Government documents released last week reveal British authorities can access data collected by foreign agencies, including the NSA, without a warrant.
According to National Journal reporter Dustin Voltz, this means the Brits likely have access to Americans’ data and communications.
“The agreement between the NSA and Britain’s spy agency, known as Government Communications Headquarters or GCHQ, potentially puts the Internet and phone data of Americans in the hands of another country without legal oversight when obtaining a warrant is ‘not technically feasible.’”
GCHQ was forced to release the documents in a court case. They reveal that the agency “can request and receive vast quantities of raw, unanalyzed data collected from foreign governments.”
Voltz wrote that it remains unclear whether the U.S. places any restrictions on the data it shares. But last year The Guardian reported on documents leaked by Edward Snowden that indicated that the NSA shares raw intelligence data with Israel without removing information about U.S. citizens.
The NSA released a statement to the National Journal claiming everything remains “legal” and above board.
“Whenever NSA shares intelligence information, we comply with all applicable rules, including rules designed to safeguard U.S. person information. NSA does not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the U.S. government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself.”
Of course, the NSA’s idea of “legal” often diverges from the reality of “legal,” and their adherence to their own rules does nothing to actually protect your privacy.
ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer seemed less than impressed with NSA assurances.
“The ‘arrangement’ disclosed today suggests that the two countries are circumventing even the very weak safeguards that have been put in place,” he said in a statement to National Journal. “It underscores both the inadequacy of existing oversight structures and the pressing need for [surveillance] reform.”
And yet, even with more than a year of revelations following on the heels of the latest revelation, reform still appears a hazy dream on the distant horizon. Snowden stirred up plenty of outrage, but little in the way of action in Washington D.C. Heck, Sen. Frank Church warned Congress of the potential for “total tyranny” back in the 1970s. And yet that august body has failed to initiate substantive reforms for nearly 40 years.
Now activists have pinned their hopes on the federal courts.
This strategy will likely end in failure as well.
Ending illegal mass surveillance will take radical action. OffNow offers just such a strategy. Instead of begging the political class inside the Beltway to reform its own spy programs, we will apply pressure and force change. We will cut off the NSA from necessary resources at the state and local level. We will end their recruiting programs. We will pressure private companies to fall on the side of privacy.
Think of it as civil disobedience utilizing the existing power centers of state and local government.
These drastic violations of our rights call for drastic measures. Take action today!