In his last days as president, Obama passed a procedure that beefs up the capabilities of the NSA and the intelligence community.
Interestingly enough, in 2007 Obama promised to stifle the powers of the surveillance state, yet has failed to hold the NSA to account, even after the Snowden leaks.
Now under his eight-year term, the NSA and intelligence community have been granted even looser regulations, after he said he’d do the opposite.
These new procedures grants the NSA approval to share their collected and stored information with 16 other US intelligence agencies. To access some of this information, a MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) will have to be filled out for them to receive said documents. However, it states in the declassified document here, that the NSA will be allowed to upload this mass of data and information through a “cloud-based environment”, meaning intelligence personnel will likely be able to circumvent submitting an MOA and have unfettered capabilities to this information. Essentially, members of these intelligence communities will have access to a wealth of data with very little regulation and little oversight.
The extent of the information stored in this “cloud-based environment” is not known. To get a better understanding of these procedures however, it’s interesting to note that this form of ‘data sharing’ has been documented in past Snowden leaks, under the code-name ICREACH, where data was previously shared between the NSA, FBI, CIA, DEA etc. The author of that article noted these procedures ‘represent a major expansion of ICREACH‘.
In 2014 there were 800 billion records available to be searched through ICREACH (which is a Google-like search engine for NSA collected data). This number has very likely gone up since then, and these new procedures give access to a greater number of intelligence personnel.
The NSA sharing information – on innocent civilians who have not been charged with any sort of crime – with other intelligence agencies is nothing new. They are now however, given a legal framework to do so. Prior restrictions also required analysts to filter personal data not deemed pertinent before sharing the information.
It’s also important to note that the NSA collects and stores texts, browser history, phone calls, Facebook messages, Google searches, personal photos, wiretaps through your phone etc. from people all over the world. This is a serious breach of the Fourth Amendment and Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For them to share this data with thousands of others shows how little regard the surveillance state has for our privacy.
It will be interesting to see how this development will play out under Trump. Trump has spoken out against many of these intelligence agencies, yet wants to eradicate all terrorist activity. Will he allow NSA data-mining to continue unabated, or will he reign in on its Orwellian capabilities?
We’ll just have to wait and find out.