Tag Archives: NSA

White House Not Inclined to Place Restraints on NSA Activities

The National Security Agency isn’t going away any time soon and the White House isn’t planning on placing new restraints on the agency. According to the Washington Post, “the Obama administration has decided to preserve a controversial arrangement under which a single military official is permitted to direct both the National Security Agency and the military’s cyberwarfare command despite an external review panel’s recommendation against doing so.”

A group of top U.S. intelligence officials got together and decided that the two divisions (NSA and Cyber Command) should be placed under separate leadership. The argument for the division is that it would ensure greater accountability and prevent investing too much power in one individual.  The two divisions also have different missions. The NSA mission is spying and the Cyber Command’s mission is to conduct military attacks.  Both divisions work closely together since the Cyber Command depends on the NSA’s ability to hack into the computer systems of enemies for intelligence and to conduct potential operations.

According to the Washington Post, an email from Caitlin Hayden, White House spokeswoman, said, “Following a thorough interagency review, the administration has decided that keeping the positions of NSA Director and Cyber Command commander together as one, dual-hatted position is the most effective approach to accomplishing both agencies’ missions.”

There have been over 40 recommendations made by the intelligence panel. Currently, the White House appears not to want to add constraints onto the surveillance agency.  The NSA is working toward making changes within the organization to combat any leaks that could be comparable to the leak committed by Edward Snowden.

The leak committed by Snowden informed the public that the NSA was conducting surveillance and collecting virtually all phone calls of Americas through a metadata collection process. NSA still claims that their collection of billions of phone records was for counterterrorism purposes and that the content of the calls is unknown, the agency purportedly only collects where the calls were made and how long they lasted.

What do you think?  Is this collection of data necessary? Doesn’t it put us at an even greater risk?

American’s Under Surveillance: NSA admits tracking cell phone locations

The National Security Agency (N.S.A.) has started to come clean about tracking Americans cell phone data and what data was being collected. NSA admits to tracking the cell phone location of Americans in a test pilot project in 2010 and 2011.

According to the New York Times, “it was unclear how many Americans’ locational data was collected as part of the project, whether the agency has held on to that information or why the program did not go forward.”

NSA  claimed that they never moved forward with the program.  The “experiment” pilot project was to test how location information would move into the massive databases containing other information on Americans.  Cell phone location is considered to be one of the most sensitive data that a cell phone emits, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  Since most people carry their cell phones everywhere they go it is possible that the location data tracking could lead to the government knowing most intimate daily habits and movements of not only the person whose phone is being tracked but friends and family members whom the person had come into contact with throughout the day.

The biggest problem with NSA’s admission of the test pilot program is that it admitted to doing an illegal activity.  NSA’s chief Keith Alexander said during a Senate hearing, “Under Section 215, NSA is not receiving cell site location data and has no current plans to do so.”  The recent admission of past collection clearly violated Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

In order to counter-act negative reaction to the admission, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper told Congress that if they started their location recollection program they would inform the intelligence committee and FISA court. That means that Americans could still be kept in the dark if the program, a clear violation of the Patriot Act and one that brings up Fourth Amendment issues, were to become restarted.

I feel safer already, don’t you?

FISA Court Releases Opinion Upholding NSA Phone Program

The federal surveillance court has released a declassified opinion that upholds the National Security Agency’s (NSA) phone program. The FISA court decided that the gathering of billions of phone records for counterterrorism purposes was constitutional and justified.

Gathering of “all call detail records” of phone companies by NSA is justifiable as long as the gathering of the data is relevant to an authorized investigation. The most significant part of the ruling is that it mentions that the data is justifiable if the government can show that there is an authorized investigation into unknown terrorists who may be in the United States. This begs the question of how there could possibly be an authorized investigation into unknown terroristic persons on reasonable grounds without the collection of the phone data.

According to the opinion, the government only needs “reasonable grounds to believe” that the phone records will be relevant to the investigation in order to legally collect the phone records.  The burden of proof the government needs is much lower than that needed in a criminal investigation.  The court claims this is because the goal is not to solve a crime but to prevent a terrorist attack.

Critics claim that the opinion released by the court is not justifiable by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) or the Constitution.  Jameel Jaffer, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director, told the Washington Post, “This isn’t a judicial opinion in the conventional sense. It’s a document that appears to have been cobbled together over the last few weeks in an effort to justify a decision that was made seven years ago. I don’t know of any precedent for that, and it raises a lot of questions.”

