Five More Frightening Details About the NSA

It’s been more than two months since word of the NSA’s drastic surveillance program came to light, and despite the United States’s government’s best attempts to assuage our fears, there’s still plenty of cause for concern. In fact, the more details that emerge, the more reasons citizens have to oppose the program.

Here are five recent pieces of information about the NSA that will have you have worried:

1. It’s Actually a Secret to Congress, too

Though we’ve been assured that there is congressional oversight over the NSA and spying programs, that’s not actually the case. Many members of Congress admit they had no idea what the program did or how it operated, but at least some of them attempted to learn more about it before voting on the issue. Before voting on the NSA funding, members of both parties requested documents and substantial information on the organization, yet these requests were either ignored or outright denied because it was supposedly “classified.”

Republican Morgan Griffith, a Representative for Virginia, was frustrated at having to vote under such circumstances. “My oath is to make informed decisions, and I can’t do my job when I can’t get even the most basic information about these programs,” he said.

2. Everything You Do on the Internet is Trackable

We just learned that the NSA uses the software program XKeyscore to “collect nearly everything a user does on the internet.” By gathering everything you type/send/search for, the NSA has an easy database to look up keywords and identify potential terrorist threats. Of course, culling every bit of activity ultimately has implications for non-terrorists, too. So much for internet privacy!

3. The Information is Being Used for More Than Terrorism

Allegedly, the Drug Enforcement Agency is also using intelligence collected through the NSA to convict Americans for drug crimes. The process is secretive and the DEA can’t obtain evidence this way, so investigators conduct “parallel construction” where they legally gather the necessary evidence from what they already know via wiretapping.

“When law enforcement agents and prosecutors conceal the role of intelligence surveillance in criminal investigations, they violate the constitutional rights of the accused and insulate controversial intelligence programs from judicial review,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy director. “This is inappropriate, dangerous and contrary to the rule of law.”

4. The NSA Doesn’t Track Its Own Emails

Some critics of the NSA have requested to audit employee emails through a freedom of information request to ensure that they are not abusing their powers and privileges, but get this – the NSA claims it lacks the technology to monitor its own emails. Unbelievably, an entity that tracks the digital communications of millions around the world purports to have no way of checking its own internal messages.

At best, it’s a sign that the NSA grants itself the privacy it denies to just about everyone else in the country. At worst, it’s part of a massive cover-up to limit accountability for extremely questionable behavior.

5. NSA Was Re-Approved by a Secret Court

Amidst all of the controversy surrounding the NSA, it seems appropriate to have a national conversation about our surveillance state before saying, “Whatever, carry on!” But that’s exactly what happened in July when a U.S. court renewed the program.

Not just any court – a top secret FISA court – the same court that essentially blindly rubberstamps any request to spy on someone, a true beacon of accountability. Meanwhile, the government believes it is being “transparent” by acknowledging for the first time that the program will continue, despite relying on a secret court to get this dirty business done.