NSA Routinely Misleads Congress…

electronic frontier foundation

In a recent post regarding, Boundless Informant, an NSA computer tool for capturing metadata, Guardian reporter, Glenn Greenwald points out holes in Congress’s NSA oversight. In short, that the NSA routinely misleads Congress. A valid point, given that a major source of comfort Americans derive in their acceptance of secret security programs is the fact that they are overseen by our representatives in congress.

“The disclosure of the internal Boundless Informant system comes amid a struggle between the NSA and its overseers in the Senate over whether it can track the intelligence it collects on American communications. The NSA’s position is that it is not technologically feasible to do so.

At a hearing of the Senate intelligence committee In March this year, Democratic senator Ron Wyden asked James Clapper, the director of national intelligence: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No sir,” replied Clapper.

Judith Emmel, an NSA spokeswoman, told the Guardian in a response to the latest disclosures: “NSA has consistently reported – including to Congress – that we do not have the ability to determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication. That remains the case.”

Other documents seen by the Guardian further demonstrate that the NSA does in fact break down its surveillance intercepts which could allow the agency to determine how many of them are from the US. The level of detail includes individual IP addresses.

IP address is not a perfect proxy for someone’s physical location but it is rather close, said Chris Soghoian, the principal technologist with the Speech Privacy and Technology Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. “If you don’t take steps to hide it, the IP address provided by yourinternet provider will certainly tell you what country, state and, typically, city you are in,” Soghoian said.

That approximation has implications for the ongoing oversight battle between the intelligence agencies and Congress.

On Friday, in his first public response to the Guardian’s disclosures this week on NSA surveillance, Barack Obama said that that congressional oversight was the American peoples’ best guarantee that they were not being spied on.

“These are the folks you all vote for as your representatives in Congress and they are being fully briefed on these programs,” he said. Obama also insisted that any surveillance was “very narrowly circumscribed”.

Senators have expressed their frustration at the NSA’s refusal to supply statistics. In a letter to NSA director General Keith Alexander in October last year, senator Wyden and his Democratic colleague on the Senate intelligence committee, Mark Udall, noted that “the intelligence community has stated repeatedly that it is not possible to provide even a rough estimate of how many American communications have been collected under the Fisa Amendments Act, and has even declined to estimate the scale of this collection.”

At a congressional hearing in March last year, Alexander denied point-blank that the agency had the figures on how many Americans had their electronic communications collected or reviewed. Asked if he had the capability to get them, Alexander said: “No. No. We do not have the technical insights in the United States.” He added that “nor do we do have the equipment in the United States to actually collect that kind of information”.

Selection Reprinted From The Guardian, Read Entire Story Here

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