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Originality 2014

Infringing the Fourth Amendment

Mass surveillance by the United States government has been a predominant reoccurring

issue since classified government documents were leaked in May of 2013. These leaks lead to

one of the most significant debates about an individual’s daily life in decades; the constituent’s

right to privacy. According to the fourth amendment of the United States’ Constitution, section

1, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against

unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” The purpose of this amendment is to

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ensure the protection of the US people against unreasonable searches and seizures by the

government without a proper warrant. Top secret leaked government surveillance programs

contracted by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Justice have revealed

that the government has infected computers with malware, collected phone records, metadata,

data, and content from American citizen’s computers and phones. The United States’ Federal

government has gone too far in its surveillance techniques, and in doing so, have infringed upon

the rights of United States’ citizens in the process.

On July 5 th , 2013, The Guardian, a British newspaper, announced the leak of National

Security Agency documents starting with the leak of the NSA collecting phone records of

Verizon, a US corporation, customers in the United States. The PRISM program was then

revealed the next day, regarding the server access to many of the top technology firms in the

world. Finally, on June 9 th , 2013, Edward Snowden revealed himself as the whistleblower to the

world. According to The Guardian, Edward Snowden is a “29-year-old former technical assistant

for the CIA and current employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamiliton” and has

worked for multiple corporations of contracts such as “Booz Allen and Dell.” He worked with

top secret clearance on multiple projects and later downloaded an estimated 1.7 million classified

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documents (Pincus). The United States government charged him with the theft of government

property and the violation of the US Espionage Act of 1917. Since July 2013 he has uncovered

programs such as PRISM, QUANTUM, SECONDDATE, and even more not including files yet

to be decrypted. Snowden is now labeled as a “traitor” by former Defense Secretary, Robert

Gates, but also as a “hero” for others such as Apple’s co-founder, Steve Wozniak. Snowden was

also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in January 2014. The only thing that is known for

certain is that he has uncovered the largest citizen breach of privacy known.

Since computers became personalized, there have always been those who wish to invade

people’s personal space in order to acquire what is on their desktop, PDA, tablet, or other

devices. They are publicly known as hackers, but referred to as black hats or black hat hackers in

online and specialized communities. What many do not understand is that there are three types of

hackers; white hats, grey hats, and black hats. White hats are those you go to when you have a

computer issue and he or she fixes it for you. Grey hats help you, but they can also lean towards

the unethical side of computers. As earlier referred, black hats are those who use their knowledge

to forward their own agenda using methods of fraud, hacking, and other criminal and subversive

activities. These people use their specialties in ways to either invade people’s computers or help

against those who wish to invade people’s privacy. The major question that this paper asks is

which side is the United States government on?

The National Security Agency developed a system called QUANTUM in the 2000’s used

many of the same methods that unethical hackers use to infiltrate people’s computers in order to

cause harm. The NSA uses Domain Name System injection, also known as DNS injection,

HTTP injections, and much more. QUANTUM is split into different sections including

QUANTUMDEFENSE, QUANTUMSMACKDOWN, and QUANTUMHAND (Schneier).

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These programs give access to a person’s third-party database and enable them to hijack IRC and

HTTP-based botnets. These programs are allegedly used on criminals, but can be used to collect

information from anybody else in the United States as well. QUANTUMHAND is one of the

more malicious programs in which the NSA disguises a website as a fake Facebook server. As

someone tries to log onto the site, the NSA will then transmit harmful data packets that trick the

target’s computer into believing they are on the real Facebook website. From there, they can

extract data from the computer.

Another exploitation method used by the National Security Agency uses a man-in-the-

middle attack, this program is codenamed SECONDDATE. SECONDDATE interferes with

communications between a client and server and will then redirect initiated browser page loads

in order to exploit the target’s computer. This will cause a large security problem between all

clients on the network. Matt Blaze, a University of Pennsylvania surveillance expert, says the

potential use of man-in-the-middle attacks on such a scale “seems very disturbing,” and, “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.” Blaze highlights the key idea around the

controversy of how the National Security Agency has been eavesdropping on people within the

United States.

Dozens of programs were revealed since July of 2013, but the most significant and media

covered program was Prism. This eavesdropping program collects data from fiber-optic cable

networks that carry the world’s Internet and phone data. Companies such as Microsoft, Verizon,

and Google participated in this program to certain degrees. Prism allowed the government to spy

and “receive live notifications when a target logs on or sends an e-mail, or may monitor a voice,

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text or voice chat as it happens” (NSA Prism Slides). The program collects two types of data;

metadata and content. The difference between both is that Metadata is only the byproducts of

communication between parties, such as the time of the call and who is involved along with geo-

location data and browser cookies. The Constitutionality of Prism is covered by the FISA

Amendments Act (section 702) and the Patriot Act (section 215). The acts themselves are under

fire for being unconstitutional by many activist groups such as American Civil Liberties Union

and the Electronic Frontier Foundations and Color of Change as well (Khalek). Unfortunately,

the acts allow the National Security Agency to college data from major technological companies.

