back to article Declassified documents show NSA staff abused tapping, misled courts

The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has declassified 1,800 pages of documents that indicate that the NSA routinely overstepped its authority and misled oversight bodies about the surveillance of US citizens. "In June of this year, President Obama directed me to declassify and make public as much …


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  1. Herby

    Then there is everyone's take on the subject.

    For example, see Dilbert this week.

    Backups? We don't need backups, somebody else already does that for us.

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    And how many of these traitors

    Are are now being brought to trial?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And how many of these traitors

      Yes, it's past time for the 3rd Branch of the US Government (the Judiciary for those that missed that day) to step up.

      Any activist judge could arrange for a complaint to be filed. Then the sky is the limit for tossing senior staff in jail.

      Anonymous Coward - a bit pointless, innit?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And how many of these traitors

        The fact is, they would plead guilty and as soon as they were "convicted" the POTUS would pardon them. They wouldn't spend a single minute in a jail. That is how the system really works.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And how many of these traitors

        Isn't "Any activist judge" a massive conflict of interest in an adverserial system, where the Judges are there to sit and conduct and direct a trial, before the jury decide on guilt. I don't know about the USA, but in the UK we have an agency separate from Police and Judiciary who decide who's going to get prosecuted.

    2. Kharkov

      Re: And how many of these traitors

      Ooh! Ooh! I know this one!


      The NSA has consistently lied about what they've done, what they're doing and their future plans. Absolutely no-one in the US government is going to change that and people will be encouraged to distrust their own government, and non-Americans will continue to distrust the USA. You can guess the long-term consequences of this...

      And we're what? Surprised by any of this?

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: And how many of these traitors brought to trial?

      How many?

      None, They seem to be posting here with impunity.

  3. John Tserkezis

    I'm shocked in exactly how not surprised I am.

    It does however explain the free for all information grab they had been aiming for, it would just legalise what they've already been doing for some time. More importantly, it would obscure somewhat the current illegal status of their tapping.

    Except they got caught with their pants down first...

  4. Don Jefe

    Somewhat Disingenuous?

    I'm not sure either 'somewhat' or 'disingenuous' can be applied to The Clapper and the NSA. They haven't somewhat anything since this all started. They went so far past somewhat I'm not sure how to express it without scientific notation.

    Disingenuous is when the wife calls to ask if you got milk at the store and you reply "yes", but fail to tell her you forgot it the backseat of your car all day. Disingenuous is when your neighbor asks if you've seen their cat and you tell them "saw it up the street yesterday" but leave out "right as it leaped out of the bushes and under my front tire".

    The Clapper and the NSA have been guileful, mendacious, perfidious, recreant, sinister, swindling, traitorous, treacherous, two-faced, two-timing, unctuous, underhanded, unprincipled, unscrupulous, untrustworthy, and villainous.

    James Clapper and Keith Alexander are poor citizens, poor employees, poor managers, poor examples of Humans and completely unacceptable in public office. They need, they must, go before we can even being to heal these wounds.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Somewhat Disingenuous?

      Today's yoof replies:


      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Somewhat Disingenuous?

        "Today's yoof replies:



    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Somewhat Disingenuous?

      "James Clapper and Keith Alexander are poor citizens, poor employees, poor managers, poor examples of Humans and completely unacceptable in public office. "

      A pretty good definition of "Data fetishist."

    3. xerocred

      Re: Somewhat Disingenuous?


      One of the best posts I have ever read.

  5. Chris G Silver badge

    The worry is

    With the NSA's drive to openess; they are releasing 'properly' classified files but obviously only those that they think can be explained away without too much damage to themselves. Which begs the question what is still lurking in the NSA vaults that they don't want to admit to?

    I suspect that 'openess' is currently a euphemism for damage limitation at the NSA!

    It is also significant that very little of the same kind of openess is occurring at GCHQ as they probably have nothing they would like to admit to, seeing as they have always spied on everyone and anyone as much as possible since the Nazi capitulation threatened to put them out of business.

