The NSA’s Complete Lack of Oversight

Since Edward Snowden leaked information regarding the National Security Agency’s (NSA) PRISM program the state has been ensuring us that a great deal of oversight exists between the NSA’s agents and private communications. As it turns out, that isn’t the case:

Top secret documents submitted to the court that oversees surveillance by US intelligence agencies show the judges have signed off on broad orders which allow the NSA to make use of information “inadvertently” collected from domestic US communications without a warrant.

That is a major point to note. If the NSA “inadvertently” collects data on people living in the United States, the very same people the NSA claims it’s not spying on, it can use that data without so much as a warrant. I ask you, what motivation does the NSA have not to collect domestic communications? If there’s no punishment for doing so then there is no motivation against doing it. What makes this even worse is that this policy comes from the top:

The Guardian is publishing in full two documents submitted to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (known as the Fisa court), signed by Attorney General Eric Holder and stamped 29 July 2009. They detail the procedures the NSA is required to follow to target “non-US persons” under its foreign intelligence powers and what the agency does to minimize data collected on US citizens and residents in the course of that surveillance.

The documents show that even under authorities governing the collection of foreign intelligence from foreign targets, US communications can still be collected, retained and used.

Is anybody surprised that Eric Holder has authorized the NSA to collect data on people living in the United States? After all the skeletons that have been pouring out of his closet I doubt anybody is even slightly shocked by this revelation. Just how far does this authority go? Pretty damned far:

However, alongside those provisions, the Fisa court-approved policies allow the NSA to:

• Keep data that could potentially contain details of US persons for up to five years;

• Retain and make use of “inadvertently acquired” domestic communications if they contain usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, are encrypted, or are believed to contain any information relevant to cybersecurity;

• Preserve “foreign intelligence information” contained within attorney-client communications;

• Access the content of communications gathered from “U.S. based machine[s]” or phone numbers in order to establish if targets are located in the US, for the purposes of ceasing further surveillance.

In other words, there is no real oversight or any form of protection against the NSA spying on people residing in the United States. Most of us have suspected this for a long time but until now we’ve been unable to surface proof.