IEP Research Paper

Satkrit Chapagain

 NSA – mass surveillance

Mass Surveillance: The Puzzle


With the technology age, everything has changed. What seemed like a niche, useful for businesses and corporation now is exceedingly used to share everything in a person’s daily life. From its use in texts with colleagues to corporation using it in meetings, everyone’s life is binded to this technological revolution. To help people in this era, companies like Google came to help with search, Microsoft and Apple to provide personal computers and later smart phones. Now many of the world’s biggest brand are based on the internet. With growing use of these new technologies, government had found an easier way to keep track of people when previously, they would have had to follow people wasting manpower and money. But the use of this new found method seems to have been abused, after leaks from Snowden showing that person information from German chancellor to an ordinary citizens around the world were tracked. What this research paper is trying to address is whether there was an abuse of power and if so, to what extend? Is there a better way to track information without putting jeopardy to ordinary citizen’s lifestyle?

Source # 1

Eileen Sullivan. “Top U.S. Intel officer confirms warrantless searches of Americans.” PBS. 1 April, 2014. Web.



This article was published on PBS by author Eileen Sullivan, who analyzes the mass collection of information by NSA and its broad use in services like Facebook to collect information. The article informs that the U.S. Intel have been using surveillance to collect massive amount of data from major Internet companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook through one of its programs designed to target communications of foreigners located outside of U.S.  In 2011, a law was passed that made it so that not only were foreigners were being tracked but also the citizens of U.S. NSA deputy said this authority will be used to search for target of terrorist attacks while other civil liberties argued that it’s a loophole in law that is used to pass the Fourth Amendment to surveillance of Americans. An argument briefly discussed showed how this law can be used to bypass the Fourth Amendment.

This article is credible because it is written by a respectable journalist who is part of the Associated Press. The article has been also published in PBS and US News Week. The article also provides particular quotes on certain part of the story, providing more credibility. This articles solves one of my underlying questions on whether the jury and government are in support of the work done by NSA. It’s valuable to my topic on surveillance as it provides information on when the law came to pass, what the government are doing it to revoke the law, and what justification the  NSA are giving.

Source # 2

Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald. “How the NSA plans to infect ‘Millions’ of computers with malware” The Intercept. 15 February, 2014. Web. <;

The argument presented on the article is saying that National Security Agency is using its ability more than just to protect people. The agency is using its ability to dramatically hack into computers on a mass scale using automated system. This article also informs us about the various procedures used by NSA to collect information from phishing viruses to pretending to be a networks server and adding malware. They also seem to be masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and infiltrate files from hard drives. The National Surveillance Agency are using companies server and infecting them with a system called TURBINE which can be used to collect information from large network and is added to companies computer which send out information for the NSA to collect automatically and also delete themselves within a certain amount to make them untraceable. Blaze, a leading surveillance expert, “The thing that raises a red flag for me is the reference to ‘network choke points, that’s the last place that we should be allowing intelligence agencies to compromise the infrastructure – because that is by definition a mass surveillance technique.” The agency also seems to be working with 5 other nations to implement their infrastructure to collect information’s.

The article can be based to be authentic because the information seems to come from the information collected by Snowden himself. Also the article has various sources linked below the article presenting where the sources for the information came. It also provides quotes from distinguished people to make the article more credible. It’s very valuable to my issue because the concerns about to how far extend the National Service Agency are going to collect all the information they can makes it very discomforting. It also provides a really great information to broad details with some quotes from distinguished people backing up the information.This article solves a very underlying question of how the information is collected and where. Also it provides valid information on whether or not this whole embargo is done by the U.S. alone or are there other countries participating in this. To which yes there are. But this article also brings us a very interesting question on whether or not has this technology actually been used to gain unfair advantages?

Source # 3

Friedland, Steven. The Difference between Invisible and Visible Surveillance in a Mass Surveillance World (February 7, 2014). Elon University Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-02. <>

The article talks about how there has been a dramatic change in how surveillance was once done and what it is now. The author talks about the advancement in facial recognition software already in use by some companies and also the various different systems used in surveillance continue to multiply from drones to biometrics to signal analysis. The author also points how that with invisible surveillance no narrative concerning the harm of surveillance. Before the evidence shown by Snowden, it was considered a normal to view the invisible surveillance as daily part of life style as they didn’t disrupt with peoples life and as long as they were doing nothing wrong it was ok. But that view has changed as the complexity and the amount of data collected was unnerving. It has been reported that the NSA can monitor 100,000 computers around the world,40 is collecting hundreds of millions of text messages daily,41 and is viewing non targeted messages and data as well. Some of the surveillance included millions of phone records from Americans. The government also has partnered with private firms to obtain data from sophisticated industry data collection operations, without customer knowledge. It has also been reported that the United States and British spy agencies accessed the personal data of customers using “Angry Birds” and various other apps.

The author of this article, Steven Friedland, is a professor at a law school while also a senior scholar. The article was also published in SSRN, a credible social science research network. The article also cites from various different journal providing more credibility for the information provides. The article is useful to my research as it provides information on various system of surveillance used. It also argues a point on why invisible surveillance is bad. One of the points raised again invisible surveillance was the fact that our adversarial court system and democracy cannot be raised concerning harm of surveillance, whether it violates fourth amendment and also making it hard to distinguish between legitimate or illegitimate power, creating a slippery slope of one sided justification. This article is valuable to my topic because it brings up fascinating points on the need of reforms in laws as the current generation has far exceeded then what was set back in 1970’s. Also it talks about how it’s important for the visibility of surveillance so our rights can be protected.