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Big Brother

    TL:DR "We woz dng wrg bt courts caught us."

    See, American suspects taxpayers, we are being supervised (and pretty tightly) by FISC.

    It's got a Judge and everything.

    We might have spied (a little) on some people we shouldn't have strictly been spying on but that's all old news.

    Now we only spy on those people we're allowed to.

    But remember, it's for your protection.

    That's about 99% of the the American population.

    You're appreciation of our work on your behalf is greatly appreciated.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Color me surprised...

    Quote "Incredibly, intelligence officials said today that no one at the NSA fully understood how its own surveillance system worked at the time so they could not adequately explain it to the court,"

    It does not surprise anyone here.

    1. It was procured. To spec.

    2. The procurement spec was designed with the active cooperation of the high tech industry which went on to implement it after that. Based on what has been published so far the system works as follows.

    * Metadata is captured wholesale and run through a typical Google/Bing style map-reduce (or similar algo) analysis job.

    * The map-reduce job spits out the "target marks"

    * Target marks are attacked the usual way.

    I am not surprised in the slightest that the average "Комитет Государственной Безопасности" analyst has no clue how the metadata analysis functions and how targets are selected. This is interplanetary rocket science as far as he is concerned.

    1. korikisulda

      Re: Color me surprised...

      Don't insult the KGB by comparing them to the NSA! ;)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gotta love how the ODNI defines "public interest"

    We lost a court case that we fought bitterly and we are required to release documents about events we've struggled to keep secret for the last 7 year's.

    However, this morning we came to the conclusion that letting the public know what was going on is in the public interest. (Oh, and the federal marshals waiting to haul us in for contempt of court might have had something to do with it)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smoke And Mirrors - NUMBERS

    Don't fall into the trap of believing ANY of their Numbers. I do not believe they tapped only 17000 people in a couple of years in America. It is much more rational to assume that they tracked the entire muslim, peace and anarchist scene. That's more like 30 million people.

    But of course, they will fudge the criteria until it comes down to "17000". You cease to be a "US Person", as soon as their secret lie detector (which is attached to all 350 million phone lines) will automatically classifiy you as a "terrozist". According to some secret FISA ruling or something. So its not 30017000 tapped, but 17000 tapped. The other 30 Million people are terrozists and have automatically lost citizenship.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speaking Of Terrozers

    At least 30% of El Reg Commentors are Terrozists according to World Government definition: People who talk crypto, security or write against the MIC and one of their illegal wars. THAT is enough to be a terrozist in the rumor-mongering of ex-servicemen who act as sensors and covert actors for the Imperium.

  11. nematoad Silver badge
    Big Brother


    OK. That's the NSA somewhat brought to book.

    What worries me as a UK citizen is that there is a deafening silence from both GCHQ and campaigners to show that the same things, or if Snowden is right worse, are not happening here.

    For once in my life I envy the citizens of the USA, they seem to have far greater leverage over their government than we do. After all if the world can be, sort of, told about PRISM and BULLRUN then why can't we be told about TEMPORA and EDGEHILL?

    Chances are that the best we will be offered is another bland and meaningless statement stating that "All laws and procedures have been followed." And then we will be expected to take them (the Government) at their word and be satisfied with that.

    Not good enough by a very long chalk.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. codejunky Silver badge

    So to clarify

    The NSA isnt saying they are trying to scoop up as much data on everybody to help them track down the few terrorists. Instead they are just incompetent?

    The follow up question being that if I commit a crime can I just say I didnt know what was going on because it was so complicated?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      No you can't.

      Incompetence is only a valid excuse for a government organization or official.

      Citizens cannot be incompetent before the law, they can only be guilty.

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: So to clarify

      The entire saga has been an epic display of incompetence.

      Beginning with a contractor stealing unknown quantities of super secret information from a super secret high security spy agency to the NSA's very first statement denying they did it and in the same statement saying it was effective, but they don't know how effective; they'd need a week to figure it out. All the way through to today, months later, where the NSA still doesn't know what Snowden took and everyday has to to look back at three months of lies to figure out which ones they haven't used yet as still more information becomes available.