Privacy issues have come into question when Edward Snowden leaked information about the NSA spy program. The government’s stance from the beginning has been that the broad collection of data is needed to find unknown terrorist operatives in the United States.  It is still unclear how much scope the NSA program actually has over the data it has collected from billions of homes across the nation.

And, now we also hear about  . . . N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens

National Security Agency Broke Privacy Rules, Audit Finds

The National Security Agency (NSA) has been spying on Americans. The agency was given broad powers in 2008 and has been accused of overstepping its authority thousands of times. Edward Snowden leaked information that told the world about the agency’s spy programs including the interception of e-mails and data collection of phone calls.

Snowden recently leaked documents to The Washington Post showing that the NSA has repeatedly exceeded its legal powers and broken privacy rules every years since it was granted broad new powers. The internal audit shows violations ranging from unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States to the “unintended interception” of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

The documents provided to the Washington Post showed that Congress wasn’t even aware of some of the details that the NSA was pulling from its programs. One document instructed agency personnel to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports that went to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Another document showcased the “unintended  surveillance” of Americans. The Washington Post reports, “A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a ‘large number’ of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a ‘quality assurance’ review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff.”

The once-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was also kept in the dark about some of the NSA’s spy programs and the information being gathered. The court did not learn of new collections methods until months after it had been in use. When it did find out about the new collection method it ruled it unconstitutional.

The Obama administration has attempted to remain quiet about the NSA.  The first excuse was that Continue reading National Security Agency Broke Privacy Rules, Audit Finds

N.S.A. Discussed on House Floor, Won’t be Stopped

A divided House had its first Congressional showdown over the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities on Wednesday, July 24. The 205-to-2017 vote defeated legislation that would have blocked the N.S.A. from collecting vast amounts of phone records.

The classified intelligence program has never been discussed openly on the House floor. Debates ensued and some unusual coalitions took shape. Conservative Republicans teamed up with liberal Democrats to oppose the practices of the N.S.A. and push for legislation that would rein in the intrusive intelligence programs. On the flip side, the Obama administration, not normally friends of the House Republican leadership, joined with them in order to block the legislation.

Representatives Justin Amash, a liberatarian Republican, and John Conyers Jr., a liberal Democrat, can be held responsible for pitting Democrat against Democrat and Republican against Republican on the House floor by writing the legislation that would have limited the N.S.A.’s access of phone records to specific targets of law enforcement investigations. Not the broad dragnets couched as “metadata” collection currently being practiced by the N.S.A.

Although the legislation pitted normal allies against each other, it did create a bipartisan vote on the House floor. Advocates for the legislation have claimed that this is just the first proposal against the N.S.A.’s practices and that many more will follow. Defenders of the N.S.A.’s practices claim that putting the brakes on the agency will cause the nation to be a risk.

Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), one of the principal authors of the Patriot Act which  has given the N.S.A. its power to collect phone records and other data on American citizens, says that the Patriot Act was never meant to create a program that demands the phone records of every American. “The time has come to stop it,” he said.

An open letter in support of the recently disclosed N.S.A. Programs was circulated to undecided members of the House. It attempted the use of scare tactics to urge lawmakers to allow the program to continue.

It read: “Denying the NSA such access to data will leave the Nation at risk. If the relevance standard of section 215 [Patriot Act] does not permit the government to acquire large data collections where necessary to preserve the data and to be able to conduct focused queries based on reasonable suspicion, our counter terrorism capabilities will be severely constrained.”

There is no telling if the open letter had an effect on the undecided members of the House. As it stands right now, the N.S.A. can continue with its dragnet programs.

What do you think?  How secure do you feel as your data is collected under the guise of “national security?”

EFF Files New Lawsuit Against NSA

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of First Unitarian Church and multiple other organizations against the National Security Agency (NSA) opposing the illegal mass surveillance programs of the NSA. EFF represents will be representing the coalition of American organizations including political associations, churches, and regular people.

First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA is a lawsuit that will address whether the NSA violated the First Amendment right of association by illegally collecting call records. EFF has had years of experience fighting illegal government surveillance in court, but this will be a pivotal case for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“The First Amendment protects the freedom to associate and express political views as a group, but the NSA’s mass, untargeted collection of Americans’ phone records violates that right by giving the government a dramatically detailed picture into our associational ties,” said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. “Who we call, how often we call them, and how long we speak shows the government what groups we belong to or associate with, which political issues concern us, and our religious affiliation. Exposing this information –especially in a massive, untargeted way over a long period of time– violates the Constitution and the basic First Amendment tests that have been in place for over 50 years.”

The bulk telephone records collection program was Continue reading EFF Files New Lawsuit Against NSA