New Snowden Docs Show How FISA Court Gave NSA Ridiculously Broad Spying Powers
from the because-terorrism dept
The latest reporting on previously unrevealed Snowden documents comes from the Washington Post, by Ellen Nakashima and Barton Gellman, reviewing how the FISA Court granted the NSA incredibly broad powers to spy on just about any country, and also allows them to collect a pretty broad array of information with little oversight. Basically, the FISC gave blanket approval to the NSA to spy on any country not a member of the "Five Eyes" coalition, with whom the US has non-spying agreements: the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps more troubling isn't just the big list of just about every country, but how the FISC allows spying on a broad range of communications:
An affidavit in support of the 2010 foreign government certification stated that the NSA believes foreigners who will be targeted for collection “possess, are expected to receive and/or are likely to communicate foreign intelligence information concerning these foreign powers.”
That language could allow for surveillance of academics, journalists and human-rights researchers. A Swiss academic who has information on the German government’s position in the run-up to an international trade negotiation, for instance, could be targeted if the government has determined there is a foreign intelligence need for that information. If a U.S. college professor e-mails the Swiss professor’s e-mail address or phone number to a colleague, the American’s e-mail could be collected as well, under the program’s court-approved rules.
As we've noted (and as this report reminds us), one of the more recent revelations is that this set of broad powers, which come under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, includes the ability to collect information any time anyone communicates about a target, not just to or from a target. And "a target" can be more than just a person -- it can be an organization or a computer or a network. That means the FISA Court more or less gave the NSA broad powers to spy on just about anyone if they did anything even remotely related to a broad set of "targets." It's hard to see how this is narrowly tailored surveillance, as NSA defenders keep wishing to imply.