Government eavesdropping on Americans' cell phone records and emails may be designed to protect citizens from a terrorist attack, but is it legal under the U.S. Constitution? This story is produced by NBC Learn in partnership with Pearson.
Surveillance and Security
TOM LLAMAS reporting:
Do you ever feel like you’re being watched? Well there’s a good chance you are. Just look around the next time you’re at school, at the mall, driving, or just walking down the street. The number of surveillance cameras peeking into our daily lives has exploded. Surveillance cameras can help make our lives safer or even help solve crimes. Security cameras played a huge role in identifying the Boston Marathon bombers in 2013. But privacy advocates say that all these cameras tracking our every move aren’t always a good thing. And it’s not just surveillance cameras they’re worried about.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, TODAY: According to a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper, a court order dating back to April requires the phone company Verizon to turn over phone records on an ongoing daily basis to the National Security Agency. We're talking about the private calls of Americans, whether they've been suspected of a crime or not.
TOM LLAMAS: These millions of phone records being collected by the National Security Agency, or NSA, include every call made to, from, or within the United States. It could even include yours. O.K. well, the Internet – that’s safe, right?
ANN CURRY, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: And now, what we are learning about how the U.S. is tapping into Internet companies and e-mails.
PETE WILLIAMS: Ann, good evening. Sources familiar with this separate government program say it allows the NSA and the FBI to tap directly into the servers of some of the largest internet providers.
TOM LLAMAS: Even the name of this program sounds top-secret. It’s called PRISM, and it lets the NSA and the FBI actively monitor the internet in real time, searching for emails, photos, and documents. Now, when the story of the two surveillance programs broke, the Obama administration defended them as necessary trade-offs that protect Americans from terrorism.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You can’t have 100% security, and also then have 100% privacy, and zero inconvenience.
TOM LLAMAS: So is all this surveillance legal? Don’t worry if you can’t make up your mind – even federal judges can’t seem to agree.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: Our lead story tonight, a federal judge has ruled the NSA is violating our Fourth Amendment rights when it collects data on phone calls into and from the United States.
NATALIE MORALES, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: A federal judge in New York ruled today that the NSA’s vast collection of telephone records is legal. That contrasts with a ruling just two weeks ago from a judge in Washington who said the NSA program likely violates the constitution.
TOM LLAMAS: The second judge said the data collection wasn’t just legal, but it was necessary, to protect Americans against terrorism. Hidden in all those records of telephone calls, he said, are phone numbers and email addresses of terrorists that the NSA needs to track. And he also said something pretty interesting: our privacy is less private than we think.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: The judge says, “People voluntarily surrender personal and seemingly private information to transnational corporations… who exploit that data for profit, something far more intrusive than the government’s phone record collection.”
TOM LLAMAS: You might think that the U.S. Constitution protects the privacy of every American, but it doesn’t mention privacy at all. So the big decisions on how to balance security and privacy are something we’re still debating. And while you may be safer from crime, your private life probably isn’t as private as you think.
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — As the maker of trend-setting gadgets like the iPhone and iPad, Apple has changed the way people use technology in their daily lives. Now, after positioning itself as a champion of privacy, the tech giant has sparked a potentially momentous conflict with the federal government over encryption.
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