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Is surveillance of ALL Americans protecting us from terrorism?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 7th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

While terrorism from abroad remains a concern, some Americans are beginning to wonder, if perhaps, the enemy is from within. The National Security Agency's seemingly ruthless monitoring of Americans includes customer records from the three major phone networks in addition to emails and Web searches. The agency also catalogs credit-card transactions, people familiar with the agency's activities say. Is this loss of privacy keeping Americans safe - and free?

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The disclosure this week of an order by a secret U.S. court for Verizon Communications Inc.'s phone records sent up flags. But people familiar with the agency's operations said the initiative also encompasses phone-call data from AT&T and Sprint Nextel Corp. records from Internet-service providers and purchase information from credit-card providers.

The Obama administration says this is a "necessary tool" in protecting the nation from terror threats. Is this the "new normal" or has the Obama administration pushed the bounds of civil liberties?

The agency continues to use its secret access to the communications of millions of Americans to target possible terrorists, those familiar with the effort say.

While the agency's efforts have become institutionalized, many of their efforts have been kept under wraps under laws passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Most members of Congress defended them as a way to root out terrorism, but civil-liberties groups decried the program.

"Everyone should just calm down and understand this isn't anything that is brand new," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D. - Nev.) says, who added that the phone-data program has "worked to prevent" terrorist attacks.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D. - Calif.) said the program is lawful and that it must be renewed by the secret U.S. court every three months. The revelations about Verizon, as reported by the London-based newspaper the Guardian, seemed to coincide with its latest renewal, she says.

Civil-liberties activists have denounced the agency's actions. "The most recent surveillance program is breathtaking. It shows absolutely no effort to narrow or tailor the surveillance of citizens," Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University says.

The Obama administration has since acknowledged this week that a secret agency program dubbed "Prism," targets only foreigners. The program and was authorized under U.S. surveillance law.

The Washington Post and the Guardian newspapers had earlier reported the existence of the previously undisclosed program, which was described as providing the NSA and FBI direct access to server systems operated by tech companies that include Google Inc., Apple Inc., Yahoo, Microsoft and Skype.

The newspapers cited what they said was an internal NSA document, said the agencies received the contents of emails, file transfers and live chats of the companies' customers as part of their surveillance activities of foreigners whose activity online is routed through the U.S. The companies mentioned denied knowledge or participation in the program.

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