DISTURBING revelations about the voracious appetite of the National Security Agency for personal email and instant messaging accounts stir a basic question: Where is Congress and the executive branch?
Who is looking out for the rights of Americans? Apparently no one.
The NSA, which already legally collects U.S. call records, also collects contact lists. The Washington Post reports the agency is not authorized by Congress or the special intelligence court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to gather this data.
Collecting the information is illegal in the U.S., so the NSA does its work overseas. This is a variation on endlessly holding terror suspects in foreign jails and torturing them outside of U.S. legal restrictions.
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Irony of ironies, the NSA is collecting communications data at a volume that has imperiled the capacities of storage repositories.
Both Congress and the executive branch come off badly. Lawmakers are fully empowered to hold hearings, ask questions and rewrite budgets if they do not like the answers or outcomes. President Obama is absolutely responsible for how the money is spent, and this bald evasion of the law does not reflect well on the Harvard Law School grad.
Unnamed officials tell the Post that Americans should not be worried because the sleuths are only looking for links to terrorist plotters. All that personal stuff is safe.
Right, it is safe until some low-ranking employee with a big security clearance decides the world ought to know whom ordinary Americans are communicating with.
That kind of random decision is how Americans know about this profound level of surveillance; former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked the secrets before he fled to Russia.
Hundreds of millions of communication contacts could be dumped by someone else who perceives a higher purpose.
Get Congress involved, and wake up the White House.