Home » Cyber » House Mulls NSA Restrictions in Collecting Metadata

House Mulls NSA Restrictions in Collecting Metadata

by Richard Sisk on July 24, 2013

Gen AlexanderArmy Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the National Security Agency, has an astronomically higher batting average than Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Stan “The Man” Musial and other baseball greats when it comes to getting what he wants from the secret watchdog court on intelligence.

The observation by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. reflected the general mood of a loose coalition of lawmakers in the House who used the opening of debate Tuesday on the defense appropriations bill to consider proposals to rein in the NSA’s ability to scoop up metadata.

Jeffries and others on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns about what they call the “rubber stamp” approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, for requests from the NSA and the FBI to monitor phone and Internet data.

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Jeffries told witnesses from the NSA and the office of retired Air Force Gen. James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, that since 1979 the FISA court had received 33,949 applications for surveillance. Of that total, 490 were modified by the Court, and only 11 were rejected, Jeffries said.

“Your batting average is higher than 99 percent,” Jeffries said. Robert Litt, chief counsel to Clapper, seemed slightly annoyed with the baseball analogy to spycraft and counter-intelligence work. “We’re not exactly talking about baseball here,” Litt said.

To underline his point, Litt, used his own baseball analogy. He said that when the NSA makes a pitch to the FISA court, the judges will often tell the NSA to “throw the pitch a little higher” or wider to meet the guidelines of the law.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole tried another analogy to justify broad sweeps of phone and web data.

“If you’re looking for the needle in the haystack, you have to have the entire haystack,” Cole said.

The House renewed interest in the activities of the NSA and the FISA court in the uproar over the leaks from contractor Edward Snowden, now at a Moscow airport on the run from an espionage warrant, on the massive amounts of data collected by the NSA.

An amendment to the defense appropriations bill offered by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., would scrap the NSA’s authority to scoop up records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act on individuals who are not the specific targets of an investigation. A vote on the Amash amendment was expected later this week.

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

hibeam July 24, 2013 at 9:17 am

Hey NSA. You don't need all these super expensive programs to spy on Americans. I can point out for you where the enemy lives. In North Pakistan. You can use drones to eliminate and harass the bearded lunatics there. Happy to help you damn fools out.


blight_ July 24, 2013 at 12:15 pm

To Room 101 with you


Ben July 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm

The problem occurs when we end up killing roughly the equivalent amount of innocent civilians in the process.


hibeam July 24, 2013 at 4:28 pm

That lie is so old and so lame. Don't you have any shiny new lies you can bore us to tears with?


Ben July 24, 2013 at 9:18 pm


It's nicely animated so even people like you can understand it. Also, sources are listed if you scroll down.


XYZ July 25, 2013 at 8:47 pm

That link needs a category for U.S. citizens killed.

SJE July 24, 2013 at 10:40 am

OMG, I actually agree with Hibeam.


yogiberra111 July 24, 2013 at 11:22 am

In that case you should seek professional help immediately!


SJE July 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm

dialling now……..


hibeam July 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Guys guys! Is this really necessary?


USS ENTERPRISE July 25, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Yup, Commander in Golf……..

IknowIT July 24, 2013 at 10:57 am

My thoughts on this- first NSA has been doing this for a long time. Second, would anyone consent to the government having copies of their regular mail, or recordings of all their in-person conversations? I doubt it. So why the F is it okay for them to copy all electronic data- and I very much assume they get content not just meta data..


blight_ July 24, 2013 at 11:00 am

What's hilarious is that the USPS is complicit in the analog equivalent: taking pictures and presumably noting who sends physical mail to whom.

What are the odds UPS and Fedex do the same?


IknowIT July 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Really? Where did you hear that? Very interesting- BUT- the address on your mail is the meta data- data about data (or what's inside the envelope. A big difference is that the govt is also reading your electronic contents (or at least storing them if they want to do so)


blight_ July 24, 2013 at 12:37 pm
Musson July 24, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Stalin would sure have appreciated having this type of data collection. Hitler would have loved it.

