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|← Public Policy||University of Washington →|
The National Security Agency (NSA) is one of the USA defense departments that are tasked with collecting communication information through cryptography and cryptanalysis especially from foreign intelligence signals and analyzing the information gathered. In addition, NSA protects the USA government information system and communication from unauthorized users. The law, however, prohibits NSA from gathering of intelligence domestically. They gather their intelligence by breaking codes and analyzing communication meaning that they spy on behalf of the USA government by intercepting communications between various parties. The agency has the capability to monitor phone conversations including those of civilians as well as monitor emails, and all sorts of electronic data transmission. The information gather from such activities is then analyzed and threats to the security of the USA indentified and resolved. The agency is also tasked with developing codes for the USA government communication to protect such communications from unauthorized users.
Since NSA is not legally empowered to gather information by intercepting communication of the USA citizens, but it is well known to have the capability to intercept communications from the American public fourth amendment issues have often arise where NSA is concerned. The ability to intercept private citizens’ phone calls, emails, faxes and other electronic data communication is often seen as an infringement on rights to privacy. The rising terror threats to the country and the ability by the terrorist not only to operate in the united state but also to recruit from the citizens have often sparked heated debates. These debates are often divided with some members of the society advocating for the agency to be allowed to conduct domestic surveillance operations. Others feel that allowing for such operations would be in violation of their rights to privacy. Since its inception in 1952 NSA has been a subject of several senate hearings aimed at examining its operations and the scope that the agency should not be allowed to exceed. One of agency earliest controversial conducts was during the president Nixon term in office, where NSA was accused alongside the CIA of intercepting private citizens’ phone calls on behalf of the administration. This was a clear violation of their mandate and violation of the fourth amendment that guarantees American citizen their right to privacy.
In its duties, NSA is also with developing it data gathering capabilities. In the year 2000, the agency was accused of spending millions of dollars to develop data mining programs that did not work as expected, thus taxpayer money. It has also been accused of monitoring credit card transactions, bank transactions and data transmissions within the united state belong to private citizens.