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Privacy The Courts United States Your Rights Online

FBI and DEA Under Review For Misuse of NSA Mass Surveillance Data 86

Patrick O'Neill writes: The FBI and DEA were among the agencies fed information from an NSA surveillance program described as "staggering" by one judge who helped strike the program down. Now the two agencies are under review by the Justice Department for the use of parallel construction as well as looking into the specifics and results of cases originating from NSA tips. (Here's some more on the practice of parallel construction in this context.)
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FBI and DEA Under Review For Misuse of NSA Mass Surveillance Data

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  • My money is on.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjcNO@SPAMcarpanet.net> on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @09:08AM (#50619191) Homepage

    After investigating themselves, no wrongdoing will be found.

    I never find wrongdoing when I investigate myself. At least not anything that needs to be discussed in public, just a little internal housekeeping, you know, minor discipline issues, nothing to make a federal case over.

    One thing you can be certain of: This will lead to exactly 0 prosecutions, no matter how much abuse is found.

    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @10:01AM (#50619505)

      I disagree. I think wrongdoing will be found... a few minor, isolated cases. That will give the government a chance to point out how the abuses are "minor" when compared to the "proven benefits" of the Surveillance State, as well a chance to talk about how they are "constantly improving" an already careful program so it's even better about not collecting any important information from "ordinary, law-abiding citizens"
      M

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      Token wrongdoing will be found.

      A couple of people who were on their way out anyway will be offered off-the-books compensation and a promise of no consequences to be tainted by this.

      A couple of people they want to get rid of outright will get pinned with the most serious charges, but to protect the organization they will be allowed to resign quietly without any prosecution.

      In the end, it will be the same as no wrongdoing being found but with a little "accountability theater" to keep critics quiet.

      • by bigpat ( 158134 )

        Worse. It will be seen as a loophole in the law that only terrorists can be found out by indiscriminate mass surveillance. If terrorists, then why not... (fill in the blank terrible crime here). Then the law will be expanded to say that any felony crime inadvertently uncovered during mass surveillance is fair game.

        On the one hand, they are right... If you can be allowed to search without a warrant for terrorists then why not other criminals? If you find out someone went on a murderous rampage for person

        • On the one hand, they are right... If you can be allowed to search without a warrant for terrorists then why not other criminals?

          This is an equivocation fallacy. The arguement to do this for terrorism is because its not a crime, but an act of war, the terrorists aren't merely criminals, but foreign combatants. When its time to treat them as combatants, even if illegal combatants(i.e. violating the laws of war like the Geneva conventions) then the governemtn says it is just crime. Oh and since its just a cri

          • by bigpat ( 158134 )

            This is an equivocation fallacy. The arguement to do this for terrorism is because its not a crime, but an act of war, the terrorists aren't merely criminals, but foreign combatants.

            The government isn't claiming merely the necessity for mass surveillance in the face of imminent danger from terrorists, they are claiming a right to perform mass surveillance as a function of law and the ability to use evidence gained from the fruit of mass surveillance to prosecute criminal cases against people conspiring with terrorists. Either mass surveillance is constitutional as a tool against crime or it isn't. There is no false argument there. Evidence gained through mass surveillance and the f

            • They are in fact claiming that, its just that the lie. They claim terrorism is different therefore give them what they want, when they get what they want they claim its just crime and their new powers are constitutional when they aren't. You start arguing that its unconstitutional and shouldn't be used as a tool against crime, and back to "But Terrorists!" implying the difference. The logical fallacy isn't yours, its the governments.
              • by bigpat ( 158134 )

                They are in fact claiming that, its just that the lie. They claim terrorism is different therefore give them what they want, when they get what they want they claim its just crime and their new powers are constitutional when they aren't. You start arguing that its unconstitutional and shouldn't be used as a tool against crime, and back to "But Terrorists!" implying the difference. The logical fallacy isn't yours, its the governments.

                Sure, there are mixed messages. And in different cases there are claims being made by government agents that are completely contradictory. I was highlighting the arguments that are of greatest concern to me. It isn't of concern to me when the government occasionally exercises power in ways that exceed their authority. That is necessity. Like the police (or anyone) kicking down a door without a warrant if they think a kidnapped child is inside. But kicking down one door is different than going house to

            • They are fine with forgetting about the 4th.

          • by TheCarp ( 96830 )

            > The arguement to do this for terrorism is because its not a crime, but an act of war, the terrorists aren't merely criminals, but foreign combatants

            I am fine with that, but they should have to prove THAT in a court of law too. Problem is, war, crime, these are just labels. The moment a government is arresting people, its law time...it court time. That is a fundamental check on the power of government that should be inviolate.

    • Have some faith, maybe not.
  • by Pseudonymous Powers ( 4097097 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @09:15AM (#50619225)

    The basic problem here is that "parallel construction" equals "lying under oath". Once judges start accepting outright lies, it rots the (already slightly decayed) system right down to the core.

