In the memo, the NSA conceded that the Fourth Amendment was just as applicable in the nascent "information age" as it was in the pre-internet era.
“The Fourth Amendment is as applicable to eSIGINT as it is to the SIGINT of yesterday and today,” it wrote. “The Information Age will however cause us to rethink and reapply the procedures, policies and authorities born in an earlier electronic surveillance environment.”In 2001, before September 11th, the NSA pushed for the incoming Bush administration to "rethink" the protections against unwarranted 'search & seizure" afforded all American citizens by the Fourth Amendment. It argued that it needed new authority to accommodate the agency's emerging technological capabilities.
Later declassified and posted online by George Washington University's National Security Archive, the NSA evidently considered the Bush administration would be open to the changes.
So, in actuality, the NSA thought marginalizing the Constitution was easier than asking Congress to tailor new laws that complied with the Fourth Amendment, which would protect the country from cyber threats at the same time it protected We the People from rampant government intrusion. They wanted to take the easy way, the way of secrecy, as opposed to the traditional (and legal) way.
Americans learned about one upshot of NSA’s philosophy this week when Washington acknowledged two of its subsequent surveillance programs: One that tracks the phone records of millions of Americans and one that accesses the servers of several major Internet companies, including Facebook, Google and Apple. The revelations were first reported by Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post.It's interesting to note here that the quotation marks around “protected” appear in the original memo.
NSA’s memo continued: “Make no mistake, NSA can and will perform its missions consistent with the Fourth Amendment and all applicable laws. But senior leadership must understand that today’s and tomorrow’s mission will demand a powerful, permanent presence on a global telecommunications network that will host the ‘protected’ communications of Americans as well as the targeted communications of adversaries.”
Judging from recent revelations regarding the NSA's blanket surveillance programs -- both the phone-tracking and Prism internet monitoring programs -- apparently, U.S. officials continue to take to heart the NSA's dreamy interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. The NSA has been allowed to collect the records of everyone in the country instead of narrowly searching for communications of suspected terrorists and those supporting them. Since 2006, the agency has had carte blanche in personal electronic data collection, data collection apparently sanctioned by all three branches of government.
On Friday, President Obama publicly defended the surveillance program during his trip to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and 0 percent inconvenience,” he said. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a country. What you can say is, in evaluating these programs, they make a difference to anticipate and prevent possible terrorist activity.”Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also made a rare statement regarding the program preceding the president's china trip:
Obama said there was robust oversight over NSA’s monitoring — Congress knows about the surveillance, as do the judges on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. If critics don’t trust all three branches of the government to check and balance each other, Obama said, “we’re going to have some problems here.”
“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.”Was that before or after he flat-out lied to Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore)?
The memo also described what the NSA said was a catastrophic network outage back in January 2000:
“The need for action was underscored in January 2000 when NSA experienced a catastrophic network outage for 3 ½ days,” the memo said. “The outage greatly reduced the signals intelligence information available to national decision makers and military commanders. As one result, the president’s daily briefing — 60 percent of which is normally based on SIGINT — was reduced to a small portion of its typical size.”What's really
NSA, it said elsewhere, “must live on the network.”
And that's not just wrong... it's also subversive.
We need to push for a full [televised] congressional investigation.