Success: N.S.A. Will Cease Collection of Unnecessary Emails About Foreign Targets

Target: Michael S. Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency (N.S.A.)

Goal: Praise the decision to end the collection of random emails about foreign surveillance targets and demand explanation on whether data collection will stop wholesale.

The National Security Agency (N.S.A.) will cease the collection of Americans’ emails and text messages that simply discuss or mention foreign surveillance targets but are neither to nor from them. The practice, informally known as the “‘about’ collection,” is one of the most controversial parts of the N.S.A.’s warrantless spying program, and its end represents a significant development in American surveillance policy. Though the agency still defends the legality of the practice, N.S.A. had to concede due to the longstanding opposition from civil society. ForceChange has been an active voice in criticizing N.S.A.’s practices throughout the years and published a petition fiercely denouncing the “‘about’ collection.” Since it is still not clear whether the N.S.A. will stop data collection wholesale, we should keep pushing for the complete end of invasive surveillance practices by the government.

The so-called “‘about’ collection” is formed by huge batches of data from U.S. based telecommunications companies such as Verizon and AT&T. The N.S.A. would gather the messages based on some identifiable terms that would indicate any agency’s surveillance target. However, the N.S.A. was secretly sifting internet traffic and would collect not just emails to or from the targets, but every message that merely referred to them. At the time the dubious practice came to public, the N.S.A. justified the over-collection as an unavoidable consequence of its gathering technology, a claim highly contested by specialists. From now on, the surveillance program on foreign targets will formally intercept and store only emails and text messages that are directly sent to or from someone the agency is investigating.

The “‘about’ collection” has gotten around explicit restrictions on warrantless surveillance of American citizens and overstepped the rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. The end of this practice is a huge victory for civil liberties. Yet, while the N.S.A. has acknowledged inadvertent compliance lapses with legislation, it has not clarified how its numerous surveillance programs will proceed. There are other paths for data collection that are authorized by the law, and specialists are now concerned that the N.S.A. can find a backup plan to route around legal restrictions on surveillance once again. Sign the petition to show that you celebrate the curbing of data over-collection but still demand more explanations on the N.S.A. practices.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Rogers,

I praise the decision of end the so-called “‘about’ collection,” the large collection of Americans’ emails and text messages about foreign surveillance targets, including emails and messages that are neither to nor from those targets. The practice was a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment and skirted the restrictions on warrantless surveillance of American citizens.

Though the end of the abovementioned practice is great news, it is still unclear to me the plans of the N.S.A. regarding its surveillance programs. I demand a further explanation on how the agency will proceed from now on as a way to avoid any breach of the law in the future.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: National Security Agency

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2 Comments

  1. The NSA has not proven itself to be a truthful organization – in fact, it is all about subterfuge, lies and treachery. It’s doubtful that they will actually take any action on this “decision”.
    NSA whistleblower Karen Stewart exposes their utter corruption. Please check out her compelling testimony on Youtube.

  2. Gen Lovyet Agustsson says:

    congrats nsa!

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