NSA Monitoring Thousands of Computers Worldwide

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One day after a Senate panel heard testimony on the oversight of the National Security Agency's surveillance program, The New York Times reports the agency is using software to monitor about 100,000 computers around the world.

Citing NSA documents, the report says the software sends information by radio waves. It can also be used to create a digital highway to launch cyber-attacks.

The technology has been in use for years, monitoring the Chinese and Russian militaries as well as trade groups in the European Union. It's also been used to spy on U.S. allies in the war on terror, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and India.

The NSA was already in trouble for requesting phone companies collect millions of records of private citizens.

How damaging to the U.S. is the revelation that the NSA has planted spying software in other countries? Seton Motley, president of Less Government, answers this and more on CBN Newswatch, Jan 15.

"We have concluded this phone record program is not uniquely valuable enough to justify a massive intrusion on American's privacy," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said during Tuesday's hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

While the report may create more trouble overseas, the revelations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden -- especially about the data collection on Americans -- forced the appointment of a special panel to look into possible NSA abuses of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

"Our judgment about the government holding that data is that the primary danger with the 215-telephone metadata program is not if it is used only in the way in which its use is authorized, but that it leaves sitting out there a huge amount of information, personal information about Americans, that could be used in awful ways," Prof. Geoffrey Stone, part of the five-member Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, told the Senate panel.

The review panel told senators that the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court overseeing NSA activities should not be making decisions on law or policy without an opposition voice.

"Sunlight is the best of disinfectants, as Justice Brandeis said, and that is very important for the American people, unless there is a very strong national security justification on the other side, to get a sense of what their government is doing," review panel member Cass Sunstein said.

But judges on the secret FISA court strongly oppose having a privacy advocate in their midst. In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the judges slammed the proposal as unnecessary and counter-productive. They claim that it will create burdens on the court's workload.

Some lawmakers, however, seemed unimpressed with that argument.

"We've seen this movie before; we know how it ends," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, warned. "We know that eventually, if that much information remains in the hands of the government for that long, it will eventually be abused. It will be manipulated for partisan and otherwise nefarious purposes, and we can't let that happen."

All three branches of government are likely to be involved in the future battle between protecting privacy and safeguarding Americans, especially against terrorism.

After the president's speech Friday, the main burden may fall on Congress, the branch closest to the people.

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John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

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