New Snowden Bombshell Reveals Surveillance Errors Via Internal NSA Oversight

obama_nsa_gellmanThe Washington Post‘s Bart Gellman was one of the reporters who received stolen classified documents from Edward Snowden and who simultaneously, with Glenn Greenwald, broke the news about the National Security Agency’s PRISM system back in June. Gellman published another Snowden-based article on Thursday, also based on a top secret Snowden document, with the headline: NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds.

Gellman’s document contained information about 2,776 errors made by both NSA analysts and computers during three-quarters of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012. The infractions included “operator error,” “computer error,” “typographical errors” and so forth.

More importantly, this was an internal audit, which means… oversight! It turns out, yes, obviously, NSA has multiple layers of oversight and exhaustive internal audits of the agency and its analysts as a means of both weeding out problems and then mitigating them. The elephant in the room is that the purpose of Gellman’s document, written by the Signals Intelligence Directorate’s (SID) director of oversight and compliance, is to keep detailed tabs on the agency.

We’ve been led to infer by Greenwald and others, however, that NSA is a rogue, reckless agency without any oversight; operating in total secrecy and with limitless impunity. That’s simply not the case, and the existence of this document, as well as Gellman’s article, proves it.

Here are some additional positive areas of oversight as reported by Gellman:

–There was a “quadrupling of NSA’s oversight staff” in 2009 after the Obama administration came into office.

–There are “semi-annual reports to Congress” about NSA “errors and infractions.”

–The public can read abbreviated versions of these audits. “The limited portions of the reports that can be read by the public acknowledge ‘a small number of compliance incidents.’” Obviously, a full public disclosure of agency errors would reveal the nature of NSA’s top secret SIGINT operations. But this is evidence that the public can attain a limited peek at NSA’s audits anyway.

–There are “regular audits from the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and periodic reports to Congress and the surveillance court.”

–Regarding the surveillance court, Gellman’s article reveals a summary of a now infamous 86-page October 2011 decision by the FISA court, which determined that a then-brand new NSA operation was unconstitutional and must be discontinued.

The very existence of this FISC decision utterly neuters the “FISA is a rubber stamp court” narrative peddled by Greenwald and his groupies. In total, the article decimates the notion that NSA operates without oversight or self-correcting measures that yield to constitutional mandates.

While we’re here, what are some other layers oversight? There are, of course, the various congressional committees tasked with NSA oversight. There’s the Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). There are ODNI and Justice Department audits like this one. Via reporter Joshua Foust, the audit indicates that hundreds of errors were nabbed by an “automated alert” system. The document cited by Gellman wouldn’t even exist were it not for oversight within NSA. Come to think of it, NSA’s Office of the Inspector General website contains another layer of oversight: a whistleblower hotline.

The NSA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) maintains a hotline to facilitate the reporting of allegations of fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in NSA programs and operations and violations of law, rules, and regulations by NSA employees and contractors, and assigned military. If you wish to report such allegations, you may call, send a letter, or e-mail the OIG Hotline as identified at the left.

Whistleblowers can remain completely anonymous, but, if not, their identities are protected by Section 7(b) of the Inspector General Act of 1978. And Edward Snowden, a contractor, would’ve been able to report his grievances via this channel, among others. Of course there wouldn’t have been all of the ensuing melodrama, aggrandizement and, yes, Snowden t-shirts. But the fact remains: even NSA employees can conduct their own micro-oversight and report abuses to the OIG, while being legally protected by numerous legislative statues.

I agree that mistakes involving sensitive information like the communications of American citizens should be taken seriously and corrected. Clearly, based on the existence of this internal audit, NSA is doing precisely that: taking its errors seriously and repairing them. For the first time in the history of this story, we have the only evidence of actual wrongdoing within NSA (other than Snowden’s document theft), although the article doesn’t call out any deliberate or malicious violations of the rules. The infractions only appear to be unintentional, incidental glitches in the system, which could easily be discovered in any internal audit — be it within a large governmental agency that employs thousands of people, or a private corporation of the same size. We also have no frame of reference to determine whether 2,776 errors in a year is atypical for a large government agency. How many errors per year are generally discovered by internal audits at FBI, ATF, FAA or IRS? Gellman doesn’t say. Considering the size of each bureaucracy, I refuse to believe any government audit document is a slender volume.

But whatever. The “national discussion” continues based almost entirely upon deliberate ignorance and unnecessary histrionics. Gellman’s article has surely added more fuel to this conga-line of misplaced outrage.

Adding… Greenwald via Twitter:

greenwald_nsa_audit_tweet

Totally clueless. Why would NSA whitewash a top secret internal audit? To presumably lie to itself?

UPDATE: Joshua Foust provided some enlightening numbers:

Some math helps to contextualize the violations as well. 2,776 violations in one calendar year averages out to around 7 violations per day (or, perhaps more realistically, 10 violations per business day). The NSA probably employs between 30,000 and 40,000 people, mostly concentrated in the DC area at Ft. Meade in Maryland. Let’s say 1/3 of them are involved in analysis, so anywhere between 10,000 and 13,000. 7 violations per day among 13,000 analysts is actually a very small number in a relative sense. Especially considering the volume of information the NSA tries to sort each day (upwards of billions of pieces of data), 7 violations per day doesn’t sound very significant. That doesn’t make it okay, but it does suggest violations happen rarely, and are far outside the norm.

CORRECTION: I originally wrote that the audit was conducted by the Office of the Inspector General. The body of Gellman’s article didn’t say one way or another. In fact, the audit was conducted by the Director of Oversight & Compliance. The text above was corrected to reflect that. Additionally, Gellman clarified his “per year” and “each year” reporting via Twitter by noting this link, containing statements from NSA to The Washington Post, indicating “thousands” of incidents “per year.” That said, I stand by the assertion that given the volume of queries (around 20 million per month, according to NSA) and the number of analysts at Ft. Meade, 2,776 incidents is statistically insignificant.

  • Jim Mcdonald

    americanprivacydisaster.com

  • Schneibster

    Your last correction makes it even more plain how ridiculous all of this is.

    To put things in the same terms, we’ve got 20,000,000 queries a month, and of those, 2,776/12=231 and 1/3 incidents per month. That’s 231-1/3/20,000,000 = 1.157E-5 = 0.0000157 = 0.00157% chance of being accidentally targeted, IF and ONLY IF you are a cell phone user outside the US.

    Now if we had figures for the total number of calls in a month that transit servers NSA can access, which is likely two orders of magnitude more than 20 million, then we’d have a good idea how likely YOUR call, assuming YOU ARE NOT A CITIZEN OF THE US, is to be traced by the NSA accidentally.

    Sorry for being so LOUD but you have to be careful with the innumerate because otherwise they seize on things you say taken out of context. When they try I like to be able to point out that they already ignored what was said LOUDLY.

  • MARWBI

    Nation’s largest employer is the Federal government

    A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies
    http://www.usa.gov/Agencies/federal.shtml

    • Schneibster

      Yes, governments are larger than any corporation.

      That’s a Good Thing.

      Unless you want to live in a corporatocracy, which I guarantee will be more oppressive than the Nazis.

      We don’t get to vote for who runs corporations.

      Maybe you forgot.

  • stone

    Bob Cesca has been pestering Gellman on twitter about his claim in the article that the NSA reports thousands of violations per year when he only presents one year of data. As he puts the concern in this post, “So, one year, not multiple years. Interesting usage of Greenwald-style hyperbole right there.”

    This morning Gellman answered Cesca in the expected way, “No assumptions. Reporting, unpublished docs and published. See also NSA quarterly numbers statement online.”

    Just noting this here in case Cesca doesn’t get around to it.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      I saw the tweet and have corrected the article. In my defense neither the audit nor the main article itself mentioned anything about multiple years. It turned out there was a sidebar link containing a sentence mentioning a numerical range of incidents over a three year span.

      • stone

        Good on ya, Bob.

        • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

          Thanks. Adding from above… That said, I stand by the assertion that given the volume of queries (around 20 million per month, according to NSA) and the number of analysts at Ft. Meade, 2,776 incidents is statistically insignificant.

  • Schneibster

    The next question is how are these being reported?

  • DHaradaStone

    According to the NY Times, 1,904 of the 2,776 incidents involved foreign surveillance targets (no warrant is required for the NSA to monitor a foreign subject overseas) who traveled with their phones into the U.S., unbeknownst at the time to the NSA (so-called “roamers”). So we know that more than two thirds of the incidents did NOT involve the NSA targeting Americans. http://goo.gl/A9yIOO

    • Schneibster

      And that makes them “US Persons” even though they’re not citizens.

      We even protect people who are just here temporarily, if we legally approve them and allow them in. Who can say as much?

