Risking communications security: Potential hazards of the Protect America Act

Steven M. Bellovin, Matt Blaze, Whitfield Diffie, Susan Landau, Peter G. Neumann, Jennifer L. Rexford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The new Protect America Act permits warrantless foreign-intelligence wire-trapping whenever one end of the communication is believed to be outside the US. The US systems for foreign intelligence surveillance located outside the US minimize access to the traffic of US persons on the grounds of their location. The new act can lead to surveillance on an unprecedented scale that will inevitably intercept some purely domestic communications. It can lead to some serious security risks including the risk of exploitation of the system by unauthorized users, danger of criminal misuse by trusted insiders, and risk of misuse by government agents. The new systems is likely to operate differently from earlier wiretrapping regimes and will use new technologies for purposes of targeting wiretraps. It requires an appropriate oversight by publicly accountable bodies and while the details might remain closed, there should be a publicly known system for handling situations when mistakes are made.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-33
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Security and Privacy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Law


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