surprising no one has bothered to address this point…not

      • ChrisAndersen

        “If what Greenwald says is true, then it means the NSA has been lying about their technological capabilities.”

        That’s kind of the problem right there. You are asking us to answer the charge as if we should just accept that what Greenwald says is, in fact, true. Yet he has a history of exagerating charges and conflating points in a manner that is deliberately designed to convince people that the worst possible interpretation of the facts is the correct interpretation of the facts.

        He is an unreliable source and I don’t see why I should bother answering charges from an unreliable source.

        Now, none of us really knows what the technical capabilities of the NSA truly are (and that is really the problem, in my opinion). But this argument keeps getting bogged down in the details about specific abilities instead of discussing the issue of the excessive secrecy of these programs.

        I’d love to know just what the NSA is capable of, but I simply don’t trust Greenwald to be an honest reporter of the facts. So asking me or anyone else to answer his charges is a non-starter.

  • Eric_Jaffa

    The NSA is saving emails sent between Americans in the US when it has “significant foreign intelligence information”, “evidence of a crime”,
    “technical data base information” (such as encrypted communications), or
    “information pertaining to a threat of serious harm to life or

    Letting everyone working for the NSA read those “technical data base information” emails lets them hack into US systems.

  • Fleet Admiral Josh

    It seems like people have gone from “the NSA *is* spying on everyone!!!” to “the NSA could spy on everyone if they suddenly decided to do so and had no problems breaking the law!!!”

    Of course, the President could declare martial law and put all red-headed people under arrest if he had no problems breaking the law too. The “it could happen!” argument starts to degrade pretty fast.

  • i_a_c

    Greenwald is just recycling stories now. “NSA analysts can look at the data they collect” is not a story. And regarding the “policy protections” that require a FISC warrant, well, there’s no physical restriction on a police officer’s gun, just a policy restriction. And that’s a one-way ratchet blah blah blah. You see where I’m going with this?

    Probably more nefarious coming from Greenwald is the idea that NSA employees are subhuman or voyeuristic evildoers that are dying to look at your sexts and porn stash. No, they’re professionals, and just as human as you or me. Yeah, there have been NSA agents caught and fired for snooping where they weren’t supposed to. They have keystroke auditing, as there should be (a fact conveniently omitted by Greenwald). Like all professionals, I think that the vast majority of NSA employees are only interested in doing their jobs. It’s very rightwing to ascribe nefarious motives onto public servants who have lives and families just like everyone else. Curiously, the only one we know of who was interested in an ulterior motive was Snowden.

    Finally, is the FISC a rubber stamp or not? The FISC has found the NSA to be violating the Fourth Amendment before, and has ordered the data destroyed. It’s a small percentage of cases, but just like with regular warrants, officials know how to request a warrant and only a tiny percentage are turned down. Frankly, I’m a lot more comfortable with FISA oversight than with Bush’s “we do what we want because WAR” justification.

  • Badgerite

    Truth is, I think the ‘coy’ behavior is due to the fact that we have already seen pretty much all of the ‘revelations’ this guy had any access to and they just keep trying to report the same story but tweak it a little to try to make it sound somehow like a ‘new revelation’. I mean seriously, what in the world is he talking about when he talks about grocery clerks and NSA analysts as if there is some comparison to be made there. I mean, is he telling me that the NSA is interested in what I buy at the grocery store?

  • ChrisAndersen

    I really appreciate your stuff Bob, but I think sometime it might be useful to step back and try to explain to some people just why your picking over the way Greenwald reports on these matters actually matters.

    For me, the reason it matters is because Greenwald’s reporting consistently confuses the issue of ability with the issue of authority and does so to make ability seem as bad as authority. He wants people to get in a panic about the NSA having the authority to listen to everything we do and say (they don’t) by saying they have the technology that allows them to do so (sort of kind of true, but probably not as much as he seems to suggest).

    Of course they have the technology to do so. Having that technology is the reason they exist, and good thing to because that is what they were created to do: tap into our communication infrastructure as quickly and efficiently as possible if and when the need arises to do so. If they didn’t have the ability, having the authority wouldn’t matter.

    What I would like to ask Mr. Snowden is not what abilities or authorities the NSA has but whether he is personally aware of or has evidence of repeated examples of the NSA using that ability *without* the authority. Is he aware of NSA analysts who regularly tap into conversations just for shits and giggles? Or those who do it for personal gain (I believe I heard one story about an analyst tapping into an ex-girlfriends phone who was subsequently seriously punished for doing so).

