New Revelations Shed Light on Extent of NSA Spying Under Obama

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Top Tier Gear USA


In the waning years of the Obama administration, the National Security Agency (NSA) swept up and reviewed the communications of Americans to an extent previously unknown, in direct violation of the Constitution and its own revised guidelines, recently unsealed documents reveal.

The NSA is authorized to collect intelligence on foreigners under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). With this type of intelligence collection, it is virtually inevitable that Americans’ communications will be incidentally intercepted, however there are procedures in place to keep those communications protected and anonymous.

Typically, when an American citizen is swept up in NSA surveillance, they are supposed to be “masked” to protect their identity, but there are large loopholes in place that allow the NSA to spy on Americans without a warrant or any probable cause whatsoever.

When the NSA conducts what is known as “upstream collection” of internet communications, it is impossible to target a single email, instead sweeping up “packets” of data containing several messages. The NSA is supposed to sift through the data packets and discard all but the targeted email(s).

That alone poses some privacy issues, as before they are discarded the NSA can momentarily see the contents of the communications, but, when coupled with the NSA’s targeting practices, the problem expands to a serious violation of American constitutional rights.

Before the “sift and discard” procedure takes place, upstream collections are stored in databases which the NSA uses when it seeks intelligence on a particular target. To find what it is looking for, the agency enters key terms, known as “selection terms,” usually an email address or phone number related to the target. However, for years American intelligence agencies have not only looked at communications to and from a targeted individual, but any communication related to the target. That means the NSA has a much wider berth to analyze Americans’ communications.

In summary, the NSA incidentally collects and stores intelligence on Americans when conducting surveillance on foreign targets. The information is supposed to either be masked or discarded, but the way the NSA uses its databases allows the agency to get around the rules and essentially spy on American citizens.

But that is only the beginning.

In 2011, FISA procedures for the masking of American citizens’ identity were proving insufficient, most notably the use of identifiers of Americans as “selection terms” in NSA database searches. This prompted a rule change that “categorically prohibited NSA analysts from using U.S.-person identifiers to query the results of upstream Internet collection,” a FISA court opinion said.

After that change in procedure, the NSA was not supposed to use American selection terms in searching through its database of intercepted communications, but the agency did not follow the rules. The use of American identifiers was so widespread after the 2011 revision that by the time the Obama administration came to an end, the scope of the violations had still not been determined.

“The rules from 2011 forward were simple: Do not use American identifiers,” writes National Review’s Andrew McCarthy. “Yet NSA used them — not once or twice because some new technician didn’t know better. This violation of law was routine and extensive, known and concealed.”

There was a three-fold increase in NSA data searches about Americans in 2011, the same year the masking procedures were supposed to be revised and improved.

According to internal documents obtained by Circa’s John Soloman and Sara Carter, the illegal spying may involve up to 5 percent, or one in 20, of all NSA database searches derived from upstream collection, what amounts to a massive quantity of data.

The Obama administration was aware of the abuses, but did not disclose them until late October 2016, just months before the former president left office.

Under a court deadline to renew surveillance authorities under FISA, officials in the Obama administration apparently stalled and stonewalled to such an extent that the court would accuse the administration of “an institutional lack of candor” regarding “a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.”

In an attempt to ensure that only foreign communications are targeted, Trump’s DOJ has proposed a new change in procedures which have been approved by the FISA court. That change would eliminate searches that pertain to anything about the target in question, limiting the NSA to searching only for people in direct communication with the target.

Adding to the list of unauthorized wars in seven countries, an unprecedented crackdown on whistle blowers, other NSA spying abuses, targeting political enemies with the IRS and a number of other scandals, the Obama administration has left behind quite the legacy.

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  • Since the NSA is a military agency and Obama was reducing the size thereof…

  • SP_88

    The Obama administration left behind a legacy of criminal rights violations, radical Islamic terrorists who infiltrated the Obama administration and powerful positions within the government, an economy that is on life support and is about to flat line, and a healthcare system that is in a death spiral.
    Our previous president, Mr. Obama, was a miserable failure at best, and at worst he did all this damage to our country on purpose. Obviously I believe the latter. There is no way that someone could ever be so stupid that they have no idea that their horrible policies would have such a negative impact on us. So he must have done everything he did on purpose.
    The arrests and prosecutions of these crooked politicians should start at the top. The criminals at the highest levels of government should be arrested and made an example of first.
    But because he is only one of many criminals in Washington, he will never be held accountable. So don’t get your hopes up waiting for him or anyone else to be arrested and charged with a crime related to these latest revelations about the NSA and their criminal violations of our privacy and our rights, or any other crimes they are guilty of.

    • Francesjtabor

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    • Edithgreed

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    • Bill Kay

      How many times have I had the exact same thoughts , He and the rest of his Iliget crew need to face the music for there deeds against the USA , heavy penelties for sedition .

      • SP_88

        Of course. But it never happens. At best, some low level government official will be made into a scapegoat. At worst, nothing happens to anyone, and business as usual continues.
        But we all know that it’s the criminals at the top who are the most guilty of these blatant criminal acts.
        It’s the president, Attorney General, Secretary of State, etc who are the most corrupt. And everyone below them who goes along with them is just as guilty.
        Draining the swamp needs to start at the top.

        • Bill Kay

          There are solutions for Treason someone has to have the guts to make the perps pay the price / get some one in there that can do the job to rid the gov of the rats .

          • When enough of the people who are responsible for enforcing the law are criminals, there will be very little enforcement of the law against them.

          • Bill Kay

            It makes no difference how many there are how do ya eat an Elephant . ONE Bite at a time and just keep biting until they are all gone !

          • If all you have are elephants and elephants won’t eat elephants…

          • Bill Kay

            Then get a hungry Lion to finish them off .

          • Lions are generally not scavengers.

  • Milly Vanilly

    ASIDE from all OUR tax dollars going toward these investigations WHAT will actually happen to the perpeTRATORS of these CRIMES ? NOT a damn thing, business as usual.

    • Innocuous


    • Bill Kay

      What should happen is a convection of treason and lets go from there .

  • Imperium
  • Wee Willie Wacko

    This is probably the main and primary reason why Jared Kushner looked for other ways and means for the Trump Campaign to communicate with itself and Trump supporters.
    Hence, the secure service of an outside source,…knowing that the lines in the domestic U.S. networks were tapped and spied upon…illegally, I might add!
    So it was necessary to navigate around the tapped and compromised network using secure third party options.
    Well done, Jared! 🙂
    God Bless President Trump!!

  • Ken, Megapolis

    I expect my own UK Gubmint to be a little meddling but one is annoyed that there are groups and bodies in America and Israel that have complete access to my family’s births, marriages and deaths, our health records, financial transactions, court proceedings, employment history (or lack of due to recession).
    Whatever I am daft enough to post online, that is public by default. I understand that. Same for Facebook. Come look at me. You have the mega dollar budget for this. In other words I called the intelligence services a bunch of fucking cunts.
    What you gonna do about it?

  • Not surprising at all. Fuck this country.

  • Researcher

    Why do we not have a special prosecutor looking into this?