Day 2 of revelations: This time it’s the Internet that’s under surveillance

“Stunned, Angry. Fighting back against the NSA.”

That was the subject line of an email I received today from the EFF following on from yesterdays disclosure that the NSA is grabbing all the telephony data of Verizon and more than likely others as well. Today it doesn’t get better for those of you who have privacy concerns and were outraged by the revelations, in fact it gets considerably worse. Both the Washington Post and the Guardian have reported on another Top Secret program called PRISM which allows the NSA to monitor all internet communications IN REAL TIME.

Justification

The director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper had this to say:

“The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans”.

He then goes on to say that the reports “contain numerous inaccuracies” without expanding on the point which is a little pointless as it’s all supposed to be Top Secret so there is no chance of the public knowing what those inaccuracies are thus making it a moot point.

To Mr Clapper I have this to say, if it’s entirely legal then why hide it? The reporting of this practice is “reprehensible” and yet the White House and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court deem it necessary to withhold such information from the public? I’d say that’s more reprehensible.

Of course it is all about protecting citizens, whilst single-handedly doing away with any privacy that they had and so it should be allowed (*sarcasm*). There is so much wrong with his quote that it angers me. The contempt that is shown is rather profound in my opinion and it just comes across as “we know best”, insulting the intelligence of millions of people. Now the caveat is I am sure there are many different threats that need to be stopped and I do not envy the security services but there are ways and means and secret programs is not it.

Non-US citizens only – what it means for the rest of the world

The justification gets better later on in the statement. As a way to try and stop the inevitable outrage and rather strong criticisms Clapper states:

“They involve extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons”.

Great! So now it’s only the rest of the world who is being monitored by US intelligence agencies, not Americans themselves so that’s fine. Oh wait…it’s not! If the report is true and I have no reason to believe it’s not, then it implies the following companies are involved: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple. Let’s be realistic here, which country are you aware of that doesn’t use those services on a daily basis? So any other citizen of the world is supposed to just accept this overreaching surveillance program? Arguably the biggest in the world? I sure hope not. It is important to note here, for reasons of accuracy and fairness, that all of the aforementioned companies refute the suggestion that they are going along with this and disclose such information voluntarily.

The statement is also carefully worded with such words as “minimize” and “incidentally acquired”. In short… US citizens are going to be caught up in this as well whether they like it or not, they’ll just do they best not to retain and use it. What about US citizens abroad, does this mean they are fair game? And unless I am missing something what about the homegrown threats that have occurred since 9/11?

Legal?

Whilst the practice might be legal it is done by entities such as the executive, a secret court that rarely publicly publishes its findings and a part of congress which is held in closed session. So much power seems to be concentrated with very little oversight.

What’s next?

My sincere hope is that there is such an outcry and uproar over this news that citizens demand action and there is an unveiling of secrecy around the entire program. There is talk that members of congress intend on putting forward a bill to try and prevent this or at least reduce and curb the power of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I think it is vital that we let the powers that be that this is not ok. I am not saying that there can’t be compromise but do it in the right way and you might actually have support for the final solution.

Finally how does it affect me?

Well not that I am surprised but any communications that I send back home or that are sent to me are more than likely to have been intercepted by the NSA. My Skype calls will all have been monitored though it’s still not clear if that means the entire content of the call but alas it doesn’t appear that right now there is anything I can do about it but suck it up. I am hopeful that others will for me though – the EFF and ACLU will be heavily involved in fighting this on a national level. Oh and after writing this article I think the idea that I could work for the government or intelligence services are pretty slim! Corporate world for me it is afterall.

Once again…let us know your thoughts and if and how you intend to respond.

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