The National Security Agency undertook surveillance of international Internet traffic of Americans without any warrant some time in 2012 under President Barack Obama’s administration, according to a recent disclosure made by Edward J. Snowden. The warrantless monitoring occurred to scavenge evidence of wanton cyberattack.
Classified documents from N.S.A. released by Snowden to the New York Times and ProPublica revealed that the surveillance was initiated when cyberattacks were also staged on American government agencies and businesses and financial institutions. Lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice issued secret memos allowing N.S.A. to commence the hunt via Internet cables for data associated with computer hacking that originated overseas.
Though the memos strictly specified “cybersignatures” and Internet addresses that could be linked to foreign governments, the N.S.A. nevertheless sought and was given permission to initiate surveillance of hackers despite failing to establish their connection to foreign governments. Further, the documents also disclosed the N.S.A. monitored web traffic coursing through suspicious addresses or malware.
Increasingly Aggressive Foreign Acts
While the U.S. government recently enacted the USA Freedom Act, which remarkably restricts N.S.A.’s direct access to telephone data and Internet metadata, the law nonetheless, resurrects certain provisions of U.S. Patriot Act while excluding from the Freedom Act’s ambit the wiretapping program.
The New York Times report the warrantless surveillance by N.S.A was defended by U.S. government officials saying it was necessary to protect Americans from activities of foreign powers that have become increasingly aggressive.
“It should come as no surprise that the U.S. government gathers intelligence on foreign powers that attempt to penetrate U.S. networks and steal the private information of U.S. citizens and companies,” the New York Times quoted Brian Hale, speaking on behalf of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Hale added: “targeting overseas individuals engaging in hostile cyberactivities on behalf of a foreign power is a lawful foreign intelligence purpose.” Critics, however, brushed off said reasoning and commented the subject must be resolved in a public debate.
The recent enactment of USA Freedom Act sparked criticism from Credo Mobile. Its Vice-President described the legislation as unconstitutional for prompting telecommunications companies in taking part of the surveillance. The law is the U.S. initiative in curbing N.S.A’s authority after Snowden who sought asylum in Russia exposed American government’s warrantless surveillance.