Yesterday The Hill posted an article about violations of the civil liberties of Americans under the Obama Administration. I will try to highlight the article here, but I strongly suggest following the link above to read the full article. It is chilling in the fact that it illustrates how people in high office can use their position to violate the rights of other Americans. It is a very unusual day when I am in agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union, but they are right in this case.
The article reports:
The National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation violated specific civil liberty protections during the Obama years by improperly searching and disseminating raw intelligence on Americans or failing to promptly delete unauthorized intercepts, according to newly declassified memos that provide some of the richest detail to date on the spy agencies’ ability to obey their own rules.
The memos reviewed by The Hill were publicly released on July 11 through Freedom of Information Act litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The article reminds us:
“Americans should be alarmed that the NSA is vacuuming up their emails and phone calls without a warrant,” said Patrick Toomey, an ACLU staff attorney in New York who helped pursue the FOIA litigation. “The NSA claims it has rules to protect our privacy, but it turns out those rules are weak, full of loopholes, and violated again and again.”
Section 702 empowers the NSA to spy on foreign powers and to retain and use certain intercepted data that was incidentally collected on Americans under strict privacy protections. Wrongly collected information is supposed to be immediately destroyed.
The Hill reviewed the new ACLU documents as well as compliance memos released by the NSA inspector general and identified more than 90 incidents where violations specifically cited an impact on Americans. Many incidents involved multiple persons, multiple violations or extended periods of time.
The NSA’s chief spokesman, Michael T. Halbig, stated, “Quite simply, a compliance program that never finds an incident is not a robust compliance program.” The NSA has also stated that the violations amount to a small percentage when compared to the hundreds of thousands of specific phone numbers and email addresses the agencies intercepted through the so-called Section 702 warrantless spying program created by Congress in late 2008. In my opinion that doesn’t help the NSA’s case–a violation is still a violation.
The article further states:
“CIA and FBI received unminimized data from many Section 702-tasked facilities and at times are thus required to conduct similar purges,” one report noted.
“NSA issued a report which included the name of a United States person whose identity was not foreign intelligence,” said one typical incident report from 2015, which said the NSA eventually discovered the error and “recalled” the information.
Likewise, the FBI disclosed three instances between December 2013 and February 2014 of “improper disseminations of U.S. persons identities.”
Some of our government officials need to be held accountable for this violation of the civil rights of Americans. The people in leadership in the NSA and the FBI during the time of these violations need to be removed from office if they are still there. Jail time would be appropriate. I would like to remind everyone that spying on American citizens is not an authorized government activity. Whether it was for political reasons or other purposes, there need to be consequences.