    But these questions rarely get asked because it doesn’t fit the agenda of pushing the narrative that Obama is out of control and is listening into everything that we say and do indiscriminately. That is certainly a more adrenaline pumping story, but is it the real story or just the story Greenwald wants to be true?

    • IrishGrrrl

      Here’s an analogy. I’m an IT pro with many years of experience. I have the ability to perform a Denial of Service attack on major websites (Google, Yahoo, etc) BUT I don’t have the authority. How is the NSA any different?

      • Eric_Jaffa

        The power to launch a DOS attack is trivial compared with the power to collect encrypted communications which will be un-encrypted someday.

        • dbtheonly

          The insanity of collecting encrypted communications in the hope/expectation that they might be decrypted someday; is not trivial.
          We had the discussion a week or so ago. NSA analysts still just have 24 hours in their day.


          Why do I hear James Earl Jones say, “The power to launch a DOS attack is trivial when compared to the power of the Force.”?

      • CL Nicholson

        @IrishGrrl:disqus Exactly. I’m a healthare IT Sys admin. I could literally launch a DOS, steal grandma’s Medicare information and send you pictures of (fill in famous pregnant woman’s) ultrasound. I could tell you what local politician came in for a veneral test and who is allergic to latex and peanut butter. I can do all these things….but I don’t.

        Like most IT professional, especially those who work in sensitive fields like defense, fiance and healthcare, stick strict standards for what I do and don’t look at on the company network, not only because I could go to prison and destroy my career – I also understand its just plain wrong and breaches the level of trust that I as a professional have built up for over 10 years.

        The problem with the NSA story so far has been that folks like Greenwald, WikiLeaks, David Sirota and Amy Goodman conflate what the NSA has the technological ability to do with what the NSA is legally allowed to do. We’re not in Russia, Iran, Brazil (Greenwald’s stomping grounds) or in the bastion of lefty love kisses, Venezuela where the government actively pursues those who disagree with it. Frankly, western leaders and spy agencies have better things to than worry about dick pics on Twitter, yours or Anthony Wiener’s.

    • Badgerite

      Beat me to it. I was going to mention that those who think that whatever Snowden says is true would have to point to the appropriate statutory authority where a tech administrator would have the ‘authority’ to tap into anyone’s communications. If he did so, he would clearly be acting OUTSIDE the scope of any legal authority. And the FISA Court would certainly NOT ‘rubber stamp’ it. Yes, people can break the law, but when they do so they do not have ‘authority’ to do so. They are acting outside the law. This is why policemen are sometimes charged with crimes. They can, indeed, break the law. But they do not have authority to do so. So, should we, then, be afraid of the fact that there are police forces afoot in the land.

    • Jeff Cramer

      Its not just the NSA but anyone, rich and powerful, could eavesdrops and make my life an open book. What I am saying its more than the NSA, its anyone with enough money and power has the ability to do what Glenn is talking about. . Also, I am aware if I ever become more of a public figure, more people would dig deeper and find whatever skeletons I might have in my closets. I could go hide in the woods and be a mountain hermit if that really bothers me. But I prefer to live my life instead and if people want to watch and spy, go ahead. But truth be told, I would find myself watching my life story boring and would suspect my fellow spies will too.

  • kushiro –

    “There’s no need for a rocket; you don’t need a spacesuit. There’s no atmosphere, so you’ll die, and it’s impossible for a physical structure to reach all the way, so you’ll need to launch yourself there with some sort of propulsion. But you can build a ladder to the moon and just climb there in your everyday clothes whenever you want.”

  • 624LC .

    “what’s under your bed could kill you (if it breaks into your house, hides under your bed, has a hachet and you are a teenage girl in a horror movie).”
    The depth of Greenwald’s reporting – a drop of rain on a car is deeper. Everytime I see his chinless visage all I hear is “I have a book to sell, my pretties! Buy, minions, buy!”

  • wefearwhatwedontunderstand

    For those who continually deny that there is anything to discuss other than THE GOVERNMENT IS SPYING ON YOU – PANIC NOW!, what do they have to say about all the frivolous law suits that are beginning to clog up the court system and eating away at their tax dollars? A nurse in Idaho who admits she doesn’t know what “metadata” is and that she doesn’t really pay any attention to the news is suing Obama because she thinks he is reading her texts to her manicurist, and the court system has to deal with this crap.

    • dbtheonly

      Fortunately the Plaintiff in a frivolous lawsuit can have the costs of defending that lawsuit charged to them.

