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After closely following the National Security Agency story for two years (16+ months before anyone ever heard the name, Edward Snowden), I can honestly say that blogger and journalist Marcy Wheeler’s real-time coverage of this incredible chapter in the Orwellian history of our nation’s clandestine underbelly blows the doors off of virtually everyone (as she’s again reminding us, in multiple stories over the past day), in terms of her intensive and incisive analysis of the hard information and public statements that are being released by our government in the wake of the Snowden document leaks this past June.

Compared to Wheeler’s coverage of this story—and of the NSA, in general—nobody on the planet holds a candle to her work. Maybe that’s why Newsweek has referred to her as “The Woman Who Knows The NSA’s Secrets.”

Once again in Pulitzer-worthy style, on Tuesday, she pointed out what virtually no other working blogger or journalist has the understanding, gumption nor chops to decipher, and it’s nothing less than stunning, page one/lead news that virtually no captured mainstream media outlet will cover, let alone run directly under their masthead or at the top of their broadcast. In multiple posts at her Emptywheel blog, Ms. Wheeler is reporting that not only has Director of National Intelligence James Clapper just acknowledged that the NSA—essentially admitting that the organization is in direct violation of its original, government-chartered mandate--surveils this country’s entire domestic population; but, as a byproduct of Marcy’s extensive knowledge-base of the minutiae contained within the related documents released by our government, to date, she factually reports how the NSA engages in these efforts for reasons not even remotely related to international terrorism.

Framing this in a much simpler manner: It’s one thing to report on testimony, statements and government documents released by whistleblowers; but, Wheeler has, all along, deeply drilled down into these government document releases, court decisions, presidential directives and public statements of federal officials to point out the blatant lies, unintended admissions and outright mistakes our government’s been making in their unsuccessful efforts to hide the critical facts in this overarching story. And, in the process of getting to the heart of the actual news, Wheeler’s turning this massive government obfuscation, double-speak and secrecy on its head.

In her latest post, Marcy expands upon a lengthier piece, from earlier in the day (see below, for more on this: The “Foreign Intelligence” Dragnet May Not Be about “Foreign Intelligence”) where, in the course of a few hours of blogging, she confirms (via statements from Clapper, himself) that, the “Foreign Intelligence” Dragnet is about a lot more than foreign intelligence.  (And, to the best of this diarist's knowledge, this is a big story that nobody other than Wheeler has uncovered, since it's pretty much the first time this has been publicly confirmed by someone as high-up the food-chain as Clapper.)

James Clapper Confirms NSA Engages in Domestic Surveillance
By: emptywheel Tuesday February 4, 2014 8:30 pm

…In today’s [House Judiciary Committee] threat hearing, Jim Langevin tried to get James Clapper to provider him with talking points he could use in radio interviews about the seriousness of the Snowden leaks. (39:15 and following)

Langevin pressed, asking Clapper to quantify in some way what he had briefed the committee that the “vast majority of data that’s been stolen, that we’ve been able to assess to date, has had very little to do with just surveillance.”

Clapper hedged and hedged, until Langevin got him to say that “less than 10% of what Snowden might potentially have taken (but they don’t know one way or another) has to do with domestic surveillance.”

Clapper: That’s also difficult. I can just say that the vast vast majority of what has been potentially compromised — as I indicated in my oral statement — goes way way beyond the revelations about domestic surveillance which I was given to understand that was his primary concern. What he potentially — what he accessed, what he scraped, what he potentially made off with is, uh, transcends that. So it’s quite serious.

Langevin: Can you say–

Clapper: It’s hard pressed to ascribe a number.

Langevin: Can you give a, is it 10% or,

Clapper: I would say that probably less than 10% has to do with domestic surveillance.

