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We need oversight to stop NSA cheating – former intel analyst

Published time: January 18, 2014 15:28
An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland. (Reuters)

An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland. (Reuters)

​The NSA needs oversight to ensure the NSA adheres to the reforms announced by President Obama, a former analyst has said. The US president curtailed the NSA’s mass gathering of metadata which had been branded as “unconstitutional” on Friday.

Fresh off the back of Obama’s announcement the NSA would have to obtain court permission to access the NSA’s treasure trove of metadata, whistleblower Kirk Wiebe gave his reaction to the proposed changes. Although he admitted he was “cautiously optimistic” about the overhaul, he insisted that there was no way of verifying if the NSA implements any changes.

“The NSA has existed for 61 years. It has blatantly violated its charter – the law – for 41 years of that time and has only been relatively clean for about 21 years,” said former NSA senior analyst Kirk Wiebe at a Washington conference. Given the agency’s checkered record, he said there was desperate need for oversight.

Wiebe suggested that the government hire a group of “techies” and give them computers and clearances so they can “delve” into the NSA’s databases and verify that data is not being collected, analyzed and “given to people to whom it should not be.”

“Until we have that kind of oversight the cheating that has gone on for the last 40-odd years of its existence is going to happen again.”

Without any system of verification “we have nothing in the way of progress for privacy” in the US, said Wiebe adding that Obama did not give any mention to an oversight system in his speech on Friday.

In spite of the US government’s claims that it only gathers metadata, Wiebe insisted said there was undeniable evidence the security agency also gathers content in huge swathes. Referencing the Guardian report on the NSA’s collection of hundreds of millions of text messages every day, he pointed out the president did not say a word about the practice.

‘Redefining the constitution’

The American constitution protects all its citizens’ right to privacy unless there is a “probably cause” that would allow for such a violation, Wiebe said. However, he suggests that the NSA has “redefined the fourth amendment” by replacing “probable cause” with “reasonable suspicion.”

“General Haydon – the former director of the NSA – was the first one to redefine the constitution in front of a reporter. Haydon argues with the reporter vehemently that “probably cause” does not exist.”

Wiebe said that the concept of reasonable suspicion “flies in the face of our national history” and the president reiterated it in his speech on Friday.

Over 6 months after former CIA contractor Edward Snowden released a trove of classified documents, blowing the whistle on the NSA’s spy programs, Obama announced changes to the security agency. As of Friday NSA officials must obtain court permission in order to access the government’s archive of telephone metadata. Moreover, responding to the political backlash from foreign leaders who were targeted by NSA espionage, Obama said the agency “would no longer monitor the communications of heads of state” unless there is a compelling national security purpose at stake.

Comments (17)


Douglas Dewar 19.01.2014 19:00

The political situation in the good old USA today is most reminiscent of the first couple of centuries of the Roman Empire. Even though the Emperor held all power in his hands { if he was skilled enough to keep the Army obedient } the forms and vocabulary of the Roman Republic were maintained. The words of today's President and Congress assume a democratic republic but the actions of the "leaders" and the massive gov't { including contractors } structures belie the sovereignty of the people.


Douglas Dewar 19.01.2014 18:13

Since the volume of surveillance state spying makes clear that the purpose of the activity IS NOT for national security one must ask oneself just what is the purpose. Could it be an indication that the democratic nation state has evolved to a state in which money is sovereign, no longer the people being sovereign ? Would this explain the laws and supreme court decisions being made which run counter to the best interests of the people ? Corporations are not people and money is not speech but the high court has defined them to be so. So much for elections being decided by people.


Douglas Dewar 19.01.2014 16:59

To contend that Obama has made changes to enforce the constitution by curtailing the surveillance state is farcical. Privacy has not been restored, the spying continues and we are to believe that NSA's need of a FISA warrant to access the collected data makes the problem go away. Are there any examples of FISA refusing a warrant ? Even when the volume of spying makes clear that the purpose is not national security ? To believe that this volume of spying IS for national security requires that you believe Angela Merkel is a terrorist, that John Q. Public is a terrorist, that you and I are terrorists. Ridiculous !

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