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Egregious constitutional violations aside, highlighting the sheer level of incompetence and malfeasance at the NSA will ensure that congressional reform will indeed happen.

The U.S. government's efforts to determine which highly classified materials leaker Edward Snowden took from the National Security Agency have been frustrated by Snowden's sophisticated efforts to cover his digital trail by deleting or bypassing electronic logs, government officials told The Associated Press. Such logs would have showed what information Snowden viewed or downloaded.

The government's forensic investigation is wrestling with Snowden's apparent ability to defeat safeguards established to monitor and deter people looking at information without proper permission, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the sensitive developments publicly.

Let us not forget that it's now going on three months since Snowden disclosed the first round of classified documents. And, as of the time of this writing, the agency still doesn't know which documents Snowden downloaded - or - how many he left with. Add to that the absolutely incredulous claim that NSA/contractors "self-report" violations and abuses, and it paints a clear picture of a very chaotic, mismanaged and often insubordinate government bureaucracy... on a bloated budget. How in the hell are they supposed to detect those who would do us harm when they can't even keep track of what their own employees are accessing at any given time?

We first got a glimpse of the agency's incompetence back in June when NSA Director Keith Alexander admitted to Congress that Snowden gained access to the top secret FISC ruling -- requiring a Verizon subsidiary, Verizon Business Network Services, to turn over the metadata about calls made by all its subscribers over a three-month period -- during training/orientation at Booz Allen.  Since that time, one by one, the administration's justifications and assurances for the integrity of the state of our surveillance state given to Congress and the public have collapsed under closer scrutiny. Clapper lied. Obama gave us convoluted analogies. Alexander obfuscated. And certain, bottom feeding congress critters (of both parties) have been busily trying to cover their collective ass ever since.

In fact, the only person who came close to telling the truth about the magnitude of the programs was former NSA Director/CIA Director Michael Hayden. And for some odd reason we don't see him on the tv machine very much anymore. Hmm, wonder why?

NBC News reported Thursday that the NSA was "overwhelmed" in trying to figure what Snowden had stolen and didn't know everything he had downloaded.
Vanee Vines, NSA spokeswoman recently told the AP that General Alexander "had a sense of what documents and information had been taken," but "he did not say the comprehensive investigation had been completed." Alexander has yet to admit that Snowden had even found a way to access, view and download the very documents he took without the agency knowing it.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole got into the denial action when he told Congress that the administration closely monitors the activities of all intelligence personnel.

"This program goes under careful audit," Cole said. "Everything that is done under it is documented and reviewed before the decision is made and reviewed again after these decisions are made to make sure that nobody has done the things that you're concerned about happening."
Agency officials claim that as a system administrator Snowden had access to the documents but didn't know how the programs functioned. And that the files he took were compartmentalized so he couldn't put a complete picture of how the different programs worked. What they haven't addressed is how Snowden was able to continue downloading the files for months without tripping any alarms. That is a clear indication of top-down, systemic mismanagement.  

I believe the incompetence aspect of this story blows all public excuses and assurances thus far given by both Congress and the executive branch clean out of the water. Congress must act. A complete audit and review has to happen soon. And it will happen.

But it's up to us to make sure privacy protections are included and strict oversight is enacted in the reforms.

Originally posted to markthshark on Wed Aug 28, 2013 at 01:37 AM PDT.

Also republished by The First and The Fourth.

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