WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The revelation this week that a special court had approved new secret National Security Agency (NSA) operations exposed the 2015 USA Freedom Act as just a new cover for US government abuses, AT&T/NSA whistleblower Mark Klein told Sputnik.
“In my view, and the view of the leading NSA whistleblowers, including Thomas Drake, Daniel Elsberg and others, the USA Freedom Act was a fig leaf which did virtually nothing to halt the massive NSA domestic spying,” Klein said on Friday.
Instead, the 2015 act was intended to give the appearance of "reform" while actually giving new life to the intrusive 2001 USA Patriot Act passed under President George W. Bush right after the September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks, he maintained.
“My guess is this is a change in appearances only, for public consumption. The NSA has shown a remarkable ability to stretch the meaning of words to get whatever they want, such as by interpreting the word ‘relevant’ to include everybody's phone records in the entire country,” he stated.
The continuing secrecy was consistent with the intent and detailed terms of the 2015 USA Freedom Act, Klein explained.
“In the matter of NSA spying on phone call metadata, which [former NSA contractor] Ed Snowden revealed … the act's only "reform" was to replace the wholesale handing over to the NSA of millions of Americans' phone call metadata, with a more indirect system,” he pointed out.
Klein observed that under the new system, the NSA would first submit a specific request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. The actual records would be held by the phone companies, who would then comply with FISA court requests in individual cases, he said.
“The Act did not address at all the invasive NSA spying on the internet via the ‘secret rooms’ — revealed by me- at AT&T and other companies,” Klein noted.
On the surface, the USA Freedom Act would seem to be a constriction on the NSA collection, if somewhat minor, Klein acknowledged.
However, he continued, “the FISA court under Bush cooperated in secret with NSA to do the massive and illegal collection as far back as 2001, and the big phone companies like AT&T had no trouble in handing all of it over willingly, with no resistance.”
The FISA court oversees requests for surveillance warrants against suspected foreign spies inside the United States by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.