Reporting

Suggest Good Practice

Overview

After a SIGINT collection cycle has been completed, both the government and oversight bodies need to provide adequate information about both the surveillance activities undertaken as well as their specific oversight activities thereon. To enhance public trust, the intelligence services should proactively declassify key legal documents of public interest. Such releases have, for example, allowed for the creation of rare public – and quite comprehensive – accounts of different types and patterns of compliance violations over the duration of the U.S. Section 702 program.

Although full transparency of oversight activities may not be possible due to secrecy requirements, the regular reporting by oversight bodies is an indispensable means for public trust and accountability. For this, it ought to be as comprehensive and timely as possible.

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Nerd Corner

Further information about intelligence whistleblower protection in the United States is available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/intel/R43765.pdf.

Robyn Green has compiled highly informative documentation that informs the public about how unintentional violations may threaten the privacy of protected communications over a longer period of time “with significant and prolonged impact.” For a summary of compliance reports under Section 702 of FISA, see: Robin Greene. 2017. “A History of FISA Section 702 Compliance Violations.” New America. September 28, 2017. https://www.newamerica.org/oti/blog/history-fisa-section-702-compliance-violations/.

The US intelligence community has released official documentation of intelligence activities and procedures, such as declassified FISC opinions, quarterly reports, and semi-annual assessments. Many of these documents can be found at https://icontherecord.tumblr.com/. A guide to released documents is available here: https://www.dni.gov/files/CLPT/documents/Guide_to_Posted_Documents.pdf. A searchable database of all documents is available at: https://www.intel.gov/ic-on-the-record-database.

Clark, Charles S. 2018. “NSA Watchdog Breaks Precedent by Releasing Semi-Annual Report.” Government Executive. July 27, 2018.
https://www.govexec.com/management/2018/07/nsa-watchdog-breaks-precedent-releasing-semi-annual-report/150105/.

Federation of American Scientists. 2014. “Secrecy News 07/28/14.” July 28, 2014. https://fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/2014/07/072814.html.

Office of the Inspector General National Security Agency. 2018. “Semiannual Report to Congress. 1 October 2017 to 31 March 2018.” https://www.oversight.gov/report/nsa/semi-annual-report-congress-1-october-2017-31-march-2018.

Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. 2014. “Report on the Surveillance Program Operated Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.” https://documents.pclob.gov/prod/Documents/OversightReport/823399ae-92ea-447a-ab60-0da28b555437/702-Report-2.pdf.