NSA Spying: Is a bad deal better than no deal?
The symbolic step taken to go from Patriot Act provisions to Freedom Act regulations is insignificant in the effort to protect privacy.
If anyone believed that letting three Patriot Act provisions expire meant real change in the way the NSA spies on millions of innocent people, we have now learned that it didn’t change anything. In fact, the changes were so meaningless that US President, Barack Obama, has signed the so-called US Freedom Act into law almost immediately.
According to the AP, Obama has now stamped his signature on the bill after the US Senate voted in favor of replacing parts of the Patriot Act with the new legislation that had been already approved by the US House of Representatives.
The only significant changes worth mentioning is that it will be the telecommunications companies the ones in charge of holding the information they capture from users as supposed to the NSA itself. In theory, the NSA will now need to get a warrant before it can request the telephone records from users as supposed to simply vaccumming all data from telecommunication company servers.
Privacy concerns still remain as for many people it is hard to believe that the NSA will simply disconnect itself from databases to which it has been connected since at least the 1990s.
Since its inception, the NSA has been responsible for the unconstitutional mass collection of personal data in a supposed effort to protec the US Homeland from potential terror attacks. Spying programs ran by the NSA have existed since before 9/11, the trigger event that served as the poster excuse to push for unprecedented abuses to long-held constitutional rights.
After lying about the true extend of its spying operations, the NSA has been accused by Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers of using advanced techology to spy snoop on millions of people in the United States and abroad. Snowden, who was a subcontractor of the NSA quietly collected data and documentation which he later leaked to various media outlets.
Snowden’s revelations showed how the NSA and its partners in crime in Europe collected inumerable records from people who had no link whatsoever with terrorist organizations. Intelligence agencies used programs such as PRISM and XKeyscore to illegally sweep and collect information from internet and telephone users, including metadata as well as the content of the messages and conversations.
Unde provisions contained in the Patriot Act, the US government, through the NSA and other spy agencies was allowed to violate the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights under the excuse that only massive spy programs such as the ones revealed by Snowden would be able to keep America and the world safe from Islamic extremists who sought to harm the western world. Incidentally, more terror attacks have occurred since 9/11 than at any other time before that faithful day despite the existence of the massive spying programs.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which expired last Sunday at midnight allowed the US government to access personal information of every citizen under the sponsorship of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Since its inception, the FISA Court has given the intelligence community the the power to demand a judicial investigation and authorized the monitoring, physically and electronically, and the gathering of information on people who “may be linked to terrorism or espionage against the United States”.
No one other than the members of the intelligence community and the Court itself are allowed to access and scrutinized any documents related to FISA requests, which makes it impossible to have independent verification that such a link to terrorism truly exists.
Under the new rules contained in the US Freedom Act, the NSA is still able to use all information collected previous to the expiration of the three Patriot Act provisions that allowed the umlimited collection of data. According to AP, “the legislation will revive most of the programs the Senate had allowed to lapse”. Meanwhile, John Boehner said that he applauded the Senate “for renewing our nation’s foreign intelligence capabilities, and I’m pleased this measure will now head to the president’s desk for his signature.”
Indeed, the approval of the US Freedom Act is nothing else than a bad deal which still allows the NSA to spy without limits.