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Article posted Aug 19 2013, 9:04 AM Category: Big Brother/Orwellian Source: Techdirt Print

Just Weeks Ago, Keith Alexander Said Review Of NSA Found Not A Single Violation; Reality: Thousands Of Violations

by Mike Masnick

It's been clear that various defenders of the NSA program have been lying, but given yesterday's revelations, now we can show just how much and how explicitly they were lying. It was just a couple weeks ago at the Black Hat conference that Keith Alexander told an audience that a review of NSA activities showed no violations at all:
Congress did a review of this program over a four-year period, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. And over that four-year period, they found no willful or knowledgeable violations of the law or the intent of the law in this program.

More specifically, they found no one at NSA had ever gone outside the boundaries of what weíve been given. Thatís the fact. What youíre hearing, what youíre seeing, what people are saying is, well, they could. The fact is they donít. And if they did, our auditing tools would detect them, and they would be held accountable.
Note the hedge in the first paragraph, that they found "no willful or knowledgeable violations." And, indeed, the Inspector General's report revealed last night notes that most of the violations they found were accidental. But, the line between "accidental" and "intentional but covered up by claiming it was an accident" is a somewhat fuzzy line. If you're an NSA analyst who wants to spy on someone, given how the agency treats "accidental" searches as no big deal, it appears that all you have to do is figure out a way to write a query that you can then claim accidentally, or "incidentally" just happened to collect the information you were looking for. "Oops."

Either way, even with those caveats in the first paragraph, in the second paragraph Alexander makes claims without such caveats. There he argues that "no one at NSA had ever gone outside the boundaries of what we've been given. That's a fact." Actually, that's a lie. As the report showed quite clearly, there are thousands of incidents in which they went outside the boundaries. That they were "accidental" or "incidental" doesn't change that fact.

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