May 27th, 2017

Use of the NSA under Obama

It’s a complicated situation that Andrew C. McCarthy attempts to explain here:

So, to summarize, we have the communications of Americans inside the United States being incidentally intercepted, stored, sifted through, and in some instances analyzed, even though those Americans are not targets of foreign-intelligence collection. The minimization procedures are supposed to prevent the worst potential abuses, particularly, the pretextual use of foreign-intelligence-collection authority in order to conduct domestic spying. But even when complied with, there is a colorable argument that the minimization procedures do not eliminate the Fourth Amendment problem — i.e., they permit seizure and search without adequate cause.

Now we know the minimization procedures have not been complied with. The new scandal involves their flouting…

…[T]he NSA was not supposed to use an American’s phone number, e-mail address, or other “identifier” in running searches through its upstream database. It is this prohibition that the NSA routinely and extensively violated.

Evidently, there was widespread use of American identifiers throughout the years after the 2011 revision of the minimization procedures. The violation was so broad that, at the time the Obama administration ended, its scope had still not been determined…

This violation of law was routine and extensive, known and concealed…

To the extent the data collected has increased the number of Americans whose activities make it into reports, it has simultaneously increased the opportunities for unmasking American identities. Other reporting indicates that there was a significant uptick in unmasking incidents in the latter years of the Obama administration. More officials were given unmasking authority. At the same time, President Obama loosened restrictions to allow wider access to raw intelligence collection and wider dissemination of intelligence reports…

This geometrically increased the likelihood that classified information would be leaked — as did the Obama administration’s encouragement to Congress to demand disclosure of intelligence related to the Trump campaign (the purported Trump–Russia connection). And of course, there has been a stunning amount of leaking of classified information to the media.

There’s more in the NY Post in an article entitled “How Team Obama Tried to Hack the Election”:

…[W]e now know the National Security Agency under President Barack Obama routinely violated privacy protections while snooping through foreign intercepts involving US citizens — and failed to disclose the breaches, prompting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court a month before the election to rebuke administration officials…

Further, the number of NSA data searches about Americans mushroomed after Obama loosened rules for protecting such identities from government officials and thus the reporters they talk to.

The FISA court called it a “very serious Fourth Amendment issue” that NSA analysts — in violation of a 2011 rule change prohibiting officials from searching Americans’ information without a warrant — “had been conducting such queries in violation of that prohibition, with much greater frequency than had been previously disclosed to the Court.”

A number of those searches were made from the White House, and included private citizens working for the Trump campaign, some of whose identities were leaked to the media. The revelations earned a stern rebuke from the ACLU and from civil-liberties champion Sen. Rand Paul.

One of the more interesting aspects to this story is how consistent it is with Obama’s behavior during his early years in politics. No, he didn’t have the NSA spying tools back then. But he made great use of the tools he had.

15 Responses to “Use of the NSA under Obama”

  1. J.J. Says:

    Circa News is doing some great investigative journalism. Their reporters, John Solomon and Sara Carter, are, IMO, the Woodward and Bernstein of this era. Now if only 30 million people read Circa News. Right now the word is getting out through stories by other authors like Andrew McCarthy and TV shows like Sean Hannity. (Which is under assault by the same left wing group that leaned on advertisers to quit the Bill O’Reilly show.)

  2. Griffin Says:

    But he’s a Democrat so it’s OK.

  3. Cornhead Says:

    Obama is immune from any political fallout and the MSM will ignore this. But wouldn’t it be sweet if Mueller turned the tables and we get all of the sordid details of
    Obama’s unconstitutional domestic spying? Susan Rice is at the bottom of this.

  4. Liz Says:

    I feel a need to call my Senators & Rep next week to insist that this be investigated.

  5. Was He or Wasn’t He? | Things to Remember, Things to Cherish Says:

    […] for the sake of completeness, a blog posting from Neo-Neocon with still more quotes and links from other […]

  6. Mark30339 Says:

    Stunning. Is there a reason why we can’t expect the new President and his new AG to prosecute these violations of the law?

