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The key issue with the Obama administration's new proposal to strengthen warrantless spying initiatives is multifold. First, the proposal could damage U.S. telecommunications businesses.   (Source: Associated Press)

Further, on top of the questionable nature on violating privacy rights of U.S. citizens talking to foreign citizens (currently legal under the Patriot Act), it's virtually impossible to tell a foreign citizen using a foreign service from a U.S. one. Thus communications between two U.S. citizens could be intercepted and the citizens' privacy rights illegally violated.
Plan would fine companies that don't pay to assist government in warranted and warrantless spying on U.S. citizens

Few would argue the need for the U.S. government to protect itself and critical domestic infrastructure from foreign attacks.  And fewer still would debate whether our country should use high-tech surveillance to monitor countries like China and Russia that have shown a propensity to attack unprotected U.S. systems when they have the chance.

More controversial, however, is the domestic spying efforts closely tied to the terrorism.  Namely the National Security Agency (NSA), under the Patriot Act of 2001, was given the right warrantless wiretaps of calls between U.S. and foreign citizens.  That alone was controversial enough, but an expose in The New York Times showed that domestic calls between two
U.S. citizens were also being intercepted, in what the NSA dubbed an "accident".

A special Obama administration task force consisting of U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Commerce, NSA, Federal Bureau of Investigations, local law enforcement, and more is looking to reinforce warrantless wiretap.  The move is perhaps unsurprising, considering that the council shares many of the same experts that mastermind President George W. Bush's original Patriot Act.

The group is proposing new legislation designed at reinforcing the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act, a 1994 law published during the Clinton administration that demanded that telecommunications prepare to begin surveillance of suspects as soon as a court order is issued. 

Under the proposed changes, telecoms would be mandated to not only prepare for such instances, but also for warrantless wiretapping as spelled out under the Patriot Act.  Those telecoms who complied fully would be rewarded with undisclosed incentives, while those who resist or were slow to comply would face fines or other penalties.

Albert Gidari Jr., a lawyer who represents telecommunications firms, tells The New York Times that such legislation would be devastating to the civilian telecommunications industry.  He states, "The government’s answer is 'don't deploy the new services — wait until the government catches up.  But that’s not how it works. Too many services develop too quickly, and there are just too many players in this now."

Previously detailed nuances of the plan call for the government also to gain new warrantless surveillance powers over other communications resources such as email (e.g. Gmail), text messages (including encrypted services, like RIM's), social networks (e.g. Facebook), and internet forums.

Multiple issues surround the overarching proposal.  One is in the potential economic damage it could cause the free market at a time when it is already struggling to recover.

A second issue is perhaps the most critical one.  Under current legal precedent, U.S. citizens can only have their Constitutional rights annulled if they are communicating with suspicious foreign citizens.  However, to determine what users of foreign services are actually foreign citizens is almost impossible as foreign telecoms and internet firms have no real necessity to comply with U.S. requests for information.  Thus U.S. citizens use foreign cell phones, operating on foreign web sites, or using foreign-based email services, may have their Constitutional rights violated
even while communicating with other U.S. citizens.

There is no clear solution to this problem.



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RE: And what
By Motoman on 10/21/2010 10:34:04 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
If you have nothing to hide what's the problem?


The rallying cry of the mentally deficient.

So, you wouldn't mind if the police just showed up at your place of business, and said they wanted to look through your desk...right? I mean, you don't have anything to hide...so that's cool...right?

How about you come home from work, and the FBI is searching your house, your computers, and interviewing your wife... That's all OK since you don't have anything to hide, now isn't it? Oh look, they're talking to your neighbors about you too now...asking them if they've seen you do anything suspicious. But it's not big deal...because you have nothing to hide.


RE: And what
By amanojaku on 10/21/2010 11:02:14 AM , Rating: 2
Bravo! I get sick and tired of the "if you have nothing to hide" rhetoric. To start with, no one ever says "if WE have nothing to hide". It's ok if me and mine get spied on, but the minute YOUR rights are violated you suddenly find a conscience and a spine. Hypocrites...

