The U.S Department of Justice is investigating the FBI for information obtained from mass surveillance by the National Security Agency’s (NSA) phone data collection methods. The NSA spying program secretly collected massive amounts of U.S. citizen data without consent, while actively sharing the information between federal agencies.
Earlier this year, a U.S. judge described the NSA spy program as yielding “staggering” results when the court struck down the agency’s right to collect the data. The program was resumed in June and was given a set operational timeline to December this year. Judge Lynch described the information as “Such expansive development of government repositories of formerly private records would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans.”
The comprehensive spying program was first leaked to the public by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden back in 2013.
Another Justice Department investigation is targeting the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), with regard to its use of an information sharing program labeled “parallel construction.” Reports indicate the program was used by the agency to take information from sources such as the NSA, cover it with lies, and give it out to other federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The technique has been described in DEA circles as a “decades old, bedrock concept.” The program was identified by the Electronic Frontier Federation (EFF) as an “intelligence laundering” tool for covering up “deception and dishonesty.” Critics also argued that the program runs parallel to post 9/11 surveillance laws.
Both the FBI and DEA, running under the Justice Department, have been put under review by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG is mandated to investigate fraud, abuse and office mismanagement. Though reports from the office cannot force change, they are analyzed in congress and released to the public.
The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating the FBI’s use of the Patriot’s Act Section 215, allowing it to take “any tangible thing” straight from any business as part of investigations on terrorism. A recent investigation indicated that all Section 215 applications by the FBI were approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA).
The NSA’s spying program has long been subject to criticism over infringement of private citizens’ rights. The program, which has since resumed, needs to stop lest Americans’ constitutional privacy rights are done away with.