      • MARWBI

        A roving wiretap is a wiretap specific to the United States that follows the surveillance target. For instance, if a target attempts to defeat surveillance by throwing away a phone and acquiring a new one, by moving, or by any other methods, another surveillance order would usually need to be applied for. However, a “roving” wiretap follows the target, and defeats the target’s attempts at breaking the surveillance by changing location or their communications technology. In the US, it is allowed under amendments made to Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (the “Wiretap Statute”) in 1988 by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and was later expanded by section 604 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1999.

        On May 26, 2011, the U.S. Senate voted 72-23 to extend the provisions of the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act to search business records and allow for roving wiretaps.
        “A third provision gives the government power to watch non-American “lone wolf” suspects with no certain ties to terrorist groups. All three provisions are viewed as valuable tools by law enforcement officials.
        The roving wiretaps and access to business records are small parts of the USA Patriot Act that was enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. But unlike most of the act, which is permanent law, those provisions must be periodically renewed…”

        • Schneibster

          You only mentioned two things: roving wiretaps and lone wolf surveillance targets. You were accurate about both, but left something important out: a roving wiretap requires a warrant like any other wiretap.

  • Richard_thunderbay

    To the Greenwaldians: if evidence turns up to support the “United Stasi of America” rhetoric that we’ve been hearing from your group over the last few months, I’m sure everyone here would be willing to set their hair on fire.

    This latest revelation doesn’t reach that standard. Not that there is no cause for concern here, but it certainly does not even remotely justify the level of paranoia that has been pushed by your crowd.

    • stone

      Don’t light any matches around all those strawmen, okay?

      • Richard_thunderbay

        Right. And Greenwald did not suggest that Obama might have Snowden killed.

        • Indict Clapper

          If evidence surfaced of an assassination carried out by one of our intelligence agencies, people like you would undoubtedly accuse anyone who was upset about it of being horribly naive.

          “Whaaaaat? You didn’t know that the CIA killed people? What do you think they do?”

          • Richard_thunderbay

            Another Greenwaldian smear. Thanks.

          • first last

            Soon as you turn up evidence of the CIA murdering civilians I’ll be pretty outraged, yes. For many of the same reasons why I don’t want Congress to pass laws castrating the NSA, including that it’s just going to increase the chance of a war breaking out and a bunch of innocent people getting massacred.

          • 624LC .

            Well I know a definite way for you to avoid assassination – let everybody know that you are donating your brain to science when you die. You will live to a ripe old age.

          • Nik James

            Science wouldn’t touch his “brain” with a ten foot pole.

      • 624LC .

        Why? You need them to set your hair on fire?

  • Indict Clapper

    Now even NSA defender extraordinaire Nancy Pelosi is saying that the WP report is “extremely disturbing.” Doesn’t she realize that this just shows how professional the NSA is?

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      Pelosi is covering her ass. Congress hasn’t been doing their damn job. The NSA has been policing itself internally via their OIG which is their responsibility. It’s Congress responsibility to monitor what the OIG is doing. They haven’t been and now they want to act shocked that there are reports they haven’t seen.

      • Indict Clapper

        So, “robust Congressional” oversight meant “oversight by a Congress that we all know is incapable of doing their damn job.”

        • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

          They’re not incapable, they’re unwilling. One side of Congress is too busy trying to impeach the President or blocking any bills that would actually improve the economy or holding town halls in which they promise to revisit the issue of the President’s birth certificate…..The other side is either too busy trying to get around those a$$hats or they’re too busy constantly running for office, lunching with lobbyists, etc, etc.

          All that being said, doesn’t mean I think we should get rid of Congress. The system could work. It’s a matter of will. Unfortunately, Congress is already in finger pointing mode, which won’t help us really resolve the issues at hand.

          • CL Nicholson

            its also a matter of we the people holding folks accountable. If you knew you could slack off completely at your job but also knew there was a 80-90% you would still keep your job after a management review anyway – why bother to work hard?

            If politicians knew they had to face informed angry voters on real issues (not this NSA bull or whether or not Obama is Al-Qaeda sleeper agent) we would see real change.

          • Badgerite

            Frankly, I’m not angry. From what I’ve heard and seen, there is effective internal auditing, oversight from the FISA Court Certainly the possibility of Congressional oversight. No one is keeping Congressman from their oversight job. If you don’t understand a term what you do if you are a Congress person is you say, ‘I’m sorry, could you put that in English’. I expect at least that much gumption from a person who occupies the position of Congress person.

          • Indict Clapper

            1. ” From what I’ve heard and seen, there is effective internal auditing, oversight from the FISA Court”

            Is there any indication that any of the problems that were uncovered by these audits were fixed? And are you even aware that the NSA also performs queries that do not generate an auditable record at all? It’s right in the white paper that they declassified.

            2. “oversight from the FISA Court”

            … which just admitted that they have no way whatsoever of confirming that the NSA is actually following the guidelines they approve.

            3. “Certainly the possibility of Congressional oversight.”

            Incredible goalpost shifting. We’ve gone from “There is congressional oversight” to “there is the possibility of congressional oversight.” But, hey, let’s just ignore the fact that members of Congress attempted to get basic information about this program and were refused on the basis of secret votes by the intelligence committee. Let’s also ignore the fact that none of the new members of Congress were ever told about bulk collection. Those facts are just inconvenient.

            4. ” If you don’t understand a term what you do if you are a Congress person is you say, ‘I’m sorry, could you put that in English”

            Ron Wyden asked an incredibly clear question: “”Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper lied and said, “No.”

            Is it your contention that had Wyden followed up by asking Clapper if he was using these words in the sense in which they are understood by English speakers that Clapper would have said, “Well, now that you put it that way, the answer is yes?”

            Do you actually believe this?

          • FlipYrWhig

            I wouldn’t have a problem with a news report saying that the audit points to the need for additional or stronger oversight, especially in light of your point about how these problems might be fixable but haven’t been fixed yet. So far, so good. But it really seems to be the _opposite_ of a report exposing a lack of oversight. If anything, it’s a report that establishes that oversight is in place and sets the scale of the problem as small — thousands, not millions.

          • Indict Clapper

            “If anything, it’s a report that establishes that oversight is in place
            and sets the scale of the problem as small — thousands, not millions.”

            1. Performing an internal audit, scrubbing said audit of details, and passing it along to overseers with the incriminating details smoothed over does not constitute “oversight.”

            2. I want to remind you once again that a significant proportion of the NSA’s queries generate no auditable record whatsoever.

            3. We have no idea how many people were affected by thousands of individual violations. It’s not at all clear that this is a small scale problem. We also know that the NSA was using an unconstitutional technique without the FISC’s permission for months. That’s not a small problem. That’s a big problem.

          • FlipYrWhig

            It’s oversight, it’s just not oversight that you find sufficient. Fine. We can and should talk about tightening up oversight. But it doesn’t prove the oversight was lacking.

            Think of, say, steroids in baseball. Does a report documenting that there are steroids in baseball show that steroid users are getting away with steroid use because no one is looking for them, or does it show that when someone did look for steroids they found that the rules against using them were being broken? I would say the latter.

          • Indict Clapper

            Let’s take your steroid analogy and correct it to accurately represent the NSA.

            Instead of an outside investigator revealing evidence of steroid use, it’s the players who are using steroids who compile a list of violations. Then, instead of revealing these facts, they hide them, and instead of punishing steroid users, they do nothing. Then, when the report is leaked, they claim that their secret list of steroid users constituted oversight.

          • CL Nicholson

            THIS!

          • Indict Clapper

            Sorry, that doesn’t work for me. NSA defenders referred to “robust Congressional oversight” as if that was something that actually existed, not something that potentially could exist but currently does not.

          • CL Nicholson

            Again, political ignorance. If Congress didn’t do their job – its Obama or the NSA’s fault. Again, this is Congress covering their rears.

          • Indict Clapper

            I didn’t say it’s Obama or the NSA’s fault that Congress doesn’t do their jobs. I said that it’s inaccurate to claim that Congress is actually providing “robust oversight” when, as you now admit, they quite clearly are not.

      • CL Nicholson

        Exactly. Everyone in Congress saying ‘we knew nothing’ are either terrible liars or complete fools. Congress approved the NSA oversight back in 2006 and the FISA court has been around since Carter. Its CYA time on the Hill.

        Which follows the narrative of pretty much the Obama administration. The press gets a hold of a non-story and the Dem Leadership head for the tall grass to hide.

        • Indict Clapper

          We’ve been told by multiple Congressmen that the NSA briefing sessions are useless. The NSA uses terms in ways that have no discernible connection to their common definitions. The only way to actually get information is to know the secret lexicon they’re using and ask the exact right questions. That’s not possible, since it’s a big secret.

