A recent breakthrough by The Guardian unveils evidence of a financial tie between the NSA and well-known Internet companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. These “Big Data” companies all have one thing in common: they are participants in the NSA’s Prism surveillance program, first introduced to the public by Edward Snowden.
The program, along with other digital surveillance techniques, was found unconstitutional by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court in 2011 due to their invasive nature. In the wake of that ruling, FISA has given extensions to the certification demands required for further surveillance of these companies by the agency, their compliance costing “millions of dollars.”
The NSA footed the bills with your tax dollars.
This is somewhat ironic in a time when taxpayers’ trust in data-mining is waning. The tech companies involved have denied the existence of the Prism program continuously until actual evidence was uncovered, claiming that “they only hand over user data in response to specific legal requests from the authorities.”
This “he-said-she-said” discourse is a regular occurrence in the NSA’s operations, with differing remarks of the agency’s legality coming from FISA, the NSA, and President Barack Obama.
Even though the director of national intelligence has started a blog dedicated to providing factual transparency of the NSA’s actions, the agency can’t seem to overcome its less than ardent relationship with citizens, both domestic and abroad.
2013 Chancellor of Germany candidate Peer Steinbrück did not mince words:
“I would interrupt the [trade] negotiations until the Americans say if German government offices and European institutions are bugged or wiretapped. We don’t know if the Americans may be sitting under our desks with some technical devices.”
Increased — though not entirely unfounded — stipulation such as this can lead to weaker international ties between the U.S. and other nations, especially considering the rising number (450 so far) of UN communications decrypted by the NSA by cracking security clearances.
If this trend of spying continues to go unchecked, and the attitude to become “transparent” only after the press uncovers revelations persists, the NSA could very well be on its way to being the most ominous and nototrious agency in modern history. Meanwhile, the growing amounts of cases against them should be indicative of the public’s ever-mounting civil unrest.