EFF lays out NSA data collection issues with demand for investigation

Two new top-secret documents related to PRISM and NSA data collection were published yesterday by The Guardian. Detailed within the documents are various stipulations and requirements related to the data collection as it relates to US persons. On the surface, such information is mildly reassuring, but a thoughtful examination illuminates several red-flag issues, which the EFF has highlighted with a demand for an independent investigation into the matter.

The two documents detailed a series of requirements the NSA is – or at least was in 2009 when they were time-stamped – required to follow in relation to domestic information that is gathered. The agency is supposed to use its own analysts to determine if a target is a non-US person, for example. Any data gathered on a US person is to be destroyed.

Furthermore, the documents reveal that call records gathered by the agency are used to help determine whether a target is a United States resident or citizen. Though such measures aim to reduce the amount of information that is pulled on domestic individuals, a more detailed look at the reports show that little effort is given in this area and that the evaluation requirements are lax.

One issue pointed out by the EFF is the number of exceptions that exist within the stipulations aimed at reducing how much domestic data is gathered. Any domestic data that "inadvertently" made its way into the content pool, for example, could be kept. Any encrypted data or info that could be relevant for traffic analysis were fair game. Likewise, domestic communications containing foreign intelligence info, as well as threat of harm or activity, can be kept.

Both Tor and email encryption use are enough for the security agency to hold onto your information, which has the unspoken implication that you have no right to anonymity. Communication that takes place between a client and his or her attorney is also open for interception unless the NSA knows the individual has been indicted and is talking under privilege to a lawyer.

In essence, the documents revealed that, rather than attempting to reduce how much data it gathered, a loose list of rules with little oversight were assembled with numerous loopholes, catches, and exceptions. As a result, the average American is subjected to unconstitutional surveillance, a grievance for which "it is time the government is held accountable," says the Frontier. Residents and citizens are being encouraged to petition for an independent investigation of the NSA and its actions.