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DOJ Announces New Methods For Reporting National Security Requests 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the stand-on-one-foot-and-beg-really-loud dept.
As the NSA metadata collection scandal has developed, a number of technology and communications companies have fought to increase the transparency of the data collection process by publishing reports on how much data government agencies are asking them for. These transparency reports have been limited, however, because most government requests are entwined with a gag order. In a speech two weeks back, President Obama said this would change, and now the Dept. of Justice has announced new, slightly relaxed rules about what information companies can share. According to an email from the U.S. Deputy Attorney General (PDF) to the General Counsel of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Yahoo, the companies can publish: how many Criminal Process requests they received, how many National Security Letters they received, how many accounts were affected by NSLs, how many Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders were received (both for communications content and 'non-content'), and how many customers were targeted by FISA requests. The companies still aren't allowed to give specific numbers, but they can report them in bands of 1,000 — for example, 0-999, 1,000-1,999, etc. Information requests for old services cannot be disclosed for at least six months. The first information requests for a new service cannot be disclosed for two years. The companies also have the option of lumping all the NSL and FISA requests together — if they do that, they can report in bands of 250 instead of 1,000.
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DOJ Announces New Methods For Reporting National Security Requests

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  • by shiftless (410350) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @04:40PM (#46094149) Homepage

    This is to be expected. Instead of repealing the police state, they are normalizing it. Welcome to the new Normal.

    • Mod parent up. This is going on in several European countries, too ( UK, NL ). Congratulations, BTW, for inventing a new terminus technicus: the normalized police state. As much as I hate the thought, I can not but admire the term. Yes, that is what we are going to live in, for the next years.
      • "Yes, that is what we are going to live in, for the next years."

        How pessimistic.

        But what I want to know is: where are these "changes to regulations" coming from? Are they orders directly from the President? Was Congress involved?

        Bureaucrats don't get to make national security laws. Just more evidence of Obama administration ignoring actual law, and doing whatever the hell it wants.

        • Seriously?

          It's from the DOJ. Go see who they report to.

          • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @06:04PM (#46094987)

            "It's from the DOJ. Go see who they report to."

            That's not an answer.

            I didn't ask who was ultimately responsible (both Obama and Congress are culpable). I was asking who actually made the change to the regulations... or did they? Are they just ignoring regulations? Did they change regulations? Or are they just ignoring all the rules as they usually have in this administration? Or maybe they're ceasing to ignore the laws as they actually existed?

            This is all very ambiguous. And it should not be.

          • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @06:11PM (#46095063)
            The reason I wrote the above is because it has a real impact on our lives.

            Let's take Obamacare for an example, because it's a recent and good example. Congress passed, and Obama signed, some things into law.

            When events did not go as planned, Obama announced that they were going to ignore certain parts of the law. (Which, in fact, he has no legal authority to do.)

            But that means the law is still in place. If he can ignore it by degree at any time, then he can reinstate it by decree at any time.

            If the law isn't changed, but just some bureaucrat is deciding to ignore the regulations today, who is to say they won't stop ignoring it again tomorrow?

            Answer: nobody. And that's why it's important to know.

            This country is supposed to be subject to The Rule Of Law. It isn't run by "whatever the fuck I feel like doing today".
            • by geekoid (135745)

              Which, in fact, he has no legal authority to do"
              which, in fact, he does.

              • "Which, in fact, he has no legal authority to do"

                No, he doesn't. Obama has NO legal power to either make or ignore LAWS. Congress makes the laws. The President does not.

                • What? Never heard of executive orders?

                  http://www.archives.gov/presid... [archives.gov]

                  • "What? Never heard of executive orders?"

                    Of course I have. In fact, given the context of your comment, it is likely I know a good deal more about them than you.

                    Executive Orders may "have the force of law", but ONLY insofar as they are "orders" that Federal employees have to comply with. Executive Orders have no legal authority to bind or compel citizens to follow them.

