NSA focus on domestic and ally intelligence is unsettling3 min read

Serena Scaglione, Staff writer

The National Security Agency having access to the telephone records and Internet activities of millions of Americans is an unnecessary invasion of our privacy.

“[The NSA] will protect security interests by adhering to the highest standards of behavior,” according to the agency’s website.

The NSA has a distorted interpretation of high standards when it comes to the privacy of the citizens it is meant to protect.

A court order required Verizon to provide the NSA with information on all telephone calls in the U.S. as well as calls between the U.S. and other countries, according to British newspaper The Guardian.

While the information collected does not include the contents of the conversations or personal information of the subscribers, it does include enough information to allow the NSA to put together a picture of who was contacted, as well as when, where and how.

The NSA has also been closely monitoring our Internet activities.

According to The Guardian, XKeyscore, an NSA program “is its widest-searching system for developing intelligence from the Internet.”

This advanced program allows NSA analysts to search through several databases containing online chats, emails and the browsing histories of millions of people.

It’s hard to understand why an agency focused on collecting foreign intelligence is spending just as much (if not more) of its time and resources collecting information here at home.

The NSA justifies this mass collection of domestic information through its claims of having a limited ability to filter communications that it gathers.

A 2008 amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows information on Americans to be collected and stored on the vague grounds that it is or is likely to become “relevant to a current or future foreign intelligence requirement.”

The NSA does direct a significant amount of time and manpower on gathering foreign intelligence, but whom it is gathering intelligence on may be surprising.

In recent weeks, it has been revealed that the NSA has been collecting data on foreign leaders, including our nation’s allies.

Most notably, the U.S. is accused of monitoring the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“That would be a serious breach of trust,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said. “Such practices must be stopped immediately.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. is not and will not monitor Merkel’s calls, but did not say that the U.S. has never monitored the calls.

While officials from Italy, France and Brazil have also spoken out against the NSA’s eavesdropping, officials from Mexico have approached the subject cautiously, perhaps because of the country’s close political and economic affiliation with the United States. The Mexican government is likely wary of taking any stance that would jeopardize those ties.

It would be naive to think that without the NSA, our privacy would be guaranteed. The way we communicate can be monitored by several different agencies, foreign and domestic.

What is frustrating is that an agency intended to watch out for our best interests is abusing its power and offering no transparency to the American public or its foreign counterparts.

This vast amount of power, which has allowed the NSA to invade the lives of millions of Americans and have an unfair advantage against our nation’s allies, should never have been given in the first place.

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