August 24, 2013
So, this week, we wrote about the NSA quietly admitting that there had been intentional abuses  of its surveillance infrastructure, despite earlier claims by NSA boss Keith Alexander and various folks in Congress that there had been absolutely no  “intentional” abuses. Late on Friday (of course) the NSA finally put out an official statement admitting to an average of one intentional abuser per year  over the past ten years. The AP is reporting that at least one of the abuses involved an NSA employee spying on a former spouse. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal suggests that spying on love interests happens somewhat more often :
The practice isn’t frequent — one official estimated a handful of cases in the last decade — but it’s common enough to garner its own spycraft label: LOVEINT.
A handful is still significantly more than once. And it’s a lot more than the “zero” times we’d been told about repeatedly by defenders of the program.
While the NSA says it takes these abuses seriously, there’s no indication that the analyst was fired.
Much more troubling is that it appears that the NSA only told its oversight committee in the Senate about all of this a few days ago:
The Senate Intelligence Committee was briefed this week on the willful violations by the NSA’s inspector general’s office, as first reported by Bloomberg.
“The committee has learned that in isolated cases over the past decade, a very small number of NSA personnel have violated NSA procedures — in roughly one case per year,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the committee, said in a statement Friday.
Of course, this is the same Dianne Feinstein who, exactly a week ago, said the following :
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.
Yeah. Because apparently the NSA chose not to tell the committee until a few days later, despite it happening for years.
And, of course, they release this all on a Friday night, hoping that it’ll avoid the news cycle…
In the meantime, the NSA just made Senator Feinstein look like a complete fool. She’s been its strongest defender in Congress for years, and has stood up for it time and time again, despite all of this questionable activity. Then, last week, it lets her tell lies about it without telling her beforehand that there had been such abuses. At this point, it’s abundantly clear that Feinstein’s “oversight” of the NSA is a joke. She’s either incompetent or lying. Either way, it appears that the NSA is running circles around her, and isn’t subject to any real Congressional oversight. At some point, you’d think that maybe she’d stop defending it and actually start doing her job when it comes to oversight. You’d think the fact that it let her make a complete fool of herself by claiming there had been no intentional abuses should make Feinstein realize that the NSA situation is out of control. But, tragically, this seems unlikely. Even her statement seems to want to minimize the seriousness of the fact that she — the person in charge of oversight — was completely kept in the dark about very serious intentional abuses. Senator Feinstein just got hung out to dry by the NSA. You’d think she’d stop going to bat for it and its lies.
Either way, we’ve now gone from General Keith Alexander and Feinstein claiming “no abuses,” to them saying no “intentional” abuses, to this latest admission of plenty of intentional abuses, including spying on lovers. Perhaps, instead of lying, it’s time for the NSA to come clean and to get some real oversight.