Tag Archives: exceptions

NSA clarification

I have written that we really didn’t know what was going on at the NSA. Well, this week we got some clarification.

From Kevin Drum:

Today, in the latest release of classified NSA documents from Glenn Greenwald, we finally got a look at these minimization procedures. Here’s the nickel summary:

The top secret documents published today detail the circumstances in which data collected on US persons under the foreign intelligence authority must be destroyed, extensive steps analysts must take to try to check targets are outside the US, and reveals how US call records are used to help remove US citizens and residents from data collection.

I have a feeling it must have killed Glenn to write that paragraph. But on paper, anyway, the minimization procedures really are pretty strict. If NSA discovers that it’s mistakenly collected domestic content, it’s required to cease the surveillance immediately and destroy the information it’s already collected. However, there are exceptions. They can:

Retain and make use of “inadvertently acquired” domestic communications if they contain usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, are encrypted, or are believed to contain any information relevant to cybersecurity.

The Guardian has posted two classified documents online. The first one describes the procedure for determining whether a surveillance target is legitimate (i.e., a non-U.S. person located outside the country). The second one describes the minimization procedures in case of inadvertent targeting of a U.S. person. There are a few obvious things to say about them:

  • The determination document repeatedly emphasizes that NSA bases its decisions on the “totality of the circumstances.” There are quite a few safeguards listed to make sure that only foreigners are targeted, but in the end these are often judgment calls from analysts.
  • The minimization procedures are fairly strict, but they do allow retention and disseminationof domestic data—without a warrant—under quite a few circumstances. “Threat of harm” is pretty broad, as is “criminal activity.” The latter, in fact, seems like a loophole the size of a Mack truck. It suggests that NSA could have a significant incentive to “inadvertently” hoover up as much domestic information as possible so it can search for evidence of criminal activity to hand over to the FBI.
  • The oversight procedures are pretty thin. Analysts have quite a bit of discretion here.

It’s genuinely unclear how big a problem this stuff is. It’s plainly true that determining whether someone is a U.S. person is sometimes a judgment call, and it’s possible that mistakes are rare. What’s more, if collection of domestic content genuinely is inadvertent, and is only occasionally turned over to other agencies when there’s evidence of serious crime, we should all feel better about this. But we really have no way of knowing. That would require, say, an inspector general to gather this kind of information, and the IG has specifically declined to do this.

Also, note that the documents posted by the Guardian are from 2009. It’s quite possible that procedures have changed since then.

(Editor’s note – for me the take-home lesson is there is still a lot that we don’t know.)

Buffet Rule is blocked by GOP in Senate

We knew that this wasn’t going to be easy. The Republicans will continue to side with millionaries and billionaires. We must continue the pressure.

From TPM:

Senate Republicans defeated a motion to take up Buffett Rule legislation the day before taxes are due.

Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill late Monday. The final party-line vote was 51 in favor, 45 against, with Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) breaking ranks with their leadership. The sharp contrast promises to be a defining issue in the presidential election this November.

The principle behind the rule — that people making over $1 million a year should pay at least 30 percent in taxes — was championed by President Obama in his State of the Union this year and subsequently written into legislation by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The rule includes nuances and exceptions aimed at minimizing adverse incentives. It’s expected to raise tax receipts by $47 billion over 10 years, although Democrats say that figure would be at least $160 billion if the Bush tax cuts are extended.

NBA formula to win the Championship

This post continues my thoughts from yesterday on how to win in the NBA. I friend of mine wrote this in response to yesterday’s post. (I know that there are some of my regular readers who are aghast that I’m not talking about politics/world events, but don’t be. I’ll be on politics soon. I needed a little break.) (Running a little late this morning. Will add links later.)

While I agree with the thought that the NBA is better when certain signature franchises like the Knicks are relevant, the formula to win the title since the Magic/Bird era has been just as ET outlined with two interesting exceptions: the Bad Boy Pistons and the Pistons who ended the Lakers’ winning streak. I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how both of the exceptions to the formula came from Detroit, but I think it may have to do with the only thing ET left off the list: a smart coach who’s respected by the refs. For detroit, Chuck Daly and Larry Brown.

If we are to believe the formula, then these are the only teams as currently constructed that can win the title this season:
LAKERS
megastar/closer: Kobe
Pippen guy: Gasol
bomber: depends on the night but someone always hits big threes for them in the playoffs
enforcer: Odom (don’t laugh, look where he ranks in rebounds-per-minute)
coach: Phil

CELTICS
megastar/closer: Pierce (don’t laugh, something happened to him three years ago, does everything the star does but will never get credit for it)
Pippen guy: Garnett
bomber: Allen
enforcer: should be interesting with Perkins gone, will combo of Kristic/Shaq work?
coach: Rivers, maybe not smartest guy and may struggle with his defensive guru now coaching the Bulls, but the refs love him

SPURS
megastar/closer: I actually think it’s Parker now
Pippen guy: Ginobili
bomber: Matt Bonner
enforcer: DeJuan Blair
coach: Pop
… and I didn’t even mention the best power forward ever, who on this team can fill any of those roles except bomber. Continue reading NBA formula to win the Championship