There is an interesting exchange in the new Snowden FOIA release (h/t Marcy Wheeler) that has me concerned as a technologist. In it Snowden provides some technical support from NSA Hawaii to NSA headquarters.
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Over the weekend, VICE published a story entitled “Exclusive: Snowden Tried to Tell NSA About Surveillance Concerns, Documents Reveal.” If you haven’t read it, don’t bother. By its incendiary headline, the story—the product of documents released as part of a FOIA lawsuit—would purport to be an outright validation of Edward Snowden’s claims that he repeatedly tried to raise surveillance concerns with NSA officials but was ignored.
In the first two parts of this series, I noted the general tendencies of the FBI’s critics to assume away the problems posed by Going Dark by insisting that the NSA—or the intelligence community more broadly—can and will find methods of exceptional access when the police really need them to.
In Part I of this series, I noted the tendency of commentators—without any actual knowledge—to assert that NSA could simply break into a given locked iPhone.
Let’s start with a point that will be significant emotional satisfaction to many readers: Richard Clarke was dead wrong.
In a remarkable statement last week, the former Clinton and early Bush administration counterterrorism official told NPR’s Morning Edition:
Yesterday, Susan defended the NSA21 reorganization based on her experience working for the Agency. Her views regarding the roles and incentives of offense and defense might be entirely accurate. But none of that actually matters, because the problem with the NSA reorganization is one of trust and perception. And merging offensive and defensive capacities does nothing to help—and plenty to hurt—public trust.
Over at Just Security, Ross Schulman opines that “When NSA Merges Its Offense and Defense, Encryption Loses.” Schulman argues that under NSA’s newly announced reorganization, the Information Assurance Directorate (IAD) “will be subsumed by the intelligence-gathering program” and “effectively cease to exist.”
Late last year, a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court gave the green light to the National Security Agency to start using a new tool to help the government protect against international terrorism while balancing the legitimate need to protect privacy and civil liberties. The USA FREEDOM Act, passed by Congress last June, ended the government’s ability to collect information about Americans’ phone calls in bulk under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, and replaced it with a new arrangement – initiated with court approval on Nov.
In my last post, I said that the European Court of Justice decision in Maximillian Schrems v. Data Protection Commission ignores some inconvenient truths. US frustrations with European double standards on surveillance are understandable. They are also beside the point. The US must reform surveillance law – specifically, Section 702 of FISA – if it wants to restore safe harbor.
When Chancellor Angela Merkel recently cited the “challenges” concerning the National Security Agency as an area that the German government has “tackled excellently” this term, many observers were surprised – not least because, two years into the “NSA affair,” the German government continues to vocally criticize American surveillance efforts while failing to address the shortcomings of its own intelligence agencies.