Latest Shocking NSA News: They're on Your Phone

News & Politics

New NSA revelations are coming fast and furious these days. The new revelations over the weekend included a disturbing report about the Obama administration's successful efforts in the FISA court to allow the NSA to search deliberately for Americans’ communications, overturning a 2008 ban on that activity.

In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.

Together the permission to search and to keep data longer expanded the NSA’s authority in significant ways without public debate or any specific authority from Congress. The administration’s assurances rely on legalistic definitions of the term “target” that can be at odds with ordinary English usage. The enlarged authority is part of a fundamental shift in the government’s approach to surveillance: collecting first, and protecting Americans’ privacy later.

Is Congress concerned yet? They sure should be, since they've been treated not even as an afterthought by the administration and the agency.

We also found out that the NSA has the ability to access all user data, including geolocation, from all of the leading manufacturers' phones and operating systems. Finally, in the ongoing effort to win friends and influence people internationally, we discovered the NSA is being accused of spying on Petrobas, Brazil's largest oil company, the first indication that the agency is straying from its core mission of national security.

For the record, Andy Greenberg at Forbes has compiled the ten key things we've learned so far from the Snowden leaks so far. It's a good link to keep handy to help stay on top of all the news. Because there's going to be plenty more to come.

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