The National Security Agency (NSA) Collecting Personal Communications

1006 words | 4 page(s)

The issue over online privacy has recently been reignited following the exposure of the practices the National Security Agency (NSA) was adopting both nationally and internationally. It was in May 2013 that Edward Snowdon (A NSA computer contractor), leaked information about the PRISM surveillance program. The following paper explore the issues and arguments that surround the NSA’s practice of collecting personal communications of United States citizens in particular (although the extent of the NSA’s surveillance did extent beyond the borders of the U.S. and has subsequently caused a diplomatic rift with many Latin American Nations).

As mentioned, the full extent of the NSA’s practice of surveillance via the PRISM program was first leaked by Edward Snowdon in May 2013 to the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom. The specific details Snowdon revealed to the press concerned a number of mass surveillance programs within the NSA as well as the UK equivalent GCHQ. One of the most surprising revelations was the fact that the NSA had backdoor access to encrypted emails and files (Guardian Newspaper). Previous to the exposé by Snowdon, it was widely thought that encrypted files and emails were almost impossible to decipher. This is still the case with the only change being the NSA access to the encryption codes.

puzzles puzzles
Your 20% discount here.

Use your promo and get a custom paper on
"The National Security Agency (NSA) Collecting Personal Communications".

Order Now
Promocode: custom20

Generally speaking there are two attitudes to Snowdon’s actions and the wider debate over privacy laws in the United States. On the one hand many citizens and indeed senators’ have described Snowdon as a traitor to his country such as House Speaker John Boehner, and is now a wanted fugitive by the United States government (LoGiurato). The argument to support this is based on the security breach and perceived weakening of details concerning the mandate of the security agencies in the United States. On the other hand, there groups and individuals in the United States who applaud the acts of Snowdon in revealing the practices of the NSA and other agencies in the United States concerning mass data collecting.

While there is an argument that revealing security information is a clear breach of both contract and the law, it seems that such an issue needed to be brought into the public domain for change and debate to occur. Overall I believe that the acts of Snowdon have been in fact necessary to facilitate a larger discussion and reformation of data collection of U.S citizens. This is because one of the central problems associated with the NSA’s surveillance of citizens in the United States is that is cuts against the grain of many of the constitutional freedoms the country stands for (Nelson). This indeed was one of the motivations behind the intelligence leak from Snowdon and continues to fuel the public anger regarding the invasion of privacy.

Since the revelation of the NSA’s surveillance program the executive body in the United States has been quick to act to reevaluate the current practices of the NSA. The most recent legislative response to the mass surveillance of U.S Citizens has been the proposed Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act, intended to safeguard US citizens from what is seen by many as the unjust use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The aim of the act is to rebalance the power between the surveillance community and the privacy rights of citizens. Specifically the act is based on prohibiting the security community from the bulk collection of communication records; remove the reverse targeting loophole that is often used to allow access to communication data when an American citizen is sending communications to a foreign individual and reform the surveillance court.

While the discussed proposals above do go a long way to address many of the issues that have arisen through the public disclosure of the NSA’s surveillance practices, it may not be enough on its own to safeguard the privacy of U.S citizens. One area in particular which has not been addressed is whether surveillance that is acquired by friendly foreign countries on U.S citizens (such as the UK surveillance agency GCHQ), and subsequently shared with U.S agencies would be prohibited under the new reforms. Perhaps a further policy that should be introduced is for a committee to assess the surveillance on U.S citizens on a case-by-case approach and place a high onus of proof for authorization.

Without further exposure and transparency on the surveillance practices in the United States changes will not occur. It is therefore important that political activists maintain a degree of pressure in calling into account the actions of the NSA and other agencies as well as the policy makers in the United States. As well as the traditional form of protest, political activists need to challenge the aspects of surveillance to greater extent in reference to the domestic and state laws that protect an individual’s privacy as well as by recourse to constitutional rights.

In conclusion the argument for and against the use of covert surveillance of U.S. citizen’s private communications remains a controversial and divisive subject. While steps are currently being taken to readdress the relationship between surveillance agencies such as the NSA and citizens privacy rights more needs to be done to readdress this balance. As a final note it is important to consider that the many changes now face the surveillance community would arguably not have come about save the acts of Edward Snowdon. While the executive and legislative body is unlikely to credit the actions of Snowdon’s whistle blowing, it seems clear that it was from this act that the wider debate over the practices of the NSA came about.

  • Brett LoGiurato JOHN BOEHNER: Edward Snowden Is A ‘Traitor’ SFGate. (Published on June 11, 2013)
  • Nelson, Steven. ‘NSA Surveillance Practices ‘Violate the Constitution,’ Issa Says’, USNews Online (published 10th September 2013)
  • Senators Ron Wyden. ‘What Does the Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act do?’
  • The Guardian Newspaper, ‘Edward Snowdon’

puzzles puzzles
Attract Only the Top Grades

Have a team of vetted experts take you to the top, with professionally written papers in every area of study.

Order Now