What? I Said “Trust NASA.” What Did You Think I Said?

LTB logo

Surely this was just a typo:

When this is actually what was going on:

NSA broke rules
Based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, the Post reports that the NSA, to which the President seemed to be referring last week, has in fact "broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority" many thousands of times. The formerly secret documents include an internal audit that counted 2,776 "incidents" in a 12-month period, and that only counted incidents at facilities in the Washington area. (Sources said the number would be "substantially higher" if it included other facilities.) Most of the incidents involved surveillance wholly within the United States, which you may recall is that thing they said they aren't doing because of it being illegal.

Some of the incidents were said to have arisen from "typographical errors." The most amusing of these is the typo that caused the NSA to mistakenly collect "data on numerous phone calls from the Washington area code 202, thinking they were foreign calls from Egypt, whose country code is 20." Well, that's understandable. Somebody at the world's most technically sophisticated intelligence agency (or at least the most expensive) accidentally typed in an extra "2," and, coincidentally, ended up spying on calls in, of all places, Washington D.C. Wow, I bet there were some red faces after that one.

Also, it appears that "[u]nder NSA auditing guidelines, the incident count does not usually disclose the number of Americans affected." Just one "incident," for example, involved over 3,000 files that the NSA kept after being ordered by the FISA court to destroy them, each file containing an "undisclosed number of telephone call records." I don't want to do the math, but that's starting to sound like a lot. And it still doesn't count the "pervasive" collection and searching of innocent Americans' records that the NSA sweeps up "incidentally" when targeting someone it's actually allowed to target.

That is, incidental collections aren't "incidents."

There is also fun stuff here on the claim that the NSA is subject to comprehensive "oversight." "In one required tutorial," the Post says, "NSA collectors and analysts are taught to fill out oversight forms without giving 'extraneous information' to 'our … overseers,'" namely the Justice Department, Congress, and the FISA court. For example, the "targeting rationale" is limited to "one short sentence" and no "probable-cause-like information" can be supplied. How's that go again? "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable-cause-like information"? No, that doesn't sound right.

Maybe the memo explains the term somewhere, or explains how an overseer is supposed to decide whether surveillance is justified based on "one short sentence." I didn't read the whole thing. Let me know.