Domestic spying program is 'limited' - What are the limits?

The USA are standing firmly behind his domestic spying program, saying that allowing the intelligence community listen in on phone calls Americans have with suspected terrorists is lawful and does not result in widespread domestic eavesdropping.

A congressional hearings on the surveillance said that the program run by the National Security Agency, is limited. It apparently acts within the law. The NSA program is one that listens to a few numbers, in other words, the enemy is calling somebody and we want to know who they're calling and why.

But according to many creditable organizations, already in existence a program called "Echelon" is perhaps the most powerful intelligence gathering organization in the world. Echelon is a surveillance program controlled by the NSA. Several credible reports suggest that this global electronic communications surveillance system presents an extreme threat to the privacy of people all over the world. Echelon attempts to capture staggering volumes of satellite, microwave, cellular and fiber-optic traffic, including communications to and from North America. This vast quantity of voice and data communications are then processed through sophisticated filtering technologies. This massive surveillance system apparently operates with little oversight. Moreover, there is little information provided to the public and there are few details as to the legal guidelines for the project. Because of this, there is no way of knowing if ECHELON is being used illegally to spy on private citizens.

After 9/11, the USA gave gave the NSA permission to eavesdrop without a warrant on communications between suspected terrorists overseas and people inside the United States. The NSA had been conducting the domestic surveillance since 2002. The Justice Department on opened an investigation into who told reporters about the program. ‘The fact that somebody leaked this program causes great harm to the United States.

Administration officials have said the program performs wiretaps only when there is a reasonable basis to believe that the conversation includes a suspected terrorist and that one party is overseas. All these surveillance is now under scrutiny but what about surveillance on the general public. Surveillance such as the Echelon project. And what about Carnivore? You may have heard about Carnivore, a controversial program developed by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to give the agency access to the online/e-mail activities of suspected criminals. Although Carnivore was abandoned by the FBI in favor of commercially available eavesdropping software by January 2005, it still gives federal investigators the ability to monitor computer and internet activity quite easily.

Of course the government usually claims ‘‘These limited programs designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America and most Americans understand the need to find out what the enemy's thinking. I If somebody from al-Qaida is calling you, we'd like to know why. ... This program is conscious of people's civil liberties.'' However, bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a little-known panel of 11 federal judges that approves wiretaps and searches in the most sensitive terrorism and espionage cases.

In terms of surveillance on the public and invading people's privacy, the government denies misleading the public in support of the Patriot Act. Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, the wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed in that regard. But how easy is it to get this court order? What about the ultra-secret NSA and their new surveillance program What about law enforcement and their eavesdropping? What about Echelon and Carnivore? What about street cameras and surveillance cameras in offices, building, malls? What about satellites? Anyone can see your backyard for free using Google Earth! What are the limitation on surveillance and spying on the public? Does anyone really know and when will it become a total infringement on people's privacy and civil liberties? A lot of questions. Very little answers. However, one thing is for certain: All of the things being done in the name of "freedom" are taking away exactly that; freedom.

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