Apparently, the Guardian is seeing the mistake it made in allowing Glenn Greenwald to publish “news” without oversight, so they’re enlisting other reporters to join in, in a vain attempt to give Greenwald and Snowden’s initial story just a bit more credibility than the none the story has now. Eddie Snowden is apparently handing over documents to others at the Guardian, not just Greenwald. Either that, or Greenwald was too busy media whoring to write it up. Either way, today’s contribution is a story by James Ball and Spencer Ackerman, entitled:
NSA loophole allows warrantless search for US citizens’ emails and phone calls
Exclusive: Spy agency has secret backdoor permission to search databases for individual Americans’ communications.
See how horrible all of this is, folks? Glenn tried to warn you. See? See? The feds have “backdoor permission” to get anything they want on you. You should be very frightened by this concept.
Well, except for the fact that it’s not true. The headline does not reflect the content of the document at all.
There is no evidence of “backdoor permission,” and there is no evidence presented in the article or the “top secret” document they reference that suggests the government has actually done such a thing. Essentially, the entire article says, “they could if they wanted to, someday, maybe…”
This is not news reporting, it’s gossip. Here’s the first paragraph of the article, followed by the “top secret” document that was apparently provided to them by Snowden:
The National Security Agency has a secret backdoor into its vast databases under a legal authority enabling it to search for US citizens’email and phone calls without a warrant, according to a top-secret document passed to the Guardian by Edward Snowden.
Do Ball & Ackerman assume we can’t read that? Or perhaps Snowden/Greemwald/they don’t understand it. But it clearly says “analysts may NOT/NOT implement any USP queries until an effective oversight process has been developed by NSA and agreed to by DOJ/ODNI. Until further notice, analysts must ensure that database queries… of any USP selection terms are NOT run against collected FAA 702 data…”
What that means is, until there is oversight in place to protect the American people from the law, analysts are actually forbidden from using any data on any US citizen. And they can only do so later on with a warrant, by showing probable cause. Yet, look at how the article characterizes the above:
The previously undisclosed rule change allows NSA operatives to hunt for individual Americans’ communications using their name or other identifying information. Senator Ron Wyden told the Guardian that the law provides the NSA with a loophole potentially allowing “warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans”.
See the problem? The text of the “top-secret” document supplied by Snowden says the opposite of that. And I honestly no longer trust Wyden on this issue, so I checked the law. (Source)
An acquisition authorized under subsection (a)—
(1) may not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located
in the United States;
(2) may not intentionally target a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States if the purpose of such acquisition is to target a particular, known person reasonably believed to be in the United States;
(3) may not intentionally target a United States person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States;
(4) may not intentionally acquire any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of the acquisition to be located in the United States; and
(5) shall be conducted in a manner consistent with the fourth amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Where’s this “loophole”? The word is “target.” If they accidentally stumble upon an American who’s conversing with al Qaeda, that’s one thing. But they are forbidden from going forward without oversight. They are absolutely forbidden from targeting, beyond just an incidental hit from the massive PRISM database, without a warrant, and without oversight from both FISA and the Department of Justice. Know how I know that? Read the above “top secret” document.
This is getting old, folks. Just because someone gives you a “top secret” document doesn’t mean you have a “story.” The NSA is not allowed to target anyone in the United States without a warrant and without oversight, and this document reinforces that. There’s no story in this document, and you can’t make one from it. Following Greenwald’s lead is not a winner for anyone.