          • CL Nicholson

            You just admitted you don’t know squat about politics. If there a big media ballyboo going about the whatever alphabet agency is spying on Americans and Congress knew about it, approved it and were informed about it regularly, but did nothing , you damn straight they’re going to say anything and everything to cover their asses.

            Again, Congress could have asked for more oversight and more disclosure from the NSA. They could also pull the funding for drones, stopping stripping Wall Street reform, and a long list of other things that Purity Lefties and Dude-Bro Libertarians claim they wish Congress would. But, its much either to pontificate on CNN, follow Birther nuttiness on Fox, pretend to be a deer in the headlights on MSNBC or (in the case of liberal noisemakers who are about as effective as hand fan against a forest fire) grandstand with a gushy Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! than to actually do their jobs.

          • Indict Clapper

            I don’t see anything in your comment that refutes my claim that the statements that Congress DOES provide robust oversight (and not merely that they are hypothetically capable of doing so) were false.

          • first last

            Good call CL. This reminds me of the time Congress demanded that we bomb Libya, unanimously approved a resolution to bomb Libya, then started screaming foul the second we bombed Libya.

        • http://mollysmiddleamerica.blogspot.com/ Middle Molly

          Do you have a source on the review meetings that no one bothered to show up for? I don’t doubt it in the least, but I haven’t seen any article to that effect.

          • CL Nicholson

            This is one time I would say a quick Wikipedia search would do wonders. By their own admission – the Senate and House intelligence committees knew about the PRISM program but ‘failed to see it full scope’, i.e. they didn’t pay attention or ask questions when briefed. The white house had briefings open to Congress and barely anyone showed up. This is classic middle management lingo for ‘I slept through the meeting, didn’t pay attention now its caught up with me’.

            My point isn’t that there is nothing to worry about – we should as Americans be concerned about the expansion of the security state. But this hyperbolic dousing of gasoline and Congress pretending that half its members just fell off the turnip truck this morning isn’t helping matter.

    • MARWBI

      I like Nancy Pelosi, but IMO a congresscritter responding to a media article is not earth-shattering or probative.
      Pols (especially congress) respond to initial reports in a typical ‘OMG’ fashion. THEN, when further details come out they either retract or adjust. The initial report sounded bad until we read on.
      Another thing to note: Democrats have never been unified in their like or dislike of CIA, NSA, IRS, FISA, PATRIOT ACT, etc. So it is not a big surprise to see 2 sides on these foreign policy and/or civil liberties debate.
      For example, while most Democrats opposed the Iraq War dragging on as long as it did, some still voted for continued funding…on the basis that you do not cut off $$ for troops etc as long as we are theater. Some voted aye others voted nay… but nonetheless the funds were provided.
      The issue is not whether some Democrats support or oppose… the issue is the anti-government, half-truths /lies, hyperbolic Libertarian/Randian-paradise fantasy strain of the Snowdenwaldians.

  • BlueTrooth

    Karen Finney is totally lost in the wild spin…just saw her call for the firing of anyone that approved the President saying there’s no spying on American citizens or whatever. I’m nearing the point of not giving a fying flippety. I’m not in the “We MUST HAVE NSA AS IT IS” camp, but I’m fed up with the purposeful misinformation that I expect from the Tea Party being adopted by the Utopians. It has nothing to do with liberties or principles or even values…it is driven purely by money. At the core, it is about accumulating some wealth through manipulation. This “shocking news” could have been delivered from the perspective that internal oversight is mostly effective, but greater transparency is necessary. Clearly, “new programs” should require pre-approval. One saving grace is that the FISC is made up of mostly Conservatives, otherwise the Tea Party would be jumping all over this Liberal plot to bring Communism to America. And to all those Utopians that keep saying, “But you didn’t know THIS!”…excuse me, but these “mistakes” in search entries were revealed in the first article I read. Back then, my question was how they managed the “destruction of data” they retrieved through inadvertent means or the need for detasking. Which is STILL to be revealed and I’m certain that Snowden has some files regarding the “non-destruction” of destroyed data as well. When it’s all said and done, the Utopians are calling for the abolishment of NSA. Fine, let’s get right on that and I’ll count to 3. By the time I reach 2 there will be a private sector “solution” ready to sell their archived data to any and all law enforcement (yay for subscription services!). By the time I reach 3, there will be a standing warrant ready to secure all transfers as “Constitutional” (until judged otherwise). Parallel construction is nothing new, folks, and “Private Eyes” have been in business for, like, ever…

    • Indict Clapper

      “Parallel construction is nothing new, folks”

      Neither is lying to judges in sworn affidavits. That’s what the DEA did. It’s illegal as hell and it’s going to result in a lot of guilty people going free.

      • BlueTrooth

        I challenge your concept of “Free”, but to my point it sure opens a whole new field for trial lawyers, right? I can almost write the 30 second phishing spots already. “Do you have a loved one convicted of a drug offense? Here at Shmerkel&Peele we specialize in parallel construction…”. Free!

        • Indict Clapper

          You challenge my concept of “free?” I mean that people who are guilty are going to be released from prison because of gross governmental misconduct.

      • Badgerite

        Probably not a lot. If any.

        • Indict Clapper

          Huh? That’s hardly the point. The point is that when you lie to the court and conceal the truth during discovery, you imperil convictions, even when the person was guilty to begin with.

          • Badgerite

            Well, I’m not defending the practice. I’m saying it probably had very limited effect. The Reuters article itself specified that the overwhelming number of drug convictions are gained by plea bargaining. That is a guilty plea. Not likely to be affected by this. And the Reuters piece also noted that cases are usually dropped rather than proceed with information that is kept secret from the court. Another words, there are not a whole lot of cases this applies to. And the defense attorney challenging a conviction can not just assume that NSA information had anything to do with it. What’s more, the SOD has many sources of information, not just the NSA. So, challenging a conviction on the basis of information gotten from SOD would not be any slam dunk. And then there is the question of proving where the information came from. It could imperil SOME convictions. But probably not a lot.

    • CL Nicholson

      Karen Finney is protecting her job – since all but Lawrence O’Donnell has gone H.A.M. on this NSA non-story.

    • Badgerite

      Spying does not mean that you catch errosr and rectify them. Under that kind of standard you could not even have individualized warrants. Probable cause does not equal certainty. There are errors and probably lots of them. Probable cause just means, well, could be. Spying must have an intent to it. Another words if the errors are caught and not corrected. If intentional abuses by an analyst, not a computer error, go unpunished.

  • Indict Clapper

    DNI James Clapper: “There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect but not wittingly.”

    Translation of “perhaps”= we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it happens thousands of times a year.

    Deputy AG James Cole: “Every now and then, there may be a mistake,”

    Translation of “every now and then”= multiple times a day
    Translation of “there may be”= we know there is

    In any case, can anyone justify the decision to keep the details of this audit from the American people, much less from the FISC and Congressional overseers? Is there anything in these documents that places the nation at risk?

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      I’ve been a computer programmer for 15 years and before that I was in law enforcement. I know people working in OIG’s in a variety of Fed Govt agencies. There are several good reasons for keeping an audit report like that quiet. First one that comes to mind is that they are in the process of investigating something that the audit triggered. To release the audit is to tip off the suspect. White collar crime investigations often take a year or more to investigate, much less bring charges against someone. If there was anything in it that put the nation at risk the OIG would have taken it to the Director of that Agency who would have taken it to the White House. The OIG also has the option of taking it to the FBI if they believe that the Director is corrupt or involved in some way. The special agents working in the OIG’s care very much about the security of the US AND the rights of citizens.

      • Indict Clapper

        Wait, they can’t ever release audits– not even from last year– because they might be investigating an analyst for abuse? That kind of falls apart when you realize that there isn’t any evidence that anyone has ever been punished for violations, doesn’t it?

        • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

          I didn’t say they’d never release the audits….that stuff does get released, eventually. But they tend not to release stuff until someone is charged. And no, I don’t know of anyone that has been punished but that’s not something that’s going to make the 5 o’clock news either unless it’s a really, really big criminal scheme, and often those involve a lot of money….then it will make the news. I could (anyone could) do a search of the federal cases filed over the last 5 or 10 years and see what they were charged with, what happened, etc. However, since this audit goes through the first quarter of 2012 and if they were investigating someone, then in all probability they wouldn’t have released it yet because they would still be investigating. I told you it takes years because it takes a long damn time to build a white collar case.

          • Indict Clapper

            “But they tend not to release stuff until someone is charged.”

            Oh, ok. So never.

          • Richard_thunderbay

            We do live in an authoritarian police state after all.

          • Indict Clapper

            I never made that claim. Glenn Greenwald never made that claim. But keep pretending that the claim is being made.