      • wefearwhatwedontunderstand

        I guess you are right – if the lawsuit is judged to be frivolous. Meanwhile, the court system could get jammed up with these lawsuits in addition to the hundreds of other lawsuits brought against this president every year and this is not good for the justice system. I’m just pointing out that there are wider consequences to what Greenwald is doing than he is willing to admit.

        • dbtheonly

          I’m with you.

          To my mind the distraction is in convincing a small number of people that the Democrats & Republicans are indistuishable. I remember the 2000 election. On a lower level the impact is even greater.

          • wefearwhatwedontunderstand

            Unfortunately, there are more than a small number of people with this opinion of the two parties. I was very happy to see this headline at McClatchy today:

            Democrats say they’ll seek more-rigid oversight of NSA surveillance.

            It’s important that they get out front on this while Repubs keep drumming in that they are the “the party of national defense.”

    • ChrisAndersen

      While this is annoying I wouldn’t want to prematurely cut off the avenue of a court procedure just to cut down on the frivolous lawsuits. The right to legal redress is to precious to risk.

      But I do think the smokescreen Greenwald has created has produced a much more serious problem: it makes it virtually impossible to have a real discussion about the very real problems with our current national security state.

      If there really are spooks who want to watch us and control us than Greenwald is a gift from heaven for them.

      • IrishGrrrl

        This is my major problem with GG too. He’s only muddying the waters and distracts from what really is going on and what should really be done about it. And the fact that he’s doing it for profit is insult to injury.

        • Jeff Cramer

          I think the worst of it is that GG’s cried “wolf” too many times. All his new revelations are just variations on what he brought up the first place with Snowden and continues to write on his blog. If really does find something that is important, who will listen to him at this point, besides his followers?

          • Fat Pierre

            Daily Banter readers may not be aware that we are currently witnessing a dramatic shift in public perceptions of surveillance policies and privacy issues in general. We are also seeing the rapid growth of a meaningful coalition of civil liberties advocates from the left and the right, all in response to revelations that Cesca continues to portray as old news.

            The notion that the only people who are concerned about this are Greenwald fanboys or that only Greenwald’s readers are paying attention to his coverage is insane.

            I also find it amusing how folks like you continue to obsess over the technical meaning of the term “direct access” (a claim that has been disputed, but not disproven at all) while completely ignoring the fact that top NSA officials have been caught red-handed telling blatant lies to Congress while under oath. i

          • dbtheonly

            M. Pierre,

            Really can’t see Rand Paul & Fox “News” as “civil liberties advocates”.

            Can you see them as scandal mongers; willing to try anything to attack President Obama?

          • Fat Pierre

            Oh, I have absolutely no doubt that many of the Republicans opposing this would support similar policies if a Republican were in office. However, the fact that they’re seizing on this particular issue to attack Obama speaks to the newfound resonance these issues have among the electorate. If Obama were to say how much he loves floppy-eared dogs, I wouldn’t put it past some of the Fox News types to try to use this to attack him as a cat-hater. But those charges wouldn’t stick, since there’s very little anti-dog sentiment among voters. The fact that some Republicans now see opposition to the NSA as politically advantageous is an encouraging development, even if the opposition is insincere and motivated by partisan concerns.

            However, I’m not so sure that I would lump Rand Paul in with that group. For the record, I’m not a Rand Paul supporter. I agree with him on some issues (surveillance, the war on drugs, many aspects of his foreign policy) and I’m horrified by his positions on other issues (economics, race relations, etc.). I didn’t vote for Ron Paul and I wouldn’t vote for Rand Paul.

            That being said, I think he’s guided by ideology far more than by partisan point-scoring. He and his father have a pretty well-established history of embracing positions that are at odds with their constituents– I doubt that there were many Kentucky Republicans that shared his views on drones. For better or worse, I think both the Pauls really are true believers.

          • Jeff Cramer

            Oh I am aware that the right has joined with Greenwald (the civil-liberties left was always in Greenwald’s corner) and the recent Pew Poll that Greenwald cited is 47% thinks that he went too far in restricting civil liberties as opposed to 35% not gone far enough in protecting people.

            However, that same poll also say that 50% approve of what the government is doing in regards of Telephone surveillance as opposed to 44% disapprove.

            Those on the right, I wouldn’t rely on as reliable people for Greenwald’s side, because many of them are only against because its Obama. I doubt they would have a problem with a Republican president. We didn’t hear from them when Bush was eavesdropping.

