NSA Document Says NSA Needs More Power

The NSA is even more ambitious than you realize.

A computer workstation bears the National Security Agency logo inside the Washington suburb of Fort Meade, Maryland, on January 25, 2006. The NSA shares raw surveillance data with Israel without first removing information about US citizens, according to a

This latest NSA revelation from James Risen and Laura Poitras inthe New York Times is one of the creepiest yet. It's a mission statement that forthrightly asserts that if the laws might interfere with the NSA's ability to function to its full, Orwellian, Big Brother capabilities those laws need to be eliminated. (I guess the Constitution would need an overhaul as well.  Talk about out of date ...)

Officials at the National Security Agency, intent on maintaining its dominance in intelligence collection, pledged last year to push to expand its surveillance powers, according to a top-secret strategy document.

In a February 2012 paper laying out the four-year strategy for the N.S.A.’s signals intelligence operations, which include the agency’s eavesdropping and communications data collection around the world, agency officials set an objective to “aggressively pursue legal authorities and a policy framework mapped more fully to the information age.”

Written as an agency mission statement with broad goals, the five-page document said that existing American laws were not adequate to meet the needs of the N.S.A. to conduct broad surveillance in what it cited as “the golden age of Sigint,” or signals intelligence. “The interpretation and guidelines for applying our authorities, and in some cases the authorities themselves, have not kept pace with the complexity of the technology and target environments, or the operational expectations levied on N.S.A.’s mission,” the document concluded.

Using sweeping language, the paper also outlined some of the agency’s other ambitions. They included defeating the cybersecurity practices of adversaries in order to acquire the data the agency needs from “anyone, anytime, anywhere.” The agency also said it would try to decrypt or bypass codes that keep communications secret by influencing “the global commercial encryption market through commercial relationships,” human spies and intelligence partners in other countries. It also talked of the need to “revolutionize” analysis of its vast collections of data to “radically increase operational impact.”

It's gets more Strangelovian by the day. I guess the old fashioned dictum that just because you can do something doesn't mean youshould wasn't taught in NSA school.

Senior intelligence officials, responding to questions about the document, said that the N.S.A. believed that legal impediments limited its ability to conduct surveillance of terrorism suspects inside the United States. Despite an overhaul of national security law in 2008, the officials said, if a terrorism suspect who is under surveillance overseas enters the United States, the agency has to stop monitoring him until it obtains a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

“N.S.A.’s Sigint strategy is designed to guide investments in future capabilities and close gaps in current capabilities,” the agency said in a statement. “In an ever-changing technology and telecommunications environment, N.S.A. tries to get in front of issues to better fulfill the foreign-intelligence requirements of the U.S. government.”

We must stop at nothing that might prevent our government from "keep us safe" from any threats, large or small, that may or may not materialize. 

Well, except the threat that stems from 30,000 deaths per yearfrom gun violence. Regulating that in even the smallest way would be an unconscionable infringement of our freedom and frankly, un-American. (Also too: people dying from lack of health care.) But the tiny possibility that some religious yahoo might blow something up with a pressure cooker some day? Let's tear up the Bill of Rights and pay billions for a bunch of voyeurs to collect every word we utter and keep it on file. Because freedom.

Update: To paraphrase a famous quote by a man who who was driven from office because he couldn't keep from recording secret information --- on himself --- I guess this means it's legal if the Five Eyes do it?

Digby is the proprietor of Hullabaloo.
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