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10 February 2015

ODNI Litt Transcipt Faulty

The faulty transcript was distributed by Brookings as an "uncorrected transcript." Another version was posted to ODNI, which omits pages 24-35 of Q and A in the uncorrected version):

To: jya[at], gnu[at]
Subject: ODNI-litt-15-0204.pdf is unreliable: typos
Date: Mon, 09 Feb 2015 20:11:40 -0800
From: John Gilmore <gnu[at]>

There are a couple of suspicious looking typos in that transcript.  In several cases, the transcript of Mr. Litt's statements says the opposite of what you might expect.  A good quality video of the talk is on YouTube, and I cross-checked these typos against it.

Page 16:

Even so the President recognized the public concerns about this program and ordered that several steps be taken immediately to limit it. In particular, except in emergency situations NSA must now obtain the FISA Court's advance agreement that there is a reasonable, articulable suspicion that a number being used to query the database is associated with a specific foreign terrorist organization. And the results than an analysts get back from a query are not limited to numbers in direct contact with the query numbers and numbers in contact with those numbers, what we call two hops instead of three as it used to be.

The expected statement is that the results are "now" limited, rather than are "not" limited.  Indeed, that is what the video shows him saying.

Page 29:

There have always been very strong practical considerations against the use of intelligence-derived information in criminal cases because if you use the intelligence information a criminal case you have to expose the capability, you have to litigate it, and it's something we always prefer to do.

The expected statement is that it's something we always prefer "not" to do.  Interestingly, in the video he seems to say exactly what the transcript shows.  So rather than a typo, it's just an interesting statement.  I'm not sure what Mr. Litt meant by saying there are strong reasons not to use intel in criminal cases, so we always prefer to do it.  Perhaps he's referring to what Reuters revealed about the DEA practice of teaching police to deliberately lie and mislead judges and defendants about whether their information came from an NSA wiretap, referred to as "parallel construction".  This is not a new practice -- the LAPD was doing it in the 1990s from ordinary wiretaps, where they called it "the handoff".  It was unconstitutional then (called "judicial deception" by the 9th Circuit) and it still is.  See for example:

Another typo that's more amusing than relevant, on page 25:

So I do think that there should be some comfort taken by this stage of the game that we're not in fact randomly roaming around listening to communications of burgers, finding out what they're going to have   for lunch, but that we're doing appropriate foreign intelligence collection.

For "burgers" I think he meant "burghers", that is, middle-class citizens in Germany or the Netherlands.

Given this set of example typos, I don't think this transcript can be relied on to be accurate.  I discovered others like "you're barber" for "your barber".  It clearly hasn't been checked by anyone who actually understands the policy issues -- or understands whether burgers eat lunch or are eaten for lunch.

        John Gilmore