            So, in the end of the day, it is Greenwald’s loyal supporters, not the fair-weather right looking for something to embarrass Obama, that ultimately believe in what Greenwald has to say.

  • OsborneInk

    I’ll have more to say on this at my blog, but I’ll note that as a low-level military SIGINT specialist my workstation had the power to send a report to the president in the middle of the night, and he would have to read it. Obviously I did not abuse this power, and if I had then a supervisor would have found out right away.

  • blackdaug

    At this point, it is hard to identify which is more infuriating. GG’s patented “Bait and Switch” brand of hackery, or the gullible millions who keep buying his product.
    After the 29th meatless nothing burger in a row, you would think more people would be saying: Hey, where is the fucking beef?

  • reginahny

    In the usual breathless Front Page GOS diary regarding these endless months long dripping non-revelations the Firebagger/Libertarians are starting to call you out by name, Bob. Anyone who disputes their Greenwald talking points (about 3 brave souls left) is now called out as “Bob Cesca, is that you?” You must be so proud!

    • Bob Cesca

      Cool! What is GOS?

      • reginahny

        Some people call DailyKos “the Great Orange Satan”, snicker.

      • dbtheonly

        Bravo Bob!

  • Runt

    I wonder if The Guardian would hire me to write about the following scoop: “Bank employees have the opportunity to embezzle your money (if they break the law, bypass the bank’s security systems and nobody stops them)!”

    • Bob Cesca

      Jesus, that’s a great point.

      • Fat Pierre

        Not really. If a bank employee siphons money from my account, I can detect it by looking at my statement. I can then use procedures that are in place to recover the money that has stolen from me. Finally, the bank employee who stole the money would be subjected to prosecution and would likely receive a prison sentence.

        If an NSA employee looks at my emails without legal authorization, then there is no way for me to detect that. There are no procedures that would allow me to recover my lost privacy. And, judging by what I know of the NSA, the employee who violated my privacy would not personally face any repercussions for “inadvertently” snooping on me.

        • 624LC .

          Snooping on what – you and pizza delivery’s long term relationship? Like some overworked NSA employee is going to spend more than two seconds “snooping” on your email before sleep overtakes them. But of course, you are just dandy with Google, etc using your information to sell you things or to have ads follow you as you surf the web, or buy something.

          • Fat Pierre

            Yes, silly me. Massive surveillance systems have never been used to spy on ordinary citizens. After all, ordinary citizens don’t have any secrets that they would want to keep. They certainly don’t ever call suicide hotlines, seek information on embarrassing medical conditions, or communicate about extramarital affairs. Nope, they pretty much just order pizza. My mistake!

          • 624LC .

            And what security purpose would any of that serve – that you called a suicide line or that you mainline pizza? NSA worker going “That Al Quada plot is a yada yada, boring…but here is the real ticket – “this guy, Fat Pierre, is going to eat 100 hotdogs in one sitting on his work day! Let’s get that warrant fired up and I will be getting on the phone to his employer and the alumni committee of his high school – they are gonna want to know this!”

          • Fat Pierre

            None of it would serve any security purpose whatsoever. That wouldn’t stop the NSA from accessing this information. Based on what we know, it is entirely conceivable that an analyst could view this information if:
            – They were targeting someone who they believed (rightly or wrongly) to be a terrorist operative or foreign agent.
            – I had contacted someone who had contacted someone who had contacted that person.
            – They thought that there was some chance that I was an American citizen, but, based on their top-secret criteria, believed that there was “only” a 49% chance that I was a citizen.

            I don’t claim that they would then use this information to destroy me for political or personal purposes. They could– and every surveillance apparatus that has even approached the capabilities that the NSA has with similarly lax oversight has– but I haven’t seen any evidence that suggests that they would. That doesn’t really matter to me. It’s still a massive violation of privacy for a government agent to be examining this information, regardless of whether or not he intends to do so and regardless of whether or not he ends up using or disseminating that information.

          • 624LC .

            Wow, that last paragraph is sad. You do not care about anything other than flogging some paranoid theory about what could happen if you were living in an Orwell novel. I agree with other posters – the level of discourse on this matter is truly hopeless. It is overtaken with paranoid self important cranks who view any security apparatus as illegitmate (and pshaw off any security breach or attack as collateral damage that someone, for example, running the Boston Marathon deserved because the USA sucks or whatever) . You cannot point to any actual illegal activity and you cannot show that any NSA employee spends any time focused on the minutia of day to day life in someone’s email or phone calls.

