The Obama administration plans to release previously secret court orders that set out the rules and rationale for the bulk collection of U.S. phone records as officials seek to quell growing unrest in Congress over the government's massive information dragnet.Lets first of all note that this release - set to happen sometime today - is the fulfillment of a promise President Obama made a few weeks ago when he spoke to Charlie Rose. At the time he promised to work with the intelligence community to release as much information on the surveillance programs as possible. He kept his word on that.
According to a senior U.S. official, the government has declassified the order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court, that authorized the collection program, which began in 2007...
In addition to the court order from 2007, administration officials are also planning to release two white papers on the telephone-data program that were provided to Congress in 2009 and 2011 before the House and Senate voted to reauthorize the law behind it, the senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted.
Secondly, the release of the 2 white papers on the metadata collection program is likely aimed at quelling the "Oh my, we didn't know!" coming from so many members of Congress lately. This article goes on to point out that the papers were given to the Intelligence Committees in both the House and Senate - who were then asked to provide them to all members of Congress in a classified setting. The message is that if they didn't know, they chose not to.
My advice to Greenwald - who said he plans to publish another "bombshell" this week - would be to hold off on that one. No one is going to be paying attention to what he has to say until they've fully digested this material...which is the point.
Then, after we've gotten this information, it will be interesting to see how much of Greenwald's sensationalist claims actually hold up. In other words...have a seat Glenn. Its time for the grown-ups to talk.
UPDATE: Oops, my advice came too late. Greenwald published his latest "bombshell" today. The jist of what he said involves a lot of technical information about how NSA collects data. Perhaps that's interesting information for the techies amongst us. But the bottom line is that the NSA exists to do this. Learning HOW they do it is no real bombshell. The overall fact - as even Greenwald has to admit - is that in order to review this kind of information about US persons, they need a warrant.
Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisa warrant only if the target of their surveillance is a 'US person', though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets. But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.That last sentence is interesting..."the program he's discussing provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority to target even US persons." Yes Glenn, lets count the number of things in our lives that might be technologically possible, if not for the fact that they are illegal.
On the point about intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets, what Greenwald fails to mention is the process of "minimization" employed by NSA in which analysts immediately remove that material.
Now, anyone who discusses this process without also mentioning minimization procedures is also either very uninformed or intentionally hyping the story. Minimization is a term of art in the world of NSA intercepts which essentially means “stay out of American citizen’s business.” If information about specific Americans (or even foreigners inside the United States) is captured, those details must be removed from all records and cannot be shared with any other entity in the government unless it is necessary to understand and interpret related foreign intelligence or to protect lives from criminal threats.So a really ginormous "ho-hum" on this latest from Greenwald.