In a new post over at Just Security, I look at the recently declassified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinions on bulk collection of Internet "metadata". These opinions show that, once again, the NSA has conducted illegal spying. The new documents reveal the National Security Agency’s (NSA) systemic violation of rules for domestic collection and use of Internet metadata. For six years the NSA was collecting in bulk multiple categories of Internet communications data without FISC approval, and possibly including geolocation data, identifying information, passwords, address books, and encryption keys. Then, the agency’s lower level officials and analysts were blithely sending that information to other intelligence agencies and to law enforcement regardless of whether it was related to counterterrorism or not. The agency’s hyper-aggressive interpretation of laws meant to balance privacy interests with intelligence needs, rampant violation of FISC imposed rules, and resistance to judicial oversight are shocking. But the documents also suggest mass surveillance can never be performed safely, regardless of good faith human efforts. It may be time to face the fact that data collection this vast and this complicated will inevitably, regularly and routinely violate the rules, invade Americans’ and other peoples’ privacy, and be misused and abused. For more, check out the post.
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