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A Question of Privacy?

February 1, 2008

bushsigningbill.jpgThe House on Tuesday voted to give two more weeks of life to a law that allows the government more freedom to eavesdrop on suspected terrorists inside the United States, an attempt to buy the log-jammed Senate time to pass a bill to replace it.

Bush said he wants a bill that “guarantees the rights of our citizens, but doesn’t extend those guarantees to those who would do us harm.” Unfortunately, this bill does not guarantee the rights of Americans. The law endangers your rights as an American and makes the line of law fuzzy and unclear, especially since a government agency is defining the law based on circumstances. It gives wiggle room and cause for justification without a court order. “The surveillance law dictates when federal agents must get court permission before tapping phone and computer lines inside the U.S. to gather data on foreign threats.” From what location are U.S. agents tapping the phones or reading emails? Obviously, the origin of the taps are within the United States, even with the help of the corporations that are assisting the government agencies in charge. Perhaps this area needs more definition under current law. Perhaps, the monitoring agencies are getting around the law by having the data beamed by satellite. The new law inacted by Congress in 2007 as a addendum to the “911 law” shields companies against legal liabilities if they participate in “lawful” eavesdropping activities. By the implication of what he is now saying, the President wants full immunity for corporations that assist the government in their surveillance.

wiretap_cover.jpgCongress has been apprehensive about what the Bush Administration wants. The bill provides new power to the National Security Agency to monitor communications. Communications that can be retrieved by intelligence are determined by circumstances. Foreign communications overseas can be monitored without restraint. Communications between an American and a foreigner is a large gray area and civil liberties minefield. If the American is the target, then a court order is supposed to be required. Americans are protected against unreasonable search and seizure requiring court approval. I see a gray area there as well as the power lies within the definition of “reason”. Congress knows this. Even if the law were to expire, active cases of surveillance would continue for another year by the ordinance of law under the same conditions. The law as enacted allows the government to intercept millions of Americans’ calls and emails without warrants or external authority “as long as the NSA and other authorities have a foreign suspect in their sights“. The door is open to scrutiny of Americans based on the very structure of our communications in this country. Congress knows this fact and doesn’t want the freedom of this law to be used on them. All political leaders know their privacy could be at stake. Congress does not want the Administration’s legal “carte blanche” to be used to scrutinize their power base or external communications and is fearful of an unlimited legal stamp for National Intelligence and its leaders.

Elvis Manning

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