In June, Barack Obama promised to be as transparent as possible about the National Security Agency spying program that spies on Americans and foreigners alike, grabbing and searching through our information about our telephone calls, emails, Internet use and more, with the information given to the DEA, IRS and other government agencies to begin investigations of Americans in the United States. His Administration had lied to Congress and the American people about the existence of the program before, of course, so we took this new promise with a big grain of salt.
Now, that doubt has been justified. What President Obama didn’t tell the American people, and what the Washington Post has verified by looking at documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, is that the National Security Agency routinely violates its own rules that are supposed to restrict its electronic surveillance activities.
The violations happen many times every day. The documents the Washington Post obtained show thousands of violations every year – and that’s just from one NSA spying center at Fort Meade near Washington D.C. There are many other NSA spying centers in operation, and we don’t have the data on their violations yet.
The data we do have show that, over the last few years, the number of violations by the NSA has increased.
The Washington Post writes that “more serious lapses include unauthorized access to intercepted communications, the distribution of protected content and the use of automated systems without built-in safeguards to prevent unlawful surveillance.” The documents also show that NSA agents were directed to obscure information about rules violations by removing information about them from reports kept internal to the Executive Branch.
Congress has been denied access to this information. Fewer than 10 percent of members of Congress even have a staff member who is authorized to read what limited information about the NSA spying has been made available to Capitol Hill.
Even the FISA court, the secret body that is supposed to give a thin veneer of judicial oversight to the electronic espionage, has been blocked from gaining full access to this information.
In one violation, the FISA court wasn’t even told about a new electronic spying project until months after the project began. When the FISA court discovered the project, it concluded that the new spying was unconstitutional – and was grabbing the content of Americans’ emails.
So much for Barack Obama’s pledge of transparency. He never intended to tell us about this. Only Edward Snowden’s work as a whistleblower made this information possible.
Snowden’s documents confirm the existence of more NSA surveillance programs, with codenames such as Marina, Pinwale, and Dishfire. They also show that, despite Barack Obama’s claim that the programs aren’t used to spy on Americans, NSA agents have been giving standing authorization to use metadata to identify particular Americans in the United States, and track which communications they are taking part in.
In related news:
The top judge on the FISA court admits that the court doesn’t have the ability to question the information given to it by the Obama Administration, and so, it has to merely accept on blind faith that what the government tells it is true. In other words, the FISA court is indeed a rubber stamp on NSA spy programs.
North Carolina State University is joining Big Brother, allowing the NSA to establish a military surveillance data center on its campus.