Latest News & Current Events

NSA Surveillance Leaks

Last week a series of leaks by a former CIA worker led to claims the US had a vast surveillance network with much less oversight than previously thought. The government insists its snooping is legal under domestic law.

Officials say the snooping program known as Prism, revealed in last week's leaks, is authorised under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa).  It gives the US National Security Agency (NSA) the power to obtain emails and phone records relating to non-US nationals. But details about the individuals targeted under the act remain secret, and there are concerns the NSA is overstepping its powers. The Obama administration is investigating whether the disclosures by former CIA worker Edward Snowden were a criminal offence. Alledged Whistleblower Snowden is believed to be in hiding a day after he reportedly checked out of a Hong Kong hotel.

Documents leaked to the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers claimed the US authorities had direct access to the servers of nine major US technology firms, including Apple, Facebook and Google. Mr Snowden told the Guardian that individual operatives had the power to tap into anyone's emails at any time. Although the firms have denied granting such access, saying they agreed only to legal requests, US officials have admitted Prism exists.

Mr Snowden's employer, defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, said on Tuesday it had fired the 29-year-old infrastructure analyst for violating its ethics code.

While the controversy in the US has focused on the possibility that conversations of US citizens may inadvertently be captured, overseas, governments and activists point out that US law provides foreigners with no protection.

California Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee,  has accused Mr Snowden of "an act of treason" and said the American authorities were "aggressively" pursuing him.

The top Republican in the US House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner, labelled Mr Snowden a "traitor".  "The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk," he told ABC News on Tuesday morning. "And it's a giant violation of the law."

The government began wireless wiretapping after the 9/11 attacks, but the surveillance policy expanded under President Barack Obama.


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