Secret NSA program uses a standard which concedes that up to 49% of the people subject to extensive warrantless electronic surveillance are in the U.S.
If you were given 51% odds of emerging unharmed from a carnival ride, would you get on? Would you sign up for an elective surgery that you had a 51% likelihood of surviving? Common sense suggests that one should not take 50/50 odds where the results matter. However, NSA agents conducting a U.S. government surveillance program are willing to use these odds of committing a constitutional-level violation of the rights of people in the U.S.
According to the Washington Post, the National Security Agency (NSA) project PRISM requires just 51% confidence in what NSA agents term a person’s “foreignness” to access their audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs. The government’s purported authority for the program comes from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act.
Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act in 2008 at the request of intelligence agencies. They had complained that they needed authority to compel communications service providers to assist with interception of foreign-to-foreign communications passing through the United States. Information flowing over the Internet does not necessarily take the most direct path between its source and its destination. Much of the world’s communications run through the U.S. because much of Internet’s infrastructure is in the U.S.
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