Spooky: How NSA’s Surveillance Algorithms See Into Your Life
On the ViewPoint talkshow with Eliot Spitzer, three whistle blowers from the National Security Agency (NSA), Thomas Drake, Kirk Wiebe and William Binney have expressed their allegations surrounding NSA’s illegal domestic surveillance measures. The whistle blowers specifically refer to 9/11 as the date after which electronic surveillance has taken new heights.
This means that enormous amounts of email, cell phone conversations have been stored and surveilled, as Eliot Spitzer puts it. When asked whether they knew about the electronic surveillance used by NSA, Kirk Wiebe said that they didn’t even believe the U.S. government could go that far.
Google seems a joke when compared to NSA’s data
William Binney confirms Spitzer’s assumptions by agreeing that there is, indeed, a dossier for almost every American, filled up with data aggregated by the National Security Agency. Looking at how much data the NSA could possibly have piled up, compared to that, Eliot says that Google “seems like a joke”. William goes on to say something really spooky:
The data is resident in programs that can pull it together in timelines and things like that and let them (the Government) see into your life, to see what you’re doing in your life.
By using satellites and the huge amount of data the NSA currently holds, they can even create some sort of algorithms to realize who’s talking to whom, thus being able to dissect our private lives. Eliot also says that it is being done without any regard to the Fourth Amendment in the United States Constitution. To get a better understanding, here’s what the 4th amendment presumes:
When police conduct a search, the amendment requires that the warrant establishes probable cause to believe that the search will uncover criminal activity or contraband. They must have legally sufficient reasons to believe a search is necessary.
also, it is important to know this aspect of the U.S Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The government has an electronic spying program
The algorithms that the NSA has created, according to whistle blower William Binney, are actually a part of the Big Data Research and Development Initiative, which has the official purpose to improve the tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and glean discoveries from huge volumes of digital data. William goes on by saying that the algorithms will go through the data base looking at everybody.
The basic and most obvious question that comes in our mind, as well as the mind of the talk show host – hasn’t anybody thought about the direct violation of the Constitution? Normally, for such critically important things for a nation, there needs to be a Court approval. According to Kirk Wiebe, it seems that nobody cares about that.
Secret spying room inside AT&T facility
As always, this is nothing new, it’s just that thanks to this talk show, some of us have gotten the chance to find about these things and to make our duty about informing others. It is only now that I’ve discovered that the EEF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has a lawsuit against U.S government’s massive spying program. Here’s what the EEF had to say about this:
In a motion filed today (July 2), the three former intelligence analysts confirm that the NSA has, or is in the process of obtaining, the capability to seize and store most electronic communications passing through its U.S. intercept centers, such as the “secret room” at the AT&T facility in San Francisco first disclosed by retired AT&T technician Mark Klein in early 2006.
There’ve been numerous reports about the secret room at AT&T, Wired (article is deleted now. Cached version here) and ArsTechnica have written about this 6 years ago. Another interesting article also shows that the same EEF has filed a suit against AT&T over NSA spying, accusing them of diverting customer traffic to the NSA for years as a means of aiding the NSA’s covert surveillance program. If you still think this is fiction we’re talking, you might want to read this Wikipedia article, which refers to this room as Room 641A.
The same William Binney, guest of the ViewPoint show, said that there could be up to 20 of such “secret rooms” across the entire country. The octopus of secret surveillance is getting even bigger as we find out about the President’s surveillance program, which constitutes a series of secret intelligence activities authorized by then President of the United States George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks in 2001 as part of the War on Terrorism.
Is there still hope?
The surveillance program seems to have appeared as a direct effect of the Patriot Act and its surveillance procedures. And here’s where we make the link with the 4th amendment. I’m no legal expert, but even to me, it makes sense and this explains it all:
Removed was the statutory requirement that the government prove a surveillance target under FISA is a non-U.S. citizen and agent of a foreign power, though it did require that any investigations must not be undertaken on citizens who are carrying out activities protected by the First Amendment. The title also expanded the duration of FISA physical search and surveillance orders and gave authorities the ability to share information gathered before a federal grand jury with other agencies.
To put it bluntly, by using the Patriot Act’s official purpose of fighting with terrorism, the freedom of U.S citizens appears to be greatly impaired; by using the Big Data initiative’s offical purpose of enhancing even more the role of technology in our lives, they’re actually creating intrusive algorithms that are spying on our private lives.
But there’s still hope as it seems that, recently, The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has admitted that government’s spying efforts have exceeded the legal limits, at least once. Let’s hope that all this will have an end and our freedoms will be preserved. As Benjamin Franklin said:
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.