This article was originally published by Aaron Kesel at Activist Post.
A recent article in CNN tells the tale of teens whose friends think they are spying on their phone conversations because they work for the National Security Agency (NSA) at the complex at Fort Meade in Maryland.
CNN expresses that three 18-year-old teens who graduated from high schools in Maryland — Summer, Brianna, and Simon — are among more than 150 high schoolers in a work-study program at the NSA. These students are then given TS/SCI or Top Secret security clearance access to U.S. secrets.
“Recruiters at the NSA (and other intelligence agencies, like the CIA, have similar programs) know that when it comes to hiring smart, driven, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)-minded young people, they are competing with the flashiness and deep pockets of Silicon Valley. So, they aim young and try to dazzle the teens with the work, rather than the paycheck,” CNN wrote.
CNN tries to give lightheartedness to the subject but fails to address the concern about giving teens the responsibility of handling such highly classified information and the other problem at hand. The fact that teens in schools in Maryland and possibly elsewhere are being taken into the NSA and brainwashed into working for the establishment while attempting to balance their studies. The NSA and agencies alike also use the Web, social media and job fairs to recruit students. Although, some of the students filled out a long application on intelligencecareers.gov.
“Once they’re here they get that sense of purpose from what they’re doing every day and they see that they can do things here that they can’t do anywhere else,” Courtney, an NSA recruiter told CNN. (Her last name withheld for security reasons.)
“We want to get them in and get them hooked early to the mission so they can have a long career here. There’s more emphasis now on student programs than I think there’s ever been to try to get them when they’re young. Get them hooked young,” Courtney added.
According to the article, the students are required to intern and go to Fort Meade every summer during college; in exchange, the NSA pays a year-round salary and guarantees them a full-time job at the NSA when they have finally graduated.
CNN’s article paints the NSA as a fun job experience while ignoring the absurd constitutional abuses that were exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In fact, the piece reads like a promotional press release for the NSA.
Snowden quickly rose to prominence in 2013, after leaking classified information on widespread warrantless NSA surveillance programs like XKeyscore and PRISM to The Guardian and The Washington Post. In fact, the first Snowden leak was a FISC order issued to Verizon under Section 702 that required the company to turn over all of its calling records to the NSA.
FISA was enacted in 1978 as a response to illegal domestic surveillance operations revealed by two Senate committees in the 1970s, including President Richard Nixon’s use of federal intelligence agencies to monitor his political opponents. It was brought into law “to authorize electronic surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence information.”
The law requires the government to obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before setting up an electronic or physical wiretap targeted at foreigners and foreign agents. However, that law is not always followed.
Congress amended FISA in 2007 to let the government wiretap communications that either begin or end outside the United States jurisdiction without Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) approval; in a stronger 2008 overhaul, they further limited that power to non-U.S. persons. The last reauthorization of the Act was in 2012, which set the current expiration date of Dec. 31, 2017.
The FISA law has long been criticized by privacy and civil liberties advocates like the EFF who say the order allows broad, intrusive spying without oversight. The section first gained renewed attention following the 2013 disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the agency carried out widespread monitoring of emails and other electronic communications through PRISM, XKeyscore, Upstream, and other NSA surveillance programs.
Activist Post covered XKeyscore and PRISM in extensive detail when the revelations happened. XKeyscore, which in 2008 was on 750 servers on 150 sites around the globe, served as the point of entry for most of the information that was collected by the NSA.
NSA agents would easily be able to gather information using XKeyscore’s system the operator could then trawl through billions of emails and online chat sessions, or check sites visited by specific computers by using IP addresses.
It’s worth noting that this author recently wrote an article on Palantir, the company that was accused of providing the technology that enables NSA’s mass surveillance PRISM. In that article, we went into extensive detail about Palantir’s history as a company and the development of software used at Fusion Centers across the U.S.
Snowden has recently announced a new forthcoming memoir called Permanent Record, due out in September, which will tell all his secrets. Snowden has also released a YouTube ad for the book and stated that he would begin exposing social media surveillance of Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, as Activist Post reported.
As a free society, we can only hope that these students involved in the NSA programs will do the same as Edward Snowden and whistle-blow if they encounter abuse of civil and privacy rights.