Internet spying program valuable and effective in US: Watchdog

Written by PTI | Washington | Updated: Jul 3 2014, 14:46pm hrs
Internet securityThe internet spying program of the America's NSA is a 'valuable and effective tool' in protecting national security. Reuters
The internet spying program of the America's National Security Agency (NSA) is a "valuable and effective tool" in protecting national security, according to a federal independent watchdog whose members are appointed by the US President.

The report on the controversial US surveillance program by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board comes two days after a US media outlet, making public a classified document, said the US has been snooping upon as many as 193 countries including India and six political parties across the globe including the BJP and the Pakistan's People Party.

"Overall, the Board has found that the information the program collects has been valuable and effective in protecting the nation's security and producing useful foreign intelligence," said the report on "Surveillance Program Operated Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act" by the five-member Board.

"The program has operated under a statute that was publicly debated, and the text of the statute outlines the basic structure of the program.

Operation of the Section 702 program has been subject to judicial oversight and extensive internal supervision, and the Board has found no evidence of intentional abuse," the report said.

According to the report, the treatment of non-US persons under surveillance programs raises important but difficult legal and policy questions.

Noting that privacy is a human right that has been recognised most prominently in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ("ICCPR"), an international treaty ratified by the US Senate, the Board said many of the generally applicable protections that already exist under US surveillance laws apply to US and non-US persons alike.

"The President's recent initiative under Presidential Policy Directive 28 on Signals Intelligence ("PPD-28")439 will further address the extent to which non-US persons should be afforded the same protections as US persons under US surveillance laws.

Because PPD-28 invites the PCLOB to be involved in its implementation, the Board has concluded that it can make its most productive contribution in assessing these issues in the context of the PPD-28 review process," it said.

The definition of foreign intelligence information purposes is limited to protecting against actual or potential attacks, protecting against international terrorism, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, conducting counter-intelligence, and collecting information with respect to a foreign power or foreign territory that concerns US national defence or foreign affairs, the report said.

According to the Board, the executive branch is currently engaged in an extensive review of the extent to which, as a policy matter, the United States should afford all persons, regardless of nationality, a common baseline level of privacy protections in connection with foreign intelligence surveillance.