Intelligence collection and dissemination are the foundations of national security, but with power comes great responsibility, as many folks in the government are prone to abuse this helpful tool, thus violating the privacy rights of citizens.
This is a topic that’s been hotly debated for years, but has once again come to the forefront due to the allegations by President Trump that he was being spied on by the Obama administration.
According to Microsoft, the number of surveillance requests from the government seeking user-related content for foreign intel purposes skyrocketed, claiming close to a thousand requests during the first half of last year, under the Obama administration.
The amount, shared in Microsoft’s biannual transparency report, was more than double what the company said it received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the preceding six-month interval, and was the highest the company has listed since 2011, when it began tracking such government surveillance orders.
The scope of spying authority granted to U.S. intelligence agencies under FISA has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks, sparked in part by evolving, unsubstantiated assertions from President Donald Trump and other Republicans that the Obama White House improperly spied on Trump and his associates.
Microsoft said it received between 1,000 and 1,499 FISA orders for user content between January and June of 2016, compared to between 0 and 499 during both January-June 2015 as well as the second half of 2015.
The number of user accounts impacted by FISA orders fell during the same period, however, from between 17,500 and 17,999 to between 12,000 and 12,499, according to the report.
The U.S. government only allows companies to report the volume of FISA requests in wide bands rather than specific numbers.
FISA orders, which are approved by judges who sit on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, are tightly guarded national security secrets. Even the existence of a specific FISA order is rarely disclosed publicly.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the FBI obtained a FISA order to monitor the communications of former Trump advisor Carter Page as part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign.
The fact that a FISA order was used to authorize spying on Trump speaks volumes about the trustworthiness of the federal government when it comes to privacy rights.
Of course, we already knew liberal progressives at the federal level were busy violating our privacy, due to Edward Snowden — love him or hate him — blowing the lid off the NSA and their phone and email shenanigans.
National security is critically important. No one with an ounce of common sense would deny that. However, we can’t allow terrorists and tyrants to strike fear in our hearts and force us to sacrifice our liberty and privacy for the sake of safety.
Given that the numbers were underreported, this is probably not the last we’ve heard of surveillance — and surveillance cover-ups — under the Obama administration.
[Note: This article was written by Michael Cantrell]