Unauthorized Communications Obtained by NSA


Recent reports surfaced showing that the National Security Agency (NSA) has obtained 56,000 unauthorized communications from individuals. The NSA has gained access to this information by misrepresenting the extent of its data collection activities. Using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the NSA was able to make its case for collecting email chains. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was used to gather what is considered “upstream” documentation.

This revelation and recent controversy surrounding the Edward Snowden situation has sparked an interesting debate on personal privacy. President Barack Obama proposed reform to address public outcry for reform. The plans for reform would change how judges would be selected to sit on the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court. As a part of the proposed reform, the court judges would have to be confirmed by members of Congress prior to being able to preside over hearings where requests for this level of access were made.

An audit conducted in May 2012 revealed that there were 2,776 incidents from last year where unauthorized collection of private “legally protected communications,” according to the Washington Post. While some of the information collected was pertaining to foreign intelligence concerns, the unauthorized access to information from U.S. citizens raised concerns about constitutional rights and possible violations of the Fourth Amendment.

Individuals who have spoken out in support of the surveillance program argue that these infractions are harmless in nature. Some argue that the mistakes that have occurred to date should be measured against the benefits of having such a program in place and that the surveillance program does not fall within the broad protections provided under the constitution.

Advocates still propose reform and support the declassification of information collected to better understand the extent of the program. Motions have been filed with the federal court and the Supreme Court to challenge these practices.


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