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NSA Opens Door to Domestic Internet Spying, Privacy Advocates Say

ANDREW HARNIK/Getty

The latest king-sized, disastrous hack into U.S. government and corporate data servers is prompting the head of the National Security Agency to suggest that a surveillance giant built to look at foreign threats might need even greater powers to spy on internet usage domestically.

Doing so, privacy advocates say, jeopardizes an already weakened four-decade old compromise of national-security surveillance. NSA access to the digital trails of U.S. persons and foreigners transiting domestic communications infrastructure is supposed to require a warrant from a secret court specifying specific suspected worrisome activity. But it’s unclear how early detection of foreign-borne digital threats, particularly at scale, could operate within the same legal paradigm.

“Like clockwork,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the intelligence committee, “advocates of expanded surveillance are trying to exploit an intelligence failure.”

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