Category Archives: Civil Liberties

CIA Spied on Senate Committee?

This story seems like a Smoking Gun-sized Big Deal. The NYT version, C.I.A. Employees Face New Inquiry Amid Clashes on Detention Program and the less namby-pamby McClatchy version, Probe sought of CIA conduct in Senate study of secret detention program paint a pretty damming picture of an agency totally out of control, and of a potentially massive separation of powers conflict arising out of the Senate’s report on CIA torture.

Compare McClatchy’s leed:

The CIA Inspector General’s Office has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations of malfeasance at the spy agency in connection with a yet-to-be released Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program, McClatchy has learned.

The criminal referral may be related to what several knowledgeable people said was CIA monitoring of computers used by Senate aides to prepare the study. The monitoring may have violated an agreement between the committee and the agency.

to the NYT leed:

The Central Intelligence Agency’s attempt to keep secret the details of a defunct detention and interrogation program has escalated a battle between the agency and members of Congress and led to an investigation by the C.I.A.’s internal watchdog into the conduct of agency employees.

The agency’s inspector general began the inquiry partly as a response to complaints from members of Congress that C.I.A. employees were improperly monitoring the work of staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to government officials with knowledge of the investigation.

McClatchy also says this:

The committee determined earlier this year that the CIA monitored computers – in possible violation of an agreement against doing so – that the agency had provided to intelligence committee staff in a secure room at CIA headquarters that the agency insisted they use to review millions of pages of top-secret reports, cables and other documents, according to people with knowledge.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, a panel member, apparently was referring to the monitoring when he asked CIA Director John Brennan at a Jan. 9 hearing if provisions of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act “apply to the CIA? Seems to me that’s a yes or no answer.”

Brennan replied that he’d have to get back to Wyden after looking into “what the act actually calls for and it’s applicability to CIA’s authorities.”

None of that is in the NYT version, although the NYT (like McClatchy) does have these details:

Then, in December, Mr. Udall revealed that the Intelligence Committee had become aware of an internal C.I.A. study that he said was “consistent with the Intelligence Committee’s report” and “conflicts with the official C.I.A. response to the committee’s report.”

It appears that Mr. Udall’s revelation is what set off the current fight, with C.I.A. officials accusing the Intelligence Committee of learning about the internal review by gaining unauthorized access to agency databases.

In a letter to President Obama on Tuesday, Mr. Udall made a vague reference to the dispute over the C.I.A.’s internal report.

“As you are aware, the C.I.A. has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal C.I.A. review, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” he wrote.

Developing.

Posted in Law: Constitutional Law, National Security, Surveillance, Torture | Leave a comment

Dan’s First First Media

My brother has his inaugural article up at First Media’s “The Intercept”: The Terrible Toll of Secrecy.

Posted in Dan Froomkin, Surveillance | Leave a comment

Nobody Home at Rubio’s Office?

The Day We Fight BackAs part of the “Today We Fight Back” initiative I clicked the “call your legislator” button on the pop-up I’ve installed here for the day. The way it works is you give your phone number, then their bot calls your phone, asks for your zip code, and connects you to your representatives.

I was duly connected to Sen. Nelson’s office, where they answered on the second ring, and a polite gentleman noted my concerns and promised “to pass it along to the Senator” (uh-huh).

Then the app connected me to Senator Rubio’s office. The phone rang eight times and no one answered. Is no one home? Do they have caller ID and not bother answering calls that come in via the EFF’s app?

Then it was on to Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s office, where it barely rang twice, and another nice gentleman, this time with an Australian accent, took down my info.

Back when I did politics, I used to only half-jokingly say that one indication of a struggling political outfit was if the phone ever rang more than three times. By that standard Rubio is tanking.

Not answering the phone is no way to treat constituents, even if you know they don’t agree with you. Lame. Very lame.

Posted in Florida, Politics: FL-18, Surveillance | Leave a comment

Happy Data Privacy Day

Today is Data Privacy Day. Start your celebration with Unqualified Offerings:

Snowden’s revelations must be especially hard on the psychiatric profession. If one patient dismisses the idea that the government is spying on him, and the other is convinced that the government is working with major electronics manufacturers to put listening devices in his personal belongings, which one do you diagnose as being unable to distinguish reality from fantasy?

