The National Security Agency was established in 1952 from the National Security Council for the purposes of intercepting foreign radio communications (Howe, p 11). Since, the NSA has been one of the most secretive institutions within the intelligence community. However, recent events have focused on the NSA’s domestic surveillance, encouraging a debate between security and privacy.
In 1978 the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was enacted for the purposes of outlining protocol for collection of foreign intelligence using electronic surveillance of communications or persons (Brazen, p 2). In 2007, the Act was amended to include the Protect America Act, stating that the National Security Agency had the right to monitor electronic communications between people on U.S. soil, if believed to be a threat, without court supervision (Nakashima and Warrick). The Protect America Act expired after 2007, and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 was signed into law. This amendment included immunity to telecommunications providers for complying with orders to provide information to the NSA (Lichtblau). The program PRISM, was then adopted by the NSA. This program collects and stores internet communications that are provided by telecommunications companies under the FISA Amendment Act of 2008 (Gellman and Poitras). This information is stored as metadata, or specific details about a communication, such as the location, time, or date, a phone call or e-mail was sent (A Guardian Guide to Metadata).
In May of 2013 Edward Snowden flew to Hong Kong to meet with journalists to disclose what he, and the NSA, had been doing. Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA, had been working with the NSA, and various other companies including Dell, to collect information under PRISM (Greenwald, MacAskill, and Poitras). These disclosures lead to debate among politicians and Americans to the extent of security versus privacy.
Legislation is now being proposed by Senator Leahy and Representative Sensenbrenner to reform the NSA. The role of the President in this proposal is to encourage a bipartisan effort to compose legislation, reform the NSA, and protect U.S. citizen’s security and privacy. In the 2014 State of the Union Address by President Obama, the President stated “…working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs – because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated” (State of the Union Address, 2014).
The balance between security and privacy is a delicate place. It is both the duty of the President and of every member of Congress to protect its citizens in both...