Written by: Stephen Hsu
Primary Source: Information Processing
Anyone who is paying attention knows that the Obama FBI/DOJ used massive government surveillance powers against the Trump team during and after the election. A FISA warrant on Carter Page (and Manafort and others?) was likely used to mine stored communications of other Trump team members. Hundreds of “mysterious” unmasking requests by Susan Rice, Samantha Powers, etc. were probably used to identify US individuals captured in this data.
I think it’s entirely possible that Obama et al. thought they were doing the right (moral, patriotic) thing — they really thought that Trump might be colluding with the Russians. But as a civil libertarian and rule of law kind of guy I want to see it all come to light. I have been against this kind of thing since GWB was president — see this post from 2005!
My guess is that NSA is intercepting and storing big chunks of, perhaps almost all, US email traffic. They’re getting almost all metadata from email and phone traffic, possibly much of the actual voice traffic converted to text using voice recognition. This used to be searchable only by a limited number of NSA people (although that number grew a lot over the years; see 2013 article and LOVEINT below), but now available to many different “intel” agencies in the government thanks to Obama.
Situation in 2013: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=207195207
(Note Title 1 FISA warrant grants capability to look at all associates of target… like the whole Trump team.)
NYT: “The new system would permit analysts at other intelligence agencies to obtain direct access to raw information from the N.S.A.’s surveillance to evaluate for themselves. If they pull out phone calls or email to use for their own agency’s work, they would apply the privacy protections masking innocent Americans’ information… ” HA HA HA I guess that’s what all the UNmasking was about…
More on NSA capabilities: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LOVEINT (think how broad their coverage has to be for spooks to be able to spy on their wife or girlfriend)
Wikipedia: William Edward Binney is a former highly placed intelligence official with the United States National Security Agency (NSA) turned whistleblower who resigned on October 31, 2001, after more than 30 years with the agency.
He was a high-profile critic of his former employers during the George W. Bush administration, and later criticized the NSA’s data collection policies during the Barack Obama administration.
From the transcript of Binney’s talk:
ways that they basically collect data
first it’s they use the corporations
that run the fiber-optic lines and they
get them to allow them to put taps on
them and I’ll show you some of the taps
where they are and and if that doesn’t
work they use the foreign government to
go at their own telecommunications
companies to do the similar thing and if
that doesn’t work they’ll tap the line
anywhere they can get to it and they
won’t even know it you know the
government’s know that communications
companies will even though they’re
tapped so that’s how they get into it
then I get into fiber lines and this is
this is a the prism program …
that was published
out of the Snowden material and they’ve
all focused on prism well prism is
really the the minor program I mean the
major program is upstream that’s where
they have the fiber-optic taps on
hundreds of places around in the world
that’s where they’re collecting off the
fiber lined all the data and storing it
2016 FISC reprimand of Obama administration. The court learned in October 2016 that analysts at the National Security Agency were conducting prohibited database searches “with much greater frequency than had previously been disclosed to the court.” The forbidden queries were searches of Upstream Data using US-person identifiers. The report makes clear that as of early 2017 NSA Inspector General did not even have a good handle on all the ways that improper queries could be made to the system. (Imagine Snowden-like sys admins with a variety of tools that can be used to access raw data.) Proposed remedies to the situation circa-2016/17 do not inspire confidence (please read the FISC document).