[Current Events/ Opinion] One Year, 151 Million Records: The NSA Exposed [Written by Brandon Williams]

It was recently revealed in a report that the NSA collected more than 151 Million phone records in the year 2016 alone, despite a system implemented by Congress to deter this form of metadata collection. The report was issued Tuesday, by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which some will say was “right on time” being that Congress is currently getting ready to make a decision on whether to renew section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act, which basically is a kind of messed up law that allowed federal agencies to get information on American citizens, as long as the TARGET of this information is a foreigner talking to someone in the United States. Following September 11th there had been a lot of new and invasive surveillance laws and mandates put in place under the umbrella of the Patriot Act which allowed the NSA and other agencies to collect an immensely high volume of data on American’s and their call records, which included the phone numbers of the parties on the phone, the time the calls were placed, and the length of the conversations. This went on amidst lots of debates until the infamous Ed Snowden leaked documents that gave details as to HOW this data was, in fact, being collected. This caused congress to step in and create the system in which federal agencies were required to obtain court orders before collecting phone records on an as needed basis. The report that was released showed that, although the NSA collected 151 Million+ phone records,  they only had court orders for 42 terrorism suspects throughout the year. That ratio is unfathomable in my opinion, to have collected phone records that equal to almost half the country’s population when only having “Just Cause” to obtain 42 of those. Now the NSA claims that the reason for the vast amount of records is partially the result of duplication, since a single phone call can be counted as two if information is collected from people on both sides of the phone call, but even if that WAS the case and we were to cut those numbers in half, that’s still around 75 million call records which are incredulously more than they had legal recourse to attain. Hopefully this report provides Congress with the motivation to maybe take a more active role in the prevention of this form of excessive data collection, but it’s my belief that the government as a whole would rather know as much about the citizens as it can while keeping its own inner workings enshrouded in mystery in order to better keep the wheels turning in their favor. I know that may sound a bit extreme but it’s just my personal perspective on the increasing levels of surveillance that is plaguing our daily lives as citizens.

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