      Every part of this is 100% due to lack of oversight. I don't know that I would give my wife, or Jesus H Christ himself, nearly unlimited funds and the equivalent of a Papal Bull guaranteeing their immunity to the law and at the same time making it illegal for me to ask what they're up to. That's just 673 different kinds of fucking stupid. This mess is the only possible outcome of a structure like that.

      Addendum: It is not the only possible outcome. Before this there was the "Slam Dunk" intelligence about all those WMD's, Yellowcake, mobile CBW facilities in Iraq. And the Islamic fundamentalist group in Afghanistan that was threatening threatening the government there and funding acts of terrorism all over the place. I guess the second one is no longer an issue though: We're friends with the Taliban now, so no hard feelings yeah?

  13. ecofeco Silver badge
    Big Brother


    Who were those posters from the other related articles claiming we were being a bit hysteric?

    I mean besides being obvious shills.

    Hysteric, eh?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hysteria?

      Shills? Ooh, good counterpoint. The accusations of hysteria arise when people who have a valid concern make broad-spectrum accusations on the assumption that if one person in government does something bad they all are, all the time before Snowden does his bit. Coming onto forums acting like someone going up and down Oxford Street with a sandwich board talking about the end of the world and accusing people who don't automatically side with you (because you're, you know, so worldy-wise) of stupidity, ignorance or complicity destroys your credibility. So you achieve nothing and probably do more damage to your cause because people who might have been listening at first start to think, "God, here he goes again." Of course, for those who mainly want to turn around and say "I told you so!" to show how savvy you are, the shotgun approach is always likely to yield some results.

      Short version for yoof like you - don't cry wolf.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Hysteria?

        When the compromised people in government are General Alexander and James Clapper who run the entire show, then I feel it's entirely safe to assume that the whole goddamned thing is rotten.

        You may believe in America Uber Alles but the Nazi rise to power was perfectly legal too. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, sir. The vigilant are screaming. You are in denial.

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Hysteria?

        Nice ad hom. AC.

    2. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Hysteria?

      @ ecofeco

      "Who were those posters from the other related articles claiming we were being a bit hysteric?"

      In the same place as the people who used to call others 'Euro-sceptic'. Those in the wrong go quiet rather than say they were wrong. We are all wrong sometimes but most people wont admit that

    3. ecofeco Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Hysteria?

      Thanks for proving my point, AC.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    oh well

    there have been, no doubt, much worse cases of breach of this or that, incompetence on the national or world scale, and other "issues", all slightly incompatible with what was preached, i.e. we are holy, so fuck off. Just think what would be revealed with declassification of documents on the nukes department, and such.

    Anyways, all within the "marginal error", all for the good and greatness of America.

    emoticon? what emoticon?!

  15. JaitcH
    Thumb Down

    Declassified documents show ....

    THIS will NEVER be said of GCHQ ... as the UK government, of any colour, don't believe the great unwashed British public are entitled to know what it does in their name, or the same audience is capable of understanding what GCHQ actually does.

    This is reinforced by all the things the Nanny State does for the public including what InterNet URLs it may visit. A sort of country-wide version of The Stepford Wives (available on PirateBay).

    Whoops, I forgot, that URL is verboten. Do the rules even allow ownership of bulldogs?

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Declassified documents show ....

      If it makes you feel any better, our government thinks the same of us. You can tell in many ways but two relevant here:

      - They only declassified these documents to try and cover up the enormous turd they dropped on the American dinner table. Everyone knows it but they refuse to believe that and they say as much.

      - They consider this defense sufficient to placate everyone. The only significant domestic issue in nearly 15 years that both major parties can find broad agreement on how fucked up it is and those responsible muster up internal oversight documents less significant than the permission slip I signed for my kids field trip to the municipal incinerator.