                    The President, in effect, is the CEO of the Federal bureaucracy. And an Executive Order is nothing more than an order for his employees to follow. Just as any CEO can tell his

                • The President can't make or amend laws, although he's in a good place to suggest that. However, he is in charge of enforcing those laws, by and large, and he does have discretion there. The Executive Branch is not Constitutionally required to pursue all violations of Federal law, and therefore the President can simply not enforce some laws, at least if it's not some law that gives somebody other than the Justice Department standing to bring to court.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by lgw (121541)

        Well, we can certainly act according to whether politicians do anything about this. If none of them strike back at the NSA, then we're screwed, but if some of them take action we can at least reward them.

        Time has the text [time.com] of a resolution the RNC just passed, which calls for action by Republican legislators in very stark terms. The RNC is as "inside the beltway", disconnected from voters, and generally unconcerned with the sort of issues that make Slashdot as it's possible for a human to be, and yet even th

        • by Tokolosh (1256448)

          If the GOP ever gets back in power, this will quickly and quietly vanish.

      • This is going on in several European countries, too ( UK, NL ). Congratulations, BTW, for inventing a new terminus technicus: the normalized police state. As much as I hate the thought, I can not but admire the term. Yes, that is what we are going to live in, for the next years

        Communism rolled into the Eastern part of Europe after the fall of Hitler's Nazi regime. That was in the 1940's.

        Communism didn't fell until ***DECADES*** later, and they fell mainly because of fiduciary mismanagement (they ran out $$$).

        On the other hand, the Western part of Europe (and now almost engulfing the entire European continent) managed their money better than the communists, which means, whatever form of "system" they want to run, it'll sure run much longer.

        Now that the democratic Europe has mor

    • by cbhacking (979169)

      Sad, but true. It has a definite "slowly being boiled" feel to it. What would once have been beyond the pale is now supposed to make us feel happy, because it's better than what we had yesterday...

      • "It's okay if we spy on you, providing we implement a highly uninformative reporting scheme. Yay for us, we're so accountable!"

      • "One step forward, two steps back" is the phrase you were looking for, not "slowly being boiled." For your mistake, you owe me $200.

        Alright, that was a bit harsh. You only owe me $100.
    • Instead of repealing the police state, they are normalizing it.

      *yawn* overhype much?

      If we lived in a police state - they wouldn't be allowed to talk about the requests at all. These things are despicable and incompatible with normal criminal procedure, but the hype and irrationality surround them helps no one.

      *Sigh* but the 'net's tendency towards shrillness. overhype, and irrationality has already 'normalized' these things.

      • *yawn* overhype much?

        These things are despicable and incompatible with normal criminal procedure,

        So you agree that secret warrants that lead to secret charging (and hence secret arrests of people) is unlawful.

        How is that NOT a "police state" again?

        Perhaps this would be the time for some colorful expletives?

        If not, when?

      • Um, until this decree, they weren't allowed to talk about the requests at all.

        • Um, prior to this decree they did so anyway. (And seemingly without repercussion - I haven't seen any tech CEO's or PAO's or General Counsel's hauled off the camps, have you?) If they hadn't done so, this decree wouldn't have come about in the first place.

          • All they said was that they were not allowed to say anything.

            That's meta talking, not actually talking about them.

            And they probably didn't get hauled into court, because it's obvious that Google et al would be primary targets for this data interception.

            Also, notice how no one said anything until Snowden spilled the beans. Even though it had been happening for a decade.

            • by Tokolosh (1256448)

              Also, notice how no one said anything until Snowden spilled the beans.

              And when they started losing business - see AT&T acquisition of Vodaphone, Cisco's problems, etc.

              I would like Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cisco, AT&T, Verizon all to stand up together and completely spill the beans on what they have been doing at the government's behest. What could happen? If they were all shut down and their executives charged, the US economy would implode.

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        You have a much higher standard for a police state than I, or many of the people here.

        If the police are doing things that not only "despicable and incompatible with normal criminal procedure" but are turning them into normal procedure, and officially operating under these principles; it is already a police state.

