The National Security Agency (NSA ) developed extensive social and personal profiles of U.S. citizens by crossing private information obtained from their databases and monitoring programs.
This is the final revelation of the questionable practices of the NSA spying exerted on its own countrymen and women according to leaks from former CIA analyst, Edward Snowden, that were published Saturday by the The New York Times.
According to the documents obtained by the newspaper, since 2010, the NSA developed a complex system for crossing information related to phone calls, emails, geographical location, GPS, bank accounts, profiles in social networks and voting records, which allowed the agency to create a state-of-the-art Minority Report-style system of behavior prediction of US citizens whose information was illegally collected.
The only requirement to interconnect all of this private information was that the subject was “directly or indirectly related to a foreign person or organization and that such person or organization was of interest to the intelligence services of the United States. In other words, the NSA spied on everything and everyone, inside and outside the US territory.
“Phone calls and emails allow analysts to identify friends and other people related to their holders. When they are detected at a given time, it is possible to get clues about their political or religious affiliations and obtain useful information through their calls to their psychiatrist, messages to a lover or communication with a suspect,” reported the The New York Times.
Although this system, according to the article, was established, in principle, to come up with a comprehensive data network that would get extensive information about individuals’ activities in the United States or of ‘suspicious foreigners’, the database also includes masses of information about every other American regardless of whether they were involved in illegal activities or not. The same happens to everyone else around the world who interact with friends and relatives in the US.
According to a 2011 memo from the NSA, the agency indicated that its analysts were allowed to trace the contacts of Americans “whenever offered a justification related to foreign intelligence. That ‘justification’ could range from any suspicion of ties to terrorism, weapons proliferation, drug trafficking, espionage or diplomatic or political conversations.
In other words, the NSA is employing illegal techniques to ‘protect’ the US from people who may attempt to carry out the same exact type operations that the agency is performing. Anyone can call this fighting fire with fire, except that millions of Americans and foreigners whose information is swept during illegal spying operations are not using fire. In fact, they are not using anything at all.
These new revelations of illegal activities by the NSA delve into the controversy raised by previous leaks from Edward Snowden, now in Russia thanks to temporary asylum granted by the government of Vladimir Putin. The same revelations attempt to keep the issue of illegal spying at the forefront of the news cycle. Illegal spying has lost some prominence due to distractions such as the funding of Obamacare. It has also kept fresh the issue of citizen privacy in the United States and abroad.
This week, a bipartisan group of senators has introduced in the lower house a bill to give more transparency to the controversial program that tracks phone calls, among other communications. It was Edward Snowden as well who leaked information early last June on how the NSA had been data mining to build the kind of system it now uses to create behavioral profiles.
Even President Barack Obama announced in August a series of measures to ensure cleanliness and review the legality of the surveillance systems. Unfortunately, for privacy advocates, Obama’s privacy review board was filled with supporters of the use of invasive practices by the NSA and other US government agencies.
Obama was slammed by Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff last week at the United Nations General Assembly. Rousseff, who strongly condemned the U.S. espionage exercised on other countries, including Brazil, advocated for the development of mechanisms that allow greater control over the Internet to prevent these illegal spying practices.
The problem with Rousseff’s proposal is that it would the government the one entity in charge of imposing those new controls. Under this premise, the danger of being spied on would simply reflect a change in the name of the spy. It wouldn’t be the NSA keeping tabs on everyone, but a local or regional body who ‘would keep its citizens safe from the NSA’ by spying on them on behalf of each individual government. It is a problem. reaction, solution kind of thing, isn’t it?
The latest documents leaked by Snowden do not establish how many Americans have been victims of the massive NSA data mining operation, but they are proof of the importance that this technique has for the agency. In fact, the National Security Agency is said to have developed a very special and specifically sophisticated software to carry out gigantic sweeps of information all over the net.