When I first saw a headline about a man named Snowden revealing classified NSA information about surveillance, I was concerned and intrigued. When I found out what the information was that had been revealed, the NSA is data mining on a massive scale, I realized that this is information I was aware of before the big news break… so nothing new.
From reading most of The Guardian articles regarding the NSA, I have compiled a list of information revealed by Snowden:
1. Metadata collection (Verizon, other major online companies)
2. Prism (data-mining program) Email and Chat
3. Boundless Informant Indexing Program
4. UK involvement in information collection
5. Foreign and domestic espionage
So, we didn't know about the names of Prism and Boundless Informant, and we didn't have any direct proof that the United States was freely exercising its technological abilities to invade privacy, but we did know that it was possible, probably happening on a large scale, and technically legal. Why?
According to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (1978, amended 2008): “(1) AUTHORITY—With respect to an acquisition authorized under subsection (a), the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence may direct, in writing, an electronic communication service provider to—
Immediately provide the Government with all information, facilities, or assistance necessary to accomplish the acquisition in a manner that will protect the secrecy of the acquisition and produce a minimum of interference with the services that such electronic communication services that such electronic communication service provider is providing to the target of the acquisition.”
Also- The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (1978, amended 2008) states:
“(d) EMERGENCY AUTHORIZATION.—(1) AUTHORITY FOR EMERGENCY AUTHORIZATION.—Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Act, if the Attorney General reasonably determines that—
(A) An emergency situation exists with respect to the acquisition of foreign intelligence information for which an order may be obtained under subsection (c) before an order authorizing such acquisition can with due diligence be obtained […]”
I read FISA for a debate in my Senior Seminar class regarding civil liberties in relation to the war on terror. It’s all right there. I salute Snowden because before he came out with all of this information on what the United States Government was doing, we as a people were not asking nearly enough questions about what sort of power our government was amassing.
Now, how does the US government get away with what it has been doing with minimum policing? Because the FISA court is the only court that reviews the legality of the United States’ actions regarding electronic surveillance, and it can be surpassed in an “emergency” as proven above. I remember from reading FISA that there were very few definitions as to what defined an “emergency” or in what situations our government may or may not request consumer information from an electronic service provider.
"The Americans justify everything with combatting terrorism," said the Luxembourg foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, who on Sunday described the latest allegations as disgusting. "The EU and its diplomats are not terrorists." http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/01/nsa-spying-allegations-germany-us-france
Combating terrorism does not justify our increased infringement upon the privacy of others, ourselves and foreign countries included. More guidelines should be put in place to protect the privacy rights of the world, as well as to prevent any international and public relations nightmares such as this.
This is our fault too, everyday citizens of America. We’re the true watchdogs of our government. I think we all, myself included, need to do a better job checking up on what our government does.