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According to the New York Times, the National Security Agency is pilfering through emails sent to recipients abroad or received from foreign senders. Evidently their searching en masse for mentions of foreigners under surveilence. But big deal, right? It's what intelligence agencies do... collect intelligence. The NYT reports:
The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas, a practice that government officials have openly acknowledged. It is also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners, like a little used e-mail address, according to a senior intelligence official.
Congress passed the FISA Amendment Acts in 2008 which authorized domestic eavesdropping sans warrant so long as the "target" was on foreign soil. Officials say voice surveilence was not included in these provisions.
An N.S.A. spokeswomen assured the NYT that the, "the agency’s activities were lawful and intended to gather intelligence not about Americans but about “foreign powers and their agents, foreign organizations, foreign persons or international terrorists.”" She went on to explain, “in carrying out its signals intelligence mission, N.S.A. collects only what it is explicitly authorized to collect.”
Just months ago at a House Intelligence Committee hearing, N.S.A. Deputy Director, John Inglis explained to the committee, “We do not target the content of U.S. person communications without a specific warrant anywhere on the earth.” A standard this new revelation seems to support.
To pilfer through emails sent abroad while targeting an individual on foreign soil is quite different from making an American residing on American soil the subject of N.S.A. investigation. Regardless of the legality of Congressionally sanctioned privacy breaches, it's becoming harder to ignore that we live in a bona fide surveilence state.