Both NSA and FBI “Lose” Evidence

Two different cases, two different batches of evidence disappear. How convenient. The NSA deleted surveillance data that it was supposed to retain under court orders. It’s under legal attack for illegal Bush-era warrantless surveillance. Not only did it “lose” data it had promised the court that it would preserve from 2001 to 2007, “backup tapes that might have mitigated the failure were erased in 2009, 2011 and 2016, the NSA said.” In rescue efforts, the NSA is trying to plumb the depths of the reused tapes; it has some metadata and 4 months of data from 2003.

This episode reveals either intentional obstruction, which is bad, or incompetence, which is bad. The flip side of destruction of data is that incompetence can also occur when data are stolen, used for illegal purposes, or released when they shouldn’t be. Incompetence also can mean collecting data illegally. It can mean storing it in ways such that it deteriorates or cannot be found. It can mean mixing up data with mistaken attributions. It can mean not using whatever data it does collect in fruitful ways.

Meanwhile, separately, the “FBI lost crucial texts tied to Clinton probe” says “Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee”. The FBI claims to have lost 5 months of messages between “Lisa Page, a lawyer, and Peter Strzok, an agent, between mid-December 2016 through mid-May of 2017.” The FBI explanations have to do with software updates that didn’t work properly to save files.

We already have substantial evidence of FBI incompetence. “Sen. Richard Shelby in 2002 derided ‘the FBI’s dismal recent history of disorganization and institutional incompetence in its national security work.’ (The FBI also lost track of a key informant at the heart of the cabal that detonated a truck bomb beneath the World Trade Center in 1993.)”

We are poised to hear important accusations from the House Intelligence Committee. High-ranked members of the FBI probably helped to commission and pay for the questionable Steele dossier, not long after its birth. They adopted it and used it for political purposes during and after the election in an effort to discredit candidate Trump. The FBI exonerated Hillary Clinton by soft-pedaling investigation of her handling of e-mails. The FBI spied on the Trump campaign. Critical leaks were designed to undermine Trump. More detailed material along these lines is likely.

Although the NSA and the FBI should be abolished, they won’t be. Our government fails in many, many ways, one of which is that it doesn’t correct its own failings, even after they are revealed.


8:55 am on January 22, 2018