News

Americans’ phone records still in government hands

After the surveillance information leak by Edward Snowden, the government has been trying to assure Americans that they still have a right to privacy.

President Obama announced at the Justice Department on January 17 that he was going to restrict intelligence agencies, such as the National Security Agency, from being able to acquire citizens’ phone records, as well as try to remove such private information out of government control.

However, since that announcement almost two weeks ago, the phone records of every citizen are still being recorded by government officials.

Obama said during his speech that the new reforms, “should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe.”

While the president is pushing for more privacy concerning individuals, he still believes that programs, such as the NSA’s broad surveillance net, are a must for national security.

After the fiasco regarding the monitoring of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Obama has also forbidden the eavesdropping on allied country leaders, “unless there is a compelling national security purpose,” which may not be difficult for the American government to justify.

Ultimately, the president is putting the responsibility of these surveillance changes in the hands of Congress and the intelligence agencies.

“America’s capabilities are unique,” Obama said. “And the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do. That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.”

The president held during his announcement that the NSA has not abused its power and that its surveillance is necessary for the safety of this country against terrorists.

Obama did briefly refer to Snowden, saying that he had down more harm than good.

More recently, members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board are pushing for the collection of individuals’ phone records to stop, as well as for the records already in government possession to be deleted.

A report from this divided board read: “Based on the information provided to the board, including classified briefings and documentation, we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.”

Specific details of these surveillance reforms are still being determined by government agencies, and Americans may never truly know if there have been any significant changes to how they are monitored.

Despite claims of limiting surveillance, every citizen needs to be aware that what they say, especially via cell phone and the Internet, is not private information.

– Abbie Walker, News Editor

Sources: New York Times.com, CNN.com, REUTERS, USA Today

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