We have been repeatedly told by the NSA and its supporters inside and outside the government about how valuable the massive privacy invasions were because they stopped a large number of terrorist plots, possibly 54 of them. Marcy Wheeler says that under close questioning from senator Patrick Leahy, NSA director Keith Alexander admitted that it actually may have been at most two plots.
This is of course standard government lying procedure, to make some spectacular claim that grabs the headlines and imprints itself on people’s minds, and then later concede that it was false, knowing that the correction will only register with those who follow the news closely.
This lie was in addition to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, another confessed liar, admitting that the NSA did in fact track the locations of Americans using their cell phones. He said that it was a test program done in 2010 and 2011 and was never made fully operational. But senator Ron Wyden’s questions suggest that they are still hiding the truth.
But Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who receives classified briefings as a member of the Intelligence Committee and who has raised concerns about cellphone location tracking, said in a statement that there was more to know about the matter than the government had now declassified.
“After years of stonewalling on whether the government has ever tracked or planned to track the location of law-abiding Americans through their cellphones, once again, the intelligence leadership has decided to leave most of the real story secret — even when the truth would not compromise national security,” Mr. Wyden said.
Laura Poitras and James Risen said in the New York Times that the Snowden documents revealed that the NSA is “exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information”. NSA director Alexander was asked about this at the same Congressional hearing.
Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the director of the N.S.A., who also testified Wednesday at the hearing, sharply criticized an article on the agency in The New York Times on Sunday. He said it was “flat wrong” that the agency was “creating dossiers on Americans from social networks.” He added that “were not creating social networks on our families.”
Alexander is probably lying about that too.
A former NSA official has accused the NSA’s director of deception during a speech he gave at the DefCon hacker conference on Friday when he asserted that the agency does not collect files on Americans.
William Binney, a former technical director at the NSA, said during a panel discussion that NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander was playing a “word game” and that the NSA was indeed collecting e-mails, Twitter writings, internet searches and other data belonging to Americans and indexing it.
“Unfortunately, once the software takes in data, it will build profiles on everyone in that data,” he said. “You can simply call it up by the attributes of anyone you want and it’s in place for people to look at.”
For these people, playing word games and outright lying is as natural as breathing.