          • Richard_thunderbay

            I guess writing articles that imply that Obama is spying on all of us and may be plotting to assassinate Snowden doesn’t count.

          • Badgerite

            Glen Greenwald made the claim that, ‘The NSA claims they have direct access to the servers of ( list appropriate companies). Of course, the NSA ‘claimed’ no such thing. That was simply how Greenwald INTERPRETED a training document.

        • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

          Have YOU been down to your local Federal Court house and done a search at the Clerk’s Office? Again the news isn’t going to report on those cases because they’re not “sexy”. The only way we would know that no one has ever been charged would be to do that. So you can’t say “never”, now can you? I know for certain that other OIG’s release that stuff because I heard about the convictions from the agents themselves and in some cases saw news articles. But I don’t know any NSA OIG so I can’t say one way or another without doing some research. You apparently haven’t done any research either.

    • Richard_thunderbay

      I have to laugh. The internal audit does not support the idea that we’ve turned into an authoritarian police state that spies on all its citizens, and so now you have the push the idea that there is some conspiracy about not releasing the audit itself.

      • Indict Clapper

        It’s not a conspiracy. It’s merely the same old overclassification and lack of transparency that Obama was supposedly against.

        • blackdaug

          Exactly what level of transparency would you want to see in an agency tasked with spotting potential foreign terrorists and stopping them from attacking us? Should we publish the every inner working of the NSA on Huffpost every day?

          • Indict Clapper

            No. But way to attack a strawman. I don’t think it’s asking too much for the NSA to actually reveal the number and nature of violations. That’s not exactly on the same level as printing nuclear launch codes in the New York Times now, is it?

            Christ, even Feinstein had never seen this report. Even Dianne-friggin’-Feinstein says that this shows that Congress needs to do a better job of oversight. But here in Cesca-ville, this is just more proof of how incredibly professional the NSA is.

          • blackdaug

            So you don’t know what a strawman is either. What a suprise.

          • Indict Clapper

            Actually, I do. A good example of a strawman is when you pretend that I’m calling for every single detail of the NSA’s operations to be made public when I’ve said no such thing.

          • ultraviolet_uk

            But it is hard to see what would address your complaints that did not result in precisely that. Perhaps if you explained what you think should be done to provide oversight that you would be satisfied with, people wouldn’t reach such conclusions about you.

          • ChrisAndersen

            I agree that this report shows that Congress needs to do more oversight. I also think this report supports Obama’s statements.

          • Badgerite

            Yeah, that justifies Snowden running off to China and telling them all about our attempts to hack and spy on them. China, the nation most responsible for the continued existence of the North Korean regime. Because Diane Feinstein thinks that Congress needs to do a better job of oversight. Yeah, that’s how this story was reported by Greenwald, et al. The goal posts have moved substantially, when what this is about is Congress paying more attention to the audits. What it shows is that the audits, which Snowden claimed were easily evaded and ineffective are not easily evaded or ineffective. That the audits do exactly what they are supposed to do. That Snowden could have easily reported any of his concerns without fear of reprisal. And that, if those concerns were valid, he probably would have been listened to.

          • blackdaug

            It’s pretty funny watching Indict Troll, accuse anyone of “moving goalposts”, when literally his every comment could be used as an example of doing just that.
            In fact, since this story began, the GG trolls have moved the goalposts so often, they have created a field of holes that would swallow up an average sized campus.

          • Badgerite

            Seriously. Look how this story has devolved from its original billing from ‘direct access’ and no warrants and ‘rubber stamp’ FISA Court orders to incidental collection, individualized warrants but not if you are in DIRECT CONTACT with a known or suspected terrorist, and well they get reports but they are not detailed enough or they only get to exercise oversight at warrant renewal time. They needed the hype headlines so that when the actual story came out everyone would see it as somehow dishonest or deceptive.

          • ultraviolet_uk

            Let’s see what Dianne-friggin-Feinstein actually said, shall we?

            http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ContentRecord_id=9e2e8297-2968-40c9-8001-321e7a9a5079

            “The committee has been notified—and has held briefings and hearings—in cases where there have been significant FISA compliance issues. In all such cases, the incidents have been addressed by ending or adapting the activity.”

            “As I have said previously, the committee has never identified an instance in which the NSA has intentionally abused its authority to conduct surveillance for inappropriate purposes.”

            “I believe, however, that the committee can and should do more to independently verify that NSA’s operations are appropriate, and its reports of compliance incidents are accurate. This should include more routine trips to NSA by committee staff and committee hearings at which all compliance issues can be fully discussed.”

        • CL Nicholson

          You’re complaining that a spy agency isn’t completely transparent? Doesn’t complete transparency go against what actually means be a spy?!

          Also, why are you posting to an open forum on the internet? Should there be DHS agents breaking down your door right now and shipping you off to GITMO?!

          • nathkatun7

            CL, Nicholson, I really admire you patience in trying to explain reality to Mr/Ms. Indict. He/she is totally delusional.

    • Badgerite

      Again, did you miss the part about periodic reports to FISC and Congress?

      • Indict Clapper

        Again, did you miss the part where the agency scrubs the incriminating details from their audits to obscure the nature of violations before passing them along?

        And did you miss the part where the head of the FISC admitted that they are limited to approving procedures, and can’t actually verify if they’re being followed?

        And did you miss the part where searches of the “corporate store,” which contains records on vast numbers of Americans, don’t even generate auditable records?

        • Badgerite

          “Remove details and substitute more generic language’ does not necessarily mean ‘scrubbing’ of anything incriminating. You are the one saying that that would ‘obscure the nature’ of the violations. Not the article. More generic language could mean something as simple as ‘put it in English’. I’m sure that these kinds of reports can have a lot of technical details in them. Words have precise meanings. The term ‘generic language’ does not mean or imply deceptive language.
          And again, the article mentions that the ‘rubber stamp’ FISA Court made the NSA stop a program it was running because they ruled it as unconstitutional. So. Obviously a ‘rubber stamp’. At least that is what you and Snowden were saying a couple of weeks ago.
          Warrantless and ‘rubber stamp’ were your favorite derogatory terms.

          Yes I did miss the part that says ‘searches of the corporate store which contains records on vast numbers of Americans, don’t even generate audiitable records. Where does it say that please. Page and paragraph. Unless you are referring to the last page which refers to incidental collection of American records when a foreigner is being targeted. And I think the end of that paragraph must be in error because there has been nothing that would allow unrestricted access to an American citizens communication without a warrant that appeared in the NSA guidelines released earlier to be countermanded. If an analyst is aware they are listening to an American, they still must get a warrant. Period. Unless the contact is direct contact between that American and a known or suspected target. I believe the key phrase in that paragraph is ‘absent any other restrictions’. Well, the any other restrictions would be the requirement to get a warrant.

          As to the FISA Court. Well, that has come a long way from ‘rubber stamp’, hasn’t it. You want them to micro manage the programs? They can’t do that. Anymore then a local court can micro manage police work. They sign off on the reasonableness of the intrusion vs the risk they are designed to combat. You clearly disagree with their assessment of the risk.

          Did you happen to notice that when the analyst typed in Ericson and radio or radar, the target was a company having ties with Pakistan.
          Yes, the system needs tinkering. No, I am not setting my hair on fire about it. No, I don’t think we should try to do without it.

          • Indict Clapper

            1. ” You are the one saying that that would ‘obscure the nature’ of the violations. Not the article.”

            This is from the CBS news summary:
            “The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court
            that oversees surveillance,” the Post wrote, noting that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein,D-Calif., had not seen the internal report before the newspaper asked her staff about it…. In a statement to the Post, Feinstein said the Intelligence Committee “can and should do more to independently verify that NSA’s operations are appropriate, and its reports of compliance incidents are accurate.”

            So even Feinstein, one of the NSA’s most dogged defenders, clearly indicates that this revealed violations that she was unaware of. Pelosi’s statements suggest the same.

            2. Your point about the FISA court not necessarily being a rubber stamp is well-taken and valid. It remains clear, however, that the FISC is unable to perform actual oversight. It’s simply not accurate to say that this is the same situation that every court finds itself in. Consider, for example, the recent stop-and-frisk rulings. An independent authority was installed to monitor compliance. Do you think that the court is just going to accept the NYPD’s characterization of reality at face value?

            3. “Yes I did miss the part that says ‘searches of the corporate store which contains records on vast numbers of Americans, don’t even generate auditable records. Where does it say that please. Page and paragraph.”

            It wasn’t in this story. Here is an excerpt from the ACLU’s analysis of the declassified documents, which I highly recommend you read (www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/raiding-corporate-store-nsas-unfettered-access-vast-pool-americans-phone-data) :

            “But it’s even worse than that. The primary order prominently states that whenever the government accesses the wholesale telephone-metadata database, “an auditable record of the activity shall be generated.” It might feel fairly comforting to know that, if the government abuses its
            access to all Americans’ call data, it might eventually be called to account—until you read footnote 6 of the primary order, which exempts entirely the government’s use of the “corporate store” from the audit-trail requirement.”

