The NSA often gets in through the back door.
Section 702 surveillance program falls under the Foreign Surveillance Act (FISA). It was meant to serve as a tool to target foreigners abroad. But the standard for determining if a target resides outside the US sits very low. It only requires that agents “reasonably believe” that the individual lives abroad. As a result, spies frequently vacuum up Americans’ data.
The ACLU recently released an analysis of a report published by a government body known as the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). Not surprisingly, the PCLOB placed its seal of approval on Section 702, concluding backdoor searches are permitted. ACLU analyst Neema Singh Guliani points out the tremendous potential for abuse inherent in this section.
Once the government has collected this information, it stores it in enormous databases and can — through the “backdoor” search loophole — search it specifically for information about persons in the United States. In other words, even if officials claim they didn’t intend to collect information about you, once they have it, they can deliberately comb through it.
She goes on to write,
Unfortunately, the PCLOB, Congress, and the NSA apparently have no idea how often the information of people inside the United States is collected. What we do know, however, is that in 2013, over 250 million internet communications alone were swept up under Section 702. And, in 2013, the NSA conducted approximately 9,500 searches involving terms associated with U.S. citizens or legal residents. That number doesn’t include queries by the CIA and FBI.
To read the complete ACLU analysis of the PCLOB report, click HERE.