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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

New Breaking NSA: Illegal, Unconstitutional Collection of Innocent Americans' Complete Digital Data

Jesselyn Radack, June 17, 2013

Last night, AP had a blockbuster story on the recently-revealed NSA Prism program, disclosed by Amerian whistleblower Edward Snowden, We knew that Prism seizes records from the 9 biggest Internet companies--massive secret domestic surveillance that goes far beyond what Americans know. But it turns out that Prism is really a relatively small part of a much broader, even more intrusive domestic surveillance effort.

Soon after the AP story broke, the Washington Post had another blockbuster article on how the U.S. surveillance architecture includes collection of revealing Internet and phone metadata. It's breathtaking.

Instead of trying to prosecute Mr. Snowden, we should be prosecuting the government officials who turned the U.S. into a massive surveillance state.  And instead of letting the government use fear-mongering about faux terrorism plots to justify every new illegal and unconstitutional intrusion we find out about,  Americans should instead be afraid of how wiling the government has been to engage in illegal, unconstitutional dragnet surveillance of its own people under the guise of protecting them.

Would you give your house an car keys, and all your computer passwords, to a stranger?
Then why are you willing to give them to the government?

Edward Snowden's initial revelations about NSA illegally spying on Americans' telephone calls now looks small compared to NSA spying on all digital data of every American, including content.

STELLARWIND, the "warrantless wiretapping" program that was exposed in the New York Times' Pulitizer Prize-winning article on December 16, 2005, was actually a set of four surveillance programs that brought American data into the ambit of the NSA, which is supposed to collect only foreign intelligence. NSA was strictly prohibited from collecting domestic intelligence something within the purview of the FBI, which--as per the Fourth Amendment to the constitution and a number of federal laws--had to have probable cause and a warrant to intrude on an American's information.

NSA now has 4 collection programs in the U.S. that touch on nearly every American household in some way.Two of them are for telephony and Internet--meaning metadata. This includes phone numbers called between Americans, the frequency of the calls, the times of the calls, the duration of calls, the location of the callers, the devices used, and the participants.  The government has argued that this is merely stuff in your phone bill. But 1) the information is much more detailed than what's in a phone bill, and 2) why is it okay for the government to see what's in your phone bill?

The other two collection programs are for content, meaning content, meaning e-mail, login info, video & voice chat, photos, videos, stored data, etc.This is in direct contradiction to what DNIs Clapper, DoJ's Holder, and FBI's Mueller have testilied about in Congress. One of the programs  intercepts telephone calls and sends the spoken words to a system cover-named NUCLEON. The other, PRISM, gets Internet content by accessing servers of the 9 biggest Internet firms in the country--the ones like Facebook and Google, which are--thanks to all of us--the richest collection of personal information in history.

If this doesn't lead to massive reforms in the U.S. and a reigning in of the fascist surveillance state we've become, I don't know what will.

This article orginally appeared in the Daily Kos.

Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.