After collecting three years worth of “call detail records” going back to 2015, the National Security Agency suddenly decided in May to throw all 685 million of them in the trash. They just got around to telling the public about it on Thursday, after all the records had safely been electronically erased. But why would the agency, who has rarely admitted spying on Americans in the past suddenly decide to do this?
The NSA never before volunteered to say that they might have illegally collected data. So, there is only one logical and very sinister reason why every single one of the files was purged: to hide Obama’s tracks by covering up data requests from White House staff that improperly produced records related to President Donald Trump.
Recent reports “from multiple sources” indicate top White House aides under Obama’s direction were “abusing the National Security Agency to spy on the Trump campaign.”
NSA got their hand slapped by Congress over “bulk collection of call records” when Edward Snowden went public.
That scandal produced a new 2015 law. Instead of the NSA harvesting and storing all the raw data, the phone companies would keep it. NSA was still allowed to “query” the database of each telecommunications company whenever they wished. What the NSA just deleted is “all the information is collected from the queries.”
Earlier this year, NSA analysts found a problem. “Irregularities” in the phone call and text records that they received.
The way the statement describes it, “analysts noted technical irregularities in some data received from telecommunications service providers.”
“These irregularities also resulted in the production to NSA of some CDRs that NSA was not authorized to receive.
Worse, the bad data could not be separated out from the good, making it all useless. “Because it was infeasible to identify and isolate properly produced data, NSA concluded that it should not use any of the CDRs.”
Now that all of the records have been erased, nobody can really say for sure who searched for what. “Consequently, NSA, in consultation with the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, decided that the appropriate course of action was to delete all CDRs.”
According to David Kris, a former top DOJ security official, even if it isn’t a covert attempt to hide Watergate-style spying on the Trump campaign, the decision totally “points to a failure of the program.”
The data collected “was not reliable and was infected with some kind of technical error,” Kris relates. “So, whatever insights they were hoping to get over the past three years from this program of collection… is all worthless. They are throwing all the data away and basically starting over.”
The NSA claims “the root cause has been addressed” so the problem won’t happen again, even though they don’t say what it was or how it was fixed.
Democrat Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) puts the blame on the sneaky phone companies for giving more information than they were asked for. “This incident shows these companies acted with unacceptable carelessness and failed to comply with the law when they shared customers’ sensitive data with the government.”
He forgets that the queries to the database are all done from the NSA side.
The way the process is supposed to work, the government can ask for what amounts to a copy of the bill for a particular phone number. It shows the “metadata” details of date, time, duration, and other common details but not content, names, or location information.
Starting with the phone number allegedly used by a suspected terrorist, agents are allowed to query the systems of each individual telecom to get the records of any number that person called or who called the target number. After all the companies are queried, the NSA has a list of the “first hop” numbers in their own database.
All the first hop numbers are then fed back through the system one by one and a second hop list is obtained. That is where it is supposed to stop. It appears that somehow, third hop or higher order data was included. Also, there may also have been false positives resulting in numbers becoming incorrectly associated with terrorist activities.
Something along lines of a terrorist who orders a pizza would have the pizzeria number as a first hop and every customer, supplier and partner of the pizzeria as a second hop. Delivering pizza is not a terrorist activity so nobody related to the pizza shop should have been collected in the first place.
To put in perspective how fast the numbers balloon, in 2016 there were only 42 targets but the NSA collected 151.2 million call records. In 2017, they set a record-breaking pace and obtained 534.4 million entries for only 40 targets.
Another outcome of the 2015 law was that the intelligence community has to file reports with Congress every year. They also need a court order before they can sit down at the keyboard and start searching.
“Requests for records of U.S. citizens must be based on an investigation being conducted to protect against terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities and the probe cannot be conducted solely on activities protected by the First Amendment.
The entire move is a gigantic bait-and-switch, designed to cover Obama’s very illegal activity in weaponizing government agencies to destroy a presidential candidate.