US’s history with illegal spying seems to repeat over and over. A newly declassified report brought another mass surveillance program conducted by the CIA to the surface.
This appears to be just another chapter of your violation to privacy – one that resembles too well with Snowden’s revelations on the NSA, without the figure of a whistleblower on center stage. The full report about the CIA’s surveillance remains classified thus far. Still, let’s hope it will at least lead to some answers as an open letter from senators Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich urges the agency to publicize the full scope of data collection.
Let’s uncover the full details of CIA’s bulk data collection and how it negatively impacts your privacy.
The Disturbing Picture of CIA’s Data Collection
A letter, written and sent on April 13th, 2021, by Senators Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich, requested the CIA to declassify PCLOB’s (Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board) report on a bulk collection program. Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee made this report public on February 10th. Yet, most details of the letter remain classified and neither the Biden administration, nor the CIA have been generous on why and how the spying program unfolded. At the same time, CIA officials stated they informed the congressional intelligence committees about this program. However, senators Wyden and Heinrich, as members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence mentioned they know nothing about it.
The aspects the letter revealed, though, are concerning, and as expected, they don’t tell a new story.
Digging into Americans’ Data the Unconstitutional Way
The Central Intelligence Agency’s collection of Americans’ private data has been unlawful, warrantless and without any oversight.
Bulk collection is the keyword in this surveillance scheme, noting the government (once again) gathered data on the entire population, not individuals or groups. Bulk collection only suggests “backdoor searches” of Americans, the same controversy that caused concerns about FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) with NSA’s surveillance from 2013.
This time though, CIA’s intrusive monitoring was authorized under Executive Order 12333, an order dating back to the Ronald Reagan era, and one that lacks a judicial oversight from courts, Congress, and even the executive branch itself. In other words, the CIA has unlimited power and freedom to monitor anyone, any time and as it sees fit.
Still, according to CIA’s regulations issued five years ago, intelligence officers have the legal obligation to detail and register the purpose of searches and intelligence gathering on American citizens. PCLOB notes the CIA has failed to enforce this rule.
To paint a more vivid picture of what ‘registering the purpose of searches’ entails, imagine an online pop-up box that appears on your computer screen, and you can’t close it unless you fill in an answer to a question. Based on the same system, intelligence officers were reminded to enter a purpose every time they were trying to find information about an American citizen. The only difference is that even if they entered a purpose, the system didn’t require them to save the reason behind their searches. Not only there’s no method to prevent CIA agents to pull up personal data on anyone, but there’s also no way to hold them accountable for illegitimate queries.
This is merely a violation of the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution: no reason for digging into troves of Americans’ data. Another intrusion refers to collecting the data itself, as it’s done on a large-scale basis to the American population.
As the CIA is committing several constitutional violations at the initial stages, Wyden and Heinrich’s letter suggests CIA’s noncompliance doesn’t stop there. The two senators have implied they suspect the CIA might remove data or hand it over to other government agencies.
All in all, it’s an unconstitutional maneuver that undermines Americans’ civil liberties one more time.
Hoping for More Transparency on Surveillance Projects
It’s safe to say that no one expects mass surveillance programs to cease anytime soon, especially in countries with a long history of espionage. Nevertheless, we can all hope to know the purpose of our privacy intrusion.
As senators Wyden and Heinrich wrote:
Among the many details the public deserves to know are the nature of the CIA’s relationship with its sources and the legal framework for the collection; the kind of records collected the amount of Americans’ records maintained; and the rules governing the use, storage, dissemination and queries (including US person queries) of the records.
In US’s case, an additional, natural step would be for Congress to include a new reform that limits CIA’s Executive Order 12333 on surveillance and make intelligence officers’ unlawful actions condemned by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
What are your thoughts on government mass surveillance programs? In what way do you believe they invade your privacy?
Let me know in the comments below.
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Posted on 25/02/2022 at 14:58
For some reason, things got upside down… logically, the people elect their government for they have to take care of what the people ask them to do, but sometime, somewhere, somehow, things got totally out of hands, and the worse, is that the people(dumbed down by their beloved government) didn’t react… so instead of having a pyramid shape with the people on top, telling the government what to do, which has the ‘to serve and protect’ law enforcement agencies… we now live in some paradigm where the people are nothing but slaves, with cops above them to baton, gas and sometimes just shoot them, controlled by some government who are just puppet because owned by some multinational corporation ruled by a handful of people no one knows who they are (no, tyhe rothschilds etc are just puppets to distract us from who really is in charge… they probably are near to impossible to find their name linked to anything of power… but these are definitely bloodlines going all the way back to ancient Persia, if not before that… who i9s in control of most education systems around the world? that would be a good lead to investigate, as who controls education controlled the world…zoroastrianism? possibly, but I would guess that putting the name of a religion on them would be an insult… they’ve achieved full enlightenment…climbed all the pyramid’s steps to be greated by the ‘eye’… not the eye spying on us through prism and echelon etc… the actual EYE… “I”
Posted on 28/02/2022 at 09:27
Indeed, we are living sort of dystopian times, more or less aware of it. Your arguments are very profound, couldn’t even know where to begin with, but indeed, things are related to the abuse of power and the information that is delivered to us, partly through education. What we are left with is hope and the strive to stay open minded, and constantly digging to find relevant and useful information. Our Privacy Hub was, is and will be our initiative to keep our readers informed about this kind of information that is related to people’s privacy and the violations of this right.
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