NSA can read our emails, it seems. This wasn’t really in doubt technically following recent revelations. What’s more surprising is that, due to legal loophole, they can procedurally read said emails in some cases. See below, with emphasis added.
“Once Americans’ communications are collected, a gap in the law that I call the ‘back-door searches loophole‘ allows the government to potentially go through these communications and conduct warrantless searches for the phone calls or e-mails of law-abiding Americans.”
Again, this isn’t surprising. What we need is clarity regarding the legality, clarity on safeguards and oversight, and clarity on accountability when those safeguards are violated. We are lacking this understanding as of now. Until Snowden’s revelations, most of us (including members of Congress) weren’t aware that these capabilities were operational on this scale.
What we need: a) keep NSA on a shorter leash, starting with clarification-seeking mentioned above; b) drastically reduce national security letters, and set up time limits and efficient appeals processes for them; c) clarify role of secret courts; d) institute greater whistleblower protection, needed at various levels; e) hold officials accountable for lying to Americans or making misleading statements that, while technically true, are obviously deceptive.
I’m sure that’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s a start. As stated before, some programs might be good and necessary, but it’s hard to tell when they’re secret. Privacy aside, tax dollars pay for these programs, and it would be nice to know if they’re effective. Money spent spying on Americans means less revenue to spend on securing SCADA systems, internet backbone systems, and so forth. We need transparency to correctly prioritize these efforts and also evaluate their effectiveness.