Permanent Record by Edward Snowden

Permanent Record by Edward Snowden

Author:Edward Snowden [Snowden, Edward]
Language: eng
Format: epub, azw3, mobi, pdf
Tags: Biography, Politics
ISBN: 9781529035674
Google: 9aamDwAAQBAJ
Amazon: B07STQPGH6
Goodreads: 46223297
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Published: 2019-09-16T22:00:00+00:00

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AT THE START of my employment with the NSA, in 2009, I was only slightly more knowledgeable about its practices than the rest of the world. From journalists’ reports, I was aware of the agency’s myriad surveillance initiatives authorized by President George W. Bush in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. In particular, I knew about its most publicly contested initiative, the warrantless wiretapping component of the President’s Surveillance Program (PSP), which had been disclosed by the New York Times in 2005 thanks to the courage of a few NSA and Department of Justice whistleblowers.

Officially speaking, the PSP was an “executive order,” essentially a set of instructions set down by the American president that the government has to consider the equal of public law—even if they’re just scribbled secretly on a napkin. The PSP empowered the NSA to collect telephone and Internet communications between the United States and abroad. Notably, the PSP allowed the NSA to do this without having to obtain a special warrant from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret federal court established in 1978 to oversee IC requests for surveillance warrants after the agencies were caught domestically spying on the anti–Vietnam War and civil rights movements.

Following the outcry that attended the Times revelations, and American Civil Liberties Union challenges to the constitutionality of the PSP in non-secret, regular courts, the Bush administration claimed to have let the program expire in 2007. But the expiration turned out to be a farce. Congress spent the last two years of the Bush administration passing legislation that retroactively legalized the PSP. It also retroactively immunized from prosecution the telecoms and Internet service providers that had participated in it. This legislation—the Protect America Act of 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008—employed intentionally misleading language to reassure US citizens that their communications were not being explicitly targeted, even as it effectively extended the PSP’s remit. In addition to collecting inbound communications coming from foreign countries, the NSA now also had policy approval for the warrantless collection of outbound telephone and Internet communications originating within American borders.

That, at least, was the picture I got after reading the government’s own summary of the situation, which was issued to the public in an unclassified version in July 2009, the very same summer that I spent delving into Chinese cyber-capabilities. This summary, which bore the nondescript title Unclassified Report on the President’s Surveillance Program, was compiled by the Offices of the Inspector Generals of five agencies (Department of Defense, Department of Justice, CIA, NSA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence) and was offered to the public in lieu of a full congressional investigation of Bush-era NSA overreach. The fact that President Obama, once in office, refused to call for a full congressional investigation was the first sign, to me at least, that the new president—for whom Lindsay had enthusiastically campaigned—intended to move forward without a proper reckoning with the past. As his administration rebranded and recertified PSP-related programs, Lindsay’s hope in him, as well as my own, would prove more and more misplaced.


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