The National Security Agency is facing new spying allegations, this time centered on a device millions of people own--the iPhone. The German magazine "Der Spiegel" has published what it says are leaked documents showing software the NSA uses to remotely tap into people's iPhones. The software can reportedly patch into files stored on the device, along with the phone's camera, voicemail, microphone, contact list and location. Dr. Jeffrey Addicott, professor of Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, is not surprised by the allegations. "The NSA has fantastic ability to link into a variety of communications systems, including the iPhone," he tells KTRH. "The real question is when can they do it, and what's the legal oversight."
Ever since the NSA's various spying techniques went public earlier this year thanks to information leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden, the agency has been on the defensive about the necessity of those tools to find and capture terrorists, and to prevent terrorism attacks. But critics don't think the government has done enough to justify all of its tactics. Addicott is among those critics, and wants a better explanation from the Obama Administration. "And if the administration won't provide those answers, then Congress needs to hold hearings on these issues," he says.
For its part, Apple is denying any role in helping the NSA tap into iPhones. The company says it has never worked with the agency to create a "backdoor" into any of its products. Addicott sees this as just another example of the brave new world we're living in. "There's programs that allow people to track their friends with GPS technology, plus Google Earth," he says. "The issue of privacy as our parents knew it is gone." Addicott notes that even the idea of the government or private companies monitoring us through our phones or computers is no longer shocking to many people. "It's just what are the protections, when can they do it....that's what we're concerned with," he says. "It's who is authorizing it, under what circumstances and what conditions."