While the Senate may have passed legislation restricting certain provisions in the PATRIOT Act, the NSA can still spy on American citizens without a warrant. Not only has President Obama ignored the privacy concerns of individuals and families across the country, he actually expanded the reach of the NSA’s spying capabilities.
Without public notice or debate, the Obama administration has expanded the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international Internet traffic to search for evidence of malicious computer hacking, according to classified N.S.A. documents.
In mid-2012, Justice Department lawyers wrote two secret memos permitting the spy agency to begin hunting on Internet cables, without a warrant and on American soil, for data linked to computer intrusions originating abroad — including traffic that flows to suspicious Internet addresses or contains malware, the documents show.
The Justice Department allowed the agency to monitor only addresses and “cybersignatures” — patterns associated with computer intrusions — that it could tie to foreign governments. But the documents also note that the N.S.A. sought permission to target hackers even when it could not establish any links to foreign powers.
While government officials claim these new powers are meant to protect the public from foreign threats, civilian data will continue to be mass collected.
It is not clear what standards the agency is using to select targets. It can be hard to know for sure who is behind a particular intrusion — a foreign government or a criminal gang — and the N.S.A. is supposed to focus on foreign intelligence, not law enforcement.
The government can also gather significant volumes of Americans’ information — anything from private emails to trade secrets and business dealings — through Internet surveillance because monitoring the data flowing to a hacker involves copying that information as the hacker steals it.
This power grab comes on the heels of the FBI admitting that mass snooping hasn’t helped to prevent any major terror attack from occurring.