WaPo: Individual Section 215 Searches Not Subject to FISA Court Review

This is an interesting bit of pushback from the NSA, as anonymously sourced to Dana Priest of the WaPo:

The analysts’ 215 requests go to one of the 22 people at the NSA who are permitted to approve them — the chief or the deputy chief of the Homeland Security Analysis Center or one of 20 authorized Homeland Security mission coordinators within the Signals Intelligence directorate’s analysis and production directorate.

Once a request is approved, it is given to one of the Signal Intelligence directorate’s 33 counterterrorism analysts who are authorized to access the U.S. phone metadata collection.

The sourcing is intended to push back from the idea that any old analyst can just make this decision. But in the attempt, it undermines the idea that the FISA court is an actual check on NSA abuse. The FISA court is not involved at all in the individual search process, according to Priest's NSA sources.

That undermines the idea of the FISA court as an effective check on the NSA.

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    Leave it to the NSA... (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Dadler on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 02:24:13 PM EST
    ...to not understand the obvious subtext and, in this case, SUPERtext, of their announcement..


    They don't really need to (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by sj on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 03:32:23 PM EST
    They can count on the Big Megaphones telling the story that the NSA wants. Notice that Dana Priest didn't make the point that BTD did. Just as they also don't bother pointing out that "anonymously sourced" information is [likely] equal to "leaked" information.

    Her article is propaganda (none / 0) (#18)
    by shoephone on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 09:43:45 PM EST
    Propaganda? (none / 0) (#19)
    by NYShooter on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 10:33:37 PM EST
    Admittedly,  I don't read the W.P. as much as I used to, but smearing Dana Priest with the same brush that The Post deserves is a little unfair, I think. Priest has been a dogged investigator/reporter regarding secrecy in Government for decades.

    As BTD said, "the FISA court is not involved in determining the relevance of those searches."

    Which is exactly what Ms. Priest said in BTD's quote, "The FISA court is not involved at all in the individual search process, according to Priest's NSA sources."

    Where's the propaganda?


    What check? (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by NYShooter on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 04:41:14 PM EST
    "....FISA court as an effective check...?"

    Since one person alone, Chief Justice, Roberts, hand picks the FISA judges (who, by the way, are virtually all Right Wing Republicans) is it any wonder they have denied eavesdropping requests fewer times than you have fingers on one hand?

    Rubber stamps, masquerading as judges, does not emote confidence in my book.

    Congressional oversight? (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by MO Blue on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 04:52:25 PM EST
    Cursory reports on 215 activity are sent to Congress every year. The last one was eight sentences.

    How does an eight sentence full year report to Congress provide enough information for any type of real oversight?

    James Ball and Spencer Ackerman (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Edger on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 08:50:27 AM EST
    at The Guardian, Friday Aug 09
    NSA loophole allows warrantless search for US citizens' emails and phone calls

    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.

    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".

    The authority, approved in 2011, appears to contrast with repeated assurances from Barack Obama and senior intelligence officials to both Congress and the American public that the privacy of US citizens is protected from the NSA's dragnet surveillance programs.

    The intelligence data is being gathered under Section 702 of the of the Fisa Amendments Act (FAA), which gives the NSA authority to target without warrant the communications of foreign targets, who must be non-US citizens and outside the US at the point of collection.

    The communications of Americans in direct contact with foreign targets can also be collected without a warrant, and the intelligence agencies acknowledge that purely domestic communications can also be inadvertently swept into its databases. That process is known as "incidental collection" in surveillance parlance.

    But this is the first evidence that the NSA has permission to search those databases for specific US individuals' communications.

    Gotta hand it to the NSA, being able to search (5.00 / 6) (#22)
    by Mr Natural on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 08:55:36 AM EST
    supposedly "anonymous" metadata using people's names.

    These guys are pros.... (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Edger on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 08:59:12 AM EST
    The strenuous objections to even the (5.00 / 4) (#24)
    by ruffian on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 04:21:10 PM EST
    ineffective FISA warrant procedures were a clear indication a few years ago that they intended to do exactly what they wanted in this area. I don't think laws mean anything to them. The very existence of the databases means they will be abused.

    Maybe I'm reading this wrong... (none / 0) (#3)
    by Visteo1 on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 04:18:50 PM EST
    In 2012, the database was queried 300 times by an NSA analyst.

    Whatever numbers survive after the NSA analyst's search are passed to the FBI for further investigation. The NSA gave the FBI 500 numbers in 2012.

