As America’s “foreign intelligence service”, the CIA has historically been given a relatively free and unrestrained hand to operate. This latitude exists because the CIA’s outward-looking mission benefits from a degree of secrecy, and because express and implied legal barriers exist that prohibit the CIA from operating in the domestic and law enforcement spheres. Maintaining this wall between intelligence-gathering for national security purposes, and domestic law enforcement and intelligence has been of paramount importance in preserving our liberties.
Recently, Wikileaks revealed a trove a documents, purportedly from the CIA, that demonstrate the expansive degree to which the CIA has helped engineer hacking tools into everyday American consumer hardware and software products. To be sure, some of these surveillance tools are being used on legitimate, foreign targets of CIA espionage. However, there is serious concern that these tools can and indeed have been employed to spy on American citizens.
The sweep of surveillance powers that exist outside of traditional domestic law enforcement are terrifying to contemplate in their own right. They are even more terrifying when we contemplate their use on American citizens instead of foreign targets.
We already have examples of the NSA sharing raw intelligence with law enforcement agencies like the FBI and DEA, all without the restraints of the 4th amendment. That should have given us great pause. We are literally a turn of the wrist away from turnkey tyranny.
When institutions like the NSA and CIA with sweeping surveillance powers demonstrate that they cannot be trusted in the use of that awesome power, perhaps it is time that they be radically altered.
David Williams, Esq., is CEO of Presto Servers, Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.