NSA expanded warrantless internet surveillance in attempt to stop hackers

New documents from Edward Snowden have revealed that since 2012, the US's National Security Agency has had an expanded ability to spy on Americans' internet data and communications, with no need to get a warrant. The documents were published in a New York Times article this week, and reveal that the NSA's goal is to find and stop hackers attempting cyberattacks from outside the country. Until now, this program was never disclosed to the public.

In 2012 the Justice Department secretly gave the NSA permission to begin monitoring Americans' international internet traffic. They were to look for certain threat signatures that were tied to foreign governments, as well as track IP addresses. It was also the NSA's responsibility to defend US networks from attacks.

However, the NSA petitioned the Justice Department, saying that relying only on threat signatures was too restricting, and asked for broader permissions to conduct surveillance. As a result, the NSA began targeting suspects that had no connections to foreign nations, and collected large amounts of data — including private email, business records, and trade secrets — from American citizens.

The New York Times' report comes at a critical time, as just this week the US government passed a new measure that limits domestic spying permissions, something that hasn't happened the September 11th attacks in 2001.

Jonathan Mayer, a Stanford Law School cybersecurity expert, spoke with the Times after looking over the documents revealing the NSA's program. He commented that what he saw looked more like typical law enforcement that is carried out domestically, not foreign-intelligence gathering. Mayer added that structuring this policy on cybersecurity had been a major decision, but not one that involved the public's opinion.

SOURCE New York Times