    The FBI investigates these numbers further within the guidelines of the law. To access private records...

    If the FBI wanted to go further, such as obtaining a person's bank or credit card records, it would require a court order, warrant or subpoena and then an assessment or investigation probably would occur.

    I am impressionable.  I do not understand the great fear.  Do you believe there are many ureported searches...including private records.  Maybe everything is just goin over this dumb redneck's head.

    Read my post (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 04:24:10 PM EST
    the FISA court is not involved in determining the relevance of those searches.

    Do you think that is a good thing?

    Do you think it is consistent with the idea of the FISA court as a check on the NSA?


    Requires much lower standard than required (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by MO Blue on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 04:50:04 PM EST
    for court warrants.

    But to begin a particular search, analysts must submit a request to their superiors showing why there is a "reasonable, articulable suspicion" that the number belongs to a member of a recognized terrorist organization. A reasonable, articulable suspicion is lower than the standard of "probable cause" used in criminal investigations to obtain a warrant or make an arrest. But the suspicion has to be based on facts that a reasonable person would accept.

    What use to be considered reasonable no longer IMO applies in the current atmosphere.


    "Articulable" suspicion... (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by ruffian on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 04:25:32 PM EST
    wow, I feel much better now.  One level up from a gut feeling.

    The FISA Court is the one who approved (none / 0) (#8)
    by Visteo1 on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 05:44:46 PM EST
    the warrant for the gathering of third party information.  The FISA Court is itself a secret court.  

    I do not know if the rational for approving the warrant has been made public.  The following is cited:

    Most of these defenses involve the 1979 Supreme Court decision Smith v. Maryland which established that people do not have a "reasonable expectation" of privacy for electronic metadata held by third parties like a cellphone provider

    There are checks in place.  I would say it is good only if it can be shown that the expediency is justified.

    If only 300 searches were initiated, it does seem reasonable that the court could review each case. If not before then after the search, they can  examine each case to verify it's own guidelines are met for the warrant.


    Again (none / 0) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 05:52:16 PM EST
    read my post. The individual searches are NOT approved by FISA court.

    Which apparently (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 06:40:16 PM EST
    does not concern the commenter.

    Sorry for any confusion. I am not arguing (none / 0) (#12)
    by Visteo1 on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 07:08:06 PM EST
    that the FISA Court approves individual cases.  

    The FISA Court did approve a bulk collection warrant...

    In June 2013, a copy of a top-secret warrant, issued by the court on April 25, 2013, was leaked to London's The Guardian newspaper by NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

    Yeah (none / 0) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 07:13:24 PM EST
    Did you read MY post?

    Cuz I like to discuss the things I write about.

    It's called being on topic.


    Yes, BTD. (none / 0) (#16)
    by Visteo1 on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 07:51:22 PM EST
    That undermines the idea of the FISA court as an effective check on the NSA.


    My question.  If the FISA Court approved bulk collection and continues to extend the warrant for bulk collection, is not the Court the real problem?  Is the FISA Court failing to perform its duty?

    With 300 cases a year...could the FISA Court not handle 300 individual case reviews either before or after the meta-data search to ensure the (bulk)warrant is being followed?

    I hope this is just your initiation of a Newbie.  It is not uncommon for me to miss a point...just goes zippin over my head.


    Seems to be very apparent (none / 0) (#14)
    by Zorba on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 07:13:32 PM EST
    OTOH, he/she did say that they were "impressionable."

    Yes, you seem to be (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by Zorba on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 07:17:54 PM EST
    "Impressionable," that is.  I do not think that you are "dumb."  I urge you to keep reading, and follow the links provided, not only by the site authors, but by many of the commenters, as well.

    I read far more about the Cathars (none / 0) (#17)
    by Visteo1 on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 08:06:27 PM EST
    than ever intended.  I remember little about them, but I did not forget who sent me down that path...LOL

    I am shocked... (none / 0) (#9)
    by bmaz on Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 05:49:54 PM EST
    SHOCKED I tell you to find a lack of judicial control here.

    I'm not that worried (none / 0) (#20)
    by Mikado Cat on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 06:44:27 AM EST
    about terrorism. Yes do make a good effort to prevent it, but we have long past the point of the cure being worse than the disease. I don't think we are seeing money well spent.

    How is what we are doing in the USA compare to other countries? Israel, UK, Russia?