            4. “Did you happen to notice that when the analyst typed in Ericson and radio or radar, the target was a company having ties with Pakistan.”

            Do you think I give a fuck? It’s clear that such a broad query will return a whole lot of communications that have absolutely nothing to do with Pakistan. And that’s the crux of the problem and of our disagreement. I consider it to be a problem when the NSA monitors domestic communications. You only consider it to be a problem if that is their explicit goal. Techniques like this make it absolutely inevitable that domestic comms will be monitored. The fact that the NSA plays a little word game and says, “But we weren’t targeting the people whose emails we read!” doesn’t convince me in the least.

    • Badgerite

      You are the person who takes the word ‘perhaps’ to mean never. These programs of data analysis were developed before 9/11. And one of the things they discovered by this kind of analysis is that their data analysis lead them to believe that Al Qaeda had established a undercover cell here in American and specifically in Florida. How does that square with what we know about after the fact? This group of analysts gave a warning and no one listened. They were told to delete all of their files because they were in violation of the law. They did not run off to China. They did as the law required even though they thought it was a mistake and put the nation in peril.

      Their program relies on sifting through large amounts of digital data to find a pattern that repeats preceding every terrorist attack around the world so as to predict a future attack. They necessarily rely on large amounts of data. They cannot do this type of analysis without it. Privacy is not the only Constitutional value that is involved here. It is always a balancing of many and frequently divergent public interests. I happen to think that this is an acceptable level of intrusion, especially given the obvious oversight that we were told by you and other like you was not there and the threat posed to this country by Al Qaeda. Again. On 9/11 the White House had to be EVACUATED.

  • Indict Clapper

    This is really hilarious. A few weeks ago, Cesca rightly pointed out an error in some reporting on the NSA: he showed how an original claim that the GCHQ could potentially vacuum up 21 million gigabytes of data a day had been inaccurately presented as the fact that they WERE vacuuming up 21 million gigabytes a day.

    But then he went a step further. He said that the whole point of stressing these millions and millions of gigabytes was to scare people into believing that data collection was incredibly vast.

    Now the fact that the NSA and its partners clearly do vacuum up absolutely massive quantities of data is not only acknowledged, but cited in defense of the NSA. The argument has shifted to, “Well, they’re gathering such an enormous quantity of communications, so this really just goes to show you how small of a percentage of their searches are violations.”

    • blackdaug

      The different types of data, and the scale of actual data involved, really baffles you doesn’t it?
      That explains a lot.

    • Richard_thunderbay

      The implication of the previous misreporting was that essentially everyone was being spied on by Obama’s “police state”. Now we know that 2776 incidents inadvertently occurred in a 12 month period. Keep on watching for those black helicopters outside your window, pal.

      • 624LC .

        You know he is praying that someone will find him important enough to spy on

        • nathkatun7

          That’s exactly the way I read Indict Clapper’s freak-outs about the NSA. Whatever bizarre/ deviant activities he/she may be engaged in,”Indict Clapper” needs to calm down. I doubt the NSA is at all interested in revealing to the world his/her bizarre lifestyle.

  • Indict Clapper

    “The infractions included “operator error,” “computer error,” “typographical errors” and so forth.”

    Wow, that’s quite a broad “and so forth,” since it also includes an unconstitutional program that the NSA used for months without the FISC’s knowledge. It also includes incidents where analysts performed searches for things like “Ericson” and “radio” without any additional filtration. And so forth.

  • blackdaug

    “Totally clueless. Why would NSA whitewash a top secret internal audit? To presumably lie to itself?”

    Exactly. Internal audits imply a functioning bureaucracy, with oversight and mistakes uncovered. That doesn’t comport very well with a monolithic infallible conspiracy of power, mindlessly trampling upon the constitution and everybody’s privacy rights.
    It also explains why this part of the story hasn’t come out until now. Bomb shelling the results of an internal audit in the beginning, might have produced a collective yawn.
    It appears (again) that the NSA goes to great pains to insure that no U.S. citizens communications are monitored, and has worked even harder on that goal under this administration….but since the very act of communicating requires two parties, and sometimes one of those two parties is either in the U.S. or travels to the U.S., occasionally they will be monitored….and then the results deleted and a notation of the mistake made, and then reported in the audit.
    I am still trying to picture how GG and friends would see any such system work: What changes should be made to repair this obviously deeply flawed Stasi-esque affront to every American’s rights.
    Oh wait, I don’t have to, since apparently, if they had their way, there would be no system at all.

    • Indict Clapper

      “Why would NSA whitewash a top secret internal audit? To presumably lie to itself?”

      I know. The next thing you’re going to be telling me is that tobacco companies commissioned studies on the addictiveness of nicotine and then covered them up. It’s too insane to believe!

      • Richard_thunderbay

        Jesus, what a stupid comment.

        • Indict Clapper

          Jesus, what a stupid commentariat.

          • blackdaug

            I don’t think you and your two buddies constitute a commentariat, but you sure personify stupid.
            Hell it’s in your name!

          • Steve Granger

            You beat me to it blackdaug. Was going to call him out on his name too. Where’s the network troll administrator?

          • Peter James

            Says the person who uses “commentariat” in that context.

      • blackdaug

        Yes, because the tobacco companies are just like the government….oh wait…companies are good guys, who have no power over me!

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        There is a HUGE difference between the internal R&D section of a major corporation and the OIG of a major government agency. OIG’s are by definition, officers of the law who take an oath to enforce the law within that agency and thus the audit. They arrest agency personnel and put them in jail every single day. That is the definiton of oversight. The tobacco reports are not the same thing AT ALL as an internal OIG audit, apples and oranges.

        • SeattleGuy

          Good point, irishgrrrl. Indictclapper makes one good point, though, he proves that the public’s misperception that “government is ALWAYS the problem, whereas the private sector is ALWAYS the solution” which was just as wrong when Reagan said it as now.

          Of note, is the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the lobbying agency behind the 40-year “cigarettes don’t cause cancer” meme, are now lobbying their new issue, “there is still a debate in the scientific community on climate change”. Can you see the playbook now?

          What, propaganda in these United States?

      • Badgerite

        You are equating the federal government with the tobacco industry. Sure. That works.

      • FlipYrWhig

        Doesn’t the tobacco example prove the opposite of your point? The tobacco companies had evidence of the addictiveness of nicotine, presented in truthful internal documents. They hid them from the public, but they didn’t hide them from themselves. You would need to have a tobacco company internal document about how nicotine _wasn’t_ addictive to make a parallel case. No?

        • Badgerite

          That’s very good point.

        • Indict Clapper

          No, since that’s exactly what’s happened here. The tobacco companies had internal reports that showed that nicotine was addictive. They concealed these facts from the public.

          The NSA has internal reports that show that violations occur daily. They concealed these facts from the public and Congress.

          I don’t understand how the parallel doesn’t work. The point is that the fact that they took the time to compile their own violations doesn’t point to their fundamental honesty.

          • FlipYrWhig

            But the tobacco companies didn’t “whitewash” their internal documents. They produced incriminating internal documents, then buried them. So for you or Greenwald to suggest that the NSA’s own internal document itself is pre-whitewashed… That doesn’t make sense.

          • nathkatun7

            Indict Clapper is a “TRUE BELIEVER.” He is not interested in logic, facts or reality.

          • Peter James

            >>>>”The NSA has internal reports that show that violations occur daily. They concealed these facts from the public and Congress.”

            The INTERNAL reports were NOT meant for public consumption, you moron.
            Or Congress for that matter (at least the part of it that wasn’t part of the Intelligence Committee and didn’t request them).

            That’s what the word “INTERNAL” means.

            The Nicotine reports on the other hand – REPORTS – were.

            Maybe start with those simple definitions to see why your parallels don’t work instead of trying to drive home a stupid point..

      • Peter James

        Wait, so according to you, commissioning a study on the “addictiveness” of nicotine (presumably for public consumption – the study, I mean), is the same, or on par, with conducting an INTERNAL audit, which, save for some hypocritical document stealing pipsqueak, is never meant for public consumption?

        You really are dumber than a box of nails.

  • Richard_thunderbay

    2,776 in 12 months. There are over 300 million people in the US, so the odds of you being an innocent victim of NSA “spying” is roughly 1 in 100,000.

    Truly, we live in an authoritarian state.

    • stone

      Well, just one of those 2,776 incident included roughly 3,000 people, so you’d have to adjust your math slightly if you wanted a correct estimate. I’m sure you’re not interested in the truth though.

