This article was published in Der Spiegel and contains some new details.
The Tempora program sounds scary. I posted a article a few days ago about it. Basically it is the UK version of Prism.
Interviewer: What is the mission of America’s National Security Agency (NSA) — and how is the job it does compatible with the rule of law?
Snowden: They’re tasked to know everything of importance that happens outside of the United States. That’s a significant challenge. When it is made to appear as though not knowing everything about everyone is an existential crisis, then you feel that bending the rules is okay. Once people hate you for bending those rules, breaking them becomes a matter of survival.
Interviewer: Are German authorities or German politicians involved in the NSA surveillance system?
Snowden: Yes, of course. We’re 1 in bed together with the Germans the same as with most other Western countries. For example, we 2 tip them off when someone we want is flying through their airports (that we for example, have learned from the cell phone of a suspected hacker’s girlfriend in a totally unrelated third country — and they hand them over to us. They 3 don’t ask to justify how we know something, and vice versa, to insulate their political leaders from the backlash of knowing how grievously they’re violating global privacy.
Interviewer: But if details about this system are now exposed, who will be charged?
Snowden: In front of US courts? I’m not sure if you’re serious. An investigation found the specific people who authorized the warrantless wiretapping of millions and millions of communications, which per count would have resulted in the longest sentences in world history, and our highest official simply demanded the investigation be halted. Who “can” be brought up on charges is immaterial when the rule of law is not respected. Laws are meant for you, not for them.
Interviewer: Does the NSA partner with other nations, like Israel?
Snowden: Yes. All the time. The NSA has a massive body responsible for this: FAD, the Foreign Affairs Directorate.
Interviewer: Did the NSA help to create Stuxnet? (Stuxnet is the computer worm that was deployed against the Iranian nuclear program.)
Snowden: NSA and Israel co-wrote it.
Interviewer: What are some of the big surveillance programs that are active today and how do international partners aid the NSA?
Snowden: In some cases, the so-called Five Eye Partners 4 go beyond what NSA itself does. For instance, the UK’s General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has a system called TEMPORA. TEMPORA is the signals intelligence community’s first “full-take” Internet buffer that doesn’t care about content type and pays only marginal attention to the Human Rights Act. It snarfs everything, in a rolling buffer to allow retroactive investigation without missing a single bit. Right now the buffer can hold three days of traffic, but that’s being improved. Three days may not sound like much, but remember that that’s not metadata. “Full-take” means it doesn’t miss anything, and ingests the entirety of each circuit’s capacity. If you send a single ICMP packet 5 and it routes through the UK, we get it. If you download something and the CDN (Content Delivery Network) happens to serve from the UK, we get it. If your sick daughter’s medical records get processed at a London call center … well, you get the idea.
This quote brings up the exact concerns I have with a Secret Court operating jn total privacy. Our Government to some respect was built on a series of checks and balances. The FISA court has no oversight and is not answerable to anyone. I did learn from reading this that Chief Justice Roberts (of the US Supreme Court) picks the 11 judges who comprise the FISA Court. I am not sure if there is a confirmation process for any potential judges. remember 1800 or so cases in front of FISA court last year they sided with the Government 100% of the time. Bringing a new meaning to the term ‘rubber stamp’. Lord help us all.
I’d like to think the phrase “secret law” is some kind democratic oxymoron, akin to a political-science experiment gone horribly awry.
In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say.
The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court’s classified decisions.
The rulings have been ended down by the 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — aka the FISA court — which saw its powers grow thanks to legislation approved with bipartisan majorities in the Bush/Cheney era.
What’s more, as Ezra Klein explained this morning, “When judges make the laws, Congress can always go back and remake the laws. The changes the court makes are public, and so is their reasoning. Both the voters and Congress know what the court has done, and can choose to revisit it…. [But the FISA court is] remaking the law in secret. The public has no opportunity to weigh in, and Congress can’t really make changes, because few know what the court is deciding, and almost no one can discuss the decisions without endangering themselves.”
Well, at least there’s some oversight when it comes to confirming the 11 jurists who sit on the FISA court, right? Wrong. All 11 judges were chosen solely by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who’ll maintain this power until he resigns or dies.
The usual rule governing searches is that they must be relevant to the case at hand. So how can FISA justify allowing the National Security Agency to sweep up phone records of millions of people who are under no suspicion at all? By redefining the word “relevant” to the point where it pretty much means “everything.” Phone numbers that people dialed, where they were calling from and the length of the conversations are all considered fair game under FISA’s interpretation of the Patriot Act. For FISA, the word “relevant” has become irrelevant.
The ability to use technology to keep tabs on people has been shooting ahead so fast it’s hard to keep track of the privacy implications. A recent Washington Post article, for example, reported that police have loaded more than 120 million driver’s license photos into searchable databases. Commercial services track what we look at on the Web, where we go and what we buy.
Interesting concerns that somewhat mirror mine.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to exercise authority over the surveillance activities of the United States government, has been issuing rulings that assess broad constitutional questions and establish judicial precedents, all without oversight, The New York Times has reported.
Among the most important is the court’s carving out of an exception to the requirement for a warrant for searches and seizures as laid out in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“I would not go so far as to say that the FISA court is acting unconstitutionally, but the absence of any review by the Supreme Court, combined with the secrecy and non-adversary process, pushes it into a constitutional gray area,” Evan Lee, a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, told TechNewsWorld.
All federal courts may interpret the Constitution, and this includes the power to recognize exceptions “when warranted by the text, history and structure of the document,” Lee continued. However, no court may amend the Constitution, and “it is troubling that the Supreme Court is not exercising any oversight of the FISA court’s Fourth Amendment rulings.”