Biden’s NSA Is Buying American Data To Get Around Warrant Laws

By Victor Winston, updated on January 26, 2024

The National Security Agency (NSA) has been quietly purchasing American internet records without warrants. This covert operation has sparked concerns about the legality and ethics of such practices.

Senator Ron Wyden recently uncovered that the NSA has been covertly buying Americans' internet data to use for surveillance, bypassing the need for warrants.

The NSA's actions involve using data brokers who quietly acquire and resell metadata without the knowledge or consent of internet users. While expressing his unease, Wyden referred to these actions as a "legal gray area." He strongly criticized the NSA's attempts to keep these purchases under wraps. According to Wyden, there is an urgent need for new regulations. These should limit data purchases strictly to what Americans have agreed to sell, ensuring their privacy is respected.

Wyden's stance is backed by recent actions by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC recently sued a data broker over the sale of location data. They stated that such sales represent an intrusion on consumer privacy and emphasized the need for explicit consumer consent when reselling data to the government.

Public Trust and National Security Concerns

Army General Paul Nakasone justified the NSA's actions in a detailed letter. He explained that the NSA acquires "commercially available information," albeit with certain restrictions. For instance, the data does not include phone location information known to be used within the U.S. or data related to car locations. Instead, the focus is on "non-content" data where one side of the communication is linked to a U.S. IP address. Nakasone stressed the critical nature of this data for the "U.S. Defense Industrial Base."

Under Secretary of Defense, Ronald Moultrie defended the legality of these purchases. He stated he was unaware of any laws or judicial opinions requiring court orders for such data. This defense, however, contrasts with Wyden's reference to the recent FTC action against a data broker, suggesting a shift in the legal landscape regarding consumer data privacy.

In his efforts to address this issue, Wyden requested the Director of National Intelligence to carry out an inventory of the government's data. He emphasized the need to discard any data acquired without the consent of the American public. This action highlights the growing concern over using personal data without explicit permission.

Legal and Ethical Implications

Senator Wyden's strong condemnation of the NSA's practices resonates with widespread concerns about privacy violations. He stated:

The U.S. government should not be funding and legitimizing a shady industry whose flagrant violations of Americans’ privacy are not just unethical, but illegal.

General Nakasone, however, offered a different perspective. He emphasized the NSA's commitment to its duties and the trust placed in it. Nakasone assured:

NSA understands and greatly values the congressional and public trust it has been granted to carry out its critical foreign intelligence and cybersecurity missions on behalf of the American people.

These contrasting views highlight a delicate balance between national security and individual privacy. The NSA's actions, while deemed necessary for security purposes, clash with the growing public demand for privacy and consent in data usage.

The unfolding events have sparked a debate about the ethical use of data and the protection of civil liberties. Wyden's call for change, backed by recent FTC actions, suggests a shift towards greater transparency and accountability in the use of personal data by government agencies.

Conclusion

The discovery of the NSA's secret data purchases without warrants has raised significant concerns about privacy and government surveillance. Senator Ron Wyden's call for new rules and the removal of unconsented data from government inventories, coupled with the FTC's stance on consumer data privacy, signals a potential shift in the handling of personal data by government agencies. The balance between national security and individual privacy rights remains a contentious and evolving issue.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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