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New documents reveal secret court is allowing NSA to spy on Americans without a warrant

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 21st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A review of leaked documents reveal that judges have signed off on broad orders that permit the NSA to use the private communication of American citizens if that data is gleaned "inadvertently." No warrant is required to use such data.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - All it takes is an "innocent" mistake, and the NSA can "inadvertently" monitor the private communications of any American citizen without a warrant. This is according to documents that reveal judges have signed off on broad orders granting such latitude.

Although the data collection program, known by the codename PRISM, is designed to target foreign communications, it can also collect domestic communications provided the data is collected "inadvertently."

The court signing off on these orders is a secret court, set up with the purpose of protecting Americans from precisely this surveillance. Yet, without public knowledge of the court's existence and virtually no oversight, the court itself has become part of the apparatus and is granting broad powers to the NSA.

The court is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA).

The top secret documents reveal both how the NSA is expected to determine if a communication is foreign, and how the NSA is supposed to "minimize" data collection from U.S. citizens.

The documents also reveal that the NSA can keep data collected on people for up to five years and access the content of communications between citizens to determine if they are based in the U.S. or overseas. The latter is done ostensibly to remove individuals from the surveillance net.

What is most troubling isn't what's happened so far. It's that the entire program was kept secret, is governed by a secret court, and has the power to do much worse, if it should ever be desired. The continued obscurity that protects the program also affords room for speculation that it could be doing worse, and we simply do not know. Even whistleblower Edward Snowden may not have had full information on the program's doings, and it could be doing much more than we imagine.

There's simply no way of knowing. However, we do know that it is exceptionally powerful and every individual is a potential suspect.

A great trust has been broken between the government and the American people. Even the most na´ve individual must now surely see that the current administration and our secret agencies are bound to conduct programs that would disturb us if we knew about them.

Of course, it isn't the things we know about that bother us so much. It's the things we don't know about.

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