Big Brother is watching you…

Big Brother is watching you… by OwenBlacke

There are a lot of troubling things going on in our nation and especially our government. So many in fact that it is hard to keep track of them all, and frankly, to be as upset as we should be about them. One particular area that has faded from the public attention is the amount of surveillance that is actually allowed under the FISA regime.

To make matters worse, it seems that some of the Senators on the Intelligence Committee are trying to bring out exactly how the Obama Administration is interpreting that law. As Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden have said:

“We remain very concerned that the U.S. government’s official interpretation of the Patriot Act is inconsistent with the public’s understanding of the law,

Snip

We believe that most members of the American public would be very surprised to learn how federal surveillance law is being interpreted in secret.”

To try to remedy this issue, the two Senators proposed some amendments to the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. This is the document that covers the cost of our intelligence gathering (outside the DoD that is) . While it was designed to give Congress more control of the intelligence process, by requiring reporting and such, it also limits and controls what the intelligence agencies can and can not do.

Which is exactly why the two Senators wanted to use it to force a greater level of transparency from the Obama Administration and the Agencies. Unfortunately the amendment was defeated by a voice vote.

The problems we have with Republicans, counter-factually insisting that cutting taxes and government programs will increase jobs are the flip side of our not so slow slide into a police state.

The Founders knew, many from personal experience, what could happen if the government decided to search your home or place of work. They understood that the awesome power of the State was far too apt to be abused to allow it to go unfettered. This is the purpose of the 4th Amendment.

It is pretty simple and straight forward; here is the totality of the text:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This protection has been being eroded my entire life, with very few set backs to the authorities basically searching cars or your person, without a warrant, just based on their “probable cause”. The problem of “Driving while black” is an example of abuse of this power.

When the Patriot Act was put in place it greatly expanded the government’s ability to search our electronic documents and communications. Of course it was all tied up in the hysteria over 9/11. It is sad that we demonstrated that we do not deserve liberty nor security as Ben Franklin said of people who would trade the former for the latter.

Lest you think that I am being a little overblown about the problem, take a look at the other amendment that Wyden and Udall tried, and failed, to have added to authorization act. From Secrecy News:

Sen. Wyden and Sen. Udall also offered another amendment that would have required the Justice Department Inspector General to estimate the number of Americans who have had the contents of their communications reviewed in violation of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. That amendment too was rejected, by a vote of 7-8. All Committee Republicans, plus Democrat Bill Nelson (D-FL), opposed the amendment.

“It is a matter of public record that there have been incidents in which intelligence agencies have failed to comply with the FISA Amendments Act, and that certain types of compliance violations have continued to recur,” Senators Wyden and Udall wrote. “We believe it is particularly important to gain an understanding of how many Americans may have had their communications reviewed as a result of these violations.”

(Thanks a ton Senator Nelson, remind me again why we have you in our caucus?)

The two Senators have access to information that we don’t. They already know the actual scope of the governments snooping on citizens and residents of the United States. It is very telling that they want the DOJ Inspector General to look into how often even this wide open permission to snoop is exceeded. Think about what the could mean in a program that has the computers of the NSA, and the willing co-operation of the telecom companies at its disposal.

I give the two Senators full marks for trying to bring a little sunlight to an issue that is as dangerous for a free people as any group of terrorist ever could be. Terrorist can kill us, but a panopticon surveillance state could effectively enslave us all.

What is on your minds tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours.

Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for Govtrak.org

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