        In fact, I would say the moment they get away with militarizing the police based on thin excuses about their need to bust in people's doors over nonviolent "crimes" (like some cannabis flowers in th

        • by geekoid (135745)

          All you told me is that you have no clue what a police state is.

        • by gmhowell (26755)

          You have a much higher standard for a police state than I, or many of the people here.

          Plenty of people don't have a problem with jackbooted authority so long as the boot is on their foot rather than their neck. Bonus points if the boot is on the neck of some ill defined 'other'.

      • by s.petry (762400)

        There is no irrationality if you study history. Irrational may be worrying about whether or not what's happening because of a luciferian cult, but not by observing and showing fear over what has been happening. To have no fear at all indicates delusion or compliance, unless of course you are ignorant to history.

        Citizens in the US are well armed, and much of our Military and Police force would turn on the government if Obama tried to implement a full blown police state. This is why these things are staged

      • If we lived in a police state - they wouldn't be allowed to talk about the requests at all.

        Well, since the requests come with gag orders, what's your next rationalization?

    • by deconfliction (3458895) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @05:15PM (#46094507)

      I have found over the last 10 years or so, that it really helps my sanity to see them play these kinds of reindeer games. The thread that helped keep my sanity together thinking about the security vulnerability of all the closed source firmware I was using was this thought- "If my human society and government was anywhere near the sort of thing I could respect and depend on to protect my 'inalienable rights' those in high levels would be talking openly about how as a society we should be considering such potetential surveillance state styles". It was the fact that I was hearing in the public debate, only (not so) vague attempts from all directions to direct the conversation precisely *away* from that center. That is what kept me sane believing that the center really was there, and at the time, in darkness.

      Similarly, this summary, if accurate, is an example of the same thing. The hoops, and games they are willing to go through to try and 'normalize' this, after all that has been revealed in the last year- proves in my mind- exactly how bad things really must be.

      I may be crazy. That is how I've seen the world in the past 10 years.

    • by symbolic (11752)

      Are we really that completely helpless? All of this was perpetrated by, and maintained by *congress*. It can easily be fixed by congress. Little will change, however, if we do not step up and hold our elected representatives accountable, by first and foremost, ensuring that the *right* people are serving in office. And by "serving" I do not mean "self-serving," which seems to be standard fare these days.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We received somewhere between -978 and 22 requests.

  • sweet, sweet, meta-metadata!
  • by DickBreath (207180) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @04:43PM (#46094187) Homepage
    Keep the number of requests below 1000.

    Vastly expand the scope of each request.
    • by mysidia (191772)

      Keep the number of requests below 1000.

      I suggest reporting the number range in Base2. 1000 is a pretty small number of requests.

      • The NSA did not specify what radix when they said Google and others must report NSL's in multiples of 1000.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The FBI/NSA doesn't actually care. It might hurt the PR for one company, but seriously, you're untouchable after obvious revelations about abuse of the information. No one stops you. What do you care if an arbitrary number is higher?

    • by swillden (191260)

      Keep the number of requests below 1000.

      Vastly expand the scope of each request.

      What do you mean by "scope"? The companies also report the number of user accounts affected/targeted, so increasing the scope by requesting data for more users will still be apparent in the reports. The government can request more information about a given user, I suppose, but can't go beyond "all of it".

      • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

        Presumably. Even a 3-hop request would count as involving only one account, so just request emails from "info@gmail.com" and get all the people they email to notify about a new feature.

        • by swillden (191260)

          Presumably. Even a 3-hop request would count as involving only one account, so just request emails from "info@gmail.com" and get all the people they email to notify about a new feature.

          If the company generating the report has an incentive to minimize the numbers they report, yes, because I don't think the directive defines details like this. And companies may want to minimize the numbers. Users should ask the companies to define their counting methodology.

    • From TFS:

      how many National Security Letters they received, how many accounts were affected by NSLs, how many Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders were received (both for communications content and 'non-content'), and how many customers were targeted by FISA requests.

