Three National Security Agency whistle blowers told Viewpoint host Eliot Spitzer on Monday that the agency was gathering information on every person in the United States.
The FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008 gave the NSA broad powers to monitor international phone calls and emails, and granted legal immunity to telecommunication companies that had participated in the Bush administration’s wiretapping program prior to 2008. But former senior official Thomas Drake, former senior analyst Kirk Wiebe, and former technical director William Binney said the NSA was not only monitoring international communications — the agency had been spying on “the entire country.”
Drake said there was a “key decision made shortly after 9/11, which began to rapidly turn the United States of America into the equivalent of a foreign nation for dragnet blanket electronic surveillance.”
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was originally enacted by Congress to prevent the worst abuses of the Nixon administration from occurring again. The law established the FISA court, which regulates the government’s conduct of intelligence surveillance inside the United States and generally requires the government to seek warrants before monitoring communications.
But civil liberties advocates have warned the FISA court has become an informational black hole. Since the FAA passed act passed, the FISA court has continued to operate in complete secrecy with greatly enhanced authority to approve dragnet-style surveillance, yet it has released less than two pages of information on their activities every year since.
The three whistle blowers explained that the NSA was amassing huge amounts of communication data in hopes of using computer algorithms to search for suspicious conversations.
“When you open up the Pandora’s Box of just getting access to incredible amounts of data, for people that have no reason to be put under suspicion, no reason to have done anything wrong, and just collect all that for potential future use or even current use, it opens up a real danger — and to what else what they could use that data for, particularly when it’s all being hidden behind the mantle of national security,” Drake said.
Watch video, courtesy of Current TV, below: