From the Guardian:
“Top secret documents submitted to the court that oversees surveillance by US intelligence agencies show the judges have signed off on broad orders which allow the NSA to make use of information “inadvertently” collected from domestic US communications without a warrant.”
While the documents do show the steps taken to protect US citizens (the term in vogue these days is US persons) from unwarranted surveillance, they are not very reassuring. The “minimization procedures” that are used to determine whether the subject is a US person often involve invasive techniques such as email interception and listening in on phone calls.
Even when its determined that the target of the surveillance is a US person, “they can make use of “inadvertently acquired” domestic communications if they contain usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, are encrypted, or are believed to contain any information relevant to cybersecurity.”
A lot of the decisions involved in this program seem to be left to the discretion of the analysts, with little oversight over the day to day workings of the NSA. According to the article, only a percentage of cases are internally reviewed by the agency.
Time and time again we were told that there were adequate safeguards that protect our rights while the NSA can go after terrorists. And based on what we’ve learned today, those very safeguards are by no means adequate. What this administration needs to do now is to declassify these oversight procedures and allow Congress and the public to review them. Bring what’s in the dark out into the light, and let the people sort it out.
Of course, that’s unlikely to happen.