Months of revelations on the National Security Agency surveillance programs show the United States government has drastically expanded its ability to watch or follow any persons domestically and internationally.
The NSA revelations over the summer share that the United States government has access to telephone, smartphone, email, social media and Internet data all around the world.
It started back in June 5, with The Guardian publishing classified documents on the wiretapping of millions of Verizon customers each day. The Guardian and The Washington Post went on to reveal an international cyber-attack list and NSA programs PRISM and Boundless Informant in June.
“It was not a surprise. We’ve known about this. We’ve known we’ve been watched, but to what extent was unknown,” Pace University senior Caitlin Richardson states. “It was merely a confirmation. However, that does not make the NSA’s actions justifiable.”
Fellow Uiversuty senior Jon Hand adds, “This is an egregious attack on our freedom and liberty, and a blatant invasion of privacy. We are clearly protected from unlawful search and seizure under the 4th Amendment, yet we are told this is for our “protection” and “national security” and so we should just watch another episode of the Kardashians and forget all about the NSA.”
It was found that the NSA PRISM program has had access to information of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, AOL, Apple, PalTalk users. The program lets the agency work closely with these companies in order to get information the government wants the ability to get.
Hand states, “To those people who say, ‘well, Facebook and Google read your private messages all the time,’ I will say this, Facebook and Google are private companies that we use voluntarily and whose terms and conditions we agree to; the government an entity with guns, jails, and armies, which is taking my information without my consent.”
“What happens if Google gets my personal information? They use it to sell me something,” Hand continues. “What happens if the government gets my private information? Well, that’s the scary part… we don’t know.”
In terms of the government on Capitol Hill, the U.S. House voted down a new amendment to limit the NSA’s collection of phone data over the summer. July was the first time when renewal of authority to collect surveillance data was declassified and the White House renewed it.
The information released in the continuous NSA revelations also showed that, even with the secret United States oversight FISA courts assigned to overlook NSA and governmental doings, the agency broke their own rules of surveillance.
“While I wouldn’t mind some company as I spend my night watching porn, researching global protests, and doing my oceanography homework, NSA is one company that I do not extend my invitation to,” Richardson shares. “What about my typical weekday night says I am danger to national security? There are other means of providing security, but being invasive into the lives of US citizens to the extent that the NSA is, is not acceptable.”
Richardson continues, “The government shouldn’t have these rights. It is an institution; a thing, an object. And the moment we give this thing human traits and capabilities, is the moment it has power to control our lives.”
The latest revelation came last week showing that the National Security Agency shares its data with Israel. The one before that was September 7th release on how the NSA can find emails, contacts, notes and physical locations of people by gaining access into smartphone data.
Another recent and prominent one in September entailed the NSA being able to crack most of the Internet’s encryption and security settings or programs. This includes anything from things as simple as passwords to as complex as PGP keys. It was found that the United States works with companies in the technology industry to weaken encryption standards. It was also shared that the GCHQ, a British spy agency, had agents in tech companies.
The person behind all of this was an ex-NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, who is now in Russia under an asylum deal with the country after fleeing to Hong Kong from the United States. The Guardian, including now famed journalist and highly debated activist Glenn Greenwald, has charged on to continue publishing classified NSA information with the intel they receive from Snowden. Snowden has also worked with The Washington Post, who has published a few pieces on his information in addition to a few slides of the NSA presentations on the programs they’ve started.