How Congress unknowingly legalized PRISM in 2007


MaxShimba

MaxShimba

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MaxShimba

MaxShimba

JF-Expert Member
Joined Apr 11, 2008
35,816 146 160
On Sept. 11, 2007, the National Security Agency signed up Microsoft as its first partner for PRISM, a massive domestic surveillance program whose existence was reported by the Washington Post today. That’s barely a month after Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed, the Protect America Act.


The Bush Administration portrayed the PAA as a technical fix designed to close a gap in America’s surveillance capabilities that had been opened by a then-recent ruling of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). It proved to be much more than that.
While the details are still classified, reports suggested that the FISC had ruled that it was illegal for the government to intercept communications between two foreign endpoints if the communications happened to pass through the United States. Warning that the U.S. would suddenly lose the ability to continue its surveillance of terrorists, the administration pushed the PAA through Congress in a matter of days.


In reality, the PAA represented a sweeping change to American surveillance law. Before conducting surveillance, the PAA only required executive branch officials to “certify” that there were “reasonable procedures” in place for ensuring that surveillance “concerns” persons located outside the United States and that the foreign intelligence is a “significant purpose” of the program. A single certification could cover a broad program intercepting the communications of numerous individuals. And there was no requirement for judicial review of individual surveillance targets within a “certified” program.
Civil liberties groups warned that the PAA’s vague requirements and lack of oversight would give the government a green light to seek indiscriminate access to the private communications of Americans. They predicted that the government would claim that they needed unfettered access to domestic communications to be sure they had gotten all relevant information about suspected terrorists.
It now appears that this is exactly what the government did.

How Congress unknowingly legalized PRISM in 2007
 

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