      I have to give you guys credit for being so terrified by the Internet, dogs and garbage bins though. Maybe you guys should get some guns. We just shoot those things over here if we're too concerned about them. It won't do any actual good, but it does make you feel better. Silver linings and all that you know :)

  16. Bernard M. Orwell

    To Matt Bryant

    You and I had a debate over a previous article wherein I criticised the FISA courts for their rampant, unaccountable pursuit of unlawful surveillance actions taken against US citizens. You defended them despite the evidence I presented, saying that they were wholly legal and justified in their actions and activities.

    The POTUS has himself now appeared to have taken a similar stance to my arguments and has directed these clandestine powers to reveal themselves and their activities to the US electorate. As a result it has become even clearer that they have been entirely in the wrong and acting unlawfully all this time, as I, and others, postulated originally.

    I'd be interested in your response.

    1. BlueGreen

      Re: To Matt Bryant @Bernard M. Orwell

      Bloody funny that, I too was thinking how silent our normally très bleaty conformist friend had become, especially as I have also pointed out how inevitably commercial the use of monitoring would become. Our matt denied this totally, even when it was stated as a legal requirement to use it as such, and now it looks like the evidence he wanted is inevitably coming to light.

      But then it's never about facts with matt, it's about matt's ego and being one up on everyone else. If he was wrong he wouldn't be better, smarter, fitter than all of us, so he cannot be wrong.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: Bluegreen Re: To Matt Bryant @Bernard M. Orwell

        Fellow forum members, please also take the time to assist Bluegreen as he does seem quite incapable of reaching a conclusion by himself. Try not to get too irritated by his obstinate disregard for facts, his unstinting baaaah-life in what he "was told" or "heard", despite him being unable to back up these secondhand conspiracy theories with any proof. Just accept that the are those out there, like Boring Bernie and Bluegreen, for whom reality is just too painful, and they need that web of denial to make it through their sad and bitter lives.

        "....especially as I have also pointed out how inevitably commercial the use of monitoring would become.....". Poor little Синийeзеленый, still asking others to fill in the gaps for you? Please note that I not only debunked that in another thread, I also pointed out then that you have zero evidence of even the activity, let alone the subsequent use of any info gathered for commercial ends. Please do try and remember when you have been corrected as it will only be irritating for all involved if I have to keep correcting your same lies repeatedly.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Boring Bernie Re: To Matt Bryant

      Firstly, I would like to apologies to Bernie for not being here to help him comprehend the article as I was busy elsewhere. It seems none of the other forum members stepped in to help him with the long words either. Please, in future, can we all take a more proactive approach with helping our "special" contributors. Please do remember that the vacuous nature of their posts does not make them any less welcome and that it is only through correction and explanation that they can hope to get a clue. Thank you all.

      ".....the FISA courts for their rampant, unaccountable pursuit of unlawful surveillance actions...." Bernie, before you rant any further, please note that there is still nothing that has been judged illegal, or even a legal case raised. There, now that we have returned to thread back to facts rather than wishful bleating, please continue.

      "......The POTUS has himself now appeared to have taken a similar stance to my arguments....." Obambi is preaching to the disgruntled elements in his own choir, end of. He may not be standing for another election but the Dummicrats certainly don't want to alienate the sheeple. Please concentrate real hard and spot the bit where he says anything illegal has happened, or what definitive actions he is taking, rather than making empty promises of "investigating" and "assuring the American people", blah, blah, blah. It's sadly not surprising that Obambi got elected in the first place when the sheeple like you are so eager to pull the wool over your own eyes.

      You really need to work on actually looking at what is happening, trying to gauge why certain things are said, rather than just leaping to the conclusion that chimes best with what your flock are bleating.

      1. Bernard M. Orwell

        Re: Boring Bernie To Matt Bryant

        Ah good, you're back! Nice to see you again. I need a reminder from time to time that I am the sane one and that real insanity can be found lurking here in the guise of Matt Brainlack.