          • Fat Pierre

            If you want to portray my concern that a massive surveillance apparatus with very limited actual oversight might be abused as “paranoid,” there’s not much I can do.

            I guess you’d also consider this column by Bob Cesca from 2006 to be “paranoid.”

            After all, he insinuated that President Bush might use his power to cancel elections:

            “When elections are no longer a given in the mind of the president, it stands to reason that the possibility of somehow canceling future elections might’ve crossed his mind. And why wouldn’t it? He has the tools. He has the National Guard positioned in every state under his
            control. He can legally disappear and torture anyone he chooses. He can use legal (yet unconstitutional) means to gather information about political opponents to smear and shame them. The president has unprecedented power to do almost anything he wants and the unwavering
            support of both a major cable news network and, on the fringe, would-be domestic terrorists.”

            What a nutter!

          • dbtheonly

            M. Pierre,

            Do you have trouble with Google monitoring your web surfing “to enhance your web experience”?

          • Fat Pierre

            That’s a very reasonable question that deserves a reasoned response. Short answer: yes, but much less concerned than I am about the NSA. Here’s why:

            1. I am generally more concerned about the civil liberties implications of actions undertaken by government agencies than private corporations. If a restaurant kicked out patrons who made loud speeches denouncing US foreign policy, I’d have no objections. If the government bans citizens from making the same speech in a public park, I’d be deeply concerned.

            2. If google used the information that they gathered for a purpose that went beyond optimizing user experience and targeting ads, there would be ways to expose and combat that. If a technician revealed, for example, that low level google employees were using customers’ browsing histories to blackmail them, that technician could go to the media and expose it. He might be fired, but he wouldn’t have to flee the country in order to avoid spending decades in jail. He could discuss it with his congressman and his congressman could publicly refer to those discussions without putting himself at risk of prosecution.

            As tech firms begin to push the limits of data mining in a way that clearly infringes on their users, we are going to see more efforts to provide legislative remedies by prohibiting abusive uses. That is to say that we have clear, established ways to combat abusive behavior by private companies. I don’t mean to say that the system is perfect– tech firms ARE infringing on user privacy and lawmakers have been slow to catch up– but I am convinced that as this activity gets worse (eg when it becomes common knowledge that browsing history is being used to deny health insurance), we are going to see meaningful legislative attempts to combat this.

            Prior to Snowden’s revelations, the NSA had arranged it so that reform was practically impossible. By keeping the nature of their work a state secret, they had shut the door on any public debate or legal challenges.

            3. Finally, I take the actors’ history into account. Google is no angel, but its crimes simply can’t be compared to the intelligence community’s sordid history. I’d be much, much more concerned about google if they or other tech firms had been known to conduct experiments on LSD using unwitting subjects, had tried to get MLK to kill himself, had illegally abducted innocent people and sent them to foreign countries to be tortured, and had blatantly lied under oath about doing this sort of thing again and again and again.

            I hope that answered your question.

          • dbtheonly

            M. Pierre,

            Thank you for answering the question. I understand much better if I don’t necessarily agree.

            With #3 I think you slip into the error of viewing “the government” as a unit, rather than myriad competing foci. The LSD experiments were in the 1960s. Dr. King died in 1968 & I don’t recall that the NSA had a hand in either. Don’t go all “X-Files” on us.

            “had blatantly lied under oath about doing this sort of thing again and again and again”, is rather more than you’ve established so far & I’d point out that we’re dealing with classified information. Also, I’ll submit, that the “Lamestream Media” has hashed up this story as well so who said what & when is open to some dispute.

            With #2 I’d point out that Snowden didn’t go to his Congressman. He went to a (foreign) newspaper. The decades in jail will depend entirely how much classified information Snowden has (or will) release & the damage done by that release. Any number of his statements have been exaggerated or self-serving. Equally it might well be that he took the job with Booz Allen with the intention of leaking classified documents. Hardly the work of a “whistleblower”. More the work of someone’s ego & potential book/movie deal.

          • Nick Babcock

            Good points. Thank you.

          • 624LC .

            Pierre’s short answer: uhhhh google is ok because theoretically there is a whistle blower at the ready to make pretend things are safe and NSA is mean.

        • ChrisAndersen

          A bank employee could look at your transactions and see how you are spending your money and use that information against you without ever actually siphoning money from your account.

          Let’s say a bank employee had access to Warren Buffet’s accounts and could see that he was moving money in a way that suggested he was preparing to do a buyout of some company. The employee could use that information to invest his own money with Buffet never being the wiser.

