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NSA Monitoring Program: A Risk to Civilians Personal privacy Since the beginning of WWI, spying activity has ended up being a very fundamental part of national security to United States. To track the activity of individuals, U.S.A. has many spying companies and National Security Agency (NSA) is one of them. NSA is the main manufacturer and manager of signal intelligence for the United States.
It collects, keeps an eye on, translates, and analyses international information, and information for intelligence functions and performs security programs inside the United States. The activity of NSA and the issue of the personal privacy of citizens has actually long been disputed for decades. With sophisticated technology and recently installed equipment it is possible to spy on practically everyone.
Though the police officials consider the NSA surveillance programs as needed weapons in the war of terror, the civil liberties groups claim that it is a clear infraction of civilian personal privacy secured by the Constitution of the United States. The U.S. Constitution provides every U.S. person the right to protect their privacy. The Fourth Amendment prohibits “unreasonable ‘searches and seizures’ and sets out requirements for search warrants based on likely cause as identified by a neutral judge or magistrate” (U.S. Constitution). However the NSA argues that due to the fact that of security factors monitoring programs need to be continued and appeals to Congress “not to restrict the powers” of NSA. After the disclosures of the classified files by the former NSA specialist Edward Snowden, it has become clear that NSA willingly prevented judicial system, carried out much more comprehensive security program and did not comply with the Constitution at a least bit.
The Guardian reports the vastness of the disclosure stunned lots of individuals, including the elected agents of the Congress who were unaware of the extent of the security.
NSA conducts domestic surveillance through a number of programs. The agency never publishes any comprehensive, official list of programs. The majority of the surveillance programs are “classified”, meaning that they are not available to public. The only reason people know about these programs is because of the whistle blower Edward Snowden who disclosed classified documents after meeting Glenn Greenwald, a reporter of The Guardian. The first disclosed classified document was about the “Pilot Project”, which contents shook the country. On October 2, 2013 The New York Times reported that NSA carried out a secret pilot project in 2010 and 2011 “to test the collection of bulk of data about the location of Americans’ cellphones”. The existence of pilot project was also confirmed by James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, at a senate judiciary committee hearing.
The pilot project “used data from cellphone towers to locate anyone” who is using any electronic device which is Wi-Fi or cellular technology enabled. This project was a serious violation of Fourth Amendment and has been highly criticized both by the lawmakers and U.S. citizens. As prof. William Stuntz, a criminal justice scholar and a professor at Harvard Law School, points out the Fourth Amendment was drafted partly in reaction to the British Government in eighteenth century which carried out “general warrants to seize personal diaries and letters in support of seditious- libel prosecutions” that were aimed to suppress political thought. The top secret documents reveal that the NSA is collecting and storing the online metadata of millions of internet users, “regardless of whether or not they are the persons of interest to the agency” (The Guardians).
Metadata is a cloud or “envelope that includes the duration of a phone call, the identity of the caller and the receiver; for an email it could include the location information, the sender and the recipient, time, and sometimes it’s content, the web browsing history of an user and in some case account passwords. This envelope can be used to create a detailed picture of an individual’s life. From the disclosed classified documents of Edward Snowden, The Guardian reported on September 30, 2013 that “NSA has developed a metadata repository, codenamed Marina”. Any computer metadata collected by NSA software is directed to the Marina database, Phone records are directed to a separate system. The agency is also gathering information from Facebook, twitter, Skype to build individual profile of every U.S. citizen (The New York Times). This type of practice of NSA greatly hampers civilians’ right to free speech. Extensive surveillance is harmful because it desponds the exercise of civil liberties. Just consider the surveillance of mass people when they are reading, thinking, and communicating with each other in order to make decisions about social and political issues. The only solution to protect our intellectual privacy to ‘think and decide’ is we need “intellectual freedom” from state interference.
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