U.S. continues to spy on ordinary citizens

April 24, 2014 - 

During a recent trip to Europe, President Obama said that the U.S. intelligence community was not snooping on “ordinary citizens,” despite many indications to the contrary.

“I am confident that everybody in our intelligence agencies operates with the best of intentions and is not snooping into the privacy of ordinary Dutch, German, French or American citizens,” Obama told reporters during a multilateral summit in The Hague.

Obama said that due to spy revelations made by the former, renegade intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the U.S. “has to win back trust, not just of governments, but more importantly of ordinary citizens.”

While Obama recently committed to limiting intelligence collection on dozens of foreign heads of state that the U.S. officially deems friends and allies, it is concurrently evident that ordinary citizens continue to be caught up in a vast dragnet of surveillance that violates personal privacy.  Indeed, the U.S. intelligence community has not curbed its spying initiatives, but has continued to ramp them up.

How does the U.S. intelligence community continue to spy on ordinary folks?

Reportedly, the government is photographing all outside information on every piece of physical mail.  The U.S. also uses unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, to constantly patrol its northern and southern borders in complete anonymity.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), reauthorized provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act and other laws promulgated through executive order, also permit the U.S. Government to conduct extremely extensive and intrusive electronic surveillance.

Tactics include PRISM, a clandestine mass electronic surveillance data mining program unveiled through Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting, which purportedly is operated by the National Security Agency (NSA). In addition, other reporting recently disclosed that, in violation of FISA and the Constitution, the NSA maintains a database of all calls within U.S. borders and international calls, where one party is in the United States.

Further, the intelligence community recently completed its “Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center” located in Utah.  While the precise use of the facility is classified, the data center can conceivably be used as a storage and processing facility for extremely large amounts of sensitive intelligence data derived from PRISM.

The data center, with its capacity to store and process exabytes of data or higher, has the capability of storing every phone call made, along with collecting millions of phone and e-mail records.  According to whistleblowers, the intelligence community can also theoretically access the content and metadata from all digital communications, including controlling webcam and speakers on smartphones.  NSA reportedly even has backdoor access to multiple operating systems such as iOS, Android and Windows.

As a consequence, the White House has authorized the accelerated the use of “Big Data” techniques by allowing intelligence agencies to collate information about citizens from diverse sources, such as state and local government databases, flight records, casino-employee lists, and immigration records that incorporate personal and sensitive biometric data.

The government will quicken its efforts to analyze these numerous data sources, in order to develop “predictive pattern-matching” techniques to determine “suspicious” patterns of behavior.  Running “Big Data”-collating algorithms requires a tremendous amount of computing power, which can conceivably be supplied by the new data center.

Such a facility can also process other incoming types of data including data from the much written about TrapWire system, which digitally records video at surveillance points in major cities and landmarks across the United States in order to deliver instantaneous intelligence information to law enforcement agencies.

With all these methods of surveillance in effect, it is quite evident that the U.S. Government is continuing to snoop on ordinary folks, despite Presidential assurances to the contrary.

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About Rawlson King

Rawlson O’Neil King is a contributing editor at BiometricUpdate.com and is an experienced communications professional, management consultant, trade journalist and author who recently published a book about control and electronic networks and who has written numerous articles in trade publications and academic journals about smart home and building technologies. Follow him @rawlsonking2.