Reforming NSA ‘is like bailing out a ship that's already sunk’
Two former NSA employees are preparing to reveal new details and testify before a German parliamentary committee about NSA surveillance in the country. According to the leaks of Edward Snowden, Germany was one of the most spied on countries in the world.
RT:How hard is it to deny the US government access to your databases? Are there any repercussions?
Pete Ashdown: It’s not hard at all. You essentially need to follow the Bill of Rights and the 4th Amendment and [the rules] of warrant. Traditionally most requests that we receive from law enforcement and the government did not fall under a proper warrant and we turn them back.
RT:On Wednesday a group of internet firms from six countries filed a lawsuit against a UK intelligence agency. Do you think such actions will yield results?
PA: It is hard to say that it is going to have any impact at all. I would love to go with the group in filing this lawsuit; there are a couple of US firms there as well. There is a hard cost in dealing with those kinds of attacks on an internet service provider and they have every right to try and receive compensation but whether it is going to change the behavior of governments – I remain skeptical.
RT:All efforts to reform the NSA have so far been about limiting spying on Americans. Has anything been done in order to keep the NSA from doing the same to foreigners?
PA: Nothing at all, and we have seen further revelations that they are literally spying on every country that they can with the exception of four. In my opinion, the NSA is a corrupt agency. If I as an individual had undertaken the same actions, I would be thrown into the prison for 30 years. Any attempt to reform [it], in my opinion, is like bailing out a ship that has already sunk.
RT:Edward Snowden revealed the wide scale of surveillance. Has anything really changed since the information became public?
PA: There have been two attempts by the US Congress to try and defund the NSA, both failed. In my opinion, the US Congress is more interested in being paranoid and aggressive than taking care of Americans' needs like health, education and science. So I do not have a lot of optimism that much is going to change at all unless the NSA is destroyed and shut down completely.
RT:Why did companies, such as Verizon, provide information to the government in the first place?
PA: I think a lot of these companies that provided wholesale spying information were trying to curry favor with the government. A lot of them get grants and contracts from the government, tax breaks and they don’t want to be on the bad side of the US government. They want to make money for their shareholders and that is the bottom line, it is not a privacy of their customers.
RT:Are we to see any positive changes in the law to protect people from surveillance?
PA: I would hope so. Mass surveillance is not covered by the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. You have to have a specific warrant against a specific cause, and it is just not supported. So it is encouraging to see the Supreme Court holding up the 4th Amendment but we need to see a lot more cases coming forward before the NSA starts to see any real impact on that.
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