But, I kind of doubt if George Washington, John Adams or Thomas Jefferson would have approved.


Israel July 24, 2013 at 6:22 pm

I understand your comparison but you have to understand that they could not even fathom the concept of metadata. You assuming that they would not have approved is illogical.


blight_ July 24, 2013 at 8:01 pm
Israel July 24, 2013 at 8:57 pm

solid i feel stupid.


Mark July 24, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Meta data is bad, but nowhere near as bad as the actual recordings of all our phone calls. This is a direct violation to the constitution. This is one of the charges against the King of England covered in the Declaration of Independence.


Whoever July 25, 2013 at 1:14 pm

? There were no phones during the signing of the Declaration of Independence


Ben July 25, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I hate comments like this.

It's the modern day equivalent.


blight_ July 25, 2013 at 3:59 pm

He's a literalist. Back in the day, the worry would've been people opening your mail. Espionage infrastructure probably would've descended from Francis Walsingham; and from Richelieu on the other side of the pond.

I think we assume that the ancients did not practice spycraft at our own peril. I'm sure George III had his own spy rings: The Culper ring did not invent everything on their own!


blight_ July 25, 2013 at 5:52 pm
John moore July 24, 2013 at 1:55 pm

And who will be spying on NSA to see if they really do follow the line?

More and more sounds like the soviet block of old.


SFC Pappy July 24, 2013 at 10:44 pm
USS ENTERPRISE July 24, 2013 at 10:36 pm

All I'm sayin' is that I am glad that buffoon Snowden wasn't working at Area 51. THAT would have been way worse………


Rest Pal July 25, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Snowden is not a buffoon. Those who call Snowden names are the real buffoons.


USS ENTERPRISE July 26, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Oh I'm sorry. That baboon Snowden.


docingram July 25, 2013 at 12:06 am

who gives a poop about big brother monitoring our phone records. i hope they enjoy my conversations, the only people worried about someone are the ones that need someone listening.


blight_ July 25, 2013 at 8:41 am

"Gives a poop" suggests seditious thoughts against the Supreme Soviet! To the gulag with you! Insufficient love for the revolution! Harboring pro-bourgeoise thoughts!


oblatt1 July 25, 2013 at 12:28 am

The irony is that a lot of the people in our military industrial complex would much rather be living in the old Soviet union. Just listen to our resident Lockheed shill lamenting that we we won the cold war.


Bob July 25, 2013 at 12:42 am

Only Americans would be afraid of the government spying on their porn viewing habits.


Rest Pal July 25, 2013 at 1:17 pm

What are you talking about? The US government is filled with porn lovers, and doers.


ruger July 25, 2013 at 2:10 pm

That is precisely why you should revisit "Learning the US Constitution 101". The Rule of Law does not just apply to the governed; ya know? …and your comment is irrelevant


IknowIT July 25, 2013 at 7:18 am

And the Republicans vote in favor of KEEPING the program. What a bunch of clowns!. And the best part is that all they where debating was metadata- nothing as far as I know about actual data. Republicans, I'm OUT!!!


SFC Pappy July 25, 2013 at 7:50 am

Obama spying on everyone, US and foreign. CIA spying on NSA. IRS spying on CIA. Secret Service spying on IRS. DHS spying on Secret Service. People like Snowden spying on all of them. The Illuminati pulling puppet strings on all major world leaders. Little Johnny spying on his older sister in the bathroom. Kindergarten kids playing hide and seek. A bored 35 year old living in his mommies basement hacking federal computers. Obama looking under his bed every night, while backed up by SECDEF Service agents, for the boogie man. Granny spying on her neighbor and calling police every hour saying they are terrorists because the man had a bag of fertilizer and a haul truck in driveway. You spying on the people in the car next to you at a red light.

What does all this listed BS mean? Mass paranoia by EVERYONE just because they are scared of anyone besides themselves. Or their lives are so boring and repetitive they need something to add excitement or make them feel superior.

