(TruthandLiberty.com) – In 2013, National Security Agency (NSA) Edward Snowden revealed classified information about how the NSA spied on everyday Americans without reason or a warrant. The mass surveillance program tracked telephone records and other private info. In 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled warrantless programs to collect secret information on millions of Americans violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and breached the US Constitution.
Until Snowden released the evidence, the NSA insisted it had never collected information on Americans. After the former government contractor exposed the lie, the NSA finally admitted its actions, but only under the pretense of fighting domestic extremism. Now, America is learning the FBI spent two years considering whether it should use spyware tools to allow the agency to hack into any phone in the United States.
FBI and Other Federal Agencies Seek Software to Spy on Americans
Why is the US government intent on spying on Americans in potential violation of the Fourth Amendment? In 2019, an Israeli cyberweapon company contacted US agencies about purchasing its sophisticated intelligence-gathering software. NSO Group says their software can hack into any phone, at any time, nationwide.
It appears several lawsuits and controversies directed at the software company were all that prevented the FBI from purchasing the software. The FBI said the software was necessary to get around encrypted messaging apps and protect Americans and civil liberties. Apparently, those considering the purchase didn’t review the Ninth Circuit Court’s slap-down of the NSA or consult constitutional scholars on the matter.
What About the Fourth Amendment?
The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution says Americans have a right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” It adds that warrants must have probable cause and describe where the search will happen, to whom and what items the government would seize.
It’s hard to understand the FBI’s rationale for assuming authority it doesn’t have under the Constitution. To get around it, the government relies on a simple question: What is a search? Does obtaining the information you provide a phone company as a third party qualify? Some experts say the government’s use of spy software is akin to an airport screening. No one is doing anything wrong. It’s more of a deterrent to bad behavior than it is catching someone doing anything illegal.
It’s questionable if those responses hold up after the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling against the NSA. The ruling made it illegal to collect bulk information on Americans’ phone records. So, is this really any different?
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