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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

2/19/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

NSA spied on trade talks with Australian help.

According to a document released by NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, the NSA spied on lawyers during discussions with a foreign government engaged in trade talks with the United States. The NSA had the help of the Australian Signals Directorate in the talks.

Americans are wary of the NSA, but few people have any ideas on how to stop them.

Americans are wary of the NSA, but few people have any ideas on how to stop them.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/19/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: NSA, privacy, trade talks, Indonesia, attorneys, law firm, spying


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The reality is becoming clear. NSA spying has less to do with preventing terrorism and more to do with control. A document leaked by Edward Snowden reveals that the NSA spied on discussions between an unnamed American law firm and the Indonesian government. The law firm was advising the Indonesian government during trade talks with the United States.

The NSA obtained the information from the Australian Signals Directorate, which handled the actual interception, then provided the information to the NSA via its office in Canberra. The document was dated to February 2013, just weeks before Snowden would make off with thousands of damning documents and materials related to NSA operations.

The Australians warned the NSA that the information they were intercepting could be covered by American attorney-client privilege, but the NSA accepted them anyway. How the information was used remains unknown.

It is possible that it was ultimately consumed by U.S. officials responsible for the talks to provide an advantage to negotiators. It is unreasonable to think that Indonesian negotiators could be likely terrorism suspects.

Interestingly, the NSA is not barred from eavesdropping on attorney-client conversations. This simple fact is the reason why the American Bar Association changed its ethics rules in 2012 to ask lawyers to make efforts to protect information from being intercepted by outsiders. However, the guideline is vague and it is unclear what attorneys can reasonably do to prevent NSA interception.

Attorneys have already complained before the Supreme Court that a 2008 law, which allows warrantless wiretapping of the kind engaged in by the NSA, could force them to take unreasonable measures to protect their clients. For example, attorneys could be forced to travel overseas to meet with foreign clients instead of conferencing with them via the internet. The Supreme Court answered that such fears were "speculative" in dismissing their challenge.

Although trade disputes between the U.S. and Indonesia can be particularly contentious, since the U.S. has banned some imports, such as clove cigarettes, nothing in the talks elevates the information to a national security level. This is proof then, that the NSA is using its powers much more broadly than to simply net terrorists.

The agency is an all-encompassing spy agency, handling signal intercepts as well as mass data collection to provide information to other agencies including the CIA, FBI, and yes, even the IRS and possibly local law enforcement.

While the people who are often the target of dedicated efforts are those who we wish to ensnare for reasons of security and safety, there are also a lot of Americans who are being subjected to what may be the greatest mass-violation of their Fourth Amendment rights in American history.

There is also fear that the powers wielded by the NSA could creep and result in the erosion of rights for the average citizen going about everyday business. Already, the NSA has demonstrated that it has the capability to intercept and monitor individual communications on a massive scale. We also know that the corrupting influence of power usually results in its eventual abuse. Several NSA agents have reportedly abused their power to wiretap individuals for personal reasons, including love interests.

It remains a matter of time before the powers of the agency are turned against the people themselves in an effort to control them, subtly at first, perhaps less so later.

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