In a 2011 report, which was declassified on Wednesday, then Chief Judge John Bates of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court expressed concern at US government surveillance programmes. He asserted that "the volume and nature of the information [that was being collected as of 2011] is fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe".
The release of the report, which was written well in advance of leaks about the US surveillance programmes by former US government contractor Edward Snowden, will fuel worldwide debate. And it follows an announcement on Aug 9 by President Barack Obama about changes to the US surveillance system, including "appropriate reforms" to Section 215 of the Patriot Act which guides collection of data such as phone call and internet usage.
Since the Snowden leaks, there has been concern expressed internationally, including from foreign governments, renewing the debate over the balance between national security and consumer privacy. For instance, pressure is mounting in Brussels for a formal EU investigation into the issue. Meanwhile, it has been reported that China is to investigate several large US technology firms for security reasons.
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