      You'll notice that they covered that contingency, actually. They can report not only the number of letters, but the number of people affected by letters.

    • More like "Come up with a double-secret FISA that doesn't fall under any of these rules."
    • Keep the number of requests below 1000.
      Vastly expand the scope of each request.

      Apple was the first with updated reporting. 0 to 249 requests, affecting 0 to 249 accounts.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You know... 0-999 is a band of 1000. But so is 1-1000. And 2-1001. And 3-1002. *taps nose* Seems like an obvious tactic that could be used to report the exact number.

    • by crmanriq (63162)

      Sounds like fun. Except the part where if you report it in a way the overlords dislike, you go to jail for the rest of your life.

  • It's really really REALLY sad that we have this mid-30s Germany censorship going on here in what can now best be described as a quasidemocracy. Isn't 1K chunks what they were doing before they got the OK from the govt? I wonder when the internet will succeed from the world government bodies & exist as its own sovereign state? Then the companies could apply for embassy status & be void of all this bullshit.
    • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

      What makes me nervous is that this was originally an anti terrorism thing! then it was a terrorism and drug trafficker thing, now it's terrorism/drug trafficking/CP thing. CP is abhorrent to me, but makes you wonder what is next. Add bit coin, then piracy, then I don't even know what.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      " we have this mid-30s Germany censorship going on here in what"
      no, we do not. It's not even fucking close.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You seem to be heavily invested in this with your proofless NOs all over the thread. How much are you paid? Hopefully more than "our" Russian equivalents who get about 11.80 RUB/message.

  • First amendment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @04:59PM (#46094345) Journal

    Any gag order at all is incompatible with the First Amendment's prohibition on infringement of free speech.

    • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

      Supreme Court has always said that first amendment isn't absolute, in the face of extraordinary circumstances. fire in a crowded theater and all that. That's not just an expression, it was actually used by a justice in a Supreme Court ruling.

    • This has baffled me. I know you can be held accountable for yelling fire in a crowded theater. But even then, the act of yelling fire in a crowded theater is not illegal itself. Just the deaths as a result of yelling fire can be attributed to the yeller.

      How the government can strictly deny someone from stating mere facts makes no sense. "Yes, I received a FISA subpoena today." Have gag orders been contested at any level of the judicial system?

      • This has baffled me. I know you can be held accountable for yelling fire in a crowded theater. But even then, the act of yelling fire in a crowded theater is not illegal itself. Just the deaths as a result of yelling fire can be attributed to the yeller.

        Anytime someone mentions fire in a crowded theater, I think of this:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

        "Fire, fire, fire, fire. Now you’ve heard it. Not shouted in a crowded theatre, admittedly, as I seem now to have shouted it in the Hogwarts dining ha

        • by Sabriel (134364)

          People offer it as an example of the limits of free speech, all the while completely unaware of the saying's origin.

          I suspect because people expect common sense sayings to have common sense origins. It is a good example after all - it's not the saying's fault that Holmes used it in Schenk outside of its proper scope (e.g. from Wikipedia, "Chafee argued in Free Speech in the United States that a better analogy in Schenk might be a man who stands in a theatre and warns the audience that there are not enough

    • by SirGarlon (845873)
      And the right to due process. It's hard to contest a demand for records when that demand is accompanied by a gag order.
  • by fallen1 (230220) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @05:00PM (#46094353) Homepage

    This is simply obfuscation through aggregation. All this is for is to make it SEEM like the DOJ is listening to the companies and the public outcry.

    Don't believe the hype. Don't believe the lies.
    Down this pathway, freedom dies.

    • Freedom is already dead. This is what is simply the icing the on surveillance state's cake.

      • Re:Obfuscation (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DickBreath (207180) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @05:21PM (#46094551) Homepage
        Oh, I think we've only started down the road. We're not close to the end of the road yet.