Anyway, not only is spying illegal and unethical, it's also unnecessary. There's a mechanism in place for obtaining information, even discretely. It's called a WARRANT. Spying eliminates the need for probable cause, and that's un-American.


RE: And what
By theapparition on 10/21/2010 1:52:36 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There's a mechanism in place for obtaining information, even discretely. It's called a WARRANT.

It's also not so cut and dry as you would have believe.

If the police observe a crime and the suspect then goes into his house, do they just stop chase, camp out on the lawn for the next 8hrs so someone can find a judge and get a warrant signed? You know the answer, and it's perfectly legal for them to pursue the suspect into his residence to arrest the suspect and sieze any evidence related to the crime that they observed.

So what would you have Federal authorities do. Observe a suspected terrorist, but as soon a he picks up a phone, whoa....can't listen in. Maybe we can get a judge to sign a warrant tomorrow and hopefully he hasn't coordinated 2000lbs of Ricin into the NY subway system while we wait.

While I have some reservations about the abuse of warrantless wiretaps, I also don't have a tinfoil hat on believing that it is being misused on a daily basis.


RE: And what
By 91TTZ on 10/21/2010 2:16:19 PM , Rating: 2
If you look at the wiretaps against US citizens performed since 9/11, you'll see that those laws were used much more often against ordinary US citizens than they were against suspected terrorists.

Really, the laws were created with good intentions in mind but are abused by police forces across the country.


RE: And what
By amanojaku on 10/21/2010 2:48:33 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It's also not so cut and dry as you would have believe.
Yes, it is. We have laws in place to allow the government to do its job while protecting our rights.
quote:
If the police observe a crime and the suspect then goes into his house, do they just stop chase, camp out on the lawn for the next 8hrs so someone can find a judge and get a warrant signed? You know the answer, and it's perfectly legal for them to pursue the suspect into his residence to arrest the suspect and seize any evidence related to the crime that they observed.
You just pointed out why a warrant isn't needed, although you don't understand why. An officer or other agent of the law who witnesses a crime is empowered to apprehend the criminal.

In contrast, warrants are required when no legal agent witnessed a crime. Witness testimony is untrustworthy unless compelling or corroborating evidence is discovered. That's the origin of the term "probable cause". One person who claims to have seen you bury bodies in your backyard is an unverified source, unless recording exist (compelling evidence). 10 unrelated people providing independent accounts of you burying stuff in your backyard is corroborating evidence.
quote:
So what would you have Federal authorities do. Observe a suspected terrorist, but as soon a he picks up a phone, whoa....can't listen in. Maybe we can get a judge to sign a warrant tomorrow and hopefully he hasn't coordinated 2000lbs of Ricin into the NY subway system while we wait.
Yes, because suspicion is not the same as guilt. Innocent until proven guilty, burden of proof, and all that. If you don't like it move to a country where they bust down your door for every suspected act. Just don't complain about the repair bill. Assuming you're proven innocent.
quote:
While I have some reservations about the abuse of warrantless wiretaps, I also don't have a tinfoil hat on believing that it is being misused on a daily basis.
Yes, they are. It was proven that quite a few agents in various agencies accessed personal information without just cause, some just for fun and games. The government has been caught taping internet connections and whole phone switching offices. Terrorists do their work out of the home; they don't have offices, community centers or club houses.

And you forget that just a few weeks ago an agency was caught spying on a person of Arabic decent because his is a blood relative of a (possible?) terrorist. There was no evidence at all, but he had tracking devices and other items placed without a warrant.

As a side note, this is kind of interesting:

http://www.slate.com/id/2270956/?gt1=38001


RE: And what
By Dr of crap on 10/21/10, Rating: -1
RE: And what
By rrburton on 10/21/2010 1:00:55 PM , Rating: 3
First they came for my phone calls......


