President Obama is considering ending NSA surveillance. The National Security Agency was outed last month by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden for using multiple channels to spy on American citizens and foreign and domestic figures alike.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) of the Senate Intelligence Committee made the statement that Obama was considering ending surveillance programs last Thursday. A staunch supporter of individual privacy, Wyden also noted that “privacy and civil liberties advocates could be on the verge of ‘making a comeback,’” as the Obama Administration has seen a surge of backlash from privacy advocates as a result of the NSA leaks.
Although the president has backed the NSA surveillance programs, Wyden believes that if Obama were to repeal the programs it will be a watershed moment in the “war against privacy.”
Since the leaks, Wyden, and fellow senator Mark Udall (D-CO.) have been diligent in their pursuit of agency transparency. Last month, the two senators wrote a letter to NSA Director Keith Alexander pushing “to make revisions to a set of fact sheets” that were intended to outline how the government implemented Section 702, which is “procedure for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence.” Wyden and Udall composed and sent the letter to Alexander, noting that the “fact sheet contains an inaccurate statement about how the section 702 authority has been interpreted by the US government.”
Components of the leak have been released bit by bit. Just last week, it was revealed that Microsoft had been “working hand-in-hand with the United States government . . . to bypass encryption mechanisms meant to protect the privacy of millions of users.” NSA memos indicated that Microsoft helped the government break into MS Outlook web chat, Hotmail, and Skype accounts, heightening the stack of tech companies; which include Verizon, AT&T, and Google, that assisted in the surveillance programs.
As of now, the administration has not officially commented on the president’s consideration of gutting the government’s surveillance programs where the government enlisted the help of numerous phone carriers and digital platforms to spy on millions of people.
“I have a feeling that the administration is getting concerned about the bulk phone records collection, and that they are thinking about whether to move administratively to stop it,” said Wyden. “I think we are making a comeback.”
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.