obama prism

The Obama Prism was a digital surveillance program discovered in 2013 by Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and whistleblower. The program is a large-scale surveillance system created by the National Security Agency (NSA) to gather and store intelligence about people’s online activities. It works by collecting data from Internet companies such as Google and Facebook, as well as from phone companies such as AT&T and Verizon. The information collected includes emails, chats, browsing history, and other digital communications. The program was created with the purpose of protecting US citizens against potential terrorist threats, but has been controversial due to its vast scope and possible violations of privacy rights.In 2013, then-President Barack Obama and the National Security Agency (NSA) came under fire when news broke of a domestic surveillance program called PRISM. PRISM was designed to allow the government to collect and store vast amounts of data about Americans’ online activities. While the Obama administration argued that the program was necessary to protect national security, many civil liberties advocates argued that it violated citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights.

At its core, PRISM is a system for collecting data from technology companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook. It allows the government access to email communications, search histories, video chats, instant messages, file transfers, and other digital activities within those companies’ networks. The data collected is stored in servers owned by the NSA and can be accessed with a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA).

The Obama administration maintained that PRISM was an essential tool in preventing terrorism. They argued that it only targeted foreign nationals outside of the United States—not American citizens—and was subject to oversight by several federal agencies. However, many civil liberties advocates disagreed with this assessment and felt that PRISM violated citizens’ right to privacy. As a result of public outcry over PRISM in 2013, President Obama signed into law the USA Freedom Act in 2015 which imposed new limits on government surveillance programs.

PRISM has been an ongoing subject of debate since its inception in 2013. While some argue that it is necessary for national security purposes, others feel that it violates citizens’ right to privacy as enshrined by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S Constitution. Regardless of one’s personal opinion on PRISM itself, there is no denying that it has become an important part of our national discourse on privacy rights versus national security concerns during President Obama’s tenure in office.

What Is PRISM?

PRISM is a clandestine surveillance program that was launched in 2007 by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). The program operates under the authority of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows for the collection of communications from non-U.S. citizens located outside of the United States. The program collects data from a variety of sources, including email, instant messaging, phone calls, and other online activity. PRISM is one of several programs used by the NSA to collect foreign intelligence information, and it has been criticized for its potential for abuse and lack of transparency. In 2013, it was revealed that PRISM had been used to collect data from major tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Facebook. This sparked an international outcry over privacy concerns and led to numerous reforms being made to the program.

What Was Obama’s Role in PRISM?

President Barack Obama was the first president to be in office when the PRISM surveillance program was implemented in 2013. He was also the first president to publicly acknowledge that the program existed and that it had been authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Obama was initially critical of the program, but ultimately chose to continue its use with some modifications. He also advocated for greater transparency and oversight of the program, including more frequent reporting on its activities and more stringent privacy protections. Obama also worked with Congress to pass legislation that would make certain aspects of PRISM more transparent, including requiring annual reports from intelligence agencies on their surveillance activities and providing an independent review process for certain types of surveillance. In addition, Obama signed a presidential directive in 2014 that required intelligence agencies to obtain approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before using any new surveillance technologies. This directive also created a new Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board tasked with providing oversight of all intelligence activities related to PRISM. While Obama’s role in PRISM may have changed over time, he ultimately sought to ensure that it operated within legal boundaries while protecting civil liberties.

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History of US Surveillance Programs

The history of US surveillance programs dates back to the early 20th century with the creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI’s primary mission was to investigate and prevent federal crimes, but they also conducted surveillance operations, including wiretapping and other forms of electronic eavesdropping. During World War II, the US government established a number of intelligence agencies that focused on gathering intelligence about foreign governments and their activities. These agencies included the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was tasked with collecting information about foreign governments; the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which was responsible for covert operations abroad; and the National Security Agency (NSA), which was created in 1952 to intercept foreign communications.

In addition to these intelligence agencies, the US government has also used other forms of surveillance over the years, including mail opening, telephone tapping, satellite imagery, and even social media monitoring. During the Cold War era, many of these activities were conducted by the CIA and other intelligence agencies in order to keep tabs on foreign countries and their citizens. The NSA continued its surveillance activities after the end of the Cold War, expanding its scope to include domestic communications as well as international ones.

In recent years, US surveillance programs have come under increased scrutiny due to revelations about their scope and methods. For example, documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had been collecting data from millions of Americans’ phone calls and emails without their knowledge or consent. This led to a public outcry over privacy concerns and a series of lawsuits against the agency by civil liberties groups. Meanwhile, other revelations showed that government agencies had been tapping into servers belonging to major tech companies such as Google and Yahoo in order to gather information about their users’ activity.

The debate over US surveillance programs is likely to continue in coming years as technology advances and more information is revealed about how they operate. However, one thing is clear: these programs are an integral part of our national security apparatus and will remain so for years to come.

Did Obama Expand Surveillance Programs?

Yes, during his presidency Barack Obama did expand surveillance programs. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the government implemented a range of new measures to increase its ability to monitor domestic communications.

The most significant of these measures was the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001. This act gave federal authorities broad new powers to conduct searches and surveillance without a warrant. The act also allowed the government to collect and store vast amounts of data on individuals, including phone records and internet activity.

In 2008, Obama signed into law the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), which granted intelligence agencies even more authority to conduct electronic surveillance without warrants. This included monitoring emails and other online communications. The law also granted immunity to telecom companies that had assisted in warrantless wiretapping prior to 2007.