          Of course, your information would probably be a lot less useful than Buffet’s, so the bank employee probably would look at your records. But he still has that ability.

          The same is true with the NSA. They have the ability to snoop on your communications, but that does not mean they have either the desire or the authorization to do so.

    • gardeniabee

      Are you asking as a parallel to NSA spying on us just in case a citizen might do something wrong; not that a person has don so; nor that there is probable cause; but that they might someday in the future. Is that the gist of your comment?

      • ak1287

        I think you’re confused. Like, severely confused.

        • gardeniabee

          Sorry, I was replying to Runt, re the model of NSA behavior based on propositional theory they should collect data on us “IF” we may misbehave in the future. :-) hehe

    • Victor_the_Crab

      Best analogy to this NSA non-story I’ve ever heard.

    • trgahan

      I would add a follow up article of “Outsourcing of NSA intelligence work to a single, politically connected, private corporation that hires anyone with pre-clearance opens these legally locked doors to Paultard nihilists who steal national security information because the black guy got re-elected!”

    • Bubble Genius

      Awchrist, please don’t. We’re gonna have a whole shitload of crazies hiding their money in their mattresses.

    • Eric_Jaffa

      The banks have a right to the data of their customers. The NSA has no right to our data.

    • gardeniabee

      [— I moved a reply to Bob that I mistakenly posted here.]

  • Sinnach

    How the hell do people take Greenwald seriously when he bundles mutually exclusive statements together like this?

    “It’s done with no need to go to court, no need to get approval. There
    are legal constraints for spying on Americans, you can’t target them
    without going to the FISA court.”

    Literally one sentence after the other with no editing. ‘You don’t have to go to court; but you do have to go to court’. We’re not even arguing over conspiracy theories at this point. We’re arguing over conspiracy theories about conspiracy theories. The level of discourse is hopeless.

    • gardeniabee

      Maybe I am mis-reading his statement; but I understood the contrasts to be placed together to say that the court has permitted (rubber-stamped) it while the law on the other hand requires specifics (name, probable cause, etc) But I agree that the narrative is not precise. Ben Swann however is precise at minute 3:30 here

      • ranger11

        I looked this guy up on Wikipedia. Did he really believe there was more than one gunman at Sandy Hook? I’m going back to sleep.

      • Badgerite

        Yes, you are misreading it. For instance, as to the NSA bulk collection of phone records that the Congress just voted on, the law does not and has not since the 1979 case of Smith v Maryland considered this kind of information to have any expectation of privacy and therefore such information is totally outside the protections of the 4th Amendment. When Alan Grayson got up on the House floor and said that the ruling in the case was a narrow one he was telling no less of a lie than James Clapper did. The law does not consider this private information. You may have concerns about the bulk collection of this information, but they are not concerns that in any way bring in the 4th Amendment. Again, not considered to private information. That is the law.

        • Eric_Jaffa

          “Smith v Maryland” was a rotten ruling.

          People don’t share a list of everyone they call with the public because it is private information.

          Saying that people chose-to-share that dialing with the phone company so it’s not private is like saying that people chose-to-share medical records with doctors so medical records aren’t private.

          • i_a_c

            But there’s a doctor-patient privilege. There is no such thing between someone and their phone company.

          • Eric_Jaffa

            OK, here is another analogy:

            Saying that people chose-to-share that dialing with the phone company so it’s not private is like saying that people chose-to-share emails with their email provider so their emails aren’t private.

          • ChrisAndersen

            When you make a call the information you share with the phone company is the number you are dialing. But you are not sharing the actual conversation.

            When you post a letter you are sharing with the Post Office the address of the person you want the letter delivered to. But you are not sharing the content of the letter.

            When you send an email you share with your ISP the address of the person you want the email routed to. But you are not sharing the content of the email.

            Metadata is the routing information. It is *not* the content.

          • Eric_Jaffa

            When you send an email through Yahoo! or Google, you’re giving the company the content. You can re-read what you wrote in the Sent folder because it’s stored on their server.

          • stacib23

            Saying that people chose-to-share that dialing with the phone company so it’s not private is like saying that people chose-to-share emails with their email provider so their emails aren’t private.

            Ah, so you do get it, you’re just being contrary. Your emails are not private – ask anybody that has gotten in trouble at work because somebody, somewhere read their “personal” emails. You have made a choice, whether consciously or subconsciously, to share your personal information the moment you hit the send button using your company’s server.