At a University committee meeting recently, I suggested the University should provide us all with encryption so we can protect our data on our computers, and in transit, as it was at risk of interception. The ranking University official at the meeting smiled dismissively and said something along the lines of ‘Well, if you are worrying about that…”. I said, “but it’s national policy – the President announced it.” He stopped smiling.

Posted in Cryptography, Software, Surveillance | Leave a comment

Early Returns: NSA Surveillance Reforms are Not Impressive

EFF tries to strike a note of cautious optimism about President Obama’s NSA reform package, Obama Takes First Steps Toward Reforming NSA Surveillance, but Leaves Many Issues Unaddressed, even though by my reading Obama’s reforms, such as they are, don’t do very well on yesterday’s EFF scorecarrd.

Simon Davis is more pessimistic:

US privacy advocates are right to conditionally welcome some of Obama’s reforms, but they should take into account two critically important implications that the President avoided.

The first of these is the NSA’s intimate operational partnership with Britain’s SIGINT agency, GCHQ. Nothing in his reform package indicates a brake on the current arrangements which allow GCHQ to collect information on US persons.

The second key element is that the proposals appear to merely shift the current collection and retention of metadata from a centralised NSA operation to more of a European-style communications data arrangement that requires commercial entities to maintain a distributed retention. That arrangement in Europe has been deemed unlawful, but there is every chance the US will adopt it.

All things considered, the prospects for genuine intelligence reform at the global level are more bleak than they were 24 hours ago.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Law: Privacy, National Security | 2 Comments

Obama Limitation on Bulk Collection of E-Data Amounts to ‘Trust Us’

I’m underwhelmed by President Obama’s new Presidential Policy Directive/Ppd-28 on Signals Intelligence.

As I read it, the document announces various fine principles for how drift-net collection of email and telephone and other computer data will be used, but says nothing about collecting any less of it. The memo purports to define “why, whether, and how” this data will be collected; in fact it has a lot more to say about limitations on use than collection, most of it pretty good.1

Unfortunately the collection section, section 3, is the shortest and, on first reading, the worst. Here it is in full:

Sec. 3. Refining the Process for Collecting Signals Intelligence.

U.S. intelligence collection activities present the potential for national security damage if improperly disclosed. Signals intelligence collection raises special concerns, given the opportunities and risks created by the constantly evolving technological and geopolitical environment; the unique nature of such collection and the inherent concerns raised when signals intelligence can only be collected in bulk; and the risk of damage to our national security interests and our law enforcement, intelligence-sharing, and diplomatic relationships should our capabilities or activities be compromised. It is, therefore, essential that national security policymakers consider carefully the value of signals intelligence activities in light of the risks entailed in conducting these activities.

To enable this judgment, the heads of departments and agencies that participate in the policy processes for establishing signals intelligence priorities and requirements shall, on an annual basis, review any priorities or requirements identified by their departments or agencies and advise the DNI whether each should be maintained, with a copy of the advice provided to the APNSA.

Additionally, the classified Annex to this directive, which supplements the existing policy process for reviewing signals intelligence activities, affirms that determinations about whether and how to conduct signals intelligence activities must carefully evaluate the benefits to our national interests and the risks posed by those activities. (footnote omitted)

I read that to mean … “trust us”. Am I wrong?


  1. There is one odd footnote, footnote 5, that I don’t fully understand:
    The limitations contained in this section do not apply to signals intelligence data that is temporarily acquired to facilitate targeted collection. References to signals intelligence collected in “bulk” mean the authorized collection of large quantities of signals intelligence data which, due to technical or operational considerations, is acquired without the use of discriminants (e.g., specific identifiers, selection terms, etc.).

    []

Posted in Civil Liberties, Law: Privacy, National Security | Leave a comment

Glenn Greenwald Keynote to 30C3

Via Cory Doctorow, here’s Glenn Greenwald’s Keynote to the 30th Chaos Communications Congress (30C3) (skip to 4:36).

I’d like to go to C3 some year.

Posted in Civil Liberties, The Media | 1 Comment