      • Richard_thunderbay

        A very Greenwaldian smear, I must say.

        • stone

          Using facts and proper math? Okay, buddy.

          • Richard_thunderbay

            I was obviously referring your last sentence, but you knew that of course.

          • 624LC .

            Facts are kryptonite to greenwald and his minions. It interrupts the flailing and knashing of teeth.

      • Badgerite

        Incidents that were caught and corrected by an internal audit mechanism that is supposed to be, according to Snowden, completely lame. Eh. There are plenty of individualized search warrants that are issued in error, I’m sure.

      • nathkatun7

        See, now ll of a sudden, 3,000 people are equal to more than 300 million people. It’s really impossible trying to have a constructive conversation with members of Greenwald/Snowden cult.

        • stone

          It must be hard for you to have a conversation with anyone when you obviously don’t listen to what’s being said. How the fuck did you get that from my comment?

    • Indict Clapper

      Ummm.. no. That’s 2,776 INCIDENTS, not 2,776 people affected. It’s not clear how many people were affected, as the WP article makes clear. We do know that one of the 2,776 incidents involved approximately 3,000 people. We also know that another incident involved a “large number” of calls in the DC metro area.

      So you’re not quite right here.

      • CL Nicholson

        Then you’re even more than he is – basically, you’re looking at over a million transactions per hour on the net. If you’re only grabbing about 3K hiccups in out millions per hour in one year – its basically proving what Obama was saying was, well, true.

        • Indict Clapper

          You’re telling me that when Deputy AG James Cole said, “Every now and then, there may be a mistake,”we were supposed to understand “every now and then” as “seven times a day” and “there may be” as “we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are?”

          • CL Nicholson

            Do you realize how much shit goes across the web in one minute?! Hell, in every hospital I’ve worked in over 10 years – our CTO rented out cloud storage in another state just to save our own damn emails. We’re talking about one hospital- not monitoring the entire World Wide Web. If they’re catching 7 mistakes a day out of millions of transaction, we’re talking about what statisticians would call ‘insignificant’.

          • Indict Clapper

            What you’re saying is that violations are inevitable. I agree. I would just like to know why NSA and DOJ officials have repeatedly referred to them as if they were hypotheticals that might, perhaps, maybe occur, but that they’d be quickly caught by the FISA court, which, as we just learned, doesn’t receive detailed reports.

          • CL Nicholson

            Yes, Clapper, mistakes happen. But by your logic, since Oscar Grant and Sean Bell were innocent Black men gunned down by trigger happy cops – cops should no longer carry guns because they’re bound to shoot innocent Black people.

            Almost everyone but the most militant anti-statist would argue that just insane. But somehow, because the NSA weeds out inevitable screws up internally it means we need to abolish the NSA.

            That’s just nuts and really isn’t being mature about the question.

          • Badgerite

            But they were caught by the internal audit which was authorized by FISA Court. The FISA Court does not monitor all the individual transactions that go on. It monitors the overall framework to make sure that there is a system in place for catching and stopping any errors, mistakes or abuses as they occur. It would seem that there are, indeed, a lot of detailed reports issued all over the place though. The FISA Court signs off on the basic system and the protections put in place by that system including the reports to Congress and all the various entities charged with oversight. Since the FISA Court warrants have a limited time period it is highly likely that at some point, whatever errors, mistakes or abuses occurred will come before the court as part of the record showing that the appropriate safeguards are in place.

          • Indict Clapper

            What evidence whatsoever is there that any of these “errors” were corrected?

          • nathkatun7

            What evidence do you have that the “errors” were not corrected? For me the fact that no individual or organization have stepped forward to show that the NSA errors affected them is proof enough that “errors” were at least corrected or, at most, harmless.

          • Badgerite

            The FISA Court as well as your local court does not micro manage the activities of the police or the NSA. Our legal system, in fact, our political system has never ensured that errors will never occur or occur real infrequently. That is why court dockets are full. It ensures, usually, that oversight will occur. Eventually. Welcome to America. The trains don’t always run on time.

          • nathkatun7

            Can you at least name names or organizations that have been injured by the NSA?

          • Badgerite

            Well said.

        • Richard_thunderbay

          Crunching those numbers, about 3 out of every million are caught up in the NSA web. Surely, we are on the road to dictatorship.

          • SeattleGuy

            Really, richard. No self respecting dictator would spend all those years studying in Kenya to NOT own all the hospitals and docs for his healthcare plan, don’t your think?

      • nathkatun7

        You need to read your response over and over again because it basically supports what Richard said. Unless, of course, you think DC metro area represents the entire United States. Judging from many of your comments you probably do think that DC metro=the United Sates.

  • CL Nicholson

    So, let me get this straight – Obama says “We aren’t spying on Americans and we do regular audits to ensure folks aren’t breaking the law”, Snowden’s leaks prove what Obama just said a week ago……and the Professional Left lose their shit because the document that proves the President’s point somehow proves Obama was lying?! Uh, err, ah, what?!

    Man, Newsrooms must really hate August.

    • stone

      Let’s see – Obama says “”If you look at the reports, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs … what you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused,” then a week later Snowden’s leaks show thousands of unauthorized searches… and the Apologetic Left yawn because they’re interested in facts. What?

      • CL Nicholson

        No Troll – the point was that Snowden proved exactly what Obama was saying, the NSA follows strict policies and audit policies to weed out abuses and errors. But, Greenwald disciples like you and Lazy Professional Lefty pundits don’t seem to understand the meaning of the word ‘audit’.

        • Indict Clapper

          Once more, for those who are incapable of reading the WP article and insist on having their facts filtered for them by columnists like Cesca:

          ONE INCIDENT DOES NOT MEAN ONE PERSON AFFECTED.

          • CL Nicholson

            Actually, I am able to read, snarky. And being that I actually work in IT – it probably understand the issue better than the reporter. If the government is monitoring every single email, download, Youtube clip, facebook posting, text message, carrier pigeon and they flagged less than 3000 incidents – you’re looking at really small number. We’re talking “you’re more likely to die in a lightning storm” territory.

            Also, more to the point – it proves the damn point, the NSA takes steps not to abuse their power internally. Could the review be more open, yes. But, this doesn’t prove the government is spying on every American – it shows that the Obama administration and the NSA make sure that they don’t spy on Americans.

          • Indict Clapper

            The defense you’re giving is that the NSA scoops up so much information that it’s silly to get upset about a fraction of those searches violating the law.

            That’s ridiculous. If the police get in a shootout with a suspect and end up wounding 50 innocent bystanders, it is not a defense to point out, “Well, we fired 50,000 shots, so only a very small percentage hit innocent people.”

          • Richard_thunderbay

            So in terms of bad things happening to innocent people, my email being inadvertently read is on the same level as getting shot dead. Good to know.

          • Indict Clapper

            Yes, you clearly understand how analogies work.

          • Richard_thunderbay

            LOL

          • nathkatun7

            Richard T, You have finally pinned down Indict Clapper’s logic.

          • CL Nicholson

            First of all, you’re example is stupid, because it assume shooter (the government) is actually aiming at bystanders (us).

            Do you work in the IT world? Do realize how search algorithms actually work?! Put the word breast exams in google and you’ll pull about 20 results on mammography and 200 results on porn. So yes, mistakes happen its part of the business.

            Again, this IT has been my professional life since I was 20, as a programmer, systems administrator and project manager – so I know the kind of data that can be pushed across a network in a minute. In one minute, for a tiny department of say 15 people – you can send out over 50 messages in the forms of emails, web searches, server/client calls, etc. Now, expand that over a country of 300,000,000.

            Its more like saying we found salmonella in this year’s crop of spinach from one grower- so we should stop growing spinach forever. Not, we need to find out how salmonella contaminated this crop of spinach or shutdown the associated farms- its growing spinach automatically gives everyone salmonella, so lets stop eating spinach.

            That’s the kind of brain dead paranoia that the Professional Left and folks like you are engaged in. You’re taking the government’s audit of mistakes as the Obama administration is actively spying on you. That’s just nuts.

          • Badgerite

            It would seem, therefore, that what they object to is ANY surveillance, not matter what the purpose or reasonableness of the procedures adopted to filter out innocents.

          • Michael Finn

            So you are comparing NSA accidental data trapping and it’s oversight with police shooting suspects and innocent by-standards.

            What on earth is wrong with you?

            It’s hard to get people to care about this kind of stuff without people like you trying to make it seem like Nazi Germany is around the corner.

          • Badgerite

            They are not violating the law since that law envisions oversight in the form of audits. To have some kind of trail of you phone call or internet activity put into a database somewhere that is probably never accessed by the NSA with respect to you is hardly on par with getting shot. Privacy is important but bodily integrity, as in not getting shot, are kind of not equivalent injuries.

