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Focusing upon their latest Ed Snowden-National Security Agency document leak, a breaking story in this evening's Washington Post (SEE: "In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are") informs readers that, upon the newspaper's analysis of a 160,000-file sampling delivered by the former government contractor and whistleblower, a stunning 89% of the files are unrelated to individuals and entities targeted by the NSA.

Furthermore, the extent to which these files have been "minimized" by the NSA prior to their analysis by that intelligence agency is little more than farcical, considering the reality that tonight's news report mentions the fact that no less than 1,227 emails from/to or about one "minimized U.S. president-elect" and "minimized U.S. president" were included in this sample batch. In fact, those monitoring/reading these NSA intercepts had little more than that minimal level of "minimization" which, supposedly, (obviously not) obfuscated the identity of the author/recipient/subject of those emails!

...More than 1,000 distinct “minimization” terms appear in the files, attempting to mask the identities of “possible,” “potential” and “probable” U.S. persons, along with the names of U.S. beverage companies, universities, fast-food chains and Web-mail hosts.

Some of them border on the absurd, using titles that could apply to only one man. A “minimized U.S. president-elect” begins to appear in the files in early 2009, and references to the current “minimized U.S. president” appear 1,227 times in the following four years...

A real-time tweet from the WaPo's Barton Gellman on the POTUS issue...

Here's more from the WaPo...

In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are

Files provided by Snowden show extent to which ordinary Web users are caught in the net

By Barton Gellman, Julie Tate and Ashkan Soltani
Washington Post
July 5 at 8:46 PM

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.

Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents.

The surveillance files highlight a policy dilemma that has been aired only abstractly in public. There are discoveries of considerable intelligence value in the intercepted messages — and collateral harm to privacy on a scale that the Obama administration has not been willing to address…

HERE'S THE LINK to the WaPo's in-depth graphics and statistics related to this story.

The article continues on to inform us that the newspaper, "...reviewed roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts..."

Very much in-line with what the public has learned over the past four days, since the public disclosure of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board's most recent report (SEE: "Report on the Surveillance Program Operated Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Act") was published this past Wednesday, tonight's breaking news covers "...material [that] spans President Obama’s first term, from 2009 to 2012, a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection."  

...Taken together, the files offer an unprecedented vantage point on the changes wrought by Section 702 of the FISA amendments, which enabled the NSA to make freer use of methods that for 30 years had required probable cause and a warrant from a judge. One program, code-named PRISM, extracts content stored in user accounts at Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and five other leading Internet companies. Another, known inside the NSA as Upstream, intercepts data on the move as it crosses the U.S. junctions of global voice and data networks.

No government oversight body, including the Justice Department, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, intelligence committees in Congress or the president’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, has delved into a comparably large sample of what the NSA actually collects — not only from its targets but also from people who may cross a target’s path...

There's much more to this story than the limited information I've provided here. (A link to the full article is accessible above. I would like to remind readers that, inherently, everything you're reading in the MSM on the Ed Snowden-NSA leaks, 13-month-long effort is self-censored by the respective outlets that are reporting upon the source material currently in their possession.)

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Marcy Wheeler has posted some initial analysis on this story...

NSA’s Spying: Medical Records, Resumés … and (about) Obama

Published July 5, 2014 | By emptywheel

The WaPo has been working for months to understand a chunk of incidentally collected data Edward Snowden took from the NSA. They discovered the bulk of people being spied on — who were for the most part incidentally collected — were innocent people living their everyday lives.

No government oversight body, including the Justice Department, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, intelligence committees in Congress or the president’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, has delved into a comparably large sample of what the NSA actually collects — not only from its targets but from people who may cross a target’s path.

Among the latter are medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. In one photo, a young girl in religious dress beams at a camera outside a mosque.

Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risque poses in shorts and bikini tops.

…WaPo then tries to apply the ratio of target to incidental they discovered to the number of targets to which the government admitted.

In a June 26 “transparency report,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed that 89,138 people were targets of last year’s collection under FISA Section 702. At the 9-to-1 ratio of incidental collection in Snowden’s sample, the office’s figure would correspond to nearly 900,000 accounts, targeted or not, under surveillance.
And all of this is available for back door search, for both “intelligence” and criminal purposes.

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UPDATE (7/6/14 11:30AM EDT): More analysis of Saturday's WaPo story from Marcy Wheeler, this (Sunday) morning...

The Unaudited Tech Analyst Access to US Person Data

Published July 6, 2014 | By emptywheel

In addition to its exposure of the sheer senselessness of much of the spying NSA engages in, yesterday’s WaPo story also shows that the government’s assurances that Edward Snowden could not access raw data have been misplaced.

For close to a year, NSA and other government officials have appeared to deny, in congressional testimony and public statements, that Snowden had any access to the material.

As recently as May, shortly after he retired as NSA director, Gen. Keith Alexander denied that Snowden could have passed FISA content to journalists.

