The Court Overseeing NSA Spying Has Already Found It Violated The Constitution

uncle samBroken glass covers an armed forces recruiting poster at the scene of an explosion outside the U.S. Armed Forces Career centre in New York’s Times Square, March 6, 2008.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to give the government the benefit of the doubt in regards to dragnet domestic surveillance.

Even before Glenn Greenwald published a top secret court order compelling Verizon to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems and interviewed NSA whistleblower Eric Snowden, there were credible reports that the NSA was intercepting U.S. communications.

The most significant of those occurred in July, when the court that was established to “hear applications for and grant orders approving electronic surveillance,” called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), found that the NSA violated the Fourth Amendment’s restriction against unreasonable searches and seizures “on at least one occasion.”

Here’s the letter from Senator Ron Wyden:

“… on at least one occasion the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court held that some collection carried out pursuant to section 702 minimization procedures used by the government was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

We don’t know the details of the classified order, but it’s clear that it’s a very important aspect of the domestic spying apparatus that even the court overseeing the program found it straying into illegal territory.

Here’s the relevant text of the amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

So in violating that law, the NSA is violating the constitutional right to privacy provided to Americans.

Here’s a rundown of the other reports that corroborate Snowden’s claims:

  • Former spy Mike Frost told 60 minutes about a secret government surveillance network called Echelon, in which all electronic communications are captured and analysed for key words by super computers.
  • In April 2012 Wired’s James Bamford — author of the book “The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America” — reported how the U.S. government hired two secretive Israeli companies to wiretap AT&T.
  • AT&T engineer Mark Klein discovered the “secret room” at AT&T central office in San Francisco, through which the NSA actively “vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T” through the wiretapping rooms, emphasising that “much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic.”
  • NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake corroborated Klein’s assertions, testifying that the NSA is using Israeli-made hardware to “seize and save all personal electronic communications.”
  • William Binney — one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in NSA history — has been very vocal since building the original program that crunched that data to identify, in real time, networks of connections between individuals based on their electronic communications.

Individually, each one of those claims is both stunning and damning. Taken together, they suggest that America is a full-blown surveillance state where the government has decided to violate the fundamental rights of its citizens.

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