NSA to stop reading certain American emails -- will delete some previously collected messages

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The government is supposed to work for the people, but sometimes, it can feel like it is against them. In a democratic country like the USA, where many officials are elected by citizens, you would think this wouldn't be the case, but sadly, it often is. As Edward Snowden revealed in his leaks, the US government has programs where it spies on its own people, doing things like scanning and reading their emails.

Today, the National Security Agency announces -- somewhat begrudgingly -- that it will stop the collection of some American emails that simply mention known foreign targets. It will instead only collect communications to and from the target directly. While this is a big win for the privacy of American people, the NSA is seemingly implying that it could have negative implications for safety. In fact, the agency tries very hard to distance itself from any wrongdoing by making it clear that the reading of these emails were legal and allowed.

The NSA said the following.

Section 702, set to expire at the end of this year, allows the Intelligence Community to conduct surveillance on only specific foreign targets located outside the United States to collect foreign intelligence, including intelligence needed in the fight against international terrorism and cyber threats.

NSA will no longer collect certain internet communications that merely mention a foreign intelligence target. This information is referred to in the Intelligence Community as "about" communications in Section 702 "upstream" internet surveillance. Instead, NSA will limit such collection to internet communications that are sent directly to or from a foreign target.

Even though NSA does not have the ability at this time to stop collecting "about" information without losing some other important data, the Agency will stop the practice to reduce the chance that it would acquire communications of U.S. persons or others who are not in direct contact with a foreign intelligence target.

Finally, even though the Agency was legally allowed to retain such "about" information previously collected under Section 702, the NSA will delete the vast majority of its upstream internet data to further protect the privacy of U.S. person communications.

The changes in policy followed an in-house review of Section 702 activities in which NSA discovered several inadvertent compliance lapses.

NSA self-reported the incidents to both Congress and the FISC, as it is required to do. Following these reports, the FISC issued two extensions as NSA worked to fix the problems before the government submitted a new application for continued Section 702 certification. The FISC recently approved the changes after an extensive review.

The Agency's efforts are part of its commitment to continuous improvement as we work to keep the nation safe. NSA has a solemn responsibility and duty to do our work exactly right while carrying out our critical mission.

The NSA is clearly trying to have its cake and eat it too. On the one hand, the agency is trying to improve its appearance, while on the other, it is making it seem like the stopping of the collection could be detrimental to the country as a whole. In other words, if anything bad was to happen as a result, they could essentially say "told ya so."

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While I appreciate the stoppage and deletion, I would feel better if the tone of the email was more apologetic and empathetic to the American people. After all, we sort of have to take the agency's word that they are stopping the reading of these emails. A more positive announcement could have given us more confidence that we could believe them.

What do you think of this NSA announcement? Tell me in the comments below.

Photo CreditKoksharov Dmitry / Shutterstock

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