The NSA saga continues to develop across political support and new revealings about the agency’s programs.
Last week saw a filibuster set in place by Paul Rand aiming at blocking Congress from signing into force a worrying continuation of the NSA’s much debated surveillance program. The Agency’s mandate which was grafted into the Patriot Act expired now.
A six-month transition will be followed by the obligation to obtain a federal mandate for specifically tapping the data of an individual citizen kept by telecom companies.
While Paul Rand’s filibuster is hailed as one success against the efforts of NSA, it is also a marginal win. The NSA is clearly operating on a number of different fronts without the knowledge of common citizens or accountability mechanisms set in place.
Where it not for whistleblowers the likes of Edward Snowden, the many programs developed under the Agency’s supervision would go unnoticed. What is out in the open at the moment might well be the tip of the iceberg alone.
Another document leaked by Snowden a couple of weeks ago gave away information on how the agency was planning to tap into Internet services, applications and software with a program designed to tap into all private data of users. It targeted messages, contact lists, emails, conversation strings, chat apps, photos, etc.
The program was presented as a foreign intel gathering tool, although how limits would be imposed as to which data would be pooled and which data left out remained fuzzy.
The piece of legislation signed into being on Tuesday by President Obama does little to nothing to limit the effects of such programs or others taking their place in time.
Another report coming from the Associated Press this week revealed that spy planes were flown over the U.S. territory with a mandate from the FBI.
The Drug Enforcement Administration reported in January this year that it did keep an overarching database of phone calls that were placed from the U.S. to other states. How the data collected from this phone calls was put to use is still unclear.
Across the political spectrum, the opinions are split. Some Congress members are definitely in stark opposition to the actions of the NSA, particularly the PRISM program.
The way private data of American citizens is handled under the mandate of the program is still a controversy to many.
One vocal opposition member, Representative Ted Poe talked about the PRISM program:
“Under current law, the government can search the database on a fishing expedition and get those communications created under this program, including searching information about a U.S. citizen. This can be done without a warrant. That seems to violate the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution to me.”
One new piece of information that made the news is that the NSA developed yet another program the aim of which is to hinder foreign hacking activities. The basics were disclosed by Edward Snowden once more, and the story picked up by the New York Times with ProPublica.
Initially the program was developed to track cyberthreat signatures from foreign sources. After 2012 is was enabled to not only look into foreign sourced threats, but into U.S. based threats as well.
According to the sources, the program is operating under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Bottom line is that the NSA in its current operating form is a mystery for the public. The classified operations are sparking fears of U.S. citizens and citizens of other states alike.
And while it may prove useful for some operations, it looks sometimes as if many of its programs are simply unwarranted.
Image Source: wired.com