        Love the denial of reality line as it's clearly you thats screaming the denials not us. Open your eyes, troll-boy and take a long look at how the unfolding events concur with our angles and not with yours. Swallow some of that self-aggrandisement and wasted pride for a change as more of us might take you more seriously then.

        In answer to your point, however, I don't think I actually used the word "illegal" either so perhaps some reading comprehension tuition would be appropriate for you rather than for me. Not the first time you've failed to actually read what I've actually posted, is it?

        Now, let's see, what was it you said in our original discussion? Ah yes, here it is...

        " So, if the panels of judges, and there were plenty of them over the years (forty federal judges), passed all the other warrants, could it be the surveillance requested was justified? Gosh, no way, right? LOL! So we can now all plainly see it is not only a narrow and targeted program, but that forty different judges (yeah, please do pretend they are all Republicans) thought the warrants were LEGALLY justified in all but eleven cases. And those cases got rejected."

        Seems you were entirely wrong. Suprise, suprise. Again, not the first time you have spouted opinion as fact. I suggest you spend some time doing some proper research instead of relying on the Daily Mail and Fox News to fuel your foaming. Do enjoy your Tea-Party.

        TTFN old chap.

        1. Bernard M. Orwell

          Re: Boring Bernie To Matt Bryant


          " ...between May 24, 2006 and February 17, 2009, the NSA was monitoring 17,835 phone accounts, barely 2,000 of which had "reasonable articulable suspicion" of wrongdoing – a requirement for such surveillance to be legal."

          Yeah, thats not someone saying it was (potentially) illegal at all, is it? Not meeting the requirements for something to be legal isn't the same as something being done that is illegal. Takes a special kind of weasel to make that fine distinction.

          "During a judicial review of the program, the NSA said that the problems stemmed from the fact that the information-gathering infrastructure was so complex that "there was no single person with a complete understanding of the FISA system architecture."

          Look! They need you MB! It's your duty as a Patriot to explain it to them as clearly as you have to us.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            Re: Boring Bernie To Matt Bryant

            "....Yeah, thats not someone saying it was (potentially) illegal at all, is it?...." Dear cretin, please try READING the article, it states they were procedural errors and not deliberate attempts by the NSA to either spy on everyone or get around the FISC. And it also states the errors were identified and procedures tightened to eliminate similar errors in the 2009 review, so they are not happening now. You still fail.

            ".....Look! They need you MB! It's your duty as a Patriot to explain it to them as clearly as you have to us." Yes, it is very obvious you do need a lot explaining to you.

        2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          Re: Blind Bernie Re: Boring Bernie To Matt Bryant

          ".....Love the denial of reality line as it's clearly you thats screaming the denials not us....." Bernie, did you even read the same news!?!?!? ROFLMAO!

          ".....take a long look at how the unfolding events concur with our angles and not with yours....." Your line - "the NSA is spying on ALL OF US ALL THE TIME, Snowjob said it's so!" News - "the NSA collects data which is then mined to select targets for analysis." My line - "I'm not surprised the NSA gathers data, I suspected so long before Snowjob, but they are not bothering with paranoid sheeple." Hmmmm, I still think my line is a lot closer to the facts than yours, thanks.

          ".... I don't think I actually used the word "illegal" either so perhaps some reading comprehension tuition would be appropriate...." Try again. In your post Tuesday 17th September 2013 11:10 GMT you used the word "unlawful" and then said I was wrong to claim it was all "legal", so you most definitely tried to claim it was all illegal. Sorry, I'd add reading comprehension to your list, but what with all the remedial reading and history catch up you have I don't think you'll have the time for another few years.

          ".....Seems you were entirely wrong...." How? You have not read the article carefully, all it mentions are procedural errors during 2006 and 2009, not that the NSA is deliberately misleading anyone now. It also says the errors were brought to light as part of a review and corrected, so for you to try and claim they are still happening is doubly wrong. Try again, little lambikins.

  17. Jonathan Schwatrz



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