Government To Declassify How Many People Were Targeted By The NSA In 2012


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Earlier this month, President Obama outlined four ways that he would like to reform the NSA and FISA court. A big part of those reforms was increased transparency, and it looks we'll finally be getting a little more transparency.

On the new (and hilarious) NSA tumblr blog, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper announced a plan to annually release data pertaining to the number of people and businesses targeted by the NSA. Of course, we won't get actual numbers as the government will only be publishing aggregate figures, much like what Facebook published earlier this week.

Unlike Facebook and other tech companies, however, the government's list of published figures will be much broader in scope. Here's everything you can expect to see in the upcoming report:

  • FISA orders based on probable cause ( Titles I and III of FISA, and sections 703 and 704).
  • Section 702 of FISA
  • FISA Business Records (Title V of FISA).
  • FISA Pen Register/Trap and Trace ( Title IV of FISA)
  • National Security Letters issued pursuant to 12 U.S.C. § 3414(a)(5), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681u(a) and (b), 15 U.S.C. § 1681v, and 18 U.S.C. § 2709.
  • You might be disappointed that the government will only be publishing aggregate figures, but Clapper argues that it's for the good of the nation:

    FISA and national security letters are an important part of our effort to keep the nation and its citizens safe, and disclosing more detailed information about how they are used and to whom they are directed can obviously help our enemies avoid detection.

    Everything that has been leaked by Snowden thus far was kept secret for the good of the nation, but said leaks seem to have had no impact yet. The real bad guys - the ones who would actually do the nation harm - aren't using Facebook or Google+ to plan out attacks. Sure, the NSA might catch wind of a plot from a really stupid terrorist, but recent leaks suggest that they're just scooping up data indiscriminately without a lot of oversight.

    Of course, the government should be commended for being even a little more transparent. It's just unfortunate that transparency was only ever discussed once the Snowden leaks thoroughly embarrassed the government.

    Once the document is published, we'll be sure to bring you all the information it contains. Just don't expect a lot of startling revelations. After all, the NSA's "ability to discuss these activities is limited by [its] need to protect intelligence sources and methods."

    [Image: IC On The Record]