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Easily, IMHO, one of the most important Snowden/NSA document leaks yet. (See the links to the five newest, leaked NSA documents, farther down in this post.) To understand the implications of this story, one must become familiar with the FBI-NCTC-Local Government-Big Business, information-sharing protocols currently in place at 78 Fusion Centers, throughout the United States.

How a Court Secretly Evolved, Extending U.S. Spies’ Reach
By CHARLIE SAVAGE and LAURA POITRAS
NY Times
MARCH 11, 2014 (March 12th Edition–Pg. A1)

WASHINGTON — Ten months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the nation’s surveillance court delivered a ruling that intelligence officials consider a milestone in the secret history of American spying and privacy law. Called the “Raw Take” order — classified docket No. 02-431 — it weakened restrictions on sharing private information about Americans, according to documents and interviews.

The administration of President George W. Bush, intent on not overlooking clues about Al Qaeda, had sought the July 22, 2002, order. It is one of several still-classified rulings by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court described in documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.

Previously, with narrow exceptions, an intelligence agency was permitted to disseminate information gathered from court-approved wiretaps only after deleting irrelevant private details and masking the names of innocent Americans who came into contact with a terrorism suspect. The Raw Take order significantly changed that system, documents show, allowing counterterrorism analysts at the N.S.A., the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. to share unfiltered personal information.

The leaked documents that refer to the rulings, including one called the “Large Content FISA” order and several more recent expansions of powers on sharing information, add new details to the emerging public understanding of a secret body of law that the court has developed since 2001. The files help explain how the court evolved from its original task — approving wiretap requests — to engaging in complex analysis of the law to justify activities like the bulk collection of data about Americans’ emails and phone calls...

The article continues on to quote Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, who stated: “These latest disclosures are important...They indicate how the contours of the law secretly changed, and they represent the transformation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court into an interpreter of law and not simply an adjudicator of surveillance applications.”

If readers recall the chronology here, Snowden’s noted, multiple times over the past nine-plus months that, from his desktop in Hawaii, he could wiretap virtually anyone he wished. Of course, our government, to this day, has continued to claim that’s not the case. Tonight, we now know ("officially") that Snowden was telling the truth, all along.

...Access within the N.S.A. to raw FISA information was initially limited to its headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. But in 2006, the N.S.A. expanded sharing to specialists at its code-breaking centers in Hawaii, Texas and Georgia. Only those trained would obtain access, but a review demonstrated that wider sharing had already increased risks. A document noted that the agency was mixing two types of FISA information, each subject to different court-imposed rules, along with other records, and “it is possible that there are already FISA violations resulting from the way data has been stored in these databases.”

The sharing of raw information continued to expand after the enactment of the FISA Amendments Act. On Sept. 4, 2008, the court issued an opinion, which remains secret but was cited in another opinion that has been declassified, approving minimization rules for the new law. A video explaining the new rules to N.S.A. employees noted that “C.I.A. and F.B.I. can have access to unminimized data in many circumstances...”

As noted near the top of this post, in 2012, these programs were expanded to include the National Counterterrorism Center, the co-managers of our nation’s 78 Fusion Centers. ("Coincidentally," this all occurred just in time to enable the now-memorialized, massive surveillance of the Occupy movement.)
…Around early 2012, the court approved the expansion of sharing to a fourth agency, the National Counterterrorism Center, a clearinghouse for terrorism threat information. A May 2012 document says the “fact that NCTC is in receipt of raw or unminimized FISA information” is classified at a level reserved for data whose disclosure would “cause serious damage” to national security
Links from the NY Times to the five, latest, leaked NSA documents which provide the basis for today's story. The one-paragraph descriptions in these presentations are quite well done...
N.S.A. Timeline of Surveillance Law Developments

Classification Guide for Stellarwind Program

Ashcroft Memo on Intelligence Sharing Procedures

Classification Guide for FISA, the Protect America Act and the FISA Amendments Act

N.S.A. Memo Expands Access to FISA Information


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This morning's NY Times' lead pretty much blows the lid off of the ongoing government lies propaganda that our government has not been capturing massive quantities of domestic call content of its citizens; and this Orwellian travesty has been going on for a very long time. It is "the" definitive "Snowden/NSA Document Leak" story, IMHO. The cat's all but officially out of the proverbial bag.


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Critical background for readers, regarding what we already "knew," from reports in August of last year...

NSA, DEA, IRS Lie About Fact That Americans Are Routinely Spied On By Our Government: Time For A Special Prosecutor
By Jennifer Stisa Granick and Christopher Jon Sprigman
Forbes Magazine
8/14/2013 @ 2:45PM

It seems that every day brings a new revelation about the scope of the NSA’s heretofore secret warrantless mass surveillance programs. And as we learn more, the picture becomes increasingly alarming. Last week we discovered that the NSA shares information with a division of the Drug Enforcement Administration called the Special Operations Division (SOD). The DEA uses the information in drug investigations. But it also gives NSA data out to other agencies – in particular, the Internal Revenue Service, which, as you might imagine, is always looking for information on tax cheats.

