Once Data Is Retained You Lose All Control

Apologists for the National Security Agency (NSA) claim that Americans have no need to worry since the agency’s focus is on foreigners. Sometimes they even claim that the NSA cannot legally act on any of the domestic communications it collects so there is no danger to Americans regardless of how expansive its surveillance apparatus is. These arguments are irrelevant though because once your data is retained you have no control over how it is used.

Case in point, the NSA has been sharing data with domestic law enforcement agencies:

The Justice Department is investigating the FBI’s use of information taken directly from mass surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA)’s collection of telephone metadata.


Another ongoing Justice Department investigation is examining the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s use of “parallel construction.”

Parallel construction is a controversial investigative technique that takes information gained from sources like the NSA’s mass surveillance, covers up or lies about the sources, and then utilizes them in criminal investigations inside the United States. The information was passed to other federal agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

While the NSA itself may be restricted to some extent from using any data it collects on domestic individuals there is nothing stopping it from handing that data to an agency that isn’t. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are all agencies that can act on data collected on domestic individuals by the NSA. Furthermore, due to the secrecy of the NSA’s program, these domestic law enforcers can made defending against any collected data extremely difficult. You only have a right to face your accuser publicly if your accuser isn’t hiding behind the nebulous label of “national security,” after all.