More evidence NSA surveils American people, not foreign terrorists
August 21, 2013
The NSA would have us believe they only conduct surveillance on foreign terrorists, but this lie was recently put to rest in a Wall Street Journal article. In fact, according to current and former NSA officials, the agency has the ability to spy on 75 percent of all internet traffic in the United States, and probably more.
Following the September 11, 2001, attacks, the government began intercepting a wide array of communications. This, of course, is not news. In May, 2006, a former AT&T technician, Mark Klein, revealed how the NSA worked closely with telecoms to capture massive amounts of data from Americans not suspected of a crime or participating in terrorism.
The government claims it is only captures “metadata,” or data about data, but the Wall Street Journal report reveals this is little more than a flimsy government lie.
“Inevitably, officials say, some U.S. Internet communications are scanned and intercepted, including both ‘metadata’ about communications, such as the ‘to’ and ‘from’ lines in an email, and the contents of the communications themselves.”
In addition to the above so-called metadata program, the WSJ report reveals other surveillance programs code-named Blarney, Fairview, Oakstar, Lithium and Stormbrew, and others that “filter and gather information at major telecommunications companies. Blarney, for instance, was established with AT&T Inc., former officials say. AT&T declined to comment.”
“This filtering takes place at more than a dozen locations at major Internet junctions in the U.S., officials say. “
The WSJ report, writes Mike Masnick for Techdirt, is “replete with NSA doublespeak. It claims that it’s not ‘accessing’ all of this traffic, because it asks the telcos to do some of the filtering for it. That’s how it gets away with talking about ‘things we actually touch,’ even though its deals with the telcos basically mean they can access almost everything.”
Finally, the Wall Street Journal reports that the government considers its vast array of surveillance programs as legal under a broad interpretation of the FISA Amendments Act, an act obviously at odds with the Fourth Amendment requiring probable cause and a warrant issued by a court, not a secret government court that acts as a rubber stamp for countless violations of the Constitution.
“NSA has discretion on setting its filters, and the system relies significantly on self-policing. This can result in improper collection that continues for years,” the WSJ reports.
In fact, the NSA has engaged in the “improper collection” of communications since the end of the Second World War, beginning with a program code-named SHAMROCK that intercepted the telegrams of Americans. This illegal program was virtually unknown until it was revealed during the Church Committee hearings in the mid-1970s.
L. Britt Snider, counsel on the staff of the Church Committee, writes on the CIA’s website that the “NSA adopted very stringent rules in the wake of the Church Committee to ensure that its operations were carried out in accordance with applicable law. Where the communications of US citizens were concerned, I can attest from my personal experience that NSA has been especially scrupulous. As upsetting and demoralizing as the Church Committee’s investigation undoubtedly was, it caused NSA to institute a system which keeps it within the bounds of US law and focused on its essential mission.”
Obviously, as revelations over the last few months (and during the Bush administration) demonstrate, the NSA is not “especially scrupulous” when it comes to safeguarding the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens, the vast majority who have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism.
It should be obvious to even the most casual observer that the NSA’s mission is not to monitor foreign communications and ferret out terrorists, but rather it is tasked with surveilling the American people, not because they may be engaged in terrorism but because a significant minority may be involved in political activity that threatens the establishment and the status quo.