In a not-so-startling revelation, the declassification of three secret court opinions on Wednesday show that the NSA hasn't just been collecting communications related to terrorism investigations. It's been collecting all kinds of stuff from unsuspecting Americans.
The details don't exactly instill confidence in our nation's intelligence sector. As the Associated Press explains, the NSA "scooped up as many as 56,000 emails annually over three years and other communications by Americans with no connection to terrorism," according to the secret FISA court. We've been led to believe — not that we've necessarily believed it — that the NSA's snooping into Americans' phone records and "internet communications" is necessarily part of the larger fight against terrorism. That detail, after all, is what makes the snooping legal.
However, that's just not the case. Whether it was part of some secret program we've never heard of or an complete accident, we now know that the NSA crossed the line into illegal territory. Even the court that's tasked with overseeing the NSA's spying sounds exasperated at the repeated violations:
We sort of should've expected this kind of news to come out at some point. In the days and weeks after Edward Snowden leaked top secret documents to the press, we learned that the NSA overstepped its bounds and violated Americans' privacy thousands of times. Furthermore, the NSA's definitions for who doesn't and doesn't qualify as a target in those terrorism investigations have always been ridiculously broad, enabling the agency to go after all kinds of people. But who needs definitions and boundaries when you can just spy on whomever you want whenever you want for years at a time? The NSA certainly doesn't. [AP, Twitter / Trevor Timm]