- PARTISAN SPIN on NSA’s Mining of Internet Content — PRISM (Poll)
Revised: June 08, 2013
San Jose, CA — Responding to critics, President Obama defended the practice of employing the National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Information (FBI) to monitor content provided by a number of internet companies under a program called PRISM/US984XN (PRISM).
While giving an address on Friday in Northern California, Obama noted:
“I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 per cent security and also then have 100 per cent privacy and zero inconvenience.”
The controversial program became known to the public in extensive reporting by London’s Guardian news agency and The Washington Post. PRISM goes beyond its predecessor; a Bush administration program that used billing records from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint Nextel to identify potential threats to national security. Applauding the program, national intelligence director James Clapper said of PRISM:
“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats…” The administration holds that mining of content submitted by Microsoft Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple is permitted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) given its focus on non-citizens of the U.S. and individuals operating outside U.S. borders.
Glenn Greenwald led The Guardian’s investigation of PRISM.
“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats…”
The administration holds that mining of content submitted by Microsoft Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple is permitted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) given its focus on non-citizens of the U.S. and individuals operating outside U.S. borders.
At home, PRISM is said to be compliant with FISA as long as NSA minimizes “acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons.” Abroad, PRISM enables UK’s Government Communications Headquarters [GCHQ], an equivalent to NSA, to bypass legally-mandated processes for government acquisition of personal information provided by internet companies outside of the UK including, but not limited to, emails, photos, audio, and video.
While Obama supports PRISM, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) is harshly critical. In an open letter to the The Co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Ellison issued a statement condemning NSA spying programs:
“This indiscriminate data collection undermines Americans’ basic freedoms.
While there are legitimate law enforcement uses for this data,
the scope of the program is a serious case of mission creep and creates a very slippery slope.
Gathering this data just in case it contains something useful does not qualify
as an urgent law enforcement exercise.
Our citizens’ right to privacy is fundamental and non-negotiable.
Domestic surveillance should only be conducted when there is an
imminent need for information. The dragnet nature of this tracking suggests there
was no such imminent threat, making this is a misuse of sections of the Patriot Act
to collect the personal information of millions of Americans. The program we’re
hearing about today seems not to respect that boundary. It, and any other
programs the NSA is running with other telecom companies, should end.”
Ellison’s concerns about the program’s expansive nature mirror disclosures in a recent Washington Post article:
An internal presentation on the Silicon Valley operation, intended for senior analysts in the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, described the new tool as the most prolific contributor to the President’s Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year. According to the briefing slides, obtained by The Washington Post, “NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM” as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.
As with virtually every major issue in Washington, politicians and pundits differ on this practice. Once again, security and civil liberties are contending concerns of the American public. However, one might argue that there is a bit of hypocrisy from The White House and both sides of the Congressional isle given their respective positions on government intrusion, big government, and protecting the rights of citizens. Not to mention their angst with the opposing political party on these issues, particularly during the very heated hearings during the Bush administration. A recent FoxNews segment highlights these perspectives and the growing tensions created by our interests in safe and privacy.
The airways are filled with partisan spin on this issue, but where are you on the issue of PRISM?
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