“He didn’t get this data,” Alexander told a New Yorker reporter. “They didn’t touch —”

“The operational data?” the reporter asked.

“They didn’t touch the FISA data,” Alexander replied. He added, “That database, he didn’t have access to.”

…In the interview, Snowden said he did not need to circumvent those controls, because his final position as a contractor for Booz Allen at the NSA’s Hawaii operations center gave him “unusually broad, unescorted access to raw SIGINT [signals intelligence] under a special ‘Dual Authorities’ role,” a reference to Section 702 for domestic collection and Executive Order 12333 for collection overseas. Those credentials, he said, allowed him to search stored content — and “task” new collection — without prior approval of his search terms.

No one should ever have believed those assurances.

That’s because the documentation on the Section 215 program makes it clear how little oversight there is over tech people just like Snowden. The current phone dragnet order, for example, makes it clear that:

•    Tech personnel may access the phone dragnet data to tweak it in preparation for contact-chaining

•    Unlike intelligence analysts, tech personnel may query the phone dragnet data with selectors that have not been RAS-approved

•    Tech personnel may also conduct regular queries using RAS-approved selectors

•    Tech personnel may access the dragnet data to search for high volume numbers — this may require access to raw data

•    Some of the tech personnel (those in charge of infrastructure and receiving data from the telecoms) are exempt from special training on the phone dragnet data...

…Language in the order defining “NSA” suggests contractors may access the data (though it’s unclear whether they do so in a technical or intelligence analysis function); something made explicit in Dianne Feinstein’s bill

…Indeed, it is likely that some kind of Booz-type contractors will continue to have direct access to this data after it gets outsourced to the telecoms, otherwise USA Freedumber would not extend immunity to such second-level contractors.

For months, intelligence officials claimed not only that Snowden had not accessed raw data, but could not. That was always a dubious claim; even if Snowden couldn’t have accessed that data, other contractors just like him could and still can, with less oversight than NSA’s intelligence analysts get.

But it turns out Snowden could and did. And thanks to that, we now know many of the other claims made by government witnesses are also false.


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From Kossack LieparDestin in the comments, quoting from what may very well be Marcy Wheeler's most important post on the topic in awhile (from earlier this past week)…

All of this is also then…

…relayed to other 'law enforcement' for searched for 'criminal' purposes:

The NSA treats all content intercepted incidentally from third parties as permissible to retain, store, search and distribute to its government customers. Raj De, the agency’s general counsel, has testified that the NSA does not generally attempt to remove irrelevant personal content, because it is difficult for one analyst to know what might become relevant to another.
Of course Marcy Wheeler is the best place to go for details:
ODNI’s response to Ron Wyden’s request for actual numbers of how many back door searches the government conducts makes it clear that I was correct.

The report is even worse than I imagined. It shows the following:


FBI does back door searches for both foreign intelligence and criminal purposes. This means NSA’s language about keeping data for evidence of a crime is fairly meaningless, because they’re handing chunks of data off to FBI that it can troll for evidence of crime.

And the FBI doesn’t count these queries. In fact, FBI doesn’t even distinguish between when it is searching foreign and US person identifiers.They say only that “the number of queries is substantial.”


I expected all that from the FBI. What amazes me is that the CIA — an Agency that is not supposed to conduct domestic intelligence collection — does not count how many metadata-only queries of US person data it does. So all those fears of NSA identifying whether you’re visiting an AIDS clinic or a pregnancy counseling center? The NSA may not do that kind of analysis, but the CIA might be checking what foreigners you’re talking to.

The CIA also conducts a bunch of content queries — “fewer than 1900″ — of which 40% are counterterrorism-related queries for other agencies. (Which leads me to wonder why neither NSA nor FBI are doing these queries, which would make more sense.) But that leaves 60% of 1900 — or around 1,100 queries a year of US person content that are for CIA’s own purposes and may not even be terrorism related.

One of the actual successes of the administrations PR team in dealing with this story is keeping it mostly just a 'NSA' scandal

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Following up on LieparDestin's comment, above, it has been my contention (for over two years), and also echoing many of the same sentiments of Marcy Wheeler, that the most egregious, domestic, constitutional violations within our country's surveillance dragnet are not occurring within the NSA, but over at the FBI and--to a lesser extent, the CIA--primarily via those agencies' direct access to dragnet content (not metadata) obtained in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration and direct White House funding, support and access to the AT&T Hemisphere Project.

Regrettably, as we just learned last week via the PCLOB's latest report and despite repeated government claims to the contrary, all noted/linked above, there is little or no content minimization occurring, whatsoever (even less than the obviously weak effort put forth by the NSA), across-the-board, when it comes to the CIA's and the FBI's utilization/subsequent access to raw domestic surveillance data provided by the NSA and the many other, greater sources for domestic wiretap/content.

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