    It's like when they're trying to indoctrinate you to be a terrorist, and they make you perform some unspeakably abominable act as your initiation. After that, you won't question your decision to join this iffy organization, because that would mean that you did this unforgivable thing, not for the greater good, but just because a bunch of assholes told you to. Which makes you yourself not only an asshole but also an idiot.

    So these judges will not only accept lies as testimony, they will defend the practice to the death, to anyone who raises the very obvious point that you shouldn't base your system of justice on blatant lies. Otherwise they're assholes and idiots, and nobody wants to admit that they're an idiot asshole.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @11:02AM (#50619935)

      The second problem is that there is a good reason not to have secret agencies feed law enforcement. The thing is, secret agencies are not bound by law in how they obtain their information, so nobody has any protection against them or any recourse under the law. Having them give information to law enforcement completely negates the essential checks and balances any working legal system has. Hence the DEA and FBI had to commit perjury on a mass-scale in order to use that information. That they were willing to do so already demonstrates the problem very clearly.

      To make it amply clear: If secret agencies feed law enforcement in your state, then you life in a police state or worse.

      • To make it amply clear: If secret agencies feed law enforcement in your state, then you life in a police state or worse.

        I would argue that the US is already a police state. It's just subtle enough (and portrayed in the Media in such a way) that most people don't notice.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @09:22AM (#50619269) Homepage

    Parallel construction is effectively perjury at a huge scale.

    What it's doing is giving them access to information they either aren't supposed to have, or are unwilling to admit to having. And then they come up with a carefully crafted lie about how they might have found this information from another source.

    This bit of creative writing has the effect of denying you the ability to see the evidence against you, and know where it comes from.

    It allows them to operate with impunity, while essentially denying you a fair trial ... because the bullshit story they make up about how they heard from a guy who heard it form a guy is exactly that: bullshit.

    It's government agencies who are bypassing decades of court decisions about proper procedures and rules of evidence, and using secret laws and bold-faced lies to be able to trump up whatever charges they have, with information obtained through questionable means, and the lying to suppress the real source of the information to cheat the system and deny you the ability to know how they really got it.

    This is as bad as any Soviet era secret police ever was, precisely because it bypasses all legal safeguards, and totally ignores the law as it pertains to knowing the evidence against you and how it is obtained.

    Any police agency doing this is, in my opinion, committing a crime. There's no other way to see this other than these organizations lying to courts, and providing local police with a fucking manual to also lie to the courts.

    Give us your fucking papers, comrade.

    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      I don't disagree with you. If we are being intellectually honest then your argument is perfectly correct. If we care to do the right thing then your argument is perfectly correct, IMHO.

      The problem is you had better be prepared for disappointment. The Feds abhor intellectual honesty "The law says we can't give aide to a country after a coup but it does not say we have to make the determination if a coup occurred." -- This is how they think. Any normal person I would consider having any sort of relations

      • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @10:12AM (#50619569) Homepage

        They are going to argue that its not 'fruit of poison' as long as they reasonably could found it thru normal means.

        See, the problem with that is it ignores how they actually got it.

        When you have information you're not supposed to have, and you can look back and then put together a bullshit argument about how you could have gotten it, it has nothing at all to do with reality.

        It is the fruit of the poison tree, because it was obtained without probable cause, and because the origins of it are being hidden from the accused.

        It's perjury, plain and simple. And if law enforcement is being encouraged to commit perjury, that pretty much means the justice system is completely fucked.

        It's taking information you can't justify having, and then effectively framing someone you believe is guilty but couldn't prove to a standard the courts would reject by re-building your evidence retroactively to suit your story.

        If the cops are doing that, they should be imprisoned, or shot on sight.

        • by gweihir ( 88907 )

          There is also the little problem that the step to completely making up "evidence" is a small one. They are already lying under oath to a court on how they got the evidence. If that becomes routine, why not just plant drugs on everybody they do not like where it is plausible and lie about that under oath? I am sure a significant amount of that is already going on, it is just so easy for them to improve their numbers and make themselves look good.

          "Parallel construction" is a technique right out of a police st

      • by q4Fry ( 1322209 )

        That should be totally covered by

        Officer, do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

        Obviously, parallel construction does not lend itself to the whole truth. IANAL, but it sounds to me like your DEA Agent is perjuring herself.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Yes in the long term US intelligence service aspect seems to have been pulled into very simple domestic court issues.
      The GCHQ always seemed to have a deeper understanding of never going near courts or short term political requests.
      Early in the 1920-30's the UK found a fast way into Soviet embassy codes, one about links deep in the UK, staff, unions, cash. It was too good to be true but the UK had to spread the results of the code work as it was just such a perfect document as a domestic political win. C
      • There was more separation between intelligence and law enforcement in the US prior to 9/11. The cops shouldn't be doing some of the sneaky stuff (or asking someone else to do it), so there were laws in place forbidding much data sharing.

        Looking into how an attack like 9/11 could be prevented in the future, it was found that more cooperation between agencies might have prevented it. The intelligence agencies had parts of the puzzle and the FBI had other parts. Nobody had enough to see the whole picture.

        • The problem with 9/11 wasn't that there was too little cooperation between agencies. It wasn't that government agencies were gathering too little information. Bush was warned beforehand about threats.

