This article was in today’s Cipher Brief which I have forwarded to you but was important enough for me to single it out for additional attention.
Section 702, FISA and the Patriot Act have been in the news repeatedly since September 11, 2001, as a result of numerous actions by the ACLU, the 2008 leaks to the NY Times on “Stellar Wind” and Snowden’s massive leaks on NSA programs in June 2013 to the Guardian. This are very complex issues and are generally misunderstood by the public and misreported by the Media. The difference between the collection of telephonic conversations and email content and the collection of “metadata” on American citizens, US persons (USPERS)and our allies seems to be lumped together in most Media accounts, making them appear to be the same. As you know, they are not the same. The collection of metadata is generally defined as “…basic information about data, which can make finding and working with particular instances of data easier. For example: author, date created and date modified, file size..” In terms of intelligence collection of metadata it is further defined as: caller’s email address or phone number; receiving parties email address or phone number; size of email or length of phone conversation. This is exactly the same information (data) we got when we used “pin registers” during my time in the FBI (1974-1995) in criminal, counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigation. We were not required to get a court order for a pin register on a phone number and I don’t think we were required to get a “National Security Letter” either (but I admit I’m a little fuzzy on that). To actually tap a phone line or to install technical surveillance equipment in a home or office of a target we needed a Federal District Court order (in criminal cases) or an order from the FISA court for counterintelligence or counterterrorism targets. As I read the current laws and guidelines those requirements are still in place but not clearly described/differentiated in Media reporting.
I try to follow this issue and am currently reading one of the several books on Edward Snowden, “The Snowden Files” by Luke Harding. But, the Internet did not exist in its current form during my years in active law enforcement and I’m a novice in today’s cyber issues. So, Harding’s book is helpful in understanding Snowden’s background, volume and the time line of the disclosures. I am not done with it yet but it is clear that the author, the Guardian and Glen Greenwald think Snowden a highly intelligent, articulate, principled leaker who put himself at great risk for honorable and ethical reasons. Having investigated, studied and taught classes on traitors, spies and leakers for years, my indirect assessment of Snowden would differ from theirs just a bit. I would add as motivating factors for his disclosures: narcissism; a need for attention and fame; seeking excitement and escape from a boring, unremarkable life; paranoia and a few other neuroses.
My bottom line here is that the debate on FISA, the Patriot Act and particularly Section 702 is important and I’ll be following it and sending articles/documents on to you as I find them worthy of our time.
RustyIn Defense of Tapping the Internet to Keep You Safe