Wheeler continues on to note: “…Clapper’s suggestion that all Snowden might want to expose only ‘domestic surveillance.’ The notion that US corruption of encryption standards, or US collection of US person data overseas, or Five Eyes creation of the architecture of tyranny (turnkey tyranny and architecture of oppression are terms Snowden has used), is not every bit as important as exposing the dragnet, he misunderstands the power of the dragnets he oversees.”
…But finally, there’s Clapper’s use of the term “domestic surveillance” (which in his opening statement he called “so-called domestic surveillance”) and his suggestion that less than 10% of Snowden’s leaks address it.

The NSA has been telling us for months and months they don’t engage in domestic surveillance.

James Clapper apparently admits they do.

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Just a few hours earlier on Tuesday, Marcy completely debunked the NSA claim that contractors don’t have access to (and the ability to manipulate) the NSA’s phone dragnet.

Contractors Already Have Access to the Phone Dragnet
By: emptywheel Tuesday February 4, 2014 3:46 pm

In today’s HJC [House Judiciary Committee] hearing on the NSA, there was extensive discussion about the risks of outsourcing the dragnet to the telecoms or — especially, to a third party holding all the data. It’s a concern I share.

That said, not a single person at the hearing seemed to be aware of this footnote, which has been in the phone dragnet 215 - Primary Order.pdf primary orders since at least last April.

5 For purposes of this Order, “National Security Agency” and “NSA personnel” are defined as any employees of the National Security Agency/Central Security Service (“NSA/CSS” or “NSA”) and any other personnel engaged in Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) operations authorized pursuant to FISA if such operations are executed under the direction, authority, or control of the Director, NSA/Chief, CSS (DIRNSA).
If this language left any doubt that it permits contractors to directly query the database of every single phone-based relationship in the US, this language from Dianne Feinstein’s Fake FISA Fix bill report (which aims to codify the status quo) should eliminate them…
She notes that the House Judiciary Committee is under the impression that all phone-related queries are “performed by Federal employees.” Wheeler continues: “…the Committee acknowledges that it may be necessary in some cases to use contractors to perform such queries. By using the term ‘government personnel’ the Committee does not intend to prohibit such contractor use.”

In other words, as far as the phone dragnet’s concerned, Federal contractors (not just “Federal employees”) have maintained access to the dragnet for quite awhile (essentially, debunking the entire government spin against Snowden’s claims to the contrary), and all necessary parties on Capitol Hill have known this, too (at least tacitly).

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It’s a true, Orwellian mindf*ck (for lack of a better term) to follow the MSM’s twisted narrative on this story, these days. Especially when the real, albeit mostly unreported/underreported, “meat” of this huge story is available right under the public’s nose.

Obviously, Marcy knows this.

But, status quo propagandists like Senator Diane Feinstein and Representative Mike Rogers, the Chairs of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, respectively, would rather distort facts, lie to the voters, and simply make up stories (such as how Ed Snowden’s a Russian spy) than engage in meaningful public dialogue on this huge story.

To these paid minions of the military-industrial-surveillance complex, it’s all about the spin, and kissing up to the fearmongers powers-that-be.

Case-in-point: Wheeler’s Tuesday afternoon piece--posted just minutes before the last piece, noted above—on Congressman Rogers' feeble attempt to portray the salaries of journalists that have received Snowden’s NSA documents as if they were receiving payoffs for “fencing stolen material.”

For the umpteenth time, as Marcy also reminds us, this is just more of the same surveillance state intimidation of our nation’s not-so-“free press.”

You really should read this post from Emptywheel in its entirety. The pretzel logic invoked here via the Congressman’s twisted “thinking” would make Kafka blush!

Mike Rogers Aims to Criminalize One of the Main Things that Affords Journalists Protections: Getting Paid
By: emptywheel Tuesday February 4, 2014 2:49 pm

Remember DOJ’s efforts to placate journalists (rather stunningly, in retrospect, rolled out a month after the first Edward Snowden leaks)?

As I noted at the time, DOJ’s new protections for the press applied not to the act of journalism, but rather to members of the news media. DOJ’s own Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide requires institutional affiliation before they’ll treat someone as a journalist.

