XKeyscore: Greenwald Hypes The Scare

Ken AshfordPolitical Scandals, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Yesterday, in The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald (the journalistic associate of NSA-leaker Edward Snowden) revealed another big reveal.

This time it was something called XKeyscore, a top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to document leaked by Snowden.

Boom!  Explosion!  Panadamonium!

But as Charles Johnson points out, you have to go to the tenth paragraph of the article to get to the real facts:

Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisa warrant only if the target of their surveillance is a ‘US person’, though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets. But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.

That’s right — once again, Greenwald is not documenting any actual wrongdoing. It’s a very deliberate rhetorical trick he uses over and over — conflating the ability to do something with actually doing it, and glossing over the fact that there are very serious legal consequences in store for anyone who actually does abuse these systems.

Also worth noting is that the secret documents themselves reveal that over 300 terrorists have been caught using XKeyscore.

So basically, all Greenwald has done is reveal a system which is successfully being used to capture terrorists, with absolutely no evidence that it has actually been abused.

Should we be concerned about potential abuse in the future? Sure, but a fair reading shows that there are checks and balances.

Once again, the only one who seems to have broken the law here is Snowden.