Two days before President Obama's revealing interview with Charley Rose, the Washington Post published an overlooked article about the many programs run by NSA. Deep in the story was this revelation about a slew of surveillance operations: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/...
"One Of Them Intercepts Telephone Calls And Routes The Spoken Words To A System Called NUCLEON."That would seem to directly contradict the President's comforting assurance Sunday night that NSA doesn't listen to Americans' phones calls because, he claims, it doesn't have the voice content: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/...
"At no point is any content revealed because there's no content," Obama explained.- MORE BELOW-
Much of the President's credibility on this issue rides on the accuracy of his assertions made to Charley Rose that NSA's "2015 program" keeps only phone call metadata and does not collect voice content. As he put it, the NSA doesn't listen to Americans phone calls because that data isn't kept. "There is no content. " But, is that true? The Post's revelation about NUCLEON certainly contributes to the doubts about that claim.
The President's interview with Rose is excerpted at length, below:
Program 2015, (the President) said gets data from the service providers like a Verizon in bulk, and basically call pairs.The WaPo report of June 15 goes into some detail about these previously unknown surveillance programs:
"You have my telephone number connecting with your telephone number. There are no names. There is no content in that database. All it is, is the number pairs, when those calls took place, how long they took place. So that database is sitting there," he said.
"Now, if the NSA through some other sources, maybe through the FBI, maybe through a tip that went to the CIA, maybe through the NYPD. Get a number that where there's a reasonable, articulable suspicion that this might involve foreign terrorist activity related to al-Qaeda and some other international terrorist actors.
Then, what the NSA can do is it can query that database to see did this number pop up? Did they make any other calls? And if they did, those calls will be spit out. A report will be produced. It will be turned over to the FBI. At no point is any content revealed because there's no content," Obama explained.
Two of the four collection programs, one each for telephony and the Internet, process trillions of “metadata” records for storage and analysis in systems called MAINWAY and MARINA, respectively. Metadata includes highly revealing information about the times, places, devices and participants in electronic communication, but not its contents. The bulk collection of telephone call records from Verizon Business Services, disclosed this month by the British newspaper the Guardian, is one source of raw intelligence for MAINWAY.*
The other two types of collection, which operate on a much smaller scale, are aimed at content. One of them intercepts telephone calls and routes the spoken words to a system called NUCLEON.
For Internet content, the most important source collection is the PRISM project reported on June 6 by The Washington Post and the Guardian. It draws from data held by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other Silicon Valley giants, collectively the richest depositories of personal information in history.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, 29, who unmasked himself as the source behind the PRISM and Verizon revelations, said he hoped for a systematic debate about the “danger to our freedom and way of life” posed by a surveillance apparatus “kept in check by nothing more than policy.”
For well over a week, he has had his wish. Startling disclosures have poured out of the nation’s largest and arguably tightest-lipped spy agency at an unprecedented pace. Snowden’s disclosures have opened a national conversation about the limits of secret surveillance in a free society and an outcry overseas against U.S. espionage.
Obama's statement is confusing, and appears to contradict reported facts, as it seems to say that voice content is not collected.
Read it again. He seems perfectly clear on this:
"Then, what the NSA can do is it can query that database to see did this number pop up? Did they make any other calls? And if they did, those calls will be spit out. A report will be produced. It will be turned over to the FBI. At no point is any content revealed because there's no content," Obama explained.
First, "There's no content." What did he mean by that? Does he mean to say that NSA doesn't collect content? Or, second, is he saying that NSA has no access to content, but other agencies that run their own 702 programs do - and, third, how are those two propositions really different?
His statement raises all three questions, as well as unfortunate questions about his full candor.
Finally, one wishes that Charley Rose had asked a pair of questions that follow directly from the Presidents comments: 1) Mr. President, does NSA minimize US persons data?; and 2) Does NSA use the data it has gained from foreign intercepts to perform reverse lookups on US persons?
Why would he ask that? Because reverse lookups are illegal under 1881(b)(2), and minimization of US person data is mandatory under Sec. 1881(e).
See, Sec. 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendment, as codified at 50 USC Sec. 1881, http://www.law.cornell.edu/...
The data is being collected as part of 2015 but retained for 702. That's illegal.
Sec. 702 says it should be minimized if not collected pursuant to an individualized FISA warrant. Apparently, if we are to believe the President's statement about how the system will "spit out" terrorist calls, the voice and emails are still in there, and furthermore, Obama goes half-way to admitting that is what's happening. Read his statement again.
ON EDIT - The Guardian has released a new round of documents today that include the NSA's targeting rules and minimiization guidelines. See, http://www.guardian.co.uk/... and linked Part A. Have only briefly scanned them, but will note any significant new information in an updated version of this posting.