It is now clear that the US government’s National Security Agency (NSA) has undertaken an unprecedented surveillance program. NSA’s aim is to monitor all communications of every American, and this is no secret.
During a recent Senate hearing, Democrat senator Mark Udall asked NSA director Keith Alexander, “Is it the goal of the NSA to collect the phone records of all Americans?” Alexander bluntly replied, “Yes, I believe it is in the nation’s best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox that we could search when the nation needs to do it. Yes.”
The NSA has achieved significant inroads into realising this aim. It has collected and stored incomprehensible quantities of data in the form of voice records, emails, phone call records, texts and financial information. The NSA now possesses vast amounts of information on world leaders, foreign citizens and ordinary Americans. The general picture painted by these releases is of an immensely powerful, out of control, secretive government agency. And this is not completely wrong. The executive and legislative branches, whose primary job it is to direct the actions of agencies such as the NSA, have apparently been shut out or negligent in their duties.
And so, the world is now watching US president Barack Obama and Congress to see whether – or how – they will bring the NSA’s operations under control. There are an increasing number of voices within Congress who are advocating taking action against the NSA. However, to date, these moves have been half-hearted. There are three main reasons why.