James Bamford is an author of several books and has specifically dedicated his writing totwo books using his knowledge on the NSA. James has recently joined the American Civil Liberties Union and continues his quest to end extreme NSA spying. Written by James Bamford in April of 2006, the article “Big Brother is Listening” goes into detail about several different spying agencies. There are many forces joining together to make sure the spying agencies never crosses the abyss of no return.
The FISA court was established in the mid-1970’s and most people in Washington don’t even know about its existence. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is a large part of the makings in the FISA court. It is made up of eleven judges whose job is to decide whether or not to grant warrants to the FBI or the NSA when they ask for one. However, in 2001 Bush ordered that warrants are no longer needed in order for the NSA to decide if a person should be put onto a watch list. The National Security Agency’s task is to listen and spy with computer devices which can scan tens of millions of electronic devices every hour. Once a person’s name is put onto the computer with their information there is no way to have it removed because there is no way to even know if it is in the computer. With that, there are several different levels of spying. Stated earlier, the FISA court is not used and has been set aside by the executive branch. The FISA has a secret courtroom in the Justice Department Building on the top floor. With its secrecy, the room is heavily protected with no windows. Then there is the NSA, which stands for National Security Agency and was born in national secrecy. The next is the congressional intelligence committees, who were created to be watchdogs over the intelligence communities, have turned out to be more like cheerleaders. They tend to constantly battle for more money and more freedom for the spying branches rather than fighting for our rights of privacy.
Overall, there are some downfalls to this method. Once your name is in the NSA computers, applying for jobs with the federal government, only to be shut down and rejected for a reason you cannot put your finger on, is very frustrating. In December of 1997 the NSA’s electronic web decided to follow a salesman at a small factory. They followed this man because they thought Microturbo, a ship, was secretly shipping an illegal missile to Iran. In the end when they did a surprise inspection on the ship before it set sail for Iran, the investigators only found legal generators and no illegal missile engines.
Thousands of people work for NSA in complete secrecy. So secret that most people never tell their spouses exactly what they do. Most of the work is done through satellites, but more reliable undersea fiber-optic cables have started being used. Their batteries don’t last long, therefore workers cannot rely on this method. Having the ability to look at millions of peoples personal lives is tempting for the watchers. So who watches over them? NSA personnel have the overall power to intercept and review every transmitting syllable flowing in and out of the United States. Some people say that this method violates the first, fourth, and fifth amendments to the constitution. Americans feel like their privacy is gone and are worried there may be a point of no return.