As early as a January 2017, the U.S. intelligence community will release an estimate of the number of Americans who are subject to digital surveillance programs.
According to the National Intelligence Director, the National Security Agency is preparing to release data on how many Americans have become victims of the growing U.S. Surveillance State. The plan was first reported on by Reuters after the news agency viewed a copy of a letter sent by U.S. lawmakers to the office of the National Intelligence Director.
“The timely production of this information is incredibly important to informed debate on Section 702 in the next Congress— and, without it, even those of us inclined to support reauthorization would have reason for concern,” states the letter.
The request for an estimate of the number of Americans being monitored came from members of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. National Intelligence Director James Clapper and National Security Agency (NSA) officials have apparently already briefed congressional staff about how the intelligence community will provide the requested data. The release of the data will coincide with the beginning of debate on the possible reauthorization of Section 702, a controversial measure added to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 2008, and often used as legal justification for mass surveillance.
The lawmakers termed their letter an effort to “memorialize our understanding” of the intelligence community’s plan to provide an estimate in real numbers, not percentages, as soon as January that can be shared with the public.
The government has long held that calculating the number of Americans subject to Section 702 surveillance might be technically impossible and would require privacy intrusions exceeding those raised by the actual surveillance programs, which were originally intended to counter foreign espionage.
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Section 702 of the FISA will expire on December 31, 2017 unless Congress acts to reauthorize or reform the measure. As revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, Section 702 also authorizes two Internet surveillance programs known as PRISM and Upstream. PRISM gathers messaging data sent via Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and other tech companies, while Upstream taps into the so-called backbone of the Internet to gather data on targets.
Whatever the NSA’s estimate looks like, it should be taken with a grain of salt. The spy agency stands to benefit from promoting its programs as highly focused and targeted and not casting a wide net on innocent Americans. However, the truth is that the NSA (and a number of other agencies) have programs and tools capable of monitoring and collecting the communications of the American public.
Another issue is the secret court created as a result of the original FISA. The FISA court is notoriously secretive with little oversight. Critics say a lack of transparency has allowed various federal agencies to run mass surveillance programs with no accountability.
The courts were originally created under the the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) in response to reports produced by the 1975 Church Committee. The Senate panel was tasked with investigating the foreign and domestic surveillance operations by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during the 1970s. The Church Committee also released detailed reports on the governments Counter Intelligence Programs (COINTELPRO) that were used against activists and influential voices of opposition during the 1950s and ’60s.
However, since the 9/11 attacks the U.S. government has used the court to secretly interpret surveillance law for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This allows the police and government bureaucracies to operate in the shadows when monitoring the clueless public. Now, under the protection of the FISA court secrecy, the U.S. government is attempting to find legal loopholes to justify what they are already doing.
How can Americans ever hope to live in a world of freedom and privacy if the “leaders” continue to operate in secret court rooms with flimsy legal justifications? How can the average person even mount a defense when they lack an understanding of the mechanisms of power that work to limit freedom and privacy? Without education and spreading awareness the public will remain in the dark as the “powers that wish they were” continue down the path of domination and control.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of three books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 1 and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 2
Derrick is available for interviews. Please contact [email protected]
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