The New Surveillance in the United States

The United States National Security Agency’s (NSA) controversial surveillance law was amended to prevent the government from directly collecting the phone data of millions of citizens. The regulatory system, now modified, was condemned by the public after the revelation of discretionary governmental interference in the personal communications of a nation that is a global symbol for individual rights and freedoms.

In practice it is not a new legislation, but rather an amendment of certain provisions of the “Patriot Act,” which was issued after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with a series of restrictions such as the indiscriminate mass collection of private telephone conversations. The abuse of power by the NSA, subjugating personal communications of the media, journalists, businessmen, politicians and public figures, caused adverse reactions like international friction with statesmen and celebrities from allied countries.

However, with this legal turn the United States will continue its surveillance practices, but it will not be the government that collects all the information from citizens; it will fall in the hands of telephone companies, which will only provide specific information required for national security reasons.

Rushing to enact the regulation, President Barack Obama announced that the application of this legislation will strengthen the guarantees of civil liberties and provide greater public security in these programs, and criticized the time it took to vote for the reform when it was about to expire. The president alluded to lengthy disagreements between two sectors of the Republican opposition in Congress and obstacles in the Senate where there was confrontation among conservatives: some for keeping everything as it was, and others strong opponents of the massive spying that the United States carries out to protect its national security.

Everything indicates that preventative spying will not interfere much in the privacy of individuals, and it has limited agencies’ ability to investigate terrorist networks. Only a court order will be able to access certain unusual phone records in order to trace them. The difficulty will be in reconstructing the transparency of monitoring and giving credibility to the protection of civil liberties.

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