          • ChrisAndersen

            There’s also laws like HIPA that specifically safe guard the information patients share with their Doctors. We could pass a law that does something similar for information shared with our phone companies and ISPs. But, until then, there is no 4th amendment protection for communication meta data.

          • Eric_Jaffa

            The Supreme Court ruled that phone-number logs aren’t protected by the Fourth Amendment.

            But Rep. James Sensenbrenner, who wrote the Patriot Act, said that the Patriot Act wasn’t intended to let the NSA get everyone’s phone-number logs. Therefore, the legal authority of collecting everyone’s phone-number logs is debatable. The FISA court approved that interpretation of the Patriot Act, but the Supreme Court hasn’t reviewed it, and the ACLU is trying to bring a case to the Supreme Court.

        • CygnusX1isaHole

          “…the 1979 case of Smith v Maryland considered this kind of information to have any expectation of privacy and therefore such information is totally outside the protections of the 4th Amendment.”…


          Your interpretation of this case is 100% inaccurate.

          One of the leading liberal constitutional scholars in the country, Jonathan Turley, explains why:

          It is true that the Supreme Court in 1979 ruled that there is less protection afforded to phone numbers, which can be acquired under “pen registers.” Yet, even accepting that ill-conceived decision in Smith v. Maryland, the Court was addressing government seizure of numbers to individuals who become material to investigations. The government previously used “national security letters” to get such information. What the Obama administration has done is effectively issue a national security letter for every citizen in America.

          The Supreme Court’s ruling in Smith v. Maryland clearly only concerned people material to an investigation. The mass collection of metadata therefore can’t be claimed as legal under this ruling (except by deception). The courts need to hear the challenges from the ACLU and EFF. The Obama needs to stop blocking these cases by crying “national security”.

          Hopefully, now, you understand.

    • sam stone

      Cesca has misquoted what Greenwald says in the interview. What he actually says is:

      “It’s all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst. There are legal constraints for spying on Americans…”

      The contrast is between legal constraints and enforcement mechanisms. The point is that analysts are given the technical capacity to access stored data prior to court approval and there are not oversight mechanisms in place to prevent abuse. It sounds like Greenwald is going to produce evidence that this accurately describes current practices. It’s not a conspiracy theory to believe that intelligence will be abused without proper enforcement mechanisms in place, and that’s what this discussion is about.

      • PostSurgeOperative

        That’s incorrect. The metadata collected on US citizens is stored in an archive, and several procedural steps AND a warrant are required to access those data. However, NSA surveillance of communications of non-Americans is not similarly protected, nor should it be.

        Considering his history, it’s obvious Mr. Greenwald’s conflation of these separate and unequal programs is not accidental.

        • sam stone

          Right, if you believe the official story, then certain protections are in place for Americans. So, either Greenwald’s story will challenge this official story or it will, as you suggest, pertain only to non-Americans or possibly only those Americans in communication with non-Americans. You seem to dismiss the possibility that the official story is either not truthful or that the protections that are claimed in it are not in fact enforced. But those both seem like live possibilities to me, and given recent admissions that the intelligence community has tried to hide various aspects of their domestic operations, even from Senate Committees, maybe their official story should be treated with something less than complete credulity at this point.

          • 624LC .

            Shorter you – despite walking back parts of story, what Greenwald says is still a go!, here I come!

          • PostSurgeOperative

            Um…Even Glenn Greenwald accepts the govt’s contention that analysts must obtain a warrant before accessing US citizens’ data. He admits it in the Stephanopolous interview and in his writing and in other public comments. You can read about it in Bob Cesca’s article, “Greenwald Debunks Himself: NSA Targeting of a U.S. Citizen Requires a Warrant”

            Considering Greenwald’s history of purposeful deceit, you would be well-advised to treat him as well with something less than credulity at this point.

          • sam stone

            You are conflating two issues here. Whether an analyst has legal authorization to obtain information targeting a US citizen without a warrant and whether an analyst has network access authorization without a warrant. Greenwald has reported that Snowden claims he had access authorization not legal authorization to the information of US citizens.

          • PostSurgeOperative

            No, I’m not. As I understand it, no analysts have broad, open-access to the database containing US citizens’ metadata, and even with a warrant, such access is strictly limited to the warranted material, with multiple security procedures preventing unauthorized access.

            However, analyst access to the larger database containing non-US citizens’ info is not similarly limited in the way US citizens’ data protected.

