I'm not seeing this reported in any of the big media outlets yet (big surprise), but only at the Guardian:
Apparently, this hearing hasn't been going as smoothly as some of the more recent visits by intelligence officials to generally congenial Capitol Hill gatherings
The National Security Agency revealed to an angry congressional panel on Wednesday that its analysis of phone records and online behavior goes exponentially beyond what it had previously disclosedNote the observation that beyond what it had previously disclosed also appears to include what it had involuntarily disclosed via Edward Snowden's whistleblowing efforts
John C Inglis, the deputy director of the surveillance agency, told a member of the House judiciary committee that NSA analysts can perform "a second or third hop query" through its collections of telephone data and internet records in order to find connections to terrorist organizations.
"Hops" refers to a technical term indicating connections between people. A three-hop query means that the NSA can look at data not only from a suspected terrorist, but from everyone that suspect communicated with, and then from everyone those people communicated with, and then from everyone all of those people communicated with.
A document published last month by the Guardian detailing the history of the NSA's post-9/11 bulk surveillance on telephone and internet data refer to one- or two-hop analysis performed by NSA. The document, provided by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, does not explicitly mention three-hop analysis, nor does it clearly suggest that such analysis occurs.The intelligence officials, including Deputy Director of the NSA, John Inglis, Assistant AG James Cole, and Senior Legal Counsel for the ODNI Robert Litt, all predictably argued that such data collection had been authorized by the secret FISA court, and had been conducted with Congressional oversight. The Congress-critters, evidently, didn't quite see it that way
Congressman Spencer Bachus said he "was not aware at all" of the extent of the surveillance, since the NSA programs were primarily briefed to the intelligence committees of the House and Senate.The report is well, worth a read, so please do head on over to the Guardian to check it out. Or, perhaps you could wait for the NYT to do a write up. Maybe tomorrow....?
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren revealed that an annual report provided to Congress by the government about the phone-records collection, something cited by intelligence officials as an example of their disclosures to Congress, is "less than a single page and not more than eight sentences".
Probably you'll be able to find it on the Huffington Post later....linked to the Guardian.
At any rate, not really expecting much results to come out from these hearings yet, let alone accountability. Rather just confirmation that what we know know--through those unacceptably endangering leaks by a paranoid hacker--which appear to actually be contributing to a gradual revealing that all is not peachy keen in Denmark, after all...
8:00 PM PT: So, the New York Times has finally decided to join the party. Except, if you'll notice, there's nary a mention of the admissions made today by our nation's illustrious intelligence elite about the scope of surveillance. (Imagine that?) The Times, bless their hearts, do spend quite a bit of print (i.e., the whole article) talking about the growing "bi-partisan backlash" to the NSA, but fail to mention anything material regarding the hearing today. I'm surprised they even mentioned it at all, to be quite honest.
Rep. Nadler brought up a point that seems to have gone over the heads of those defending the NSA programs as "court supervised" and therefore legitimate and legal
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., challenged Cole’s defense of the program’s constitutionality, and he said the secrecy in which the court functioned negated the validity of its review.Also, there is a bit more context as to why the Congresscritters were so pissed off, and why the NSA's new revelations are particularly striking
“The fact that a secret court unaccountable to public knowledge of what it’s doing . . . may join you in misusing or abusing the statutes is of no comfort whatsoever,” Nadler said. “So to tell me you go to the FISA court is irrelevant.”
Despite dogged questions on the opacity of NSA’s surveillance, officials tried to explain why the general nature of the programs needed to remain classified, and they defended decisions to keep the veil of secrecy in place. Lawmakers, however, pushed for greater openness, saying an operation as massive as the NSA’s cellphone sweep couldn’t have stayed secret forever.Do head over there and give it a read.
“Why not simply have told the American people that we’re engaging in this type of activity in terms of gathering information? It doesn’t give away any national security secrets, but it might have engendered greater confidence in the public,” said Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va. “Did you really think this could be kept secret?”
Robert Litt of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence struggled to find an answer.
“Well. Uh . . . we tried.”