          • SeattleGuy

            Let me try, indict. Now that we know that A-Rod cheated, let’s disband MLB, OK? That’s the rationale from the NSA critics. I lived through Watergate, real government corruption. Don’t be fooled by those who live offshore and are quick to give away our safety for some unrealistic notion that we can return to the personal privacy we had in 1950.

          • 624LC .

            You are still talking about a drop in the bucket and that information is because of internal audits in plsce. All that yelling you are doing doesn’t change that.

          • Badgerite

            I, during my life, have experience at least two traffic stops for no real purpose. During one of which I was merely pulling out of my own driveway. Do you suggest we do away with all traffic stops of any kind because there might be an error. Do you really think that individualized search warrants are never issued in error? I’m quite sure they are.
            And abuse implies intentional conduct, not errors. And that the conduct from whatever cause, technical or human error, was not stopped or corrected when found. That is why audits are run, after all. An audit assumes the possible existence of errors. You also don’t mention that frequently the mistakes or ‘abuses’ are being caused by computer error. And when a computer makes an error in dealing with large numbers of transactions, that can add up.

        • SeattleGuy

          Careful, now, cl. I’m a lefty but we’re on the same “side” on this one. Get over where you belong with the rest of the Obama haters :)

          • CL Nicholson

            Sorry, Response to another blogger. In the wrong place man, Mea Culpa, sir.

          • CL Nicholson

            My oversight, mea culpa

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        You’re confusing “unauthorized” with “abuse”. If I’m working for the NSA and I search for the name of a non-citizen but accidentally misspell it and a real citizen is found and their data is culled, that is “unauthorized” but it isn’t abuse. It’s a mistake. Hence the classifying of the unauthorized searches by the type of error….Of those 2776 unauthorized, how many were actually “abuse”, meaning intentional illegal targeting? That’s what we should be talking about. If the number is really low, which I can confidently predict it is (statistically speaking), then you and all the other GG alcolytes are getting excited about nothing. Show me one other government agency in any country in the history of the world that didn’t have someone occasionally violate the rights of their citizens on purpose. Humans commit crimes. So does that mean we shouldn’t have the program at all because once in a million, no 100 million times, someone does do something wrong? If you believe that you need to go live on an island with all the Ron Paul nuts.

        • stone

          No, it means we should have a serious debate about which of these programs are necessary for national security and how those programs should be overseen in order to minimize mistakes and abuses. How can we have that debate when even members of congress are not denied information about how these programs operate?

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            We should have had the debate when all this crap was proposed years and years ago but people like myself were called traitors for insisting we have the debate and for questioning Bush and his supporters (of which GG was one). But here we are having this debate now when an man is in office that GG doesn’t seem to like all that much. Convenient that…..

            But I digress, to your point, just because Congress hadn’t seen the report didn’t mean it wasn’t available to them. Congress has not been doing any damn work for years now. They have security clearances, they have subpoena power, they set up the laws and the oversight, they are supposed to be keeping their eye on things and they haven’t been. The oversight is there. How can you blame the agency if Congress isn’t doing it’s job?

            Furthermore, even if Congress had this audit (which they probably only had to ask for it or actually look at the damn reports their given all the time or hold periodic hearings or schedule periodic meetings with NSA officials, etc, etc) then they would see that the purposeful abuse is so infinitesimally small that they shouldn’t be worried. Which is the whole point of what Bob is saying.

          • stone

            So, I take it you haven’t actually read this article. Here are the relevant (and I’m using this word in its ‘classical’ sense) sections:

            The May 2012 audit, intended for the agency’s top leaders, counts only incidents at the NSA’s Fort Meade headquarters and other ­facilities in the Washington area. Three government officials, speak­ing on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said the number would be substantially higher if it included other NSA operating units and regional collection centers.

            Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who did not receive a copy of the 2012 audit until The Post asked her staff about it, said in a statement late Thursday that the committee “can and should do more to independently verify that NSA’s operations are appropriate, and its reports of compliance incidents are accurate.”

            James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has acknowledged that the court found the NSA in breach of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, but the Obama administration has fought a Freedom of Information lawsuit that seeks the opinion.

            Generally, the NSA reveals nothing in public about its errors and infractions. The unclassified versions of the administration’s semiannual reports to Congress feature blacked-out pages under the headline “Statistical Data Relating to Compliance Incidents.”

            Members of Congress may read the unredacted documents, but only in a special secure room, and they are not allowed to take notes. Fewer than 10 percent of lawmakers employ a staff member who has the security clearance to read the reports and provide advice about their meaning and significance.

            The limited portions of the reports that can be read by the public acknowledge “a small number of compliance incidents.”

            Under NSA auditing guidelines, the incident count does not usually disclose the number of Americans affected.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            Members of Congress may read the unredacted documents….

            That is in addition to their staff members, the reports sent to them and the briefings given, which they don’t attend. Try again.

          • stone

            I agree with you that Congress should do more. I also believe that they should have much more open access to these documents. But I’m sure my objections to current policies, like those of the ACLU, are motivated by hatred for our president. You are so smart.

          • Steve Granger

            Go troll somewhere else…

          • stone

            Learn what it means to troll…
            [hint: it does not mean disagreeing with someone]

          • Steve Granger

            Your own words say that you are motivated by your hatred for our president. That alone qualifies you as a troll. My definition of a troll such as you is one who totally ignores fact when it is presented to you and continues to post just to cause trouble under your damned bridge. Enough said I think…

          • stone

            Yeah, I’m just as motivated by my hatred for our president as the ACLU is. Not one for subtlety, eh? And really, go find out what trolling means. Words have meanings.

          • SeattleGuy

            Do you realize that the ACLU correctly fights for the rights of minorities and that a few of those minorities happen to be drug dealers? Follow me for a minute. This means that the recent revelation by the WaPo that the DEA’s SOD was running an illegal parallel investigation of international drug distribution which may have relied on tips from the NSA’s surveillance programs, although I am not certain of this. So, the ACLU’s argument in this specific instance is that we need to protect the RIGHTS OF THE DRUG KINGPINS WE’RE DEFENDING IN COURT BECAUSE WE MAKE HUGE FEES (FROM THESE LOSERS). That could be a strong motivation for filing lawsuits in their case.

            Since all of the NSA targets involve a known foreign terrorist on one end, I can only imagine that the ACLU’s client is, quite possibly, an al Qaeda cell somewhere selling drugs to fund their international terrorism operations. Is it just me, or would you give the federal agencies a pass for doing the right thing?

          • SeattleGuy

            Do you believe the United States has a right to defend itself to protect it’s sovereignty, stone? Then we must trust our military intelligence team with their jobs.

            And top secret programs cannot have absolute transparency. Do you disagree with this basic fact?

          • ChrisAndersen

            On this we agree

          • Badgerite

            Did you miss the part about ‘periodic reports’ to Congress and the FISA Court. Just because FISC doesn’t monitor operations day to day does not mean they are not informed. The warrants are ongoing and have to be reviewed and renewed.

          • formerlywhatithink

            Oh, you mean the Congress that decided not to attend a NSA briefing so they could catch flights home? That Congress?

            http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/305765-senators-skip-classified-briefing-on-nsa-snooping-to-catch-flights-home

          • Peter James

            >>>>>”No, it means we should have a serious debate about which of these programs are necessary for national security and how those programs should be overseen in order to minimize mistakes and abuses.”

            And who gets to decide that? YOU?

            Or maybe Snowden who already took it upon himself to make that decision? Or his buddy Greenwald?

            >>>>”How can we have that debate when even members of congress are denied information about how these programs operate?”

            There’s a very good reason why Congress has Intelligence Committees (and other committees) where only members in the committee with clearance get access to Intelligence documents and not every freshman Senator and unvetted Tom, Dick and Harry.

            I’ll let you work that one out for yourself.

      • ChrisAndersen

        Unauthorized != Abused.

        Unauthorized means information was accessed that was not duly authorized to be accessed. That includes inadvertant access through bugs or operator errors. These kind of accesses are not authorized, but that does not mean they are the result of abuse.

        Now of course they *could* be the result of abuse, but the evidence presented so far does not prove it, no matter how much some may want to believe that it does.

        And yes, abuse is hard to prove, which is why we really need to discuss how to improve the oversight on these programs (and reducing some of the paranoia inducing secrecy). But we won’t have that discussion so long as every other day is spent knocking down articles that claim to prove abuse that, in fact, prove no such thing.

        • SeattleGuy

          “we really need to discuss how to improve the oversight on these programs”

          Unfortunately, we will NEVER please everyone and we shouldn’t even try. There are those who still insist there’s an area 51, oops, wrong comparison ;)

      • nathkatun7

        You have yet to to cite an example of a real live and breathing innocent individual who has been harmed by the NSA program. Look, I, for example, don’t particularly like the cameras on streets and highways in California because they can potentially be abused. I am also sure they may have at times malfunctioned. But does that mean that they are being abused and every error or malfunction is proof that they are being abused?

