No Surprise Here: NSA Abused Surveillance Powers

from the but-of-course-they-did dept

This will comes as little surprise to most people, but it turns out that the NSA has been abusing its surveillance powers, collecting significantly more information than they are allowed to by Congress. Of course, we got a hint of this last year when an NSA whistleblower revealed how the NSA regularly tracked information it wasn't supposed to be tracking. And, of course, we've yet to see a secretive gov't program yet that hasn't been abused in some way. National Security Letters? FBI abused it. Warrantless wiretapping? Abused. So we should certainly be questioning why the administration is claiming that there shouldn't be oversight over any such programs, when history has shown that they have been, and will continue to be, abused.

Filed Under: abuse, nsa, surveillance


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  1. identicon
    asymptote, 16 Apr 2009 @ 7:41am

    NSA's goal

    The best treatment I've found of No Such Agency is "Body of Secrets" by James Bamford. NSA is part of our defense establishment. Their task in the defense of the USA is to be ABLE to intercept ALL communications, especially but not exclusively in electronic form. The technical challenges are huge -- example: how do you tap an undersea fiber optic cable? But the task doesn't end at collection of traffic. The collected traffic must me decrypted and analyzed. Seemingly innocuous plain text messages could be encoded instructions. The analysis task is a huge challenge, requiring a relentless push for greater computational power ("They measure their IT capacity in acres"). To be able to respond to a defense crisis quickly, they must already have the interception, collection, and analysis tools in place and operational (according to their view of the world). There are two obstacles in the way of looking at the data they collect: the law of the land; and the sheer enormity of the data set. Don't assume they collect data only for targets of interest -- they theoretically only *analyze* the subset of the collected data for targets of interest. The law kicks in when the analysts' little heads start looking at pillowtalk between a soldier in Iraq and her spouse back home. It's a short step from looking at love talk between Americans, to looking at anything I put into discoverable communications. At present, the only impediment to Big Brother watching my every move is sufficient computational power.

    The law of the land will be like a castle made of sand.

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