Internet spying is an integral and completely legal practice for the NSA and other US agencies. At least that is the message being delivered over the last week by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
According to Clapper, internet spying falls under the strict supervision of a secret court, and, under that watchful eye, a US citizen can’t be intentionally targeted without reason. The NSA notes that a secret group known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court acts with the full knowledge of Internet service providers in collecting data for millions of US citizens.
Several times over the last week, Clapper has declassified some details about US spying programs in order to respond to claims made by various media outlets.
In a brief statement, Clapper reveals:
“Disclosing information about the specific methods the government uses to collect communications can obviously give our enemies a `playbook’ of how to avoid detection.”
Clapper revealed on Thursday that only a “small fraction” of the [phone] records obtained from Verizon Wireless customers were every analyzed for possible links to terrorism.
In directly addressing internet spying, Clapper notes that the NSA PRISM program was approved by a judge in a secret court order. He further notes that the program was approved under the USA Patriot Act and has been in place since 2008. Clapper claims PRISM “has proven vital to keeping the nation and our allies safe.”
Since PRISM was revealed, many companies have spoken out against their involvement, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who, in no uncertain terms, said Facebook has not engaged with the PRISM program. Many organizations have noted that they do not voluntarily hand over information and only participate when a court order is issued.
On Saturday, The Guardian revealed a top-secret program called Boundless Information, which is capable of mapping the data collected by the NSA via computer and telephone networks. According to the new report, the NSA collected three billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March.
The NSA admits that, with all of its data collecting capabilities, it is not a simple matter of pinpointing a potential terrorist. The agency reveals that oftentimes it chases down connections that may lead to a potential terror suspect but only after many signs point to a potential person.
In the meantime, internet spying by the NSA has led to two very distinct factions of people: Those who say they don’t have anything to hide and therefore don’t care and those who adamantly claim that such practices are a violation of the Constitution’s rights against illegal search and seizure.
Do you think internet spying has gotten out of hand by agencies such as the NSA and FBI?