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Thursday, January 12, 2017

A parting gift from one president to the other

by digby

It's so sweet:
In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections. 
The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches. 
The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data. Essentially, the government is reducing the risk that the N.S.A. will fail to recognize that a piece of information would be valuable to another agency, but increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people. 
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch signed the new rules, permitting the N.S.A. to disseminate “raw signals intelligence information,” on Jan. 3, after the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., signed them on Dec. 15, according to a 23-page, largely declassified copy of the procedures. 
Previously, the N.S.A. filtered information before sharing intercepted communications with another agency, like the C.I.A. or the intelligence branches of the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The N.S.A.’s analysts passed on only information they deemed pertinent, screening out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information. 
Now, other intelligence agencies will be able to search directly through raw repositories of communications intercepted by the N.S.A. and then apply such rules for “minimizing” privacy intrusions. 
“This is not expanding the substantive ability of law enforcement to get access to signals intelligence,” said Robert S. Litt, the general counsel to Mr. Clapper. “It is simply widening the aperture for a larger number of analysts, who will be bound by the existing rules.” 
But Patrick Toomey, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the move an erosion of rules intended to protect the privacy of Americans when their messages are caught by the N.S.A.’s powerful global collection methods. He noted that domestic internet data was often routed or stored abroad, where it may get vacuumed up without court oversight. 
“Rather than dramatically expanding government access to so much personal data, we need much stronger rules to protect the privacy of Americans,” Mr. Toomey said. “Seventeen different government agencies shouldn’t be rooting through Americans’ emails with family members, friends and colleagues, all without ever obtaining a warrant.”
The N.S.A. has been required to apply similar privacy protections to foreigners’ information since early 2014, an unprecedented step that President Obama took after the disclosures of N.S.A. documents by the former intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden. The other intelligence agencies will now have to follow those rules, too. 
Under the new system, agencies will ask the N.S.A. for access to specific surveillance feeds, making the case that they contain information relevant and useful to their missions. The N.S.A. will grant requests it deems reasonable after considering factors like whether large amounts of Americans’ private information might be included and, if so, how damaging or embarrassing it would be if that information were “improperly used or disclosed.”
What could go wrong?

I assume this was in the works for some time and would have happened regardless of which party took over. And it's equally bad regardless. Giving even more people the ammunition to go after their enemies by searching through their private correspondence and delivering suspicious info to law enforcement or embarrassing info to the press just doesn't seem like a good idea right now.

But perhaps the silver lining of Trump going to war with the IC is the fact that they are less likely to do his bidding when he wants to go after his political enemies as you know he will. It's a small consolation considering that he's a malevolent monster who is probably going to get us into a war.