2013 in review: a year of leaks and real challenges to mass surveillance
By End the Lie
This year brought a great deal of news, with the most important likely being the documents that began being reported on in June after they were released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Our readers reflected this in an informal poll on our Facebook page, where Snowden was mentioned by more readers than any other person or event.
The leaks began gaining traction in early June with the first story exposing the mass collection of the phone records of all U.S. Verizon customers by the National Security Agency (NSA).
The revelations continued to be published with rapidity.
Some of the highlights from the leaks and related stories include:
· NSA and GCHQ crack encryption, ‘covertly influence’ companies; consider ordinary Americans ‘adversaries’
· Director of National Intelligence criticizes ‘reckless disclosures’ of PRISM as another secret tool exposed
· NSA pays major telecom companies for access to data networks
· Legal loophole allows NSA to conduct warrantless searches for Americans’ emails and phone calls
· More revelations: German spy agency sharing ‘millions’ of phone, email records with NSA
· Low-level NSA analysts can spy on Americans – Greenwald
· Obama administration: bringing public accountability to NSA spying would harm Americans’ privacy
· Report: GCHQ worked with German, French, Spanish and Swedish spy agencies on mass surveillance
· Google, Yahoo react angrily to NSA’s reported collection of data as it was sent over fiber optic cables
· Countries respond to NSA surveillance: France summons U.S. ambassador, Mexico condemns spying
· NSA failed to install anti-leak software at Snowden’s workplace – report
· Investigation launched in Luxembourg over Skype’s links to NSA surveillance programs
· NSA keeps metadata on millions of people for up to a year, builds ‘pattern-of-life’ profiles of non-NSA targets
· NIST says it did not ‘deliberately weaken’ encryption standards to help NSA undermine Internet security
· Federal government going after master encryption keys from Internet companies for easier spying
· New Snowden interview: NSA ‘collects all communications’ in United States
· NSA controls global Internet traffic via private fiber-optic cables
· German interior minister: don’t use Google and Facebook if you fear NSA surveillance
· NSA spied on EU diplomats in Washington, NY and Brussels – report
· Intelligence officials confirm White House, State Department approved surveillance of allied leaders
· NSA spied on phones of 35 world leaders
· NSA tracked US cell phone locations for two years, Senator says more is still secret
· NSA chief admits figures about foiled terror plots misleading, agency tested cellphone location tracking
· Declassified files detail blatant violations, abuse of NSA domestic spying program
· NSA employees used the agency’s massive surveillance network to spy on lovers, former spouses
· NSA admits that analysts are guilty of multiple ‘willful violations’ of their authority in spying on Americans
· Congressman: no one in Congress was told about NSA privacy violations, had to learn about it via leaks
· Report: $10 million contract tied influential security company RSA to NSA
· Report: NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint users for surveillance, hacking
Just to mention a few.
Most recently, it was revealed that the NSA intercepted electronics shipments before in order to covertly install malicious software and hardware for surveillance and hacking.
The publishing of Snowden’s leaks resulted in multiple high profile court cases challenging NSA surveillance as well.
Cases ranged from a group suing over access to reports on the NSA surveillance program to the ACLU arguing that the mass surveillance is unconstitutional.
Most recently, a federal judge declared the agency’s mass surveillance to be legal, although the ACLU said that they would appeal the decision.
Previously, a federal judge ruled that the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records is likely unconstitutional.
The leaks also resulted in the establishment of a White House advisory panel to investigate the allegations. The panel published a massive document touching on just about all of the points raised in the reports. It remains to be seen if any of the panel’s recommendations will be implemented.
It seems fair to say that the Snowden leaks had the most wide-ranging impact in 2013 given the sheer amount of articles that have been published directly relating to the leaks, the court cases and the renewed congressional scrutiny and criticism of the programs.
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