          • Lady Willpower

            Using your logic, I have “direct access” to watching my neighbor take a shower (she IS pretty foxy IMHO) whenever I feel like it.
            Of course, I’d need to climb a ladder to look through her window, and I’d need to make sure she didn’t see me, and if anyone called the cops I’d be fucked, and I wouldn’t do it anyway because even though she’s a babe I’m not a pervert, but still… DIRECT ACCESS.

      • Bob Cesca

        I copied and pasted the quote directly from the ABC News transcript. But I don’t see how the omissions change anything.

        • sam stone

          Well, if you listen to the interview it is clear that he says “no need to get even supervisor approval” not “no need to get approval”. It matters because you suggest the paraphrase: “Put another way: No need for court oversight! (But there’s court oversight and warrants.) They can listen to whatever they want!” but that’s not how the full quote reads. The omission makes it sound as if Greenswald is claiming something about legal authority that he’s not. He’s saying that individual analysts have access authority to this information prior to any court order. That’s not a claim about court oversight.

          • Bob Cesca

            “no need to go to a court” -Greenwald

          • sam stone

            Right, and it’s clear from the context that he’s saying that a court order is not necessary for access authorization to the server. It’s not that there’s no need for court oversight for legal authorization, but that there’s not need for court oversight for access authorization. You’re running these two distinct issues together to make it look like Greenwald is making conflicting claims where he’s not.

          • Bob Cesca

            If analysts already have a warrant to target a USP, why would they need another one for access authorization? And I didn’t run them together, Greenwald did.

          • sam stone

            The problem would be that low-level analysts are granted access authorization to protected information about US citizens prior to the issuance of a warrant. The warrant makes such access legal, but the technological authorization for access is there either way. This is a recipe for abuse that deserves public discussion and action.

          • Bob Cesca

            And as another commenter noted, theoretically this form of potential abuse can exist anywhere. But according to NSA insiders I’ve talked with, everything is compartmentalized. Each analyst can only really see one piece of a massive puzzle.

          • sam stone

            Well, now that the story is out and more NSA documents have been released, it will be interesting to hear how you minimize and dismiss this round of revelations. Since you wrote an entire article about the lack of a story here before the story was even out, I’m sure you’re working on a follow up now that the NSA slides revealing its “widest reaching” internet collection system, XKeyscore, have been released. I’m looking forward to hear how you square the information from the NSA’s own training materials with what your NSA insider buddies have been telling you.

          • 624LC .

            God bless you for explaining – you have the Greenwaldian translator, right? You turn it on and it translates your plain English to plain English that repeats itself over and over until either the poster or you gets tired or death’s sweet embrace happens.

  • kfreed

    How many times does it need to be pointed out that Greenwald routinely omits certain factoids that fail to produce the desired effect. I suppose repeatedly. Some people never learn. Thanks for sticking with it.

    Is Drama Queen dying his hair?

  • BlueTrooth

    Snowden flat-out lied about having “authority” to do anything remotely close to “listening to phone calls” or invading anyone’s privacy, period. The guy would NEVER get “the call” from Superiors to do any such thing, with or without a warrant. He’d set off so many alarms if he started snooping in that archived data…huh, maybe THAT is why he ran to Hong Kong? Anyway, I’m fed up with all this lying. There is a legitimate debate to be had, but all I hear from the NSA freakout crowd is “Obama hates Americans” and “Obamabots” so there! I mean, it’s almost as if they DON’T want the debate, they DON’T want a fact-based discussion, they don’t want their bubble of cynical and misguided glee popped. The interesting part of this narrative they’ve created is that the NSA is actually like a third party in the data collection, reliant upon the private sector for access to darn near anything except …itself. And even itself turns out to be a not-so-easy task because it’s not like they can just Carly Fiorina the emails, if ya know what I mean. I saw Glenn trying to set up Durbin before he testifies, making sure to tweet out Durbin’s “concern” about overreach before more facts surfaced. I sure hope these guys in DC took the time to really understand how this data is generated, analyzed and stored by private sector prior to warranted transfer. Then again, I’m on the fence regarding the NSA archives. It is definitely needed in the proverbial “clock is ticking” scenario because it saves so much time, but the data is still available from various sources if its not on the NSA servers. My issue is all of the purposeful misinformation and innuendo.

    • sam stone

      I believe the claim is that an analyst in Snowden’s position wouldn’t have to get “the call” before having access to various kinds of stored data, that technical authority to access to certain communications data is granted prior to legal authority.

  • DarNamell

    More time is wasted in trying to find the kernels of truth in the shit pie Greenwald drops than is warranted. Ignore the clown and let Putin drag Snowden down to Lubyanka like he really, really wants to.


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