Monday, September 17, 2012

Congress still clueless about wiretapping law they reauthorized

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Surveillance (U.S. flag with eye)

If there’s one thing all sides of the U.S. political spectrum can agree on, it’s that the current Congress is quite terrible at its job. But the least they could do would be not to broadcast their blatant cluelessness about the contentious surveillance bills they pass. Watch as they line up to proclaim how Average American Joe has nothing whatsoever to fear from the recently reauthorized FISA Amendments Act warrantless wiretapping law:

"This bill has nothing to do with Americans on American soil," said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on the floor. The bill only grants authority for "targeting foreigners located outside of the United States, and not on Americans in the United States, or anywhere else in the world," said House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chair Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who repeated this twice for emphasis. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) even emphasized that "the government cannot reverse target individuals overseas in order to monitor those in the United States. That means the government cannot target a US person simply by monitoring a non-US person that the US person is talking to."

And now, a word from advocates for reality:

That's not true. The bill "allows the bulk suspicionless collection of communications coming into and out of the United States," explains Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. "While the proponents always point out we're targeting the overseas end and those people don't have Fourth Amendment rights, the Americans and other people in the US on the other end of that call, or email or Skype, do have Fourth Amendment rights."

See, the law allows the government to collect communications between individuals abroad who are interacting with people in the United States. In other words, the government can get around Americans' Fourth Amendment rights against search and seizure by "targeting" the communications of a foreigner who just happens to be communicating with someone in the United States. They're not supposed to deliberately exploit the loophole to get around the Fourth Amendment, but once they use it to get information, they can keep it, even if they find out that they were spying on an American citizen after the fact.

In short: Another unconstitutional, overbroad and all-too-easily abused law to spy on the private lives of a largely ignorant and complacent populace and passed – yet again – by demagogic lawmakers who don’t even know the first thing about it.

Then again:

On the other hand, maybe they do know that the bill allows warrantless surveillance of American citizens, and they simply don't care.

No-one has shown themselves more eager to snoop around other people’s private affairs without their knowledge or permission – all under the transparent pretense of security – than American politicians.

(via The Agitator)