So the NSA had posted two "fact sheets" in pdf format on it's website to help explain their data mining tactics in an attempt to alleviate concerns from the public about their practices.
We recently wrote about the NSA's highly questionable "talking points" about the various NSA surveillance programs that have leaked. Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall -- who have long been leading the fight to get people to understand how the NSA was spying on Americans -- have now sent a letter to NSA boss Keith Alexander saying that the "facts" in the NSA's "fact sheets" do not, in fact, appear to be factual, and asking him to correct the errors.We were disappointed to see that this fact sheet contains an inaccurate statement about how the section 702 authority has been interpreted by the US government. In our judgment this inaccuracy is significant, as it portrays protections for Americans' privacy as being significantly stronger than they actually are. We have identified this inaccurate statement in the classified attachment to this letter.
We urge you to correct this statement as soon as possible. As you have seen, when the NSA makes inaccurate statements about government surveillance and fails to correct the public record, it can decrease public confidence in the NSA's openness and its commitment to protecting Americans' constitutional rights. Rebuilding this confidence will require a willingness to correct misstatements and a willingness to make reforms where appropriate.
Later in the letter, they also point to another "misleading" statement, amusingly using a letter that the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) sent to Wyden and Udall two years ago. This was back when they two were asking the DNI to at least reveal how many Americans had their info collected, and the DNI responded that "...it is not reasonably possible to identify the number of people located in the United States whose communications may have been reviewed...." Now Wyden and Udall are using that line to show that the latest "fact sheet" must be wrong:Separately, we note that this same fact sheet states that under section 702, "Any inadvertently acquired communication of or concerning a US person must be promptly destroyed if it is neither relevant to the authorized purpose nor evidence of a crime." We believe that this statement is somewhat misleading, in that it implies that the NSA has the ability to determine how many American communications it has collected under section 702, or that the law does not allow the NSA to deliberately search for the records of particular Americans. In fact, the intelligence community has told us repeatedly that it is "not reasonably possible to identify the number of people located in the United States whose communications may have been reviewed under the authority" of the FISA Amendments Act.
So, basically: were you lying to us then, or are you lying to us now?
We'll see what the NSA's response is, but I imagine it will likely involve more lying.
So what do they do in response....do they edit the documents to make them actually truthful, so as not to give the perception that they're trying to further mislead the public?
Of course not!
The joke around the NSA used to be that the acronym stood for "No Such Agency" as its very existence was denied for years. While the NSA is now very official, it's still probably the most secretive agency out there. That's to be somewhat expected, given its mission, but it appears that when it needs to be transparent, it doesn't do very well at all. We noted yesterday that Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall had called the NSA out for flat out lying on a "fact sheet" the agency had posted about its section 702 surveillance efforts. The NSA's response? They quietly deleted the pdf document from their website. Because it's not like the internet notices when you suddenly delete the document you put out to defend your overreaching surveillance techniques... You'd think that, of any agency out there, the NSA would recognize the most that simply deleting something on your local computers doesn't make it actually disappear from the world. But, here's the best part:Separately Tuesday, another NSA official said the removal of the fact sheets and letter from the senators were unrelated.
Ah, yeah, I'm sure it had absolutely nothing to do with that whatsoever...
In more "unrelated" news, NSA boss, General Keith Alexander has also admitted that perhaps the fact sheet wasn't fully accurate:"After reviewing your letter, I agree that the fact sheet that the National Security Agency posted on its website on 18 June 2013 could have more precisely described the requirements for collection under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act."
Oh, I'm sure that the original wording was fairly "precise." It's just that it was precisely misleading, which is the sort of precision that the NSA seems to specialize in when it comes to any sort of public discussion.
Good job, asshats.