Following the controversy stirred up by ex-intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, who leaked info about mass surveillance programs to the media, new info surfaces about a top secret NSA program called XKeyscore that monitors “nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet.”
According to The Guardian, the program reportedly monitors “the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata”… all in real-time.
But, what about warrants? Court-ordered permission. While this is true, there’s some legal loop holes allowing the intelligence agency to sift through your private activity. Under U.S. law, the NSA is required to obtain a warrant if the target is a “U.S. person,” though will not need one if a U.S. person is communicating with anyone outside of the country or a “foreign target.”
So, emailing, Skyping or chatting with friends or family overseas can be monitored…
Furthermore, reports about XKeyscore say that if the IP address or email is recognized by the analyst, the NSA or others with access to the program can dig into personal communication without a warrant.
Last June, Snowden shed light on this type of privacy breach when he told The Guardian that he could be “sitting at my desk” and “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.
So, a big concern comes from the people who have open access to XKeyscore, including other agencies and their employees, as well as contractors who could likely abuse it to search someone’s info for personal reasons… just as Snowden revealed.
In a letter this week to senator Ron Wyden, director of national intelligence James Clapper acknowledged that NSA analysts have exceeded even legal limits, as interpreted by the NSA in domestic surveillance.
Acknowledging what he called “a number of compliance problems”, Clapper attributed them to “human error” or “highly sophisticated technology issues” rather than “bad faith”. However, Wyden said on the Senate floor on last week: “These violations are more serious than those stated by the intelligence community, and are troubling.”
In a statement to the Guardian, the NSA said: “NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against — and only against — legitimate foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements that our leaders need for information necessary to protect our nation and its interests.
“XKeyscore is used as a part of NSA’s lawful foreign signals intelligence collection system.
“Allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true. Access to XKeyscore, as well as all of NSA’s analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks … In addition, there are multiple technical, manual and supervisory checks and balances within the system to prevent deliberate misuse from occurring.”
“Every search by an NSA analyst is fully auditable, to ensure that they are proper and within the law.
“These types of programs allow us to collect the information that enables us to perform our missions successfully – to defend the nation and to protect US and allied troops abroad.”
What do you think? Do you trust that the government and NSA are using these types of programs legitimately? Or are you just as concerned as we — and many others — are?