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Americans shall not have expectations of “absolute privacy” : FBI Director

The Federal Bureau of Investigation chief also said that he planned to finish his term leading the agency

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Washington, March 9, 2017: FBI Director James Comey warned that Americans should not have expectations of “absolute privacy” after the disclosure of a range of hacking tools used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

“There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America; there is no place outside of judicial reach,” Comey said at a Boston College conference on cyber security on Wednesday.

He made the remark as he discussed the rise of encryption since 2013 disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about sensitive US spy practices, CNN reported.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation chief also said that he planned to finish his term leading the agency, CNN reported.

“Even our communications with our spouses, with our clergy members, with our attorneys are not absolutely private in America… In appropriate circumstances, a judge can compel any one of us to testify in court about those very private communications,” Comey said.

But, he also said Americans “have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our homes, in our cars, in our devices”.

“It is a vital part of being an American. The government cannot invade our privacy without good reason, reviewable in court,” Comey said.

Fresh concerns over personal privacy arose after WikiLeaks published what it called the first tranche of a larger body of data about CIA hacking, which it says was provided to the organisation by a whistleblower seeking to trigger a debate on the issue.

The CIA said it would not comment on the authenticity of the WikiLeaks material but issued a statement pointing out it was legally prohibited from using such surveillance tools in the US.

“The CIA’s mission is to aggressively collect foreign intelligence overseas to protect America from terrorists, hostile nation states and other adversaries. It is CIA’s job to be innovative, cutting-edge, and the first line of defence in protecting this country from enemies abroad. America deserves nothing less,” the statement said.

There is anxiety in Washington that the WikiLeaks release of what it called its “Vault 7” trove of data would make the hacking tools available to criminal or terrorist organisations, or foreign governments, according to reports.

Comey said that in the last four months of 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) lawfully gained access to 2,800 devices recovered in criminal, terrorism and counter-intelligence investigations and the agency was unable to open 43 per cent of those devices.

Americans’ desire for privacy and security should never be viewed as incompatible, he said.

“We all value privacy. We all value security. We should never have to sacrifice one for the other,” Comey said.

“Our founders struck a bargain that is at the center of this amazing country of ours and has been for over two centuries.” (IANS)

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USA: Everything you want to know about Security Clearance; Find out here!

A security clearance allows a person access to classified national security information or restricted areas.

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Former CIA Director John O. Brennan speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, March 11, 2014. President Donald Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. VOA
Former CIA Director John O. Brennan speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, March 11, 2014. President Donald Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. We take a look at what that means.

What is a security clearance?

A security clearance allows a person access to classified national security information or restricted areas after completion of a background check. The clearance by itself does not guarantee unlimited access. The agency seeking the clearance must determine what specific area of information the person needs to access.

What are the different levels of security clearance?

There are three levels: Confidential, secret and top secret. Security clearances don’t expire. But, top secret clearances are reinvestigated every five years, secret clearances every 10 years and confidential clearances every 15 years.

All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance. VOA
All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance. VOA

Who has security clearances?

According to a Government Accountability Office report released last year, about 4.2 million people had a security clearance as of 2015, they included military personnel, civil servants, and government contractors.

Why does one need a security clearance in retirement?

Retired senior intelligence officials and military officers need their security clearances in case they are called to consult on sensitive issues.

Also Read: Governments Across The World Request Apple for 30,000 Device Information

Can the president revoke a security clearance?

Apparently. But there is no precedent for a president revoking someone’s security clearance. A security clearance is usually revoked by the agency that sought it for an employee or contractor. All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance, which can include criminal acts, lack of allegiance to the United States, behavior or situation that could compromise an individual and security violations. (VOA)