Lastly. Spy on me you better have a warrant or be on your or public property. But be prepared. I could Moon you, flip you off or both. I am old, retired and stopped worrying about offending someone when an Iraqi mortar stomped my ass. After 27 years of government service and political correctness my kind sensitivity level went out the door, never to return.

Mass paranoia will continue to start fights and wars. Just that simple. So let’s all follow Obama’s main presidential agenda. When the crap hits the fan go take a vacation. It will be OK when you get back then you can blame it on someone else.


IknowIT July 25, 2013 at 8:40 am

It's just that Bush started Patriot Act, and Carnivore, the first mass data collection system started (as far as we know) under Bush, and no the repubs cant even vote to block meta data collection. So, it's not a party line thing..


XYZ July 25, 2013 at 8:58 pm

I don't know that he said it was a party line thing.

Amen to you, SFC Pappy. Sorry you got injured, sir, but I'm glad people like you exist and agree with you 99%.


Dfens July 25, 2013 at 9:36 am

The NSA needs to continue to compile unconstitutional data on American citizens, otherwise how would the defense contractors "who work for them" compile the dirt they need to keep "our" politicians voting for their crap.


SJE July 25, 2013 at 10:20 am

I am concerned about mission creep. For example, the UK government just passed a law that you need to register with the government to be allowed to view porn over the internet. Leave aside the issue of the government controlling your viewing habits, you have the issue of what is, and is not, "porn." Is an article on breast cancer?


RWB123 July 25, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I have a suggestion. Let's just all go bury our heads in the sand and ignore the boogey man until he goes away.

That worked so well on 9/11.


XYZ July 25, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I have a newsflash for you: People die. People get murdered. It's sad but it's true. But in this instance, the murderers are terrorists. If we stop ignoring them, we confirm their behavior as valid. If their actions succeed in twisting us into something we were not (as is currently happening), then we also confirm the validity of their behavior. They want to pervert us, to turn to their countrymates and be able to say, with the full force of the truth on their side, that they have publicly revealed that we are not what we say we are. That we are as vile, despicable, and corrupt as anyone else you'll meet.

Try and say I'm naive or stupid, buddy, but this is sure as hell an ideological battle, and I'm not willing to blow out the candle of freedom in the hopes of not getting seen and attacked.

So, in conclusion, please ignore the boogey man.


Rest Pal July 26, 2013 at 10:24 am

You obviously don't read and think much. Otherwise you would be urging criminal investigations and unfettered spying on people like Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, plus the entire CIA and the NSA.


USS ENTERPRISE July 29, 2013 at 2:57 pm

The CIA and NSA's job is to spy, so……


Mark July 26, 2013 at 10:15 am

Why are we allowing our employees to spy on us (the people) openly or not? Our's is a government by the people (us) and for the people (us again).


porno July 26, 2013 at 12:36 pm
oliski July 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm
oliski July 29, 2013 at 3:25 pm
ruthhtjf July 29, 2013 at 4:23 pm
ruthhtjf July 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm
ruth July 29, 2013 at 5:23 pm
anengineer July 29, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Everyone says 'Oh My God, the NSA is recording all my conversations'.

But read the leaked documents and it never says that. All they are collecting is the same stuff that you see on yout monthly billing statement from the phone company — you made a call at thus-and-such time to phone number # for xx minutes. And similar for email.

Makes a lot of sense. You find someone trying to set up a terrorist attack, check the database and see who he talks to, then see who else talks to them. Then you can go for court orders to actually see what they are talking about.


blight_ July 31, 2013 at 11:19 am

Zawahiri is now friends with Bin Laden
Bin Laden is now friends with Zarqawi


tyo July 31, 2013 at 7:51 am

No one is forcing you to use a smart phone of any electronic device for that matter


blight_ July 31, 2013 at 11:00 am

"NSA routinely intercepts pigeons"


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