The recent exposal of NSA’s PRISM program by The Guardian in the UK and Washington Post in the U.S. has caused a huge uproar. PRISM apparently empowers intelligence agencies to tap into the data of virtually any tech company. Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, has attempted to explain things through an official statement.
The problem with PRISM is that not only does it directly violate the privacy of hundreds of millions of citizens, it does so discreetly and with permission from the authorities, even when it directly violates constitutional rights of the Americans.
When publishing slides from NSA’s PRISM program, The Guardian had speculated that the agency can directly obtain any information from a number of tech companies without requiring any oversight. However, Clapper has contested that claim.
According to him, PRISM is an ‘internal government computer system’ that is used to gather foreign intelligence with permission from courts. Indeed, that seems to be the case since NSA was handed permission by a FISA court to tap into Verizon’s customer records.
The big question, though, is how FISA courts work and why they have a tendency to allow security measures, even when they violate the constitutional rights. Clapper goes on to state that along with a FISA court’s permission, the agency needs the formal permission of the Attorney General as well as the Director of National Intelligence, before it can tap into private records.
Clapper has also lambasted media for releasing the information, naturally irked, “In a rush to publish, media outlets have not given the full context—including the extent to which these programs are overseen by all three branches of government—to these effective tools.”
His clarifications do not help in allaying the concerns of privacy activists, tech companies and common users who continue to have the feeling that the U.S. government and its agencies would go to about any lengths simply to tap into their data.
Source: Clapper statement
Courtesy: PC World