Domestic surveillance of communications is a program by the National Security Agency of gathering and collection of communication records of the American citizens. This program taps communication from businesses and homestead across America. They then use the records collected to scrutinize the communication patterns in an attempt to spot criminal and terrorist activities. The main aim of this program is detecting, warning, and preventing terrorist attacks. According to NSA, the program does not record or listen to conversations. Over the years, there are allegations that The Government in collaboration with leading telecommunications has been engaging in illegal tapping and surveillance of American citizens’ communications even though not suspected of any terrorist engagements. Through the telecommunication companies, the government is able to obtain contents of web communications, instant messages and phone calls, both locally and internationally (Ross, (2003).
According to Priest and Arkin, (2010) domestic surveillance program has legal support from the fact that the National Security Agency has executive powers to monitor all forms of communication without the need for search warrants. This means that the National Security Agency can have access to all internet communications, text messaging and phone conversations, especially from any person or party believed to be outside the United States, regardless of whether the other party or person is within the United States or not. This program has its basis on the War Powers Resolutions. These resolutions give the president the power to authorize military activity against the terrorists behind the September 11, 2001 attacks. Consequently, NSA established the program to identify, warn, and prevent any terrorist attacks on the United States of America (Ross, 2003).
Most people believe that the Program is unconstitutional due to the implications it has on the American citizens. Under the Bush administration, intercepting and tapping communication targeted communication where at least one of the parties was outside the United States of America. However, several people have complained that domestic NSA is intercepting domestic communication. The National Security Agency reported that the interception was accidental, resulting from technical problems in determining whether the call is international or not.
According to different agencies, domestic surveillance is an illegal Activity and violates the rights of privacy of the American citizens. According to EFF, the government has been intercepting digital communications for many ordinary American citizens way after 2001. News reported that the NSA had been receiving massive copies of telephone conversations and records of other forms of communication like the internet communications, instant messaging. According to EFF, this is an infringement of privacy rights for citizens as defined in the constitution and as established by the United States’ Congress.
EPIC shares the same information with EFF. EPIC reports claim that the government through collaboration of different agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the police, private companies, and Federal Intelligence Agencies is acquiring massive amounts of information most of which is personal, about the ordinary unsuspecting American citizens. The information collected can easily be shared between these organizations. According to EPIC, the increased fear of acts of terrorism has to lead to increased actions by the police towards political activist, religious minorities, racial minorities, and immigrants. They reckon that the surveillance is not mainly directed at suspected criminals and terrorists, but also to every other American citizen. Gradually, the government collects and keeps sensitive information on innocent citizens.
EPIC reckons that it is more disturbing to know that the power over surveillance has been increasing immensely over the years and the restrictions initially in place have either been eliminated or weakened to the point of not being effective anymore. Worse still, the surveillance takes place secretly, and the public, courts, and legislatures have no oversight over these operations.
The weakening of the restrictions over domestic surveillance puts the right to free speech and privacy to risk. The sharing of the private information of citizens by these agencies threatens the civil liberties of the American citizens. Citizens are in fear of using digital communication for fear of the information being intercepted by these government agencies. Worse still is the fact that these agencies have massive control over major telecommunication companies and receiving information is, thus extremely easy (Priest, & Arkin, 2010).
The domestic surveillance uses a variety of technological advancements to monitor terrorist suspects and other citizens at large. The National Security Agency prides in having the most advanced and developed computers all over the world. One of the technologies they use in the surveillance is the Signal Intelligence where a program has been developed to decode EMF waves in the surrounding environment. The program is able to tap and decode electric currents on the suspects or citizens (Priest, & Arkin, 2010).
The other technology used is domestic intelligence, where NSA keeps records of the American Citizens. NSA collects information on any person of interest and one of the more than fifty thousand National Security Agents spies on the person. The agency has executive authority to spy on any person or any citizen. The agency also has an Anti-terrorist Surveillance network in place, which works on spying on terrorist. Moreover, through the Electronic Surveillance Network, it is very easy to track any person in the United States. The agency also uses Signal Intelligence Network, where it keeps trail of the personal computers sold in the United States of America. The RF emissions from laptops and personal computers allow the agency to have access to the digital information on the computer.
The main agency involved in collecting and analyzing communication is the National Security Agency (NSA). However, this agency works in collaboration of other state agencies and private companies. These agencies include the Criminal Investigations Agency, the Secret Service. It also collaborates with other agencies like the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the Federal l Bureau of Investigations, department of Defense, and Police. The private companies include the major telecommunication companies in the United States of America. Messages and information intercepted by the National Security Agency is shared and disseminated to these agencies.
The Private companies play a very crucial role in the domestic surveillance program. Private security firms have the ability to spy on the cit9izens of the United States of America and earn a lot of money paid to them by the military. The private companies carry out the work through vague corporate accountability programs while the military collects and coordinates information collected and hands over the information to the National Security Agency secretly. This way, the agency is able to gain access to information on the ordinary citizens, without direct involvement, or without raising any suspicions (Chuck, 2006).
The government has been using the key telecommunication companies in the country to obtain communication contents of the citizens. AT & T for instance has given NSA right to access their wide databases to acquire information on all communications made through them. In addition, AT&T granted the government unregulated access to caller information from their database, which happens to be the biggest database in the world. This means that NSA and the government can access all the information and communication for all the citizens who make use of the AT&T network.
The National Security Agency through the National Corporations Office manages Intelligence-sharing systems through reliance on private contractors. The contractors like the BAE systems, Science Applications International Corporations and L-3 Communications provide the personnel and technology needed to share foreign intelligence. This proves that the private companies play a very crucial role in Domestic intelligence.