Feeds

The NSA begs to differ with CBS

It's all legal....you got a problem, write your Congressman

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

US National Security Agency (NSA) officials took the step of writing Congress with a few pointers of their own last week, in anticipation of considerable PR damage by CBS News, which aired a programme accusing the Agency of systemic abuses of power a few days later. The "airing of a CBS '60 Minutes' news magazine report may feature adverse information about the National Security Agency (NSA). We are providing the attached documents on the oversight of NSA and some answers to frequently asked questions in an effort to answer some of your questions concerning the allegations," the letter says. Well, they were right on the money with that prediction. Perhaps they are spying on Americans after all. But of course we jest. "NSA operates in strict accordance with U.S. laws...in protecting the...privacy rights of US persons," the Agency claims. By way of evidence, the Agency offers the following. "Since the 1970's, NSA's activities have been strictly controlled by...the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense.... The Fourth Amendment [to the US constitution] transcends whatever technology happens to be involved in a particular form of electronic surveillance." The Fourth Amendment protects the citizenry against unreasonable searches and seizures by the authorities. It would not necessarily outlaw the electronic gathering of raw data so long as no one looks at any part of it that he or she is not authorised to view. This is probably the loophole that keeps ECHELON alive. "We do not unconstitutionally spy on or target Americans", the agency says flatly. Furthermore, in a preemptive answer to a charge made by CBS News, the Agency points out that it has been "prohibited...since 1978 from having any person or government agency, whether foreign or US, conduct any activity on our behalf that we are prohibited from conducting ourselves. Therefore, NSA does not ask its allies to conduct such activities on its behalf nor does NSA do so on behalf of its allies." "To ensure that everyone at the NSA remains sensitive to such responsibilities, each employee must read the laws and regulations and sign that they have read and will abide by them each and every year," the letter says. Backing up these high aspirations are numerous government oversight bodies. The President's Intelligence Oversight Board, the National Security Council, the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice are all charged with overseeing the NSA's activities. Certainly this is a list that very few Americans would trust blindly. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence are the only two authorities directly answerable to voters which have oversight power. One would imagine that this would suffice, but last year the NSA flatly refused to surrender internal memoranda requested by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The Committee got its documents, finally, after threatening to cut the Agency's budget. The decision was a poor PR move for the NSA, for which it will pay dearly for years to come. From this episode we may infer that the Agency considers Congress a lot of irritating civilian busybodies, and take away the distinct impression that the Agency considers itself above the law. We would like to trust that oversight works as the Agency claims. But the NSA does have a history of abuse which required an act of Congress to remedy. The recent contempt which the NSA treated Congress reminds us of its Cold War abuses, and makes it difficult for us to have faith in the oversight process. A spy organisation is only as good as its word, after all. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Nadella: Apps must run on ALL WINDOWS – PCs, slabs and mobes
Phone egg, meet desktop chicken - your mother
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.