An unlimited appetite for data

Law enforcement and government intelligence agencies will insist they can never gather too much information when conducting an investigation. They’re probably right.

On the other hand, if let completely lose these agencies would probably collect everything they can about citizens on the off chance they might need it some day. Authoritarian governments think that way; it’s catchy.

Which is why the release in the U.S. of newly declassified court documents are so interesting. It’s a decision by Judge John Bates of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a closed-door court that has no Canadian equivalent for approving electronic surveillance for any communications involving a U.S. resident and foreign powers.

The decision “offers a scathing assessment of the NSA (National Security Agency) ability to manage its own top-secret electronic surveillance of Internet metadata—a program the NSA scrapped after a 2011 review found it wasn’t fulfilling its mission,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

The NSA got aggressive on domestic surveillance after the 9/11 attacks, as outlined by for agency contractor Edward Snowden and others, resulting in the over-collection of communications data.

“Among the issues described in the judge’s memorandum: a typographical error that would have led to two months of over-collection of data in previous court orders; NSA sharing information with other agencies that failed to limit the use of the data purely to counterterrorism purposes; and disseminating reports with information about legal U.S. residents without getting necessary approval to share that information.”

How much intelligence police and intelligence agencies need without a warrant is something that needs to be discussed much more publicly, as this story illustrates.

Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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