        Yes, they can stop us for any reason. Detain us. Search our laptops and devices without a court order or oversight. There are huge constitution free zones. They can snoop into all private communications to the point where no two human beings can have a private conversation. We have to take our shoes off at the airport and submit to naked scans and patdowns. People like Aaron Swartz can be harassed to death over things that are minor crimes if they are even crimes at all. Rich people routinely get away with things that poor people go to jail for -- for years. Compare penalties for copyright infringement to penalties for murder or robbery. Police brutality is becoming more common. Filming the police from a distance without interfering is treated as a crime.

        How soon do you think it will be before they can search your home without a warrant? How soon before you have to show ID to travel within the US -- maybe even within a city? How long before anonymous cash disappears?

        I'm just asking. But if you think this is just the icing on the cake, I want to tell you that this is still the cake, and there is a lot more cake to come before we get to the icing.

        Those who fail to learn from history. Etc.
        • by Entropius (188861)

          Filming the police from a distance without interfering is treated as a crime.

          SCOTUS has said, very explicitly, that this is legal.

          • by BlueStrat (756137)

            Filming the police from a distance without interfering is treated as a crime.

            SCOTUS has said, very explicitly, that this is legal.

            That has not stopped LEOs from harassing & arresting citizens video recording them. YouTube is filled with videos of this still occurring widely with very little in the way of serious consequences for those LEOs, despite SCOTUS' ruling.

            Strat

          • Since when does what SCOTUS says, or the constitution says, or the written law says, matter to police who have determined that you are a person that needs to be physically assaulted?
        • Police brutality is becoming more common.

          Citation and clarification of statistic requested. I'm guessing the rate of Rodney King style common police brutality has been a fairly steady drop over my lifetime. At least from casual observation of mainstream news sources. I do suspect there is much underhanded 'brutality' going on that merely uses things like 'government blacklisting' (as mentioned in the Seeger news articles today). But as for club blows and kicks raining down on people, I feel like I see less of that in the news over the years, n

          • by s.petry (762400)
            Really, you have no samples you can find? Start with the cops in California that beat a homeless man to death, and extend from there. There is no citation needed. Video cameras have been around for a while, so the excuse of "it happened and we just didn't film it" does not work.
          • Rodney King was the start of well documented police brutality. Documented episodes are plenty. Google and YouTube are your friend.
        • As the NSA metadata collection scandal has developed, a number of technology and communications companies have fought to increase the transparency of the data collection process by publishing reports on how much data government agencies are asking them for.

          Right lets ignore the fact that companies are trying to save face after being exposed for intentional back doors and exploits in there hardware/software, and all the other "warning systems" that were ignored from the agencies hacking into systems.

          This sho

        • by s.petry (762400)

          How soon do you think it will be before they can search your home without a warrant?

          Katrina and the Boston Marathon bombing make it clear that this can happen and has happened, and they are trying to normalize it by not discussing it.

      • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

        Mmm, cake... I could go for some of that right now!

  • by s.petry (762400) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @05:06PM (#46094417)

    Nothing of value is being done, which reflects the politicians which are offering no valuable solutions. End the programs, end the corruption, and for pity sake end the careers of these corrupt politicians. The data collection and paid shilling are useless to the population. They have value to an entrenched group of people who use all available means (illegal and legal) to further entrench themselves.

    Claiming that FISA courts can't release any data is idiocy and completely against the spirit of the Constitution/Bill of Rights. John Doe could be redacted from the court documents so that we could see what is happening without assisting John Doe. If Company A may be a risk, Company A could also be redacted for the same purposes.

    Nobody should be surprised at this decision, Obama stated that nothing would change except for who is holding the data that is collected. The solution is to vote out every career politician and elect people of high moral character.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Vote out?" Plurality voting leads to there being exactly two viable choices in any election. And the stable-state for a 2-choice election is one where the two candidates are very close ideologically. www.rangevoting.org has a great explanation of all of this.

      The only solution is to replace plurality voting itself with a better method.

      • by swillden (191260)

        The only solution is to replace plurality voting itself with a better method.

        I'm sure the two dominant parties will be anxious to push that through.

