Tags: Edward Snowden | NSA/Surveillance | nyt | us | snowden | broader | internet

NSA Secretly Expanded Internet Spying Powers

By    |   Thursday, 04 Jun 2015 02:51 PM

The Obama administration secretly expanded the National Security Agency's warrantless Internet surveillance program, monitoring the international Internet traffic of Americans in search of evidence of malicious computer hacking.

According to The New York Times, lawyers from the Justice Department wrote two secret memos giving authorization for the spy agency to monitor Internet cables without a warrant and on American soil. It gives the agency the power to look for data linked to breaches originating from overseas.

The agency was permitted to monitor only addresses and "cybersignatures" that could be tied to foreign governments. But the documents also indicate that the NSA was looking to target hackers even in cases when it could not establish links to foreign powers, the Times said.

The disclosures came from documents provided by former contractor Edward Snowden shared with the Times and ProPublica.

This week, the Senate passed legislation limiting some of the NSA's surveillance powers, however, the changes did not apply to the wireless wiretapping program.

Officials defend the agency's monitoring of suspected hackers, contending that it's a matter of protecting Americans from the activities of foreign governments but critics charge that the issue is not clear cut and should be the subject of public debate.

The NSA's activities run "smack into law enforcement land," said Jonathan Mayer, a cybersecurity scholar at Stanford Law School who researches privacy issues and reviewed several of the documents, according to the Times.

"That's a major policy decision about how to structure cybersecurity in the U.S. and not a conversation that has been had in public."

The Times said that it is unclear what standards the agency is using to select targets. In many cases, it is unclear whether a foreign government is the source of a breach or a criminal gang, yet the agency is supposed to focus on foreign intelligence, not law enforcement.

The NSA is able to gather a significant amount of information in people's emails because monitoring the data flowing to the hacker involves copying the information as the hacker steals it, the Times said.

The Obama administration maintains that the activities are lawful.

"It should come as no surprise that the U.S. government gathers intelligence on foreign powers that attempt to penetrate U.S. networks and steal the private information of U.S. citizens and companies," said Brian Hale, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to the Times.

He added that "targeting overseas individuals engaging in hostile cyberactivities on behalf of a foreign power is a lawful foreign intelligence purpose."

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The Obama administration secretly expanded the National Security Agency's warrantless Internet surveillance program, monitoring the international Internet traffic of Americans in search of evidence of malicious computer hacking.
nyt, us, snowden, broader, internet, spying
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2015-51-04
Thursday, 04 Jun 2015 02:51 PM
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