Could you, your interests, your activities, your contacts be under the watchful gaze of the federal government? Many people suspicious that the feds regularly engage in domestic spying would answer, “yes, of course.” But even these folks might be surprised to learn that Uncle Sam has reportedly developed and deployed its own powerful google-like search engine known as ICREACH:
ICREACH contains information on the private communications of foreigners and, it appears, millions of records on American citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing. Details about its existence are contained in the archive of materials provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The above is an excerpt from an investigative report by The Intercept. The eye-opening piece goes into disturbing detail about the alleged activities of the National Security Agency, which reportedly shares the data it gathers on citizens with local law enforcement.
Legal experts told The Intercept they were shocked to learn about the scale of the ICREACH system and are concerned that law enforcement authorities might use it for domestic investigations that are not related to terrorism.
“To me, this is extremely troublesome,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. “The myth that metadata is just a bunch of numbers and is not as revealing as actual communications content was exploded long ago—this is a trove of incredibly sensitive information.”
Ever since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began disclosing secrets on the spy agency’s activities, the NSA has argued that its mission and its methods are vital to national security. However, a number of critics, including quite a few on Capitol Hill, question whether the NSA goes too far in spying on American citizens.
From the Washington Post:
…the Obama administration told a federal judge that even after the disclosures of Edward Snowden, a legal battle over the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program poses a grave threat to national security. A declaration by acting Deputy NSA Director Frances Fleisch argues that litigating a constitutional challenge from the Electronic Frontier Foundation could reveal operational details of NSA surveillance programs, tipping off terrorists to the best ways to evade detection.
Fleisch’s argument suggests that the agency expects the American people to simply trust it to use its vast spying powers responsibly without meaningful public oversight. That’s not how domestic surveillance is supposed to work.
Traditionally, domestic surveillance powers were held by law enforcement agencies, not the NSA. And the existence of the spying powers were not secret. Everyone knows that the FBI and local police departments have the power to compel telecommunications companies to disclose their customers’ communications. But first they must get a warrant, supported by probable cause, from a judge. That oversight gives Americans confidence that domestic surveillance powers won’t be abused.
Image Credit: Brian A. Jackson | shutterstock.com
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