The U.S. government finally admitted that the National Security Agency (NSA) had repeatedly violated the law that regulates the surveillance of electronic communications between 2008 and 2011.
Three secret documents have been declassified, especially some decisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the secret court which is in charge of overseeing communication interceptions and validate or reject the NSA programs. In 2011, the FISC has secretly put an end to one of the illegal monitoring programs, given that it would not have been able to separate the foreign communications from those of the American citizens.
Nearly 60,000 emails of U.S. citizens have been illegally checked. However, the U.S. Constitution guarantees that individual mandates are put in place as soon as the monitoring concerns national citizens or foreign people staying in the U.S.
An agency official said anonymously that these abuses were due to “a technical problem”: it is impossible for him to collect targeted data transmitted through email, due to the way the FAI operate. It provides, however, that as soon as the NSA would realize to have access to American citizens’ information, they would be immediately destroyed. The National Security Agency (NSA) does not specify, however, how it determined the source or recipient of an email without reading it.
Since the ban of this program in 2011, the NSA says it has put in place a system to separate emails by source and restrict access to data. The agency also agreed, at the request of IFCS, to reduce the period during which it could keep the data from five to two years.
This secret document release is said to be related to the aim of the U.S. administration and especially the will of President Obama to show more transparency about how the National Security Agency (NSA) works.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization defending freedom online states that this declassification is not only the fact of a federal commitment, but was related to a complaint filed by him in 2012 to gain access to the judgments of the IFCS . An official at the White House, quoted by AP, acknowledged that some documents have been made public in the course of this litigation.
Recently, the media have highlighted the NSA officials’ lies, even though they were still swearing early August that they do only follow 1.6% of the data circulating on the Internet, only 0.025% were “actually selected for examination.”
The Washington Post announced after analyzing an internal audit that the NSA had made “thousands” of violations of the laws respecting the privacy since it was given new powers in 2008.
A bit later, the Wall Street Journal stated that the NSA had stored the content of some emails sent by U.S. citizens and filtered local calls over the Internet. Since the NSA had a warrant signed by a judge, it was therefore able to intercept virtually all the information on the Internet. This demonstrates that the agency had the capacity to monitor 75% of Internet traffic in the United States.
Recently, The Guardian, which was one of the first media to disseminate the secret documents, talked about the pressure received from the British government, which has indeed obliged the UK newspapers to destroy data on hard drives.
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