The Obama Administration repeatedly has assured us that the NSA does not collect the private information of ordinary Americans. Those statements simply are not true. We now know that the agency regularly intercepts and inspects Americans’ phone calls, emails, and other communications, and it shares this information with other federal agencies that use it to investigate drug trafficking and tax evasion. Worse, DEA and IRS agents are told to lie to judges and defense attorneys about their use of NSA data, and about the very existence of the SOD, and to make up stories about how these investigations started so that no one will know information is coming from the NSA’s top secret surveillance programs.

“How does a foreign intelligence agency which supposedly is looking for terrorists and only targets non-U.S. persons get ahold of information useful in IRS investigations of American tax cheats?” To answer that question, let’s review this week’s revelations…

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation, last August, here’s more on the highly-publicized NSA-DEA connection, pretty much laid bare with the “missing link” provided in today’s NY Times article…
DEA and NSA Team Up to Share Intelligence, Leading to Secret Use of Surveillance in Ordinary Investigations
Hanni Fakhoury
Electronic Frontier Foundation
August 6, 2013

UPDATE: Add the IRS to the list of federal agencies obtaining information from NSA surveillance. Reuters reports that the IRS got intelligence tips from DEA's secret unit (SOD) and were also told to cover up the source of that information by coming up with their own independent leads to recreate the information obtained from SOD. So that makes two levels of deception: SOD hiding the fact it got intelligence from the NSA and the IRS hiding the fact it got information from SOD. Even worse, there's a suggestion that the Justice Department (DOJ) "closely guards the information provided by SOD with strict oversight," shedding doubt into the effectiveness of DOJ earlier announced efforts to investigate the program.

A startling new Reuters story shows one of the biggest dangers of the surveillance state: the unquenchable thirst for access to the NSA's trove of information by other law enforcement agencies.

As the NSA scoops up phone records and other forms of electronic evidence while investigating national security and terrorism leads, they turn over "tips" to a division of the Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") known as the Special Operations Division ("SOD"). FISA surveillance was originally supposed to be used only in certain specific, authorized national security investigations, but information sharing rules implemented after 9/11 allows the NSA to hand over information to traditional domestic law-enforcement agencies, without any connection to terrorism or national security investigations.

But instead of being truthful with criminal defendants, judges, and even prosecutors about where the information came from, DEA agents are reportedly obscuring the source of these tips…

Using the NSA-DEA relationship as just one example of the many interagency information-sharing/surveillance protocols that the public's recently learned are in place in our country, here's a report on the results of a FOIA response provided to MuckRock.com, from just a few weeks ago, regarding how the DEA internally instructs its agents to obfuscate the source of its (NSA) intelligence data...
 

DEA teaches agents to recreate evidence chains to hide methods

Trainers justify parallel construction on national security and PR grounds: "Americans don't like it"

by Shawn Musgrave
MuckRock.com
Feb. 3, 2014, 10:30 a.m.

FOI Requests:  DEA policies on "parallel construction"

Drug Enforcement Administration training documents released to MuckRock user C.J. Ciaramella show how the agency constructs two chains of evidence to hide surveillance programs from defense teams, prosecutors, and a public wary of domestic intelligence practices.

In training materials, the department even encourages a willful ignorance by field agents to minimize the risk of making intelligence practices public.

The DEA practices mirror a common dilemma among domestic law enforcement agencies: Analysts have access to unprecedented streams of classified information that might prove useful to investigators, but entering classified evidence in court risks disclosing those sensitive surveillance methods to the world, which could either end up halting the program due to public outcry or undermining their usefulness through greater awareness.

An undated slide deck released by the DEA to fleshes out the issue more graphically: When military and intelligence agencies “find Bin Laden's satellite phone and then pin point [sic] his location, they don't have to go to a court to get permission to put a missile up his nose." Law enforcement agencies, on the other hand, “must be able to take our information to court and prove to a jury that our bad guy did the bad things we say he did...”

Now, multiply the NSA-DEA relationship by another 12+ Federal agencies (IRS, etc., see above), plus countless local law enforcement organizations and big business' security departments, and you'll begin to understand that all of these entities work in unison with the NSA/NCTC at those 78 Fusion Centers, noted in the first paragraph of this post. And, as we're learning from the NY Times, today, they're all--either directly or indirectly--maintaining some level of access to the "unminimized," "Raw Take" wiretap data disclosed in the latest Snowden document leak.

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