‘Tip of the Iceberg’: Senators Warn Far More Data May Not Be Safe

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/13-0

Senator to NSA Chief: “What I worry is how far you believe this authority extends.”

Lauren McCauley

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee took the opportunity Wednesday during a previously scheduled hearing to challenge the director of the National Security Agency about the extent of the agency’s domestic surveillance, during which it was made clear that what has been revealed thus far is just the “tip of the iceberg.”

 Responding specifically to questions regarding whether “e-mail contacts” are being “vacuumed” by the Obama administration’s clandestine interpretation of the Patriot Act’s surveillance powers, NSA Chief Keith Alexander responded, “I don’t want to make a mistake” and reveal too much. He added that disclosing such details may cause “our country to lose some sort of protection.”

Alexander followed up by saying the topic of e-mail and other metadata surveillance is best discussed in a “classified session” which senators are scheduled to attend Thursday.

The two programs in question, which were revealed last week in a series of breaking stories by the Guardian—which had obtained the information by Edward Snowden, an employee of the contracted security firm Booz Allen—are supposedly distinct and are theoretically justified by different laws.

The first, justified under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, collects the phone records of millions of Americans, but reportedly does not examine at their content. The other, known as PRISM, is justified under Section 702 of the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act and is meant to surveil the online communications of people believed not to be inside the United States.

However, as Alexander explained during yesterday’s hearing, it is difficult, in practice, to separate them. “The reality is, they work together,” Alexander said.

Senators yesterday were specifically concerned about a top secret court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, disclosed last week by the Guardian, which allows the NSA to obtain daily records of all domestic calls made by Verizon customers and could, under certain interpretations, justify a similar collection of email and IP data.

CNET’s Declan McCullagh explains:

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/13-0

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