The NSA Hearing, by the Numbers BY KIM ZETTER

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From: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/06/nsa-hearing-by-the-numbers/

The NSA Hearing, by the Numbers
BY KIM ZETTER
06.18.13
3:00 PM

Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Gen. Keith B. Alexander, testifies about NSA surveillance before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill. Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP

 

A federal hearing today on NSA surveillance programs leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden produced some interesting numbers about the scope of the data collections and other issues. We’ve produced a roundup below of some of the interesting stats and intelligence gleaned from the discussion.

The hearing, before Congress’s Select Committee on Intelligence, included NSA Director, General Keith Alexander; Deputy Attorney General James Cole; Deputy Director of the FBI Sean Joyce; and General Counsel Robert Litt, from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence General Counsel.

1) NSA Only Uses Section 215 of Patriot Act to Obtain Phone records. NSA Director Keith Alexander, responding to questions about the kinds of business records the agency obtains using this power granted by the Patriot Act, said that the agency only uses it to obtain phone records from companies. This would seem to contradict a recent Wall Street Journal story, which disclosed that the agency was collecting credit card transactions. But Alexander’s statement doesn’t rule out that the FBI is collecting credit card transactions and providing data pertaining to foreign intelligence cases to the NSA. The vast majority of business records requests under Section 215 are done by the FBI and other federal agencies, not the NSA.

2) Phone Records Obtained by NSA under Section 215 Are Destroyed After 5 Years. ODNI General Counsel Robert Litt asserted that the records are not kept indefinitely. Nor are they used for general data mining and pattern analysis, according to Alexander. He stated that the records are only used to perform individual “queries” against specific phone numbers. Presumably this means that pattern analysis likely would be done on those targeted phone numbers that are under investigation in order to ascertain any and all phone numbers that have communicated with the targeted number.

3) Only 22 People at NSA Can Authorize Queries of Phone Records Database. This number includes 20 analysts and two supervisors. Among the 22 people who can authorize such queries of the phone records database are Gen. Alexander himself and Litt.

4) Records/Data Obtained under 215 and Section 702 of FISA Thwarted 50 Potential Terrorist Plots. NSA Director Alexander and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce said that at least 50 cases they investigated used data obtained under the two surveillance programs that Snowden exposed. Section 702 of FISA can cover real-time emails and chats, IP addresses and other data. Asked by Rep. Jim Himes (D-Connecticut), how many of these 50 episodes “would have occurred but for your ability to use 702″ (or “How essential are these authorizations to stopping these attacks?”), Alexander said that he believed that in at least half of these cases, the data obtained under Section 702 of FISA was “critical.” He said that of the cases involving the use of phone records obtained under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, a little more than 10 of these cases involved some kind of “domestic nexus” — meaning they involved a U.S. citizen overseas or in the U.S. The vast majority of these cases “had a contribution from the business records requests.”

5) Snowden Worked for the NSA for 15 Months at Time of Leaks. Although it’s been reported that Snowden had only been working for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton for three months at the time of the leaks, and had only been stationed at the NSA’s Hawaii facility a few weeks prior to leaking, Alexander noted that Snowden had actually been working for the NSA under a different contractor during the 12 months prior to moving to Booz Allen Hamilton, which would have given him more time to scope out the network and determine which data he wanted to take.

6) NSA Plans to Institute a Two-Person Rule to Govern Activities of SysAdmins This would presumably involve requiring a shadow for every sysadmin to ensure that no one operator can download the kind of data Snowden obtained without authorization from another operator, or change auditing and logging instructions on the system to hide their tracks. Alexander noted that Snowden, as a systems administrator, had great authority to access parts of the network that are not accessible to regular analysts. The sysadmin also has the ability to set the auditing conditions on a portion of the network. “This is a huge problem,” Alexander said. “We’re coming up with a two-person rule to make sure we have a way to block” someone from taking information out of the system. “This is a work in progress,” he said.

7) NSA Has About 1,000 SysAdmins Worldwide. Alexander said the NSA has about 1,000 system administrators that have, in certain sections, the level of authority comparable to what Snowden had to access data. This number seems small, and Alexander said they were working on trying to get a more exact figure, but he noted that the majority of these system administrators were contract workers.

Finally, something else of note that Alexander said in the hearing today. The NSA apparently doesn’t yet know how Snowden obtained access to the court order that authorized Verizon to hand over the phone records of millions of American customers. He noted that to access the kind of data collected under the program required special “certificates” or keys to gain access to areas where the data was stored. Certificates and keys can refer to digital access to walled-off areas of data on a server, but Alexander also seemed to imply that Snowden would have needed physical access to a room where the data was stored.

“To get to any data like business records under 215, that’s in controlled area,” Alexander said. “You need specific certificates to get in to that. I’m not aware that Snowden had any certificates to get into that.” He later noted that by “certificates” he meant keys, meaning presumably electronic door access keys.

“In this case, what the system administrator had access to is what we’ll call the public web forums that NSA operates, and these are the things that talk about how we do our business, not necessarily what’s being collected as a results of that,” Alexander said. “Nor does it necessarily give them the insights that the training and the other issues that training and certification process and accreditation that our folks go through to actually do this. So those are in separate programs and require other certificates to get into.”

