've got nothing
to hide, so electronic surveillance doesn't bother me. To the
contrary, I'm delighted that the Bush Administration is
monitoring calls and electronic traffic on a massive scale,
because catching terrorists is far more important that worrying
about the government's listening to my phone calls, or reading
my emails." So the argument goes. It is a powerful one that has
seduced too many people.
Americans buy this logic, and in accepting it, believe they are
doing the right thing for themselves, their family, and their
friends, neighbors, community and country. They are sadly wrong.
If you accept this argument, you have been badly fooled.
is being bantered about once again, so there is no better time
than the present to set thinking people straight. Bush and
Cheney want to make permanent unchecked Executive powers to
electronically eavesdrop on anyone whom any President feels to
be of interest. In August, before the summer recess, Congress
enacted the Protect America Act, which provided only temporary
approval for the expanding Executive powers under the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). These temporary powers
expire in February 2008, so Congress is once again addressing
Amendments: The Administration Is Seeking Immunity for
Because of the
way electronic traffic is directed from foreign countries
through the United States, the FISA Court had previously
rejected requests to intercept certain foreign-person-
to-foreign-person communications in the United States. It was a
technical problem, arising from the fact that FISA was written
before modern data routing had been designed, and FISA thus
needed fixing. On this, everyone agreed.
the Bush Administration asked for the necessary fix to FISA, it
also requested much more, including immunity under the existing
laws for all the telecommunications companies that have been
assisting the government in its illegal warrantless
surveillance. Significantly, this practice - justified by
reference to the "war on terror" - apparently started well
before 9/11 under the Bush Administration.
requesting this immunity, the Bush White House has refused to
disclose exactly what type of activities Congress would be
retroactively immunizing. Preliminary congressional inquiry has
revealed that a massive amount of electronic surveillance of
Americans has gone on under the Bush/Cheney Administration. For
example, one of the telecom giants, Verizon, reported that
between January 2005 and September 2007 they provided
information on 94,000 occasions. These numbers suggest that
Verizon was operating as merely another (and a secret) extension
of the federal intelligence establishment.
Many of the
companies appear to be violating a number of federal criminal
statutes - such as
18 U.S.C. 2511, which requires a warrant for such
18 U.S.C. 2702, which prohibits any "entity providing an
electronic communication service to the public" from knowingly
divulging "to any person or entity the contents of a
communication" without a court order.
telecoms are not likely to be particularly worried about being
prosecuted by the very same government that instructed them to
violate the law, and is leading the way in doing so itself.