Once again, the National Security Agency has been caught illegally collecting the phone data of Americans. This news comes just months after a similar incident forced them to (supposedly) purge hundreds of millions of records captured without FISA authorization.
According to RT, the government spy agency unlawfully gathered a “larger than expected” volume of call and text records from one United States telecom provider under the metadata-collection program known as Section 215. According to a document obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as part of its ongoing lawsuit against the agency, the heavily redacted file does not reveal which company was affected, or how many of its “call detail records” were illegally collected between October 3 and 12, 2018.
“These documents further confirm that this surveillance program is beyond redemption and a privacy and civil liberties disaster,” ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Patrick Toomey told the Associated Press as reported by RT. “There is no justification for leaving this surveillance power in the NSA’s hands.” The NSA, unsurprisingly, in its own internal documents assessed the blunder’s “impact on national security or international relations” to be “none.” Critics of the program, formerly known as StellarWind, have pointed to its acknowledged failure to stop a single terror event. Terrorism was the agency’s official rationale for eavesdropping on 3 billion phone calls every day. That’s just one of many reasons the entire agency, not just its programs, should be scrapped.
The agency “will assess the scope of the civil liberties and privacy impact of this incident upon completion of the investigation,” the report promises, though an “initial assessment is that the impact was limited given the quick identification, purge processes, and lack of reporting.” Journalist Ben Swann is not letting the NSA off the hook. “If there is no accountability for those who continue to break the law – because that’s what they’re doing – then why would they ever stop doing that?” Swann pondered.
“Why is there no penalty? Why is there no consequence for doing this? This is illegal behavior – if it is illegal, what is the accountability for those who are collecting it?” journalist Ben Swann asked, referring to both the telecoms providing excess information and the government agency that has made at least three such “mistakes” in the last year. “The NSA never outs themselves and admits ‘We made a mistake’ – it only comes to light when the ACLU or some group sues,” Swann told RT.
The NSA has stated they wouldn’t mind dropping Section 215, however, president Trump has suggested he’d like it to continue indefinitely. Former NSA chief William Binney confirmed that the agency is only letting it go of the controversial program Section 215 because they have something much more sinister going on.
“There is no oversight of the upstream program,” Binney told RT, referring to an NSA program that collects not only phone records but emails, “chatter,” and “everything on the fiber optic network.” Upstream is “the major program that’s copying the collection of bulk data on everybody, not just in the United States but on the planet.”
In the book Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, author Glen Greenwald reveals fresh information on the NSA’s unprecedented abuse of power with never-before-seen documents entrusted to him by Snowden himself. It’s become absolutely horrifying; the amount of spying the U.S. government does on its own “free” people.