Saturday 18 February 2017

Obama admin expanded NSA’s wiretap power just before leaving office, and it’s raising a lot of eyebrows

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While media attention was focused on then-President Barack Obama‘s mass pardons and commutations of sentences during the final days of his administration, he did something else that received little attention — but had a far more negative effect.

He gave the National Security Agency broader authority to share the worldwide signal information it collects.

The was first reported by The New York Times on January 12 — eight days before the hand-over in presidential power.

In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.

The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data. Essentially, the government is reducing the risk that the N.S.A. will fail to recognize that a piece of information would be valuable to another agency, but increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people.

Flynn, as it turned out, was the victim in recent days of a “well orchestrated effort” to oust him as President Donald Trump’s first choice as national security adviser.

Flynn and Obama had a rocky relationship. Two years ago, after Flynn served as the former president’s Defense Intelligence Agency director, he blasted the White House for pursuing what he saw as a “policy of willful ignorance” on the Iran nuke deal

And his resignation was the result of a leaked phone call between him and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a conversation he maintains crossed no legal or ethical boundaries.

“If I did, believe me, the FBI would be down my throat, my clearances would be pulled. There were no lines crossed,” he said in his final interview.

In addition, the NSA’s expansion of its information-sharing powers created Fourth Amendment privacy concerns.

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“Rather than dramatically expanding government access to so much personal data, we need much stronger rules to protect the privacy of Americans,” ACLU lawyer Patrick Toomey said. “Seventeen different government agencies shouldn’t be rooting through Americans’ emails with family members, friends and colleagues, all without ever obtaining a warrant.”


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