Shock News! NSA Needs a Warrant to Analyze Social Connections of an American

Not really shocking
US News • Views: 18,565

Following the pattern of pretty much all of the NSA stories sourced to Glenn Greenwald or Laura Poitras (she’s a co-author on this), we have the scary hyperbolic headline and opening paragraph: N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens.

WASHINGTON — Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.

Followed by the deeply buried caveat (in this case, in the 24th paragraph) that in order to create these “sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections,” the NSA is required to get individual warrants for each target.

Analysts were warned to follow existing “minimization rules,” which prohibit the N.S.A. from sharing with other agencies names and other details of Americans whose communications are collected, unless they are necessary to understand foreign intelligence reports or there is evidence of a crime. The agency is required to obtain a warrant from the intelligence court to target a “U.S. person” — a citizen or legal resident — for actual eavesdropping.

Again, I have to note what seems to be deliberate conflation of having the ability to do something with actually doing it. The tools they’re describing are strictly limited, and can only be used to analyze the data of American citizens if there’s an individual warrant backed up by suspicion of involvement in terrorism or other serious crimes involving national security. And if a targeted suspect contacts an American citizen, that contact has to be anonymized (“minimized”) and cannot be shared with other agencies.

The only real news here is the release of more formerly secret details about how the NSA does its work. Again, no evidence of wrongdoing, but more evidence that the Greenwald cult’s portrayal of the NSA as a rogue organization operating with very little oversight is ludicrous. This is “whistleblowing?”

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