Thursday, October 2, 2014

How the U.S. government redefined 'collection' to justify mass surveillance

Much has been written recently about the intelligence community's extraordinarily deviant definitions of ordinary words whose meanings have been plain for hundreds of years, in order to hide the extent of mass surveillance on citizens not accused of any crime.
     You can add the word "collection" to the twisted, self-serving, and dishonestly repurposed vocabulary employed by the CIA, NSA, Homeland Security and various Pentagon agencies (including Army and Navy intelligence) which now spy on civilians, here or abroad
      The deception started with Executive Order 12333, issued by Ronald Reagan in 1981, and subsequently revised and expanded to allow ever greater latitude to surveillance of law-abiding Americans.
     Below, EO 12333 was revisited and deconstructed below by Techdirt.
we see the first public instance of the government's redefinition of the word "collection."
Procedure 2 introduces the reader of DoD 5240.1-R to his or her first entry into the "maze" of the regulation. To begin the journey, it is necessary to stop first and adjust your vocabulary. The terms and words used in DoD 5240.1-R have very specific meanings, and it is often the case that one can be led astray by relying on the generic or commonly understood definition of a particular word.

For example, "collection of information" is defined in the Dictionary of the United States Army Terms (AR 31011 25) as: The process of gathering information for all available sources and agencies. But, for the purposes of DoD 5240.1-R, information is "collected" -... only when it has been received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component in the course of his official duties ... (and) an employee takes some affirmative action that demonstrates an intent to use or retain the information.
"Collection" is now defined as "collection plus action," rather than the way it's been defined for hundreds of years. "Information held" is not a "collection," according to this document. It still isn't collected, even if its been gathered, packaged and sent to a "supervisory authority." No collection happens until examination. It's Schroedinger's data, neither collected nor uncollected until the "box" has been opened. This leads to the question of aging off collected data/communications: if certain (non) collections haven't been examined at the end of the 5-year storage limit, are they allowed to be retained simply because they haven't officially been collected yet? Does the timer start when the "box" is opened or when the "box" is filled?

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