Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The NSA Hubbub Continues

Techdirt has become one of my favorite sources for surveillance news lately, thanks in large part to Mike Masnick's tireless coverage of every possible news angle. Some highlights include:
The tide is quickly turning, but you can't expect the intelligence community to admit that yet. They have a knack for stubbornness and for making absurd and untruthful claims about their activities. Think of Clapper's statement to congress, his many explanations for that statement, and now this doozy from the NSA's director of compliance, John DeLong, via the Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):
"NSA has a zero-tolerance policy for willful misconduct," Mr. DeLong said. "None of the incidents that were in the document released were willful." Mr. DeLong reported, however, "a couple" of willful violations in the past decade. He didn't provide details.
Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell Sen. Diane Feinstein, head of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, who really ought to know:
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.
But of course, the "truthfulness" of that statement depends on one's own definition of "inappropriate purposes." In Feinstein's mind, there might be a difference between intentional abuses conducted for appropriate purposes and intentional abuses conducted for inappropriate purposes. I can't imagine what that difference would be, but I can sure imagine someone defending their words with such a distinction and getting away with it, a la Clapper. That's just the how the world works now.
An important message from the NSA
Meanwhile, congress is (surprisingly) keeping up the good fight. Sen. Pat Toomey issued a statement yesterday that read in part:
The latest revelations about privacy violations by the NSA raise important questions and warrant a congressional hearing.
In other words, the Amash Amendment, narrowly defeated in congress, isn't dead yet. The scale is tipping. Many representatives, including Rep. Amash, are raring for a second go.