NSA's XKeyscore Program Can Track Virtually Everything On the Internet

In another shocking unveiling of the extent of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, apparently analysts for the security agency can sift through huge databases of information to uncover practically any information they want about the user's online activity. The newly uncovered XKeyscore may be the program former NSA employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden referenced in his high-profile series of interviews with the Guardian, where he stated he could "wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email."

According to training materials uncovered about XKeyscore, the analyst just has to fill out an onscreen form and give a justification for the search process. No court or NSA supervisor has to overview the request before its processing. In other words, the documents seem to give credence to Snowden's claims, and they fan the flames of the heated debate that is taking place over these surveillance programs. Has the NSA gone too far in its surveillance operations? With the government claiming multiple terrorist attacks have been preemptively stopped by these programs, is there any way that the U.S. government can still maintain security without drawing public backlash from the American public? It seems that the only option now that all this information has come out is to find a middle ground for these surveillance programs. With their effectiveness potentially already compromised, a new intelligent security system that the American public approves of is needed.

XKeyscore, is according to the NSA, the "widest reaching" intelligence gathering system for computer networks, covering "nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet." The NSA has repeatedly stated that only legitimate foreign targets are investigated; however, with these new details on XKeyscore, it seems that analysts do not have much direct oversight over who they investigate. In response to allegations of lack of oversight, the NSA has stated, "... there are multiple technical, manual and supervisory checks and balances within the system to prevent deliberate misuse from occurring ... Every search by an NSA analyst is fully auditable, to ensure that they are proper and within the law."

In addition to that, the contacts of these targets are also investigated, as are their contacts, bringing in a huge web of other people in every search (even Google Map searches were looked at, apparently). The ACLU's deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer said about the programs, "The government inevitably sweeps up the communications of many Americans [through these programs]." With this kind of massive surveillance, the government is clearly doing this in order to protect the interests and the lives of American people and the American military; however, that does not mean it can shrug off all attacks on its widespread surveillance. It needs to provide alternatives that are less intrusive, and it should seek to provide as much oversight as possible into its surveillance programs in the future.

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James Gadea

James Gadea is from Atlanta, Georgia. He is a student at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and he is really interested in the relationship between Eastern Europe and the Middle East. James loves history, the smell of Barnes & Noble, and when movie characters say the title of the film that they are in.

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