  • trgahan

    Yeah, for an administration/agency apparently bent on enslaving us through summer blockbuster style super villainy they sure don’t seem to be very good at it….maybe we have nothing to worry about even if the accusations by Snowden and Greenwald are true…

    • blackdaug

      Kind of like how he is the worst “socialist” according to corporate earnings and the market. The worst “secret muslim” according to OBL and other terrorists.
      Apparently he is now the “worst” Hitler / Stasi, with a security apparatus that works tirelessly to point out when they “abuse” the citizens privacy rights.
      Man, this guy is the worst President-Villain evah…!

      • trgahan

        I can see Obama’s memoirs now:
        “I had 8 years to institute my super secret evil power scheme that somehow former right wing media hit men turned “lefties” in 2006 to keep employed outlined in February 2009 and every yokel with an internet connection claimed they could prove within two clicks. Yet even then they couldn’t stop me, but alas I just couldn’t get the paperwork required for world domination right! Drat! “

  • stone

    Wow. I hope no one actually reads this site as a primary source of information. Please do yourselves a favor read the article from the Washington Post.

  • http://norwegianshooter.blogspot.com/ Mark Erickson

    Shark tank jumped. Nice job.

    • 624LC .

      Congrats! Next time, fall in.

    • Victor_the_Crab

      You’re boring. Go get swept up by a sharknado now.

  • kfreed

    Greenwlad’s response to everything that doesn’t comport with his Obama torching narrative is “Lie.”

  • Tom Blue

    The New York Times had a decent piece on this.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/16/us/nsa-often-broke-rules-on-privacy-audit-shows.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

    According to a spox a lot of those “errors” were the result of foreign people coming into the US, where they automatically become “US persons.” Interestingly, according to the piece, a lot of those violations happened to Chinese citizens coming into the US to celebrate Chinese New Year. Who knew? And who knew that so many Chinese people are monitored by the NSA? Not sure why.

    For those who don’t want to click:

    (quoth)
    The largest number of episodes — 1,904 — appeared to be “roamers,” in which a foreigner whose cellphone was being wiretapped without a warrant came to the United States, where individual warrants are required. A spike in such problems in a single quarter, the report said, could be because of Chinese citizens visiting friends and family for the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday.

    (end)

    • condew

      Thanks. The NY Times article is a lot more even handed. It also adds that when the ’202′ area code was mixed up with the international code ’20′, only metadata and not the calls themselves were collected. Generally decent journalism intending to inform rather than hype.

      • stone

        Even given that it was just metadata collection, I’m a little surprised that the Egypt/Washington DC ‘mix-up’ hasn’t caused even a little concern among people here. This was 2008, an election year, Bush was the presidents, and the NSA ‘accidentally’ gathers phone records from all of Washington DC? My guess is that if this little incident was revealed outside of the current context many here would be justifiably suspicious whether this incident was truly an accident, as they claimed.

  • gn

    The NSA reporting has been horrible. Overwrought bullshit giving the far right’s IRS “journalism” a run for its money. Thank you for keeping on top of it.

    • stone

      If you enjoy this piece, you should also check out Jennifer Rubin’s coverage over at the Washington Post. It’s really heartening to see the convergence of the ‘Cesca Left’ and the ‘Rubin Right’ on these issues.
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2013/08/18/nsa-scandal-or-near-perfection/

      • gn

        Okay dude. “I know you are but what am I” is at this point played out childishness from the far right and their nutty Rand Paul “left” emo cousins. Begone.

  • MorganleFay
    • kfreed

      About those Snowden T-shirts, mugs, and such…

      “Wikileaks Store Snowden T-Shirt Designer Sells Dartboard w/Bullseye on Obama’s Forehead” (design courtesy LibertyManiacs.com)<<< Ahem. A clue.

      http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/42404_Wikileaks_Store_Snowden_T-Shirt_Designer_Sells_Dartboard_w-Bullseye_on_Obamas_Forehead

      Been sayin'… the Wikileaks/Snowden/Greenwald fan club is nothing but a deranged bunch of Paulbots

      Oh and this: "Ron Paul, Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald & the Libertarians' Electoral Strategy"

      http://www.democraticunderground.com/125179195

    • stone

      Look how LGF covered this story–it’s almost as misleading as this post. Charles says that this report shows that 3,000 people were inappropriately spied on, when the article clearly states that just 1 of the 2,776 incidents included 3,000 people. But when people tried to point out his serious misreading in the comments he deletes their comments and their accounts. Real honest, open debate these guys are having.

      • BlueTrooth

        Uhm…did it occur to any of the brainiacs that Charles was referring to that one incident in the headline to make the general point? Why didn’t the headline read “2776 people were…”? Gawd…the stupid must be painful for you folks.

        • stone

          So, he was just being purposefully misleading then. Yes, it had occurred to me.

        • Indict Clapper

          No, it didn’t occur to me, since his very first sentence read: “The Washington Post’s new article on the NSA uncovered “unauthorized use of data” of 3000 US citizens.”

          Yes, and it uncovered unauthorized use of data in 2,775 more incidents.

          If I say, “Three people were killed at Auschwitz; that’s a tiny, infinitesimal percentage of the Jewish population,” do you think that’s accurate? Should it be clear that I’m specifically referring to three individuals while completely ignoring the millions of other victims?

      • Indict Clapper

        Just one point of contention: LGF’s post on this was far more misleading than this one. Cesca just omits the facts that don’t fit his narrative. Johnson makes shit up.

        • stone

          Agreed. And banned from LGF for pointing it out.

          • Indict Clapper

            I’m just waiting for the inevitable point when a leak comes out that convinces even these guys (LFG and Cesca) that abuses have occurred. Then they’ll turn around and write long columns about how Greenwald should have printed that story first. I wouldn’t be surprised if they already have them written.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            Ummm, no. If there is some evidence of a pattern of abuse then I will be the first one to stand up and say GG was right. So far, there’s nothing of the sort.

          • Badgerite

            ‘Abuses’, to me, means that it was intentional and that it was not caught and corrected by an internal audit. You are equating what are essentially systemic mistakes with abuses. Not the same thing at all. The current ‘revelation’ just shows that Snowden could have easily and safely reported any real concerns he had about even mistakes as well as abuses without risking too much of anything. That he could have done it anonymously. That there is a strong internal audit system in place. So, basically nothing that was said in the initial reporting of this story was or is true. Like I have said previously, whatever concerns I might have had about the NSA were allayed by Snowden himself. It is also why I think he went abroad to leak. Because his real gripe was the INTERNATIONAL spying to begin with. And that, of course, is unrestrained. Nothing he did or has since released makes sense unless that was the real target of his ‘revelations’ to begin with.

          • ultraviolet_uk

            Even if it does occur, though, it does not change one single thing about how dishonest and misleading the stories to date from Greenwald and his ilk have been. Nor does it change the fact that nothing revealed to date does expose anything other than an organisation doing what it is required to do in accordance with the framework laid down by Congress, and with processes in place to pick up the few mistakes when they happen.

          • stacib23

            If Greenwald had evidence of abuse, real “I can put my hands on it” evidence, then Bob would be right to make that claim. That SHOULD have been the first story printed, and you can place a bet that if he had that, he would have created full building wraps to show the world what a crappy government the US has and what a lying president Obama is.

      • MorganleFay

        Actually, LGF quoted the WaPo.
        Frankly, I think compared to the assault on voting and women’s rights, this story is as relevant as ballon boy.

        • stone

          That’s a fine position to take, but why bother commenting then?

          The LGF coverage was laughably bad. Terrible. That guy is a joke. The first lines of his post read:

          The Washington Post’s new article on the NSA uncovered “unauthorized use of data” of 3000 US citizens. That’s about 0.0009% of the population, but you wouldn’t know from the headline:

          The problem, as I just pointed out, is that the Post article states that just one (1) incident of the 2,776 documented in that period involved 3,000 people. So, actually, Charles Johnson is straight up misrepresenting facts to fit his agenda. When people called him out, he deleted their comments and banned those users. That’s the kind of dishonesty he brings to this conversation.

  • condew

    I wonder how 2,776 errors compares to Homeland Security’s record for the same period. How many times the “no-fly list” names happen to coincide with the name of a 6-month old baby, or how many times a great-grandmother was subjected to an invasive search because she has a metal hip.

    • SeattleGuy

      I would honestly like to know how many fellow Americans find incorrect information on their credit reports and have great difficulty correcting the errors? Talk about mean-spirited targeting.