NSA, stop spying on Americans
Amie Stepanovich is the director of the Washington, D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center's Domestic Surveillance Project. She spoke to the Trib regarding the efforts of her organization to combat the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance practices.
Q: Two months ago, your organization petitioned the NSA to suspend its domestic surveillance program. What's happened since then?
A: The Administrative Procedure Act is a federal law that allows anybody in the United States to petition a government agency to conduct a rulemaking, which means to implement certain policies or practices in regard to one of their program areas. This isn't saying what policies should be implemented, just that procedures are needed to guide a program area moving forward.
Under that act, EPIC petitioned the NSA to conduct a rulemaking in regard to their program that purports to conduct purely domestic surveillance of individuals. The NSA, of course, is supposed to be a foreign surveillance agency and not conduct surveillance of individuals within the United States. So within the last two weeks, the NSA responded to that petition.
Q: What was the crux of the response?
A: Basically, the NSA said they don't believe they are subject to the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.
Q: So they feel they are above the law, in other words?
A: That's basically what they have said, that there are exceptions and circumstances when agencies may not have to comply with the provisions of this law and that they believe they fit into one of those scenarios.
The NSA's response gives EPIC a certain legal standing to challenge that response. It allows us to file a lawsuit in a federal court arguing that their response was erroneous.
This was the same tactic we used when we went against the Transportation Security Administration for their failure to implement privacy protections in regard to body scanners in airports, as we had asked them under the APA to conduct a rulemaking on privacy protection. They denied our petition twice and we were able to file a lawsuit in federal Circuit Court, and the court actually compelled the agency to conduct a rulemaking on their body scanner program.
Q: How optimistic are you that EPIC can prevail?
A: (In addition to the NSA petition), we've also simultaneously challenged the legality of this program in the U.S. Supreme Court. So we think this is a great opportunity for independent oversight in the open federal court system, as opposed to the very secret FISA court, to allow some transparency and accountability by the NSA.
Q: What exactly would EPIC like in terms of stemming these NSA activities?
A: We definitely believe that the NSA's program of collecting domestic surveillance information is unlawful and needs to be stopped. The NSA needs to start acting in accordance with the law, with the National Security Agency Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (and) the USA Patriot Act.
There are specific terms that already are very broadly written to allow the NSA to conduct a range of surveillance programs, and we would argue that some of that language at this juncture needs to be reined in as well. But if the NSA is actually not only acting in accordance with this broad authority, but then acting outside of even that, there is definitely a problem that needs to be addressed.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media (412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates trade Davis to A’s for international signing bonus money
- NFL parity makes playoff chase a multi-team muddle
- Starkey: No explaining Steelers, AFC North
- Clues to Chief Justice John Roberts’ thinking on new ObamaCare case
- Pitt notebook: Chryst keeps Panthers motivated amid adversity
- Finding balance between toughness, excessiveness key for Penguins’ Downie
- For Steelers, a fight to finish for playoff berth
- Arizona’s Miller gets boost from Char Valley grad’s play
- CT scans can find smokers’ lung cancer early
- Stores creating Thanksgiving dine-and-dash dilemma
- Iraqi family, torn apart for opposing Saddam, reunites in Pittsburgh