With just over a week left in office, President Obama has massive expanded NSA authority to share the personal communications swept up in their many warrantless wiretap schemes with America’s other 16 spy agencies.
The move aims to “relax” limits imposed by privacy laws by allowing the NSA to share raw data in a more or less limitless fashion with the other 16 spy agencies before the privacy laws are even applied to them. This is meant to get more eyes on the data collected.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who like Obama is out the door in about a week, defended the move, arguing that all the spy agencies will be bound by existing rules once they get ahold of and process the raw data. Privacy experts, however, note that the existing privacy protections aren’t great to begin with, and the expansion to so many different agencies just increases the risk of abuse.
ACLU lawyer Patrick Toomey noted that the problem is compounded by the amount of data of Americans caught by the NSA’s supposedly foreign surveillance operations, noting that such access is happening mostly without court oversight, and adding “seventeen different government agencies shouldn’t be rooting through Americans’ emails with family members, friends, and colleagues, all without ever obtaining a warrant.”