back to article US Congress to NSA: How many Americans do you illegally spy on?

If there is one piece of information that would fatally undermine the NSA's argument that it doesn't abuse Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), it would be the number of American citizens whose personal information it has "incidentally" hoovered up. And that is why it refuses to provide the figure …

  1. elDog Silver badge

    I'm guessing the NSA has lots of goodies on congress, executive branchers, and

    even plain old americans, let alone all them furriners.

    Since they do such a good job of hoovering (vacuuming for you brits) all things data, couldn't we just pay them to be our backup system?

    Hey, guys - can you find all those lost documents from the Cheney Energy conferences? How about some juicy conversations between Donald and Vlad? We'll pay - way too heavily...

    1. gerdesj Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: I'm guessing the NSA has lots of goodies on congress, executive branchers, and

      "Since they do such a good job of hoovering (vacuuming for you brits) all things data, couldn't we just pay them to be our backup system?"

      We "hoover" over here too as well as "vacuum". We also use the phrase "hoover data". It's just occurred to me that a joke involving J Edgar probably needs inventing by some clever bugger, if it hasn't already.

      I'd like to apologise for the many terabytes (mainly backups) per month I cause to be sent over IPSEC to and from various places in the UK. Inconveniently, I have enabled PFS on it all.

      1. MrT

        Hoover?

        Cover up? Give us a Clue...

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: Hoover?

          Cover up? Give us a Clue...

          Beat me to it, you scoundrel. One of the funniest films ever!

      2. oldcoder

        Re: I'm guessing the NSA has lots of goodies on congress, executive branchers, and

        It is an old joke. Even made it into some software.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm guessing the NSA has lots of goodies on congress, executive branchers, and

      You'd be surprised!

      See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSA_ANT_catalog

      And: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_government_mass_surveillance_projects

      For a spy program in your area! Agents are now standing by. Just shout or text: I'm a Terrorist®! For details and express processing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm guessing the NSA has lots of goodies on congress, executive branchers, and

        > For a spy program in your area! Agents are now standing by. Just shout or text: I'm a *************!

        Or post it in a comment on your favorite internet forum. Have you been released from detention yet?

    3. cd

      Re: I'm guessing the NSA has lots of goodies on congress, executive branchers, and

      Talking 'bout the splendor of the Hoover factory

      Must've been a wonder when it was brand new.

      --Declan McManus, British songwriter

  2. ratfox Silver badge
    Meh

    The intelligence community continues to argue it is difficult to tell the nationality of someone making a call or sending an email without a huge amount of effort or without violating their privacy.

    To be honest, I believe that. It seems silly to think that the NSA would have at its fingertips the nationality of every freaking email account, greatest intelligence community or not.

    So since they don't know, they just listen to whatever they want; problem solved.

  3. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Q: "How many Americans do you gather data on?"

    A: "How many have you got, Congressman?"

    1. oldcoder

      Re: Q: "How many Americans do you gather data on?"

      How about asking Snowden... Bet he knows or has an idea.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Q: "How many Americans do you gather data on?"

      Put them in front of a judge and slap them with contempt of court if they lie and send them down.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I'm sure Congress has the power to extract an answer if they want. A quick bill to reduce the Director's salary to $10pa until such time as it's answered would do the job nicely.

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      http://kids.clerk.house.gov/grade-school/lesson.html?intID=17

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Actually it's harder than that. Since the Director is an Admiral they'd have to change the pay for the entire US military.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        " Since the Director is an Admiral they'd have to change the pay for the entire US military."

        Or at least, for all the other admirals. All the better. The rest of them will quickly gather round to encourage him.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How they keep you under surveillance

    1) Hide the criminal/questionable activity under the guise of "National Security®" to protect the real criminals.

    2) Make whistle-blowing a crime while claiming to support it at the same time.

    3) Check that you are in the: NSA/FBI/CIA/DHS/GCHQ/KGB/CSS

    4) ???

    5) PROFIT!!1!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    325 Million

    Citation: US Census Bureau, 2017 estimated population

    You know damn well they spy on everyone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Headmaster

      Re: 325 Million

      It pains me to be pedantic, but not all of those have any online footprint. A chunk of that number must be infants, and then you have older illiterates and refuseniks.

      1. oldcoder

        Re: 325 Million

        And just how many of those haven't shown up in the hoovering from baby pictures and calls from parents showing off the little one to grandparents?

        None?

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: 325 Million

        "A chunk of that number must be infants"

        Baby alarms. On-line soft toys. We have our ways.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "IP address - can be effectively tied to a particular country."

    * Geo-IP won't cut it. No matter what, everyone everywhere will be slurped anyway, because nothing else is practical... Here's why:

    * If a US citizen logs into facebook.co.uk / yahoo.co.uk / live.co.uk, are they considered fair game for snooping? How about every US citizen living or traveling aboard etc? How about an American with an overseas partner or friend? How about all illegals living inside the US? How about non-Americans using US based VPNs / Tor services etc? How about foreign expats working inside the US etc?

    * The truth is everything is hoovered up and then filtered through later. When intelligence agencies are called in front of secret courts for snooping on US citizens under the Privacy Act, they'll just continue to lie.

    * We're all Muslims now... Its just that the poor have more to fear, because they can't lawyer up and won't be missed if renditioned to Gitmo etc...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trick question...

    "US Congress to NSA: How many Americans do you illegally spy on?"

    Everyone knows that the NSA does it all legal like.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yep, Privacy Shield is dead..

    .. as I predicted when I saw the conditions when it was drawn up.

    It's up for review in July - expect some serious US blackmail to keep it in place (that is, assuming the Trump administration still exists - it seems to be timing itself in dog years).

  10. Roj Blake Silver badge

    Contempt

    When did contempt of congress cease to be a crime?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Contempt

      When did contempt of congress cease to be a crime?

      I think that pretty much started when senators started support or block government proposals solely on partisan grounds rather than on merit and benefit to the US as a whole. IMHO, that shows contempt of the highest order for the role of Congress, for a senator's function in it and for the US as a nation.

      Voting for Trump was at that point a mere progression of the worst contempt of Congress in history.

  11. codejunky Silver badge

    hmm

    Not sure how this works-

    "Section 702 repeatedly and explicitly notes that it only provides authority to gather information on non-US citizens and events occurring outside of the United States"

    and

    "The intelligence community continues to argue it is difficult to tell the nationality of someone making a call or sending an email without a huge amount of effort or without violating their privacy."

    The response demonstrates that they cannot perform in accordance with the law and so need to stop.

    1. DocJames
      Pint

      Re: hmm

      llalalala I can't hear you....

      is how it "works".

      Sadly the intense partisanship in the US is sufficient for everyone on the "other" side to ignore reality, and everyone on "your" side to be merely expected to take up an opposing position. Bit of a disaster; I'd suggest values over ideology is the answer.

      Icon is my value

  12. mike acker

    NSA answer? You can't be serious

    certainly no one expects an answer from the NSA

    Snowden answered for us -- and now he's wanted for espionage

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: NSA answer? You can't be serious

      Have none of the commentards ever read James Bamford's book, "The Puzzle Palace"? Basically folks, you're asking this questions 40 years too late.

  13. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Ahem.

    "....The truth is....." No, Kieran, that is simply your assumption.

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