Why Edward Snowden's Big Leak Won't Change Anything About How The NSA Does Business

NSANeverSleepsNSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland

National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden says he orchestrated what may be the most significant leak in U.S. history to resist the “massive surveillance machine [the U.S. government is] secretly building.”But the people that could potentially compel greater transparency and oversight aren’t willing and/or able to do so.

The President
The New York Times reports that the president could welcome the domestic spying debate through declassification and disclosure of aspects of the program, but the administration is unwilling.

A senior U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press that, despite backlash caused by the leaks so far, there were no plans to scrap any of its programs.

The agency itself
The NSA has an official mandate is to listen to and decode all foreign communications of interest to the security of the U.S.

But after 9/11 the NSA also reportedly began intercepting 1.7 billion American electronic records and communications every day by “living on” the network.

The globe’s largest spy agency would surely resist any pressure to change right before it debuts a system that will empower it more.

In October the NSA will begin data-mining at a $2 billion Utah Data centre, with help in Tennessee from the Titan Supercomputer — reportedly the most powerful computer the world has ever known.

And CIA Chief Technology Officer Ira Hunt said during a March presentation that the agency “fundamentally [tries] to collect everything and hang on to it forever.

NSAThe NSA’s Utah Data centre

Congress
In December legislators rejected attempts to add oversight and privacy safeguards to the FISA amendment when they extended it.

And as of 2008 FISA, which allows federal agencies to eavesdrop on communications based on a secret warrant process, has provided “retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that assisted the Bush administration in its warrantless wiretapping program.”

Tech companies
Michale Hirsch of The Atlantic reports that Silicon Valley — home to tech giants who are routinely targeted by the NSA — is entrenched in the U.S. spying apparatus as it had a big hand in building it.

Michael V. Hayden, the director of the NSA from 1999 to 2006, told Hirsch that the NSA began contracting private-sector companies to set up and administer the technical aspects of the surveillance programs.

The American people
The question going forward involves finding out what exactly the U.S. government is doing with the digital breadcrumbs of hundreds of millions of innocent Americans, and if the Americans care.

Right now the majority of Americans don’t care if the government conducts warrantless spying.

The bottom line
So unless the “dozens” of newsworthy documents leaked by Snowden convince America to stand up for privacy, follow Wuerlgler’s advice:

“Assume that somebody is listening,” he said. “Assume that someone is paying attention to your communications. That’s kind of the reality of it.”

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