Oh Snap! The Government Just Got Put On Notice ... By An 8th-Grader.

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I know, I know. There's a lot of confusing information out there about government surveillance, and it's super hard to keep up with it all, let alone understand it. Luckily, this award-winning documentary by eighth-grader Ben Blum explains some things most adults have trouble with. Make sure you stay through to 6:00 because this kid really sticks it to Congress with a list of demands.

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Hi, I'm Ben Blum. Imagine if you could monitor the governments every move. Imagine if you had access to the government's private, classified documents. If the government ever found out about this you would be subject to arrest and prosecution under federal laws. In reality, the United Sates government has been spying on ordinary citizens for years, which is both illegal and unconstitutional.

October 4th, 2001, 23 days after the fall of the twin towers, President George W. Bush issues a secret order that authorizes a variety of surveillance tools to be used within the US to combat terrorism. Including digital spying on Americans online and telephone communications. In 2014, the government is still using these surveillance tactics.

In the summer of 2013, Edward Snowden revealed a national security agency's PRISM program, which intercepts and collects data on American citizens with absolutely no connection to terrorism at all. Including their emails with family, chats with their friends, and private videos and photos. The NSA has access to all of our data and internet communications. Consequently, in the internet era, everyone's privacy has the potential to be compromised.

"The government surveillance in general, sure it can be used as an investigative tool, for example. um, and the reason we have agencies like the NSA and the FBI is because, uh of their role in stopping attack, uh, in stopping attacks on the US or crimes within the US. But this isn't something that should be totally unchecked or happen without any kind of oversight. Of course their are pros and cons, but it's up to the American people to decide um, what sort of surveillance is being done and whether those pros outweigh those cons."

"We filed through electronic surveillance that they were actually in the initial stages of plotting to bomb the New York Stock Exchange. In testimony before a mostly supportive committee of congress. The FBI's number two, Sean Joice [SP], said that tamping into the email of an Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen, led them to this man in Kansas City, and then two other Americans preparing to attack in 2008."

The United States government applies multiple tactics to spy on citizens. The bottom line is that all of these surveillance techniques share the same purpose, to collect information for offensive or defensive purposes. The prevention of terrorist attacks on US and foreign soil is clearly a benefit to these programs. However, the overuse of surveillance in the United States, is unconstitutional. Surveillance cannot be an advantage if it breaches civil rights to a high degree.

"That currently allows government agencies to search American's private emails, without a warrant."

From another perspective, I spoke with NSA whistleblower and former AT&T communications technician, Mark Klen who revealed his company's cooperation with the NSA in installing hardware to monitor and capture American telecommunications in the famous room 641A.

"The internet is a whole knew level of surveillance that was never even dreamed of, even by George Orwell. 'Cuz the internet has penetrated into every pour of society. It's in your house, it's in, it's in the phone that you around, around with every day. It's in your car, it's in your, you know, every day they're expanding places where the internet can access and the NSA can penetrate all those places and scooping up all that information. And collecting it and storing it in huge data warehouses. We hear from Snowden that they've tapped into the transatlantic fiber optic cables, which cover the, a good portion of the world's communications. Anytime the government wants to look up someone, it's all there. And what can they find, they can find all your associates, what you've talked to people about, what your financial transactions are, what kind of pictures and video you look at, um, your whole life is out their on the internet."

"Throughout American history, intelligence has helped secure our country and our freedoms. US intelligence agencies were anchored in a system of checks and balances. With oversight from elected leaders and protections for ordinary citizens."

Government surveillance is a crucial issue that congress must address in 2014. The fact that the government is targeting and using billions of emails, chats, and other data without a warrant or even probably cause is a breach of United States constitution. The basis for all of American's freedoms. While it is the governments duty to protect the citizens of the United States, the 4th Amendment protects all US citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.

For this reason, Congress should craft public policies that limit surveillance to specific suspected terrorists, prohibit warrantless surveillance, and require the NSA to obtain individual search warrants for people of interest. Brad Smith, Microsoft's vice-president of legal affairs, said, "People will not use technology they don't trust, governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it."

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This super rad documentary on NSA surveillance was created by Ben Blum, and we're not the only ones who think it's pretty frickin' well done. Ben won second place in the 2014 C-SPAN StudentCam Competition!

Jun 05, 2014

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