CIA Couldn’t Use NSA’s Surveillance Program as Analysts Didn’t Know it Existed

/ 3 years ago


A 2009 CIA document – released courtesy of a victorious Freedom of Information lawsuit filed against the US Department of Justice and published by The New York Times – has revealed the US external intelligence service did not use the NSA’s controversial STELLAR WIND surveillance program, which allowed the government warrantless access to private data that it collected en masse, as CIA analysts were not even aware that it existed.

Dated June 2009, the document from the CIA Inspector General (IG), the intelligence service’s internal watchdog, though heavily redacted, claims that the President’s Surveillance Program (PSP, aka “The Program”) was so secretive that only top-level officials had access to it, leaving “CIA analysts and targeting officers” in the dark.

According to the CIA IG report, three “sets of data” were collected under PSP:

The first set included the content of individually targeted telephone and e-mail communications. The second set consisted of telephone dialing information—the date, time, and duration of calls; the telephone number of the caller; and the number receiving the call—collected in bulk [REDACTED]. The third data set consisted of e-mail transactional data [REDACTED] collected in bulk [REDACTED].

The reports goes on to outline exactly why the CIA did not use data from PSP – because most were unaware it was there, and the few who did had no training as to how to access and use it:

Several factors hindered the CIA in making full use of the capabilities of the PSP. Many CIA officers told us that too few CIA personnel at the working level were read into the PSP. [REDACTED] officials told us that CIA and targeting officers who were read in had too many competing priorities and too many other available information sources and analytic tools—many of which were more easily accessed and timely—to fully utilize the PSP. CIA officers also told us that the PSP would have been more fully utilized if and targeting officers had obtained a better understanding of the program’s capabilities. Many CIA officers noted that there was insufficient training and legal guidance concerning the program’s capabilities and the use of PSP-derived information. The factors that hindered the CIA in making full use of the PSP might have been mitigated if the CIA had designated an individual at an appropriate level of managerial authority, who possessed knowledge of both the PSP and CIA counterterrorism activities, to be responsible and accountable for overseeing CIA participation in the program.

The CIA did not implement procedures to assess the usefulness of the product of the PSP and did not routinely document whether particular PSP reporting had contributed to successful counterterrorism operations.

So, the CIA was reprieved from being sullied by reprehensibly unethical breaches of others privacy through sheer ignorance. That’s something, I suppose.

Thank you Ars Technica for providing us with this information.

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