“News media” includes persons and organizations that gather, report or publish news, whether through traditional means (e.g., newspapers, radio, magazines, news service) or the on-line or wireless equivalent. A “member of the media” is a person who gathers, reports, or publishes news through the news media.


As the term is used in the DIOG, “news media” is not intended to include persons and entities that simply make information available. Instead, it is intended to apply to a person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the general public, uses editorial skills to turn raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience, as a journalism professional. [my emphasis]

According to the DOJ, then, you have to get paid (preferably by an institution recognized to be a press) to be afforded heightened First Amendment protection as a journalist.

Except now House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers wants to criminalize that — one of the main things that warrants you protection by DOJ as a journalist, getting paid — by calling it “fencing stolen material.”…

Again, I strongly urge you to read the rest of this post to understand just how twisted the folks “under the dome” are these days. It is light years beyond the pale, IMHO.

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Marcy began Tuesday covering the same sub-topic with which she ended it (see the first Emptywheel excerpt, which accounted for her last post, yesterday, up toward the top of this diary). I’m including an excerpt of this post, below, for: a.) much more background on the lead Emptywheel post, up top; but, b.) I’m including it even moreso for readers at Daily Kos to get a true sense of just how in-depth this brilliant journalist-analyst’s work is. It’s only on extremely rare occasions that readers will see work like this, on ANY subject, in the Washington Post or the New York Times, unless the source research is handed to the reporters at those newspapers on a silver platter.

But, for Marcy, this type of detail is an exercise she undertakes many times each day.

The “Foreign Intelligence” Dragnet May Not Be about “Foreign Intelligence”
By: emptywheel Tuesday February 4, 2014 7:50 am

There’s one more totally weedy change in the phone dragnet orders I wanted to point out: the flimsy way the program has, over time, tied into “foreign intelligence.”

To follow along, it’s helpful to use the searchable versions of the phone dragnet orders ACLU has posted.

Start by searching on Order BR 08-13.pdf this order – from December 11, 2008, just before FISC started cleaning up the dragnet problems — for “foreign intelligence” (all the earlier orders are, I believe, identical in this respect). You should find 5 instances: 3 references to the FISC, a reference to the language from the Section 215 statute requiring the tangible things be either for foreign intelligence or to protect against international terrorism (¶1 on page 2), and a discussion tying dissemination of US person data to understanding foreign intelligence (¶(3)D on page 9).

In the last instance, the order introduces foreign intelligence, but then drops it. The very next sentence shifts the measure of whether the US person information can be disseminated from “foreign intelligence” to “counterterrorism” — and counterterrorism here is not explicitly tied to international terrorism, although the statute requires it to be.

Before information identifying a U.S. person may be disseminated outside of NSA, a judgment must be made that the identity of the U.S. person is necessary to understand the foreign intelligence information or to assess its importance. Prior to the dissemination of any U.S. person identifying information, the Chief of Information Sharing Services in the Signals Intelligence Directorate must determine that the information identifying the U.S. person is in fact related to counterterrorism information and that it is necessary to understand the counterterrorism information or assess its importance.
Significantly, ¶(3)C on page 8 — the main paragraph restricting NSA’s access to the dragnet data — says nothing about foreign intelligence.
This language would, I believe, have permitted the government to search on and disseminate US person information for reasons without a foreign nexus (and they played word games with other language in the original orders, notably with the word “archives”)…
Marcy closes out her brilliantly-detailed analysis (and first post of the day, Tuesday) with the following comment…
... we have had assurances over and over in the last 8 months that the NSA can only access this database for certain narrowly defined foreign intelligence purposes. That wasn’t, by letter of the order, at least, true for the first three years. And by the letter of the order, it’s not true now.

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Hmmm…not bad for a day’s blogging, Marcy. Not bad at all.

In early April--after Ms. Wheeler makes it into the final round in the 2014 Pulitzer Prize selection process for Best Investigative Reporting—maybe the MSM will get a clue.

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Originally posted to on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 02:51 AM PST.

Also republished by Whistleblowers Round Table and Anonymous Dkos.

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