What I've not seen mentioned at all in this scandal

All debate of the rightness of Snowden's disclosure aside, there's one key piece of information I've not seen mentioned anywhere.  The President, the Speaker of the House, and many members of the Senate have come out saying that this program was legal, it was approved by congress, vetted by the courts, and the idea that this is somehow illegitimate has absolutely no basis.  But I think it does.  You see, the one missing element in all of this is that this sweep of meta-data is being handled by the NSA.

So what?  The NSA is certainly well equipped to handle this volume of data.  Communications Intelligence is their mission after all.  But there's one sticking point, and it's a doozy:

"The COMINT mission of the National Security Agency (NSA) shall be to provide an effective, unified organization and control of the communications intelligence activities of the United States conducted against foreign governments, to provide for integrated operational policies and procedures pertaining thereto. As used in this directive, the terms "communications intelligence" or "COMINT" shall be construed to mean all procedures and methods used in the interception of communications other than foreign press and propaganda broadcasts and the obtaining of information from such communications by other than intended recipients, but shall exclude censorship and the production and dissemination of finished intelligence."

The NSA may not, by its own charter, perform Communications Intelligence operations upon the United States or its citizens.  It's target, and mission, is COMINT ops on foreign targets.  Now, I am certain the Administration will claim that the actual targets of this program are foreign terrorists.  However, the one overriding law that the NSA must follow is the United States Signals Intelligence Directive (or USSID) 18.  I would draw your attention specifically to the unredacted portions of Sections 4 and 5, which specifically deal with how communications collected from sources known to be US citizens are to be handled.  I won't quote directly (you can read it all there) but in short, they can't.  They are forbidden by federal law from collecting, processing and disseminating Signals Intelligence gathered from US Citizens.  And I don't really care how the Administration spins it, this meta-data collection and processing, especially as laid out in everything we've seen, is in direct contravention of USSID 18.  And that makes it a federal crime.


Grim said...

Interesting. I wonder if there's any mechanism for enforcing that law available. This leak may have actually enabled someone to sue -- the last time it was tried, the court denied standing because the plaintiff couldn't prove they were being collected upon. Now, we know that essentially everything everyone writes is being collected; but the court could easily still deny the standing of the individual, because you couldn't prove that you personally were among the people collected upon. You could file a FOIA requesting proof, but since the program is so highly classified on national security grounds, they is a good chance they could find some grounds adequate to convince the court of their right to deny the request.

MikeD said...

With regards to enforcement, I know that USSID 18 is federal law and you can be arrested and charged with violating it. I would assume the FBI, or maybe federal marshalls would be responsible for the arrest, but that's just a guess.

As for lawsuits, I know there is already a class action lawsuit that has been filed. I will link it below:

Grim said...

Let's hope it works.

Texan99 said...

Ah--I'm just now looking at these comments and seeing that you referenced the same lawsuit that I posted on earlier today. I stumbled on it at HotAir.

I'm really having a hard time understanding the ways you can and cannot sue the federal government for money damages or otherwise, for purposes of a client that has a commercial beef against the FDIC. So I'm following all this with closer than usual interest. My husband and I often debate how it's supposed to work when you catch the executive branch breaking the law. Sometimes there is no remedy but Congressional action and/or elections, an answer that he finds hard to swallow.

E Hines said...

I don't have a problem with the fundamental difficulty of suing the government. It needs to be free to do its trick without the constant interference of every Tom, Dick, and Harry with an axe to grind haling the gov't into court.

That is what elections are for.

Suits ought to be the exception (though not an impossibility), used only for the most egregious and/or immediately damaging cases--as the present activities of the IRS, DoJ, State, EPA, and perhaps the NSA seem to be.

Eric Hines

MikeD said...

I'm really having a hard time understanding the ways you can and cannot sue the federal government for money damages or otherwise, for purposes of a client that has a commercial beef against the FDIC.

If your client has commercial beef, wouldn't that have more to do with the FDA or USDA? :P

Texan99 said...

The FDIC stole their beef and ate it! The beef itself was irreproachable.

E Hines said...

Is there a parallel criminal case, then?

Eric Hines

Texan99 said...

Mere civil conversion and crony skullduggery.

Ymar Sakar said...


Still less than 10% of what they are really doing though.

Well, just need to sit back down, relax, watch Obama have more golf vacations if they want to know more.

The other 5% will come soon. And then the other 10% will come soon. Yeah.

The Sum Total of Knowledge on Leftist alliance operations in this United States of Obamaca, is less than 10%.