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Why it is Essential to Know about the PRISM Program

Why it is Essential to Know about the PRISM Program

Reading news articles we often get outraged, inspired, appalled, animated, and enthusiastic.  Certain topics related to our culture, media, politics, sports, food, et cetera are triggers for responses.  As citizens it is important we develop our knowledge of current events and transparency in our government.  PRISM is one of  those topics that you may be curious to know more about.  Here is the political science and background behind the PRISM program. 

Who operates PRISM?

PRISM is operated by the National Security Agency, which "provides products and services to the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, government agencies, industry partners, and select allies and coalition partners."  NSA is under the authorization of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), "Congress in 1978 established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as a special court and authorized the Chief Justice of the United States to designate seven federal district court judges to review applications for warrants related to national security investigations."  President Barack Obama defended the use of this technology, stating "They may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism."

What is PRISM?

PRISM was an outgrowth of the Terrorist Surveillance Program that was created after September 11, 2001.  On that date terrorists attacked and murdered passengers on four airplanes, those at the crowded World Trade Center, and those at the United States Department of Defense at the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia.  These hijackers were associated with Al-Qaeda, "The Base", engaged in Islamic terrorism.  Osama bin Laden was the founder of this militant group, the son of a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia.  The terrorists on 9/11 cited one of their reasons for attacking as their disdain for the American-Israeli relationship.  In 2004, Osama bin Laden issued a video taking responsibility for the attack.  The surveillance program was used by the National Security Agency,  "home to America's codemakers and codebreakers", to wiretap targets.  On May 2, 2011 bin Laden was shot by special forces from the United States in Pakistan.       

When did PRISM become a hot topic?

June 6, 2013 is when the program was discovered by the general public through leaked stories in the Washington Post and The Guardian.  News stories revealed companies and customers that were stored in the program, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Paltalk, YouTube, AOL, Skype, Verizon, and Apple.  

Where is PRISM stored?

Copied data such as photos, videos, and messages are stored twenty miles south of Salt Lake City in Bluffdale, Utah.  The NSA building is a comprehensive facility with tremendous data storage, the building is one square mile, and is worth over two billion dollars.  

Why should we know about PRISM?

This system and its software allows for quick captures of real time conversations and information through various forms of communication.  Terrorism, threats, violence, and more have been and can be stopped using this program.  It is considered an essential tool in the mission of NSA, which "leads the U.S. Government in cryptology that encompasses both Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Information Assurance (IA) products and services, and enables Computer Network Operations (CNO) in order to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies under all circumstances."   Conversely, this ain’t no Pollyanna PRISM.

Security, freedom, rights, privacy, and terrorism are age old topics.  Perennial topics as well.  There are those, such as John Locke that argue we must have private property, for without it the king owns all.  There are those, such as Friedrich Hayek that argue disasters occur and liberty is lost when utopianists think they can gather all the information and plan out an ideal outcome.  There are those like Jean-Jacques Rousseau that cloak their autocracy in freedom’s clothing.

In contrast, we have Thomas Jefferson’s declaration for government by consent of the people.  We also have Montesquieu’s trumpet for controlled, balanced government.  Only threatened by the ambition of man.  Through the course of life if this or that man or this or that program does not take ambition, another will in their place.  All people being ambitious, a free people in a republic always face challenges.  

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