Throughout his presidency, Obama defended these surveillance programs as necessary for national security. He argued that they were conducted within legal limits and subject to oversight by Congress and the courts. However, civil liberties advocates argued that these programs violated Americans’ privacy rights and should be curtailed or ended altogether.

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Obama also expanded surveillance programs outside of the United States, leading to criticism from human rights groups who accused him of violating international law. In 2013 he signed a secret directive allowing for greater sharing of information between US intelligence agencies about foreign targets living abroad. Under this directive, US intelligence agencies were able to access communications data collected by foreign governments without first obtaining permission from those governments.

Despite concerns about privacy rights being violated by increasing surveillance during his presidency, Obama defended them as crucial for national security purposes. In 2015 he proposed new rules that would place additional limits on some aspects of the NSA’s surveillance activities but ultimately his proposals were blocked by Congress before they could take effect.

The Potential Impact of PRISM on Civil Liberties

The recent revelations about the US government’s PRISM program have raised serious concerns about civil liberties. The program, which gives the National Security Agency (NSA) access to vast amounts of data stored by internet companies, has alarmed privacy advocates and civil liberties groups. The potential impact of PRISM on civil liberties is significant and far-reaching.

One major concern is that PRISM allows the NSA to collect information about people’s online activities without their knowledge or consent. This means that the agency can monitor emails, search histories, social media posts, and other internet activity without any oversight or accountability. This raises serious questions about whether people’s privacy is adequately protected under the law.

Another worry is that PRISM gives the NSA access to vast amounts of personal information. This includes things like location data, financial records, medical histories, and more. It’s unclear how this information is being used or who has access to it. This raises further questions about whether people’s data is secure and protected from misuse by the government or other actors.

Finally, there are fears that PRISM could be used to target individuals based on their political beliefs or religious affiliations. This could have a chilling effect on free speech and dissent as people fear they may be monitored for expressing their views online.

Overall, there are many potential impacts of PRISM on civil liberties that need to be considered before its use can be justified. It’s essential that these concerns are addressed in a timely manner so that individuals can feel secure in their right to privacy online.

International Reactions to US Surveillance Programs

The US government’s mass surveillance programs have been the subject of massive public outcry both domestically and internationally. Since their inception in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the US has been accused of infringing on its citizens’ right to privacy through its controversial data collection efforts. The response from foreign governments has been generally critical, with most decrying the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding these programs.

In Europe, for instance, there have been several high-profile cases involving alleged US spying on EU citizens. In 2014, it was revealed that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone for years. This sparked outrage across Germany, leading to a series of diplomatic protests as well as calls for increased oversight over US surveillance activities in Europe.

In addition, several countries have sought to distance themselves from US surveillance initiatives by tightening their own privacy laws or introducing new ones. For example, after reports emerged that the NSA had spied on several world leaders’ communications networks, Brazil passed a law requiring companies like Google and Facebook to store Brazilian users’ data within Brazil itself.

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Beyond just legislation, some countries are taking more concrete steps to protect their citizens from US surveillance efforts. In 2014, Russia announced that it would be creating its own internet system that would be entirely separate from the global web. This move is widely seen as an attempt to insulate Russian citizens from potential snooping by foreign intelligence agencies such as the NSA or Britain’s GCHQ.

The international community’s response to US surveillance programs has been largely negative and critical in nature. While some countries are taking direct action against these activities through legislation or other measures, many are still waiting for concrete changes in policy before they can feel secure from foreign spying attempts.

Legal Challenges to US Surveillance Programs

The United States government has been under scrutiny in recent years for its expansive surveillance programs, which are intended to keep the nation safe from potential threats. These programs have sparked a variety of legal challenges, as critics argue that they violate citizens’ constitutional rights to privacy and due process. The Supreme Court has yet to rule definitively on the issue, but numerous lower court decisions have expressed concerns about the legality of such programs.

One key area of legal dispute is the collection and use of metadata, which is information about communications such as phone numbers, locations, and times. The government has argued that this information is necessary in order to detect possible terrorist activities and other criminal behavior. However, opponents of these programs contend that collecting metadata without a warrant violates the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Another major point of contention is the use of so-called “roving wiretaps” by law enforcement agencies. This involves tracking suspects across multiple communication devices without a court order. Critics claim that this practice violates an individual’s right to be secure in their possessions and free from unreasonable interference by the government.

Finally, there have been several challenges to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the government to conduct electronic surveillance on foreign nationals located outside the United States without obtaining a warrant. Opponents argue that this violates both U.S. law and international human rights conventions, as it fails to provide adequate protection against abuses of power by government officials.

These are just some of the legal issues surrounding US surveillance programs that have been raised in recent years. As technology advances and new forms of surveillance become available, it is likely that many more legal challenges will arise in the future. Until these matters are resolved definitively by courts or legislatures, it is likely that debate over these issues will continue for some time to come.


The Obama Prism has been a controversial issue in the United States since its inception. On one hand, the government has a legitimate need to protect citizens from terrorism and other threats. On the other hand, the Prism program has revealed a lack of oversight and transparency, as well as potential violations of civil liberties. As a result, there is a need for an independent body to investigate and review the program on an ongoing basis. In addition, more public education needs to be done to ensure that citizens understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to this type of surveillance. Though it may never be possible to completely eliminate government surveillance, with proper oversight and transparency, it can be kept in check.

Ultimately, the Obama Prism is an important issue that needs to be addressed moving forward if we are to maintain our civil liberties and protect our national security. With better oversight, transparency, and public education about this issue, we can ensure that our rights are protected while still allowing for effective counter-terrorism measures.

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