Four months have passed since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden began spilling secrets about the NSA’s surveillance programs, but many Americans still don’t know what to think about the disclosures.
For good reason. The surveillance programs are highly technical, involving the bulk interception of huge volumes of communication data as they traverse multiple links and networks. The laws governing what the NSA can do are complex and open to conflicting interpretations.
NSA officials say their violations of the surveillance limits are largely inadvertent and arise from the difficulty of drawing a clear line between lawful and unlawful activities. Supporters of the programs say they are necessary to protect the country from terrorist attacks, while critics say the main effect has been to erode privacy and civil liberties.
Over the past few weeks, Weekend Edition listeners have been submitting their questions about NSA surveillance activities. Here are the answers.
To learn about the NSA, head here