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How long has all this snooping been going on?

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

With the unveiling of two ultra-secret government surveillance programs that targets average U.S. citizens with telephone surveillance - ostensibly to prevent terrorist acts on U.S. soil, many Americans are justifiably angry. The question of the hour appears to be - how long has thing unwarranted and unauthorized snooping been going on - and why?

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The incident has brought forth anger from some congressional lawmakers and admonitions for calm from others. In the meantime, Americans whose phone records were being compiled by the National Security Agency now want to know what justified the information gathering.

Who is listening to my calls?


According to government officials, no one's calls are being listened to under the program described in the document published by The Guardian newspaper this week. The program, they say, collects "telephony metadata," an obtuse phrasing that means when you call to order a pizza, the government may record your number, the number of the pizzeria, the location of the two numbers, and the time of the call.

"The program does not allow the government to listen in on anyone's phone calls. The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the identity of any subscriber," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement.

Who's reading my emails?


A secret government program called PRISM allows intelligence agencies to peek into the servers of top tech companies and look at emails, video, photos, and other types of documents.

The process, according to officials, is called "data collection" as opposed to "data mining." Companies allegedly involved in the program denied giving the government "direct access" to their servers.

"We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully," Google said in a statement echoed in substance by other companies named in connection with PRISM. "From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a 'back door' for the government to access private user data."

What gives the government the power for these programs?


The Patriot Act, which was passed in 2001, is the justification for the phone and Internet data-collection programs. Renewed in 2006 and 2011, granted expanded surveillance powers in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11. The order requesting records from Verizon relied on the "business records" section of the Patriot Act.

What was the government looking for in all those calls?

The government cast a wide net because they wanted to be able to perform searches to see if a person had been in touch with people overseas thought to be connected to terrorist activities.

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