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Documents reveal Obama collecting more data than ever before on Americans

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

According to documents obtained by the Guardian, the Obama administration permitted the NSA to collect the email and internet usage of Americans for at least two years before the program was halted for "operational and resource reasons."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - For more than two years, the Obama administration collected data on American citizens including email and internet usage habits. The data was collected every 90 days under the authorization of the Foreign Intelligence Services Administration (FISA) court.

That court operated in secret and granted sweeping permissions to the security officials to conduct surveillance operations on foreigners and Americans alike, according to claims by Edward Snowden, a former contract worker for the NSA and secret documents leaked by him.

The collection of these records started under the Bush administration and continued apace under Obama until 2011 when the program was stopped for "operational and resource reasons."

Originally, the permissions only allowed the NSA to collect metadata on persons believed to be outside the United States, and those who were communicating with those outside the country. Later, like some horrifying slippery-slope scenario, those permissions allowed the NSA to collect data from Americans on American soil, even if they were communicating domestically.

The Guardian has gleaned this information from among the myriad documents leaked by Edward Snowden to the media following his flight from Hawaii to Hong Kong where he met secretly with a journalist to break the news of the existence of PRISM.

PRISM is a mass surveillance program in which the NSA monitors communications to detect the activities of potential terrorists. To be effective, it is believed that massive amounts of data must be collected and analyzed. This massive data haul is referred to as "metadata."

If agents detect something of interest, they have the ability to tap individual communications including phone conversations.

Privacy advocates say this violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

Although that program has ended, it is believed that the NSA is still harvesting massive amounts of Americans' online data, based on analysis of documents released by Snowden. Some documents apparently refer to a new capability to harvest much more data, collecting at least half to 75 percent of all world internet traffic including that of American citizens in the United States.

A leaked memo referring to that capability is dated as recently as December 26, 2012. The memo says traffic flowing through the program has already doubled.

Ultimately, Obama has doubled down on the Bush era surveillance program and is collecting far more data on far more Americans.

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