    • Nobody should be surprised at this decision, Obama stated that nothing would change except for who is holding the data that is collected. The solution is to vote out every career politician and elect people of high moral character.

      Except by default someone has to be a career politician to get anywhere. To get from "mayor of small town" to "US Senate" you need to win a series of progressively more aggressive elections (effectively making a career out of it). The best solution to this is to decentralize power to the point where the decisions made by people closer to the "mayor of a small town" level are more important in your day-to-day life than those made by "US Senator".

      Barring that, I think something crazy like this would work: r

      • by s.petry (762400)

        Except by default someone has to be a career politician to get anywhere.

        Nope, they don't. You have been trained to have this belief, but that belief is nowhere near reality. Study Plato's "The Republic", the answer has been known for thousands of years (about 2,500 that we know of). This is why people are not taught this information, and in most College classes you will only study a few of the books.

        That out of the way, I agree with your statements about decentralizing power. This is how the US was founded, and we functioned for a short duration with these principles.

        The lo

        • by floobedy (3470583)

          Nope, they don't. You have been trained to have this belief, but that belief is nowhere near reality. Study Plato's "The Republic", the answer has been known for thousands of years (about 2,500 that we know of).

          What? I think you misunderstood something in the parent post. The parent poster was claiming that it's impossible (or at least very difficult) to win high elections, like US Senate elections, unless you are a career politician. He was making a claim about the current political system of the United St

          • by s.petry (762400)

            What? I think you misunderstood something in the parent post. The parent poster was claiming that it's impossible (or at least very difficult) to win high elections, like US Senate elections, unless you are a career politician. He was making a claim about the current political system of the United States. Plato's "Republic" certainly does not contain any information about how difficult it is to obtain high office in the current US if you are not a career politician.

            The US currently does things the right way and we only elect the best people for office? That is hardly true, perhaps one time long ago it was but not in the last 40 or so years at least (I can only attest to what I have been aware of). What the Republic spells out is that there can not be career politicians because human nature combined with this being allowed leads to corruption. No, it's not one sentence that states this but rather a concept laid out over several books.

            By whom? How would you know? Do you even know who the poster is? Were you present during his training?

            Propaganda does this, and has do

  • They have the undersea cable tapped, all of Goolge/Facebook/yahoo's equipment hacked and therefor only need to issue an NSL when they are taking someone to court. So what's the point of this?

    • by redelm (54142)

      Good point. The question is whether TLAs can backdate NSLs so their ill-gotten trove can be used as evidence and not just threat identification/blackmail. Since NSLs are supposed to be secret, how can a judge rule on the [in]admissibility of evidence? One might hope that failing some authorization (warrent, unsealed NSL? etc) an intercept would be ruled inadmissible.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @05:22PM (#46094557) Homepage

    According to an email from the U.S. Deputy Attorney General (PDF) to the General Counsel of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Yahoo, the companies can publish:

    Ahh, I feel so much better, now. The rich who monitor everything we do have convinced the powerful who monitor everything we do to disclose slightly more about their constant surveillance of us to We The People, sovereigns of this nation.

  • The government doesn't want any metadata surrounding their requests to be released to the public.

  • Can't say "none" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jonathunder (105885) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @06:11PM (#46095055) Homepage

    I read the letter. The smallest "bands" that can be reported are zero through 250 for aggregate orders, or zero through 999 for more discrete types. In other words, the companies are not allowed to say there were none; instead they have to say between 0 and x.

    • by Lost Race (681080)
      Does this mean it's technically illegal for anyone in America to say, "I have received no National Security Letters today"? I feel a T-shirt design coming on....
  • New rules may be nicer than the previous, but the whole concept of a secret justice remains a shame.
  • What could the terrorists (as if it's even remotely about them anymore) glean from the exact numbers that they couldn't deduce from rounded numbers? I.e. what state secret goes out the window if we knew 1024 NSLs were sent to Google rather than 1000-2000? This is what bugs me the most about petty pointless crap like this. They graciously are "allowing" us to know the rough numbers but give no justification for the added secrecy.

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