RE: And what
By Schrag4 on 10/21/2010 1:34:56 PM , Rating: 5
Extreme? The FBI going through your stuff at work or your house isn't extreme. MORE extreme? Maybe, but "the extreme" is WAY beyond that.

Oh, and nice job with the "It's for the children!" I could list dozens of things that will reduce the likelihood that my small children might die young, but that doesn't mean they're good ideas. Here are a couple:

- Mandatory helmets for everyone (all ages), everywhere at all times (yes even while you're sleeping - people fall out of bed after all).
- No contact sports. Children get hurt. Some even die! It's for the children!!!

Oh, and the fear isn't that our CURRENT government might consider us terrorists. Our fear is that several years down the road, the definition of what a terrorist is might change. If you disagree with how things are run, you might become violent, right? They might want to listen in on everyone then round up PREEMPTIVELY anyone that has a dissenting point of view. This is nothing new, it happens all over the world. We just don't want it here (for obvious reasons).


RE: And what
By Dr of crap on 10/21/2010 3:15:53 PM , Rating: 2
As stated -
So what would you have Federal authorities do. Observe a suspected terrorist, but as soon a he picks up a phone, whoa....can't listen in. Maybe we can get a judge to sign a warrant tomorrow and hopefully he hasn't coordinated 2000lbs of Ricin into the NY subway system while we wait.

If YOU have dealings with suspect people, YOU are going to be watched, leagle or otherwise. I have not and will not have any dealings with people such as this and so HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE.
As I said before - I do not want the govt to have more power. If I was suspected in doing something wrong - then tap my conversations!
You do know there is a no-fly list? Are you against this as well?
And Yes if you are from a certain country/area of the world you might be more inclined to be watched - sorry. That's how the world is right now.
Call it profling if you want to - but it's really needed!

And nice to throw in the kid reference.
But if you tap conversations to stop another 9/11 - it's worth it isn't it? Or would you rather have innocent suffer because our govt went soft agian and didn't go after suspect people they could have with a phone tap!


RE: And what
By drando on 10/21/2010 6:18:38 PM , Rating: 2
Yea! To hell with the constitution and it's guarantees of our rights and freedoms! We don't need those anyway as long we maintain an illusion of safety!
</sarcasm>


RE: And what
By Invane on 10/22/2010 1:06:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
But if you tap conversations to stop another 9/11 - it's worth it isn't it?


No, it is not. This sentence has become the basis for all manner of trampling on citizens rights.

But if you slap tracking devices on innocent citizens' cars to stop another 9/11 - it's worth it isn't it?

But if you water board a few SUSPECTED terrorist prisoners to stop another 9/11 - it's worth it isn't it?

But if you <insert desired civil rights violation here> to stop another 9/11 - it's worth it isn't it?

God DAMN no it's not worth it. How do you think police states start? With the above rhetoric and a slow erosion of citizens rights. You take away all their freedom at once, they start a revolution. You take them away slowly and they accept the new status quo each time.


RE: And what
By geddarkstorm on 10/21/2010 1:49:55 PM , Rating: 3
You obviously have forgotten your human history. Not just ancient history, recent history. How many times has this story unfolded again and again throughout so many civilizations, hm? And how did it -always- end? Forget your history, and you're easy to dupe through bad and "feel good" logic.

Definitions change. Give them power to watch you, and they will FIND excuses to expand that power, to increase their control, to destroy you once things do get to the point where you finally wake up and say "wait a minute.." The Constitution was created expressly to resist this type of crap.


RE: And what
By geddarkstorm on 10/21/2010 1:55:07 PM , Rating: 2
I would also like to point out, that you may not need to have anything to hide. If you are simply SUSPECTED, and ANYONE can be suspected of anything by anyone else, then you could be arrested and held without due process indefinitely. This has already happened in this country to a small extent, and at this rate it looks like that "small" modifier won't be true for long.


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