The NSA Is Still Untamed by the Constitution

The NSA made the news twice in a way that shows it is still a lawless organization.

Several republican candidates are running on a “We need the NSA to keep us safe and it is all Constitutional” platform. Hillary Clinton is not saying anything substantial about it yet, but it is more than likely that she will adopt the same platform.

Matt Purple writes at Rare.US: “Two incidents last week proved the NSA is completely out of control.”

One incident was reported in the Washington Post. According to the story innocent people who were suspected of nothing were spied on even though they had done nothing wrong:

The Washington Post recently leafed through many of the documents leaked by Edward Snowden and reported this last week:

Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents.

Those “other details” were, in some cases, disturbingly personal:

Among the latter are medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. In one photo, a young girl in religious dress beams at a camera outside a mosque.

Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risque poses in shorts and bikini tops.

This confirms what privacy advocates have suspected for some time: the NSA may not be directly targeting the innocent, but that’s hardly a guarantee it’s not sweeping up private information.

[See also, “Edward Snowden Empowered Congress to Deal with the NSA.”]

The other incident, according to the Guardian, was that Wikileaks showed that the NSA had indeed spied on the German government.

The last time we checked in on the Germans, they were releasing a report claiming the United States probably didn’t spy on Merkel. The latest from Wikileaks contradicts their conclusion, which raises the question of whether they were obfuscating for the sake of U.S.-German relations. It wouldn’t be unprecedented. A United States senator who sits on the Intelligence Committee once personally assured me that allegations of NSA espionage against Merkel were bunk. The government has been spinning on this for so long, it’s a miracle Washingtonians can still stand up.

The NSA is so entangled in lawlessness and secrecy, it is impossible to say for sure how much they have spied on people.