Source # 4

Mark D. Ryan and Jia Liu. Verifiably accountable surveillance. March 13, 2014. Birmingham University. <>

NSA and GCHQ have covertly weakened the encryption implementations in commercial software products by weakening the randomness of generated keys to gain access to more data while also making the system weaker for other hackers. All this is done for the purpose of identifying and combating threats to national security. None of it, however, has anything like a democratic mandate since it was (until 2013) unknown by most people and politicians. People have a need to keep secrets to maintain purposeful relationships with others. For example, to maintain her credibility as a professional, a dentist prefers to keep secret from her patients and colleagues the details of illnesses she may have, her financial profile, her opinions and religion. If these were disclosed to her colleagues and patients, it would change their attitude toward her in a way she would not like, and could put her in danger to exploitation such as blackmail, spam etc.

The article also provides us with various ways to change the system. One of the way provided to authenticate whether the privacy system is not being manipulated is to let the citizens access and verify if the amount of information collected is more than what was promised. The information available for the public would be encrypted and also available after a certain amount from 1 – 3 year based on material.

The authors of this article are both established in their field of computer science. The author also cite their information with credible sources from established universities like Stanford University. This article is valuable to my research as it provides many legitimate concerns with an overzealous surveillance community. NSA have weakened the encryption implementations in commercial software products by weakening the randomness of generated keys to gain access to data while also making the software easier to hack for hackers. It also provides us with ominous example of what could happen if the information were to go in the wrong hands. The article also provides us with various ways the system can be changed. One of the many methods provided include the ability of citizens to access information collected by the agency and verify that the information collected does not exceed the law. And with the issue of criminals keeping track of their information live, the information would be provided after 1 -3 years. Another thing that would be used is to keep the names encrypted so no person can be extradited for their behaviors. It also acknowledge the need for some surveillance while also proving certain limits and measures kept in place to keep the surveillance organizations from going overboard.

Source # 5

Austen D. Givens. The NSA Surveillance Controversy: How the Ratchet Effect Cmkan Impact Anti-Terrorism Laws. July 2, 2013. Harvard National Security Journal. <>

The article starts of by establishing a timeline of when the news of NSA surveillance was published. The article also points out about how there were people who opposed the surveillance and others who were actively defending the government. Then it goes on to talk about some people who were outraged by the surveillance like Al Gore and then it quotes a Senator Lindsay Graham who is for the surveillance and calling it needed. There was also support from various senior officials who credited the surveillance with decreasing terrorist incidents in the U.S. Although there has been a huge debate over the surveillance the NSA’s collection of data seems to be legal based upon the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) interpretation of US Patriot Act. But interestingly one of the most interesting remarks comes from Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, one of the original authors of the US Patriot Act. He wrote when the Act was first drafted that one of the major controversy was on the request for specific business records and needing proof from authorized investigation and stated that targeting US citizen is prohibited. Sensenbrenner argues that the NSA telephone metadata is a bridge too far and falls well outside of the original intended scope of the ACT. He also feels that this surveillance falls well outside of the law. Acknowledging that his statements may have been motivated by political interest, the expansion of the abuse of expanding the law to fit the agenda is consistent with many scholars. This ratchet effect is a unidirectional change in some legal variable can set in a motion process that can repeat itself indefinitely. The author then reflects on many cases of local governments trying to lobby against some provisions against the act. After which the author tries to comprehend and educate about the ratchet effect that is in place.

This article is credible because it comes from Austen D. Givens, a PhD student in the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London. Another way to verify the credibility of the article is that the article was published in Harvard Law Journal, one of the premium research journal to have an article published. This article is important to my research as it provides the information on when and how the Patriot Act set in motion the ability of the National Surveillance Agency to collect mass metadata from phone companies such as Verizon and their programs with internet companies such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook to collect information’s. Another thing this article provided that proved valuable to my research was the alarming rate at which the Patriot Act seemed to be molded to fit in with what the NSA wanted. It was also discomforting to know that there had been a few cases of local government trying to provision the surveillance with no avail. This is really a great final piece to my topic as it shows us how and when the NSA got the rights needed to track mass metadata from phones to internet services like Google, and Facebook. Then the article also provides information on the ratchet effect within the National Service Agency in trying to expand the Patriot Act to justify mass surveillance.


So in conclusion, technology has changed the world for both better and worse. It has many usefulness from educating at a tap of a button to talking to your friends across the world. But it also has the ability to destroy a person’s lives and with leaks showing mass surveillance, that hypothesis may also occur. This research paper’s objective was to address whether there was an abuse of power which is unconditionally yes. This paper’s intention was also to show better methods to track information without putting any jeopardy on ordinary citizen’s life which would be based on anonymity. Although there are many more resources available to try and bring in more information on the surveillance agency, I feel I have achieved my goal of trying to inform on how the agency is getting the information and how they got the government’s support in collecting so much private information from both foreigners and U.S. citizens. There may be so uses to the information tracked by the agency from tracking terrorist and illegal uses, most of the agency’s ability to track simply on abuse of power. Information is tracked for the sake of collecting without any substantially proof. These information can be later used to vilify and discredit politicians or corporate workers. Is it fair to any ordinary citizen around the world that something they did ten years could have a huge impact on their life and be used as a discredit them later? I don’t believe that’s fair, do you?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s