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NSA quietly expands surveillance of Americans

NSA quietly expands surveillance of Americans
photo courtesy of SHUTTERSTOCK

The NSA has more spying powers than we thought. According to a recent report from The New York Times, the Obama Administration secretly expanded NSA spying powers back in 2012 when the Justice Department quietly issued two memos that gave the NSA permission to monitor Americans' international Web traffic without a warrant.

The Justice Department issued the memos to help the NSA track down foreign hackers targeting the U.S. It gave the NSA the ability to track Internet traffic related to foreign cyberattacks.

The Justice Department allowed the agency to monitor only addresses and “cybersignatures” — patterns associated with computer intrusions — that it could tie to foreign governments. But the documents also note that the N.S.A. sought permission to target hackers even when it could not establish any links to foreign powers.

The FBI also co-opted the system to aid in its own cybersecurity investigations.

To carry out the orders, the F.B.I. negotiated in 2012 to use the N.S.A.’s system for monitoring Internet traffic crossing “chokepoints operated by U.S. providers through which international communications enter and leave the United States,” according to a 2012 N.S.A. document.

Even if you're not involved in any illegal activity, the NSA could have your data, though. That's because the agency copies the information being stolen by hackers that it's keeping tabs on.

The government can also gather significant volumes of Americans’ information — anything from private emails to trade secrets and business dealings — through Internet surveillance because monitoring the data flowing to a hacker involves copying that information as the hacker steals it.

If your data is collected while the NSA is surveilling a foreign target, the government can use that information as evidence during the case.

Something needs to be done to combat foreign hackers who are taking aim at the U.S. government and American businesses. But, that doesn't mean it's OK to compromise the privacy of everyday citizens.

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