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PRISM precursor programs sparked concerns, potential resignations under Bush

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 17th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The program that eventually would become PRISM, began under President George W. Bush, and was not as comprehensive as it is today. During the Bush administration, officials threatened to resign over the nature of the program, which even then intended to collect internet and phone metadata. Today, the sweeping program asks the American people to rely on trust that it is protecting their liberties.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - New information from classified documents and interviews with NSA officials has revealed the history of the NSA's surveillance programs and the controversy it stirred within the highest ranks of the Bush administration when it was first proposed in 2004.

At that time, Acting Attorney General James B. Comet and other top leadership from the Justice Department were prepared to resign over a precursor program codenamed STELLARWIND. These officials had deep misgivings about the program as proposed, forcing President Bush to change the program to suit their scruples.

What remains unknown is what changes were made, and what was eventually approved by Comey and the Justice Department.

What is known is that STELLARWIND was succeeded by no less than four programs that collected data across the entire spectrum of communication, including phone and internet communication.

Foreigners were the intended targets of these policies, however it was evident that Americans would quickly be caught up in the net and their data collected.

According to a senior intelligence official interviewed by the Washington Post, who declined to be named, there's great oversight of the operations. "We have rich oversight across three branches of government. I've got an [inspector general] here, a fairly robust legal staff here . . . and there's the Justice Department's national security division," the official said. "For those things done under court jurisdiction, the courts are intrusive in my business, appropriately so, and there are two congressional committees. It's a belts-and-suspenders-and-Velcro approach, and inside there's rich auditing."

The problem is that we are left to accept his word. Nobody from the halls of Congress to the citizen on the street really knows any details of the oversight or if it is truly adequate.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has called for "straight answers" from the intelligence community.

It is now known that massive amounts of "metadata" are collected daily by PRISM, aggregated and analyzed to reveal possible terrorist activity. Information is drawn from Silicon Valley sources including Google, as well as the major phone carriers, such as Verizon.

According to Edward Snowden who broke the veil of secrecy on the project, the entire project is "kept in check by nothing more than policy."

Naturally, policy can change based on world events and who occupies the White House.

The NSA has been revealed to be paying major communications providers for their data and spent an undisclosed sum for it in 2009 according to a classified, leaked document from the NSA inspector general.

At least one unknown organization "preferred to be compelled to do so by a court order" meaning that someone told the NSA no and had to be forced.

However, the NSA is collecting metadata, which is aggregated information that isn't necessarily tied to specific individuals.

What is understood is that there appears to be some form of oversight, but neither the public, nor Congress knows just what that oversight is, or if it is sufficiently robust to protect the liberties of all American citizens.   The NSA simply refuses to comment on the issue.

Without that information, the public is being asked to trust the government, something that the public should do less of anyway.

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