New records obtained by the New York Times via Freedom of Information Act requests reveal that the National Security Agency’s mass collection of email communications likely continues using different methods which are not restricted by the law.
The new details, part of a report from the NSA’s inspector general, reveal at least four reasons why the NSA ended the email program. Three of these reasons are redacted but the fourth states “other authorities can satisfy certain foreign intelligence requirements” that the bulk email records program “had been designed to meet.”
The report also details two other legal ways the government may acquire the data. First, the NSA may gather Americans’ data that has been gathered in other countries by examining the fiber optic cables which power the internet. As the New York Times writes, these activities “are largely not subject to regulation by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.” The NSA was previously not allowed to gather domestic data using this procedure, but that rule was changed in November 2010.
The other method for spying on Americans which the NSA may legally employ involves the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2008, which allows for warrantless domestic surveillance.
These revelations come on the eve of the end of another program which allows the collection of Americans’ phone records. Under the recently passed USA Freedom Act the NSA can still access the records in the pursuit of terrorists, but the records remain with the telecommunications companies.
Timothy Edgar, a privacy official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence with both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations who is now a teacher at Brown University, told the New York Times that “The document makes it clear that NSA is able to get all the Internet metadata it needs through foreign collection.”
If Americans were hopeful that the USA Freedom Act was going to stop the bulk collection of data, they are in for disappointment. As long as the state has the technology and the resources (funded via tax dollars), they will use whatever tools they have at their disposal to monitor innocent individuals as the march towards complete loss of civil liberties continues.