          The problem is that nobody expected such an attack. If people had considered it a possibility, they would have picked up enough traces to see it coming.

          It was something like the Pearl Harbor intelligence failures. There really wasn't a modern intelligence community, and the head of Naval intelligence s

          • That's certainly true, few people were expecting that type of attack, or had any reason to suspect such an attack might occur, AS FAR AS WE KNOW. (We don't know what all information the spooks had.) They were thinking of terrorist acts as being old-fashioned hijacking.

            ALSO, we know that the CIA had names of people suspected to have links with Al Quaeda (the hijackers), the NSA had indications that a Al Quaeda was planning something big in the near future.* The FBI had some other relevant info.

            So it's P

            • Bush was briefed on terrorist threats before 9/11. I believe he'd been told that there were indications that they involved airliners. That sort of warning is really all the spooks can do.

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          Re "There was more separation between intelligence and law enforcement in the US prior to" 2000? 1990? 1980?
          Pick a decade, any decade.
          Main Core https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] "The data which is believed to come from the NSA, FBI, CIA, and other sources,[1] is collected and stored without warrants or court orders"
          MAINWAY https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
          Operation CHAOS https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
          Project MINARET https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
          Project SHAMROCK https://en.wikipedia.org/w [wikipedia.org]
          • You listed two programs exclusively used by intelligence agencies.

            You then listed the two 1940s era programs which directly (and openly) CAUSED Congress to pass the law saying that NSA cannot collect information on US persons. That's precisely the Act that was amended after 9/11 to reduce the restrictions on the NSA (FISA).

            You also list Main Core, which little more than a vague rumor that someone is collecting a bunch of data for some reason - we don't have nearly enough facts to even start discuss

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @09:23AM (#50619281)

    There was a great episode of the old Penn & Teller show "Bullshit!" that dealt with this. They hired a bunch of random people as security monitors, gave them access to surveillance cameras, and told them not to use the cameras to spy on people's private lives (only on the fake security perimeter). Sure enough, 90% of them used the cameras to spy on people's personal shit.

    • ...90% of them used the cameras to spy on people's personal shit.

      Or at least 9 out of 10 times.

    • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjcNO@SPAMcarpanet.net> on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @09:57AM (#50619487) Homepage

      This. When I worked in hospital IT we were warned several times, the single most common reason for anyone in the hospital to be fired, is inappropriate records access. They had implemented auditing years ago. In fact, a decade before I worked at the hospital, my mother did, and there was a huge scandal involving medical records and a famous patient.

      By the time I left, they were implementing real time flagging. The system was able to flag on all sorts of things, accessing records within your family, accessing records of people who live near you, all things people actually do with alarming regularity when given access to records.

      The old adage is "power corrupts" and it is apt. People will misuse power given to them. Will all of them all the time? No. However, enough will and its impossible to say who will and who wont because almost every single one will given the right motivation or excuse.

      • Years ago I worked tech support for one of the pre-web internet subscription communities.

        While working there I ended up in a flame war in one of their forums with a user, while logged in with my personal account.
        The war continued for about a week, escalating, as I didn't back down on my opinion and the other user continued to escalate the rhetoric, ending up with his threats of physical violence.

        I then looked up his account at work and discovered that he was around 14 yrs old, and that his father pa
    • I worked in IT at a credit bureau. Everyone of us could have looked up any specific person in the files and there would have been no trace of it. I don't think anyone ever did. We had a couple of incidents in data entry and support people looking up people they knew. Considering how many people had access though the cases of abuse were very small. I suspect there has to be something about the environment that adds to people abusing the power.
    • There was a great episode of the old Penn & Teller show "Bullshit!" that dealt with this. They hired a bunch of random people as security monitors, gave them access to surveillance cameras, and told them not to use the cameras to spy on people's private lives (only on the fake security perimeter). Sure enough, 90% of them used the cameras to spy on people's personal shit.

      Now couple that with the results of the Zimbardo Prison Study and you see how we got where we are and where we are going.

  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @09:35AM (#50619337) Homepage Journal

    this story is forgotten, swept under the rug, no longer referenced.

    Just as suddenly as it appeared in the news, it disappears from the news and our short memories caused by modern low attention-span media causes us to forget.

    Then the parallel construction and misuse of data will continue.

    Just like everyone has forgotten about the persecution of real reporters that began in 08 and was heavily reported on for a short time. We still have mainstream news that's a result of what happened back then, but no mention of that fact.

    Just like everyone forgets about the global cooling scare that was a big deal in the 70's and still covered in the 80's.

    Just like everyone forgets about the various legal entities that have found "the smoking gun" and plan to go after the administration or some other powerful organization, never to hear anything more about it past the initial breaking news stories.

    This one will fall off the earth too.

  • My personal feeling is that parallel construction should be prosecuted as a felony. It's perjury, abuse of the juridicial process and contempt of court, and in a fundamental way (not some playing loose along the edges). Send someone to trial over this, and watch the abuse stop.

  • Is anybody going to jail over this? Then fuck it.

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