  7. Big Maq Says:

    So, say this is all absolute fact (yes, it is consistent with what we’ve seen in obama’s admin, so is quite believable)…

    … will the trump admin ensure those rules are followed and close down any potential for such abuse?

    Or, will they just go after those violations and punish, in one way or another, the violators…

    … and turn a blind eye when the abuse favors them and their causes?

  8. Ray Says:

    In the NYT, former CIA director Brennan offered a blatantly preposterous Russia collusion story To justify blatantly illegal CIA spying On the Trump campaign. The media is of course spinning this as the trump campaign committed some serious offense rather than the Obama administration was illegally spying on American citizens.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    Big Maq:

    I don’t have time to find the quotes right now, but I seem to recall one or several of the articles I read on the subject saying that the Trump administration has already clamped down on the practice by issuing new rules about it.

  10. The Other Chuck Says:

    At the same time we tut tut about the NSA possibly spying on politicians and are concerned they may exceed guidelines and laws that are supposed to protect ordinary citizens, we seem perfectly fine with wide open internet abuse of privacy. With few exceptions our lives have become open books. Where we live and have ever lived, telephone numbers, the most personal history including our marriages and divorces, credit and work history, bankruptcies, income, criminal history including infractions, organizations to which we’ve belonged, and with enough effort our blogging history – all is available for the world to see. There is no place to hide for any of us. The days are gone when a person could move west to start a new life leaving the past behind.

    So cry me a river for the politicians who established the spy organizations, who think nothing of building vast data collection centers in Utah, and who like the control freaks most are at heart, long ago sold their souls. If it’s came back to bite them in the ass, good.

  11. The Other Chuck Says:

    …come back… Getting sloppy.

  12. Bill Says:

    The story of our time is how, over just a couple of decades, using the siren song of social media and connectedness, people all over the world have given up any vestige of privacy.

    You know, in all the back and forth politically, all the angst and yelling, all the pro-Trump, anti-Trump, pro-Obama, anti-Obama, two bug subjects are rarely breached

    1. The national debt. (anyone think it will be lower or even in control when Trump leaves office?)

    2. Privacy and the fourth amendment – dealt with in this post but the larger focus has just been the tribal politics about how the leaks help or hurt Trump, Hillary, etc.

    What about the vast invasion of privacy of private citizens?

  13. Bill Says:

    two *big* subjects

  14. Big Maq Says:

    @Neo – appreciate the point, but, IIRC, didn’t obama also make his own protective order(s) in response to privacy concerns wrt US spy and LE agencies?

    So maybe we ought to remain somewhat skeptical?

    Further, if trump wouldn’t have been so mutable, and would have consistently given us a message and rationale for the importance of protecting citizens from abuse of the tools, it might be be more credible that he will follow through with and stick to any EOs he issued on this.

    This is the problem with trump, even things that should be good are undermined by the seeds of doubt he has sown himself, so all we are left with is “It’s a start – We’ll see”.

    And, we hope.

  15. Big Maq Says:


    #1 – Probably not. Beyond trump not beholding to principles of fiscal responsibility, my odds are it will accelerate, exacerbated by either trade conflict or external hostilities.

    #2 – Leaks are bad as a general rule, as a breach of trust. They may make it harmful if they contain important and sensitive information.

    That said, in the right context we might think of them as beneficial – e.g. whistleblowers.

    In context of the trump admin, they seem to be an indicator of turmoil and conflict within itself, mirroring much of what we see from the outside – it just doesn’t look like they have “one face forward”.

    IOW, it indicates poor leadership – unable to earn respect and team buy-in, from the top on down, and an overall lack of a well oiled organization.

    On the one hand, we ought to give him the chance to climb the learning curve.

    On the other, he campaigned heavily that he was single handedly more competent than any politician, could make deals, could (very quickly) get things done.

    He set the expectation. (We’d be bored with the “Winning!!” and how “Presidential” he’d be)

    Many conclude that we are, thus, left with the choice of blindly playing team politics or demanding better / accountability, another binary choice.

    So, questions like those raised in #1 and #2, are casualties.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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