Saturday, August 30, 2014

172.7 - Outrage of the Week: NSA goes Google

Outrage of the Week: NSA goes Google

Now for one of our regular features, the Outrage of the Week.

We have known for some time now that the NSA has been spying on Americans, collecting huge amounts of information about the metadata of our telephone calls, recording what number called what number, when, and for how long. That information is supposedly only available to a limited number of NSA employees who can access it only in terrorism-related investigations.

But beyond that and beside that, the NSA has swept up some 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats. These are supposed to relate to foreign intelligence, but the reality is that data on unknown millions of Americans is included in that figure, either accidentally or deliberately.

Now it develops that the NSA has developed what some are calling its own version of Google, a massive searchable database called ICREACH, a database to which more than 1,000 analysts at 23 government agencies that perform intelligence work have access - agencies including purely domestic agencies such as the FBI and the DEA.

Information shared through ICREACH can be used to track a person’s movements, map out their networks of associates, and potentially reveal religious affiliations or political beliefs.

In fact, part of the idea was to enable "pattern of life analysis," which involves monitoring who individuals communicate with and the places they visit over a period of several months, in order to observe their habits and so predict their future behavior.

Rather than being a repository, ICREACH appears to be a querying tool that can scan a variety of databases. The information in those databases was swept up by programs authorized under Executive Order 12333. Collection of data under this order does not have court oversight and receives minimal congressional scrutiny because it targets foreign communication networks rather than domestic ones. But despite that supposed limitation, the very nature of the program means that data about millions of Americans will be included, even if they are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

And that information, which is supposed to be applied only to investigations related to foreign intelligence, is now and for several years has been shared with domestic law enforcement. And the difference between what is foreign intelligence and what is domestic intelligence, the difference between "the Constitution applies because it's domestic" and "the Constitution doesn't apply because it's foreign" becomes ever more blurred, and what what supposed to be a bright red line separating one from the other now is as best a dusty rose.

They fake it, they fudge it, they finagle it, but at the end of the day it merges into one giant spy network that is spying on anyone and everyone - and yes, that means us and every other person they can find, whether guilty or innocent.

It's an outrage.

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