The Maneater

Column: Pardoning Manning doesn’t cover for new NSA powers

Just days before leaving office, President Barack Obama pardoned a whistleblower while expanding NSA powers.

Photo illustration. Hacking is a fast-growing problem that the government, among others, is constantly learning how to manage. Former President Barack Obama recently commuted the 35-prison year sentence of Army soldier Chelsea Manning to seven years. Manning was convicted in 2013 for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks.

Hunter Gilbert is a freshman at MU. He is an opinion columnist who writes about rights and tech for The Maneater.

Several days before leaving office, President Barack Obama did something few believed possible under his administration: He commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence. Manning was found guilty of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of documents and videos to Wikileaks.

Like Edward Snowden, she was praised for doing so by multiple rights advocacy agencies and groups. This is a shocking outcome because the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act of 1917 more than any other administration, using more power to silence whistleblowers and their journalist contacts. From a public persona perspective, it may appear that the Obama administration is attempting to back its notion of being the “most transparent” administration, but one could argue the opposite after what was signed on Jan. 3.

Under the watch of President Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed an order effectively allowing the NSA to share all of its spying data with every single U.S. intelligence agency. For example, if you use Verizon Wireless, Verizon has already agreed to give all info and access to their subscribers to the NSA. Combined with that knowledge and this new law it can be inferred that all intelligence agencies have access to this information. By the way in most cases, turning your phone “off” won’t even help you.

Here’s the kicker: If the DEA or Missouri State Police wanted to get info on a suspect, say their bank account transactions or location via cell phone, they would normally need to get a warrant. This is no longer the case. This, to a degree, works around the Fourth Amendment. This all went unnoticed due to the build-up of the inauguration. Some people on social media were so caught up with the inauguration of Donald Trump that they did not realize changes were already occurring.

In George Orwell’s 1984, the reader is introduced to a total state-run surveillance, something that seemed impossible. It made the idea intriguing. As it turns out, the government doesn’t need informants or cameras plastered to every building to figure out where you are — they have access to your camera and microphone on your cellphone. Edward Snowden said on Twitter, “As he hands the White House to Trump, Obama just unchained NSA from basic limits on passing raw intercepts to others.” The restrictions are off. The power of information is now limitless, and the Obama administration handed this power off to arguably one of the most shambled-together administrations in our nation’s history. This, on top of the ease of access for law enforcement and their ability to get their hands on this information, during a time calling for increased oversight for policing and an accountability for spying on law-abiding citizens all culminates in a worrisome scenario.

This concept throws aside civil liberties in the name of protection from “foreign threats.” The more you look at it, the more it appears as if the government is more afraid of its people’s potential than that of terrorists overseas.

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