These laws are highly criticized, especially due to the point John Oliver brought up on The Daily

Show on June 10 th , 2013, saying “Mr. President, no one is saying you broke any laws, we’re just

saying it’s a little bit weird you didn’t have to” (Mesamore). With laws already infringing the

fourth amendment, it is hard to protect against rights that have already been taken from you.

The reach of the National Security Agency has grown considerably in recent years. It

begs the question, how can you protect yourself against government snooping? One answer is to

start browsing anonymous on the web. This can be done by using the anonymous browser

capabilities of Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, or other

browsers. Unfortunately, they are no true ways of being anonymous on the Internet. The most

popular answer to the problem is to use a browser called Tor. The browser connects users to the

normal web that you can access on any other browser, but also the deep web, home to many

highly illegal and criminal activities. Although it is used for those purposes, it is also a brilliant

way to stay anonymous from the government and independent hackers. Tor routes your traffic

through its own network and relays it through different stop points before arriving to the website

you chose. This prevents your ISP and other who are observing your Local Area Network from

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seeing the website you view and stops the website itself from collect the IP address that are

routed through the website when visited.

According to Edward Snowden, “the NSA has developed a way to exploit the Tor

browser bundle,” and goes on to say, “The trick the NSA uses identifies Tor users on the Internet

and then executes an attack against their Firefox web browser” (Schneier). The National Security

Agency then uses small “fingerprints” that detect HTTP requests from the known encrypted Tor

network and the NSA analyzes it in order to see what the person does on the Internet. This forces

those who rely on being anonymous to also acquire a Virtual Private Network to become

invisible on the Internet, which costs money. The United States government is slowly taking

away the constituent’s right to privacy through criminal hacking activities endorsed by the

government and the President himself.

Although there are many who are against the idea of the United States’ agencies invading

aspects of our daily life, there are some who endorse it. The main argument for the agreement

with the policy is that it allegedly keeps the country safe from attack. Representative of New

York, Peter King, said on the topic “The President should stop apologizing, stop being defensive.

The reality is the NSA has saved thousands of lives not just in the United States but in France,

Germany and throughout Europe” (Viswanatha). The surveillance programs instituted by the

National Security Agency have allegedly revolutionized the way the government can find and

dismantle terrorist operations. The main question posed regarding surveillance and terrorist is if

you should sacrifice your constitutionally given rights in order to potentially keep you safe. This

question can be related to a brilliant movie directed by James McTeigue, V for Vendetta. The

government sacrifices the people’s rights by creating a central media outputting propaganda,

fixed religion, curfews, and additional policies to ‘ensure safety’. This situation is much like

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Germany in World War II, where the rights of Jewish citizens were slowly taken away until they

could not do anything about it. The problem in the United States has been discovered early on in

the modern technological innovation era and can be fixed. Whether these surveillance techniques

save lives or not is not the issue, the issue is whether or not it infringes on the United States’

Constitution that was instituted in order to preserve the rights of the people governed.

Every day you hear the left and the right talk about what is good for the citizens of the

United States. One thing that many representatives and senators on both sides agree on is that the

Federal government’s surveillance programs need to be rebuilt. One’s rights cannot be

substituted for the sake of possible safety. Without the guaranteed constitutional liberties derived

from the Constitution, the United States is no better than those countries we oppose because of

their lack of fundamental rights. The forfeiture of liberty in this day in age is getting even more

alarming due to increase in technological innovation and because of this, the government needs

to set proper and fundamental guidelines in order to provide the assurance that they are safe

from the prying eyes of their government. Once the citizens start to lose their fundamental rights,

it is near impossible to get them back.

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Work-Cited

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Gallagher, Ryan, and Glenn Greenwald. "How the NSA Plans to Infect 'Millions' of Computers

with Malware - The Intercept."The Intercept. N.p., 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.

<https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/03/12/nsa-plans-infect-millions-

computers-malware/>.

Weaver, Nicholas. "A Close Look at the NSA’s Most Powerful Internet Attack

Tool." Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 14 Mar. 2011. Web. 15 Mar. 2014.

<http://www.wired.com/opinion/2014/03/q

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Bibliography

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Bibliography Gallagher, Ryan, and Glenn Greenwald. "How the NSA Plans to Infect 'Millions'

of Computers with Malware - The Intercept."The Intercept. N.p., 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 16

Mar. 2014. <https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/03/12/nsa-plans-infect-

millions-computers-malware/>.