The system which monitors web traffic for the NSA has been revealed to use a bigger net than previously thought. Algorithms in the system allowed certain data to be retained by the NSA, but the definition of “reasonable” data retention changed after September 11, 2001. It was broadened to allow so much data to be retained by the NSA that 75% of internet traffic could now be visible to the NSA. According to Fox News:
The NSA programs described by the Journal differ from the programs described by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in a series of leaks earlier this summer. Snowden described a program to acquire Americans’ phone records, as well as another program, known as PRISM, that made requests from Internet companies for stored data. By contrast, the Internet monitoring systems have the capability to track almost any online activity, so long as it is covered by a broad court order.
In addition the NSA has broken privacy rules thousands of time to spy on citizens without approval. But how could this be stopped under a secret program with no real oversight? It is disturbing that members of congress have come out in support of the system, after it was discovered that the NSA does not even follow the lenient rules for collecting data. Recently likely Presidential candidate Governor Chris Christie came out in support of the NSA domestic spying program, claiming it would save lives and prevent another 9/11, despite recent terrorist attacks having not been thwarted by the system. Christie also mocked Senator Rand Paul for believing the NSA surveillance went to far and violates Americans’ rights.
This retention of data without individual warrants is a violation of the Fourth Amendment which protects our right against unreasonable search and seizure of our home, papers, persons, or effects. By including the term “papers” in the Constitution, our Founding Fathers surely meant that all written communications and documents were to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure. The fact that these are stored on computers and not in filing cabinets does not change the protections enumerated under the Fourth Amendment.