When asked if this meant Snowden did not have the certificates necessary to leave that public forum, Alexander replied, “So each set of data that we would have, and in this case let’s say the business records, FISA, you have to have specific certificates … because this is a cordoned off, so that would be extremely difficult for him to. . . he’d have to get up to NSA and get into that room to do. Others require certificates for you to be working in this area to have that. He would have to get one of those certificates to actually enter that area…. In other words, it’s a key.”

Following the hearing, reporters in the room cornered Alexander for further explanation about this, during which Alexander reportedly said that the NSA believes Snowden obtained access to the court order while he was undergoing orientation and training at the NSA’s headquarters at Ft. Meade.

“The FISA warrant was on a web server that he had access to as an analyst coming into the Threat Operations Center,” Alexander told Politico. “It was in a special classified section that as he was getting his training he went to.”

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USA Calling For the Extradition of Snowden

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From: http://news.slashdot.org/story/13/06/10/1134226/usa-calling-for-the-extradition-of-snowden?utm_source=rss1.0mainlinkanon&utm_medium=feed

 

Taco Cowboy writes”Edward Snowden, the leaker who gave us the evidence of US government spying on its people is under threat of being extradited back to the U.S. to face prosecution. Some people in Congress, including Republican Peter King (R-NY), are calling for his extradition from Hong Kong to face trial. From the article: ‘A spokesman for the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said Snowden’s case had been referred to the justice department and US intelligence was assessing the damage caused by the disclosures. “Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law,” the spokesman, Shawn Turner, said.'”

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The NSA’s Favorite Weasel Word To Pretend It’s Claiming It Doesn’t Spy On Americans – Mike Masnick

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Well, well. In the aftermath of the revelations that the NSA is getting records of every phone call from Verizon, followed up by the news that most of the biggest tech companies are supposedly giving direct access to the NSA, the intelligence community is responding the same way it always does: with weasel words. First up, you can see Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s statement about the spying, which we’ll be discussing again in a bit.

But, a bunch of folks have been reasonably pointing out that Clapper appears to have lied to Congress. Of course, it’s not like this wasn’t easily called. Two years ago, we wrote about Clapper’s answers to Senators Wyden and Udall, which we pointed out was a ridiculous answer that was clearly sidestepping the real questions. However, looking over that letter again now, and having become a bit more familiar with the weasel words the NSA likes to use, it’s easy to look at Clapper’s statement and explain why he can “stand by it” while the clear implication of it was the opposite of what he meant.

You asked whether communications of Americans have been collected… Section 702 of the FAA [FISA Amendments Act] explicitly prohibits the intentional targeting of persons reasonably believed to be located in the United States or United States persons located abroad. The Intelligence Community has put in place a variety of procedures, which have been approved by the FISA Court as required by law, to ensure that only persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States are targeted and to prevent the intentional acquisition of any communications as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known to be located in the United States. Guidelines are also required by law to ensure compliance with other limitations on FAA collection, including the requirement that a U.S. person may not be intentionally targeted under section 702. If it is discovered that a target has entered the U.S. or is a U.S. person, he or she is promptly detargeted and reports are made as appropriate to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the FISA Court. Moreover, when communications from persons located in the United States are collected because they are communicating with a lawful target, the privacy and civil liberty rights of U.S. persons are protected through the careful implementation of the procedures required under the FAA to ’minimize the acquisition and retention, and prohibit the dissemination“ of information about U.S. persons.’”
Most people would read this to be him saying that they do not spy on Americans. And that’s obviously what he’s trying to imply. But that’s not what he’s actually saying. He’s using the NSA’s favorite weasel word: “target.” Now, most people assume that means one of the people on the call must be outside the US. But, you could — if you were devious intelligence official trying to mislead Congress and the American public (hypothetically) — interpret the word “target” to mean “if we, in general are ‘targeting’ foreign threats, no matter what they might be like, and this information we’re collecting might help in that process, then we can snarf up this data.”

In other words, most people think that “target” would mean one of the people on the phone. But, the NSA means “this overall investigation is about targeting foreign threats, so we can take whatever data we want because the goal is to stop foreign threats with it — and therefore our mandate not to spy on Americans doesn’t apply.”

So, it shouldn’t be particularly surprising to see that the administration’s “response” to this is to highlight, yet again, that this only “targets” non-US persons:
Information collected through a U.S. government surveillance program that taps into the servers of internet companies targets only non-U.S. persons living outside the United States, a senior administration official said on Thursday.

The U.S. law that allows the collection of data under this program does not allow the targeting of any U.S. citizen or of any person located in the United States, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Right, but whether or not they’re “targeting” a person, is separate from whether or not they’re spying on the data of Americans. As long as it’s all part of a process that “targets” non-US persons, they can claim that they’re playing by the rules.

Given that, however, I don’t see how Clapper can reasonably standby the following statements:
Wyden: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

Clapper: No sir.

Wyden: It does not?

Clapper: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect—but not wittingly.
Clapper is insisting that he didn’t lie in his comments, but he then pretends that he was only talking about email:
What I said was, the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ e-mails. I stand by that.
Except, that’s not what he was asked, nor was it what he said. He was specifically asked if the NSA collects any type of data at all, and he said no. Up above, he was using weasel words, but here it looks like he was flat out lying directly to Congress. Usually, Congress doesn’t like that.

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