At least we know Edward Snowden gets a little time for himself — like us, Fallout 4 seems to be his preferred method to relax — and he doesn’t like it when it’s interrupted by bad national security journalism. From his Brotherhood of Steel fortress in the depths of Siberia (read: Moscow), Snowden let loose today’s best quote:
Snowden says Bridis is wrong, wrong, wrong.
The takeaway from the AP story is that investigators lost out on the NSA’s phone record dragnet when one of the NSA’s bulk collection programs expired, which would have allowed them to access five years of phone records on shooters Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. Now, the AP story implies, they’re stuck obtaining records directly from phone companies under the USA Freedom Act.
“Under the new law, passed in June, investigators still can look for links in phone records but they must obtain a targeted warrant to get them directly from phone companies, which generally keep customer records for 18 months to two years, although some keep them longer.”
But the FBI investigators in the San Bernardino case have access to a lot more than the AP made out here, according to Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel, who wrote a brutal takedown of the piece after a back-and-forth with Bridis on Twitter. She writes:
“But the real problem with this utterly erroneous article is that it suggests the ‘US government’ can’t get any records from NSA, which in turn suggests the only records of interest the NSA might have came from the Section 215 bulk collection program, which is of course nonsense. Not only does the NSA get far more records than what they got under Section 215 — that dragnet was … just a fraction of what NSA got, and according to NSA’s training, it was significantly redundant with … collection on international calls to the US, which the NSA can collect with fewer limits as to format and share more freely with the FBI — but there are plenty of other places where the FBI can get records.
“So the AP didn’t mention all the ways FBI gets records on its own, and it didn’t mention the larger NSA EO 12333 bulk collection that NSA can share more freely with FBI.”
For example, the New York Times reported back in 2013 that the government had arranged a partnership with AT&T that would give anti-narcotics units access to a colossal AT&T database on the DL — a database that goes back more than 25 years.
Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed (or over-surveilled), remember that even Edward Snowden takes some time off from being a worldwide security celebrity to roam a digital wasteland trying to survive. You can probably spare an hour to try out that power armor.