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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: Uh....
By kattanna on 10/21/2010 11:10:23 AM , Rating: -1
or we could simply expand the ideal of innocent until proven guilty to all on US soil. regardless of nationality.

if our laws are good enough for us, then they should apply to anybody while on US soil.


RE: Uh....
By JasonMick (blog) on 10/21/2010 11:27:44 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
or we could simply expand the ideal of innocent until proven guilty to all on US soil. regardless of nationality.

if our laws are good enough for us, then they should apply to anybody while on US soil.


That would eliminate one possible scenario yes, but it would also possibly endanger the government's ability to counter foreign spies operating within the domestic borders.

I'm one hundred percent behind protecting the civil liberties of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil and requiring warrants when it comes to legal action against U.S. citizens. But foreign citizens on U.S. soil... that's a tougher call, in my opinion, particularly in light of recent events. (I'm not just talking about 9/11; the Russian spy scandal was another example of these dangers...)

Additionally your idea does not solve the problem of foreign service users operating/travelling in OTHER countries. The U.S. gov't has no means of knowing whether they are U.S. citizens or not, and thus could violate U.S. citizens' rights illegally and unwittingly.


RE: Uh....
By kattanna on 10/21/2010 11:36:02 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
Additionally your idea does not solve the problem of foreign service users operating/travelling in OTHER countries. The U.S. gov't has no means of knowing whether they are U.S. citizens or not, and thus could violate U.S. citizens' rights illegally and unwittingly


i have always been of the opinion that if i am traveling to another country then i am beholden to the laws of that country, regardless of where i was born. If the laws of the country i am in dont offer the same protections that some of out laws might offer, then thats MY problem.

if the NSA asks the country i am in "hey can we monitor this person" and they agree, then it shouldnt matter if i am an american or not.


RE: Uh....
By JasonMick (blog) on 10/21/2010 1:08:25 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
i have always been of the opinion that if i am traveling to another country then i am beholden to the laws of that country, regardless of where i was born. If the laws of the country i am in dont offer the same protections that some of out laws might offer, then thats MY problem.

if the NSA asks the country i am in "hey can we monitor this person" and they agree, then it shouldnt matter if i am an american or not.


I suppose that's one idea, but your premise (U.S. citizens have due process within the U.S., but no guarantees of it outside the U.S. even from U.S. agents) is similar to the logic behind the current mandate.

Basically that logic boils down to that the U.S. Constitution is no longer the ultimate governmental mandate for the United States government and can be overridden via legislation, without amendment.

The Constitution guarantees U.S. citizens the right to due process and privacy and offers no qualifications for where those citizens reside spatially around the globe. Further the Constitution offers no provision for due process or protection of privacy to foreign citizens who may be behaving illegally.

Thus your idea is entirely unconstitutional, though a novel suggestion certainly.

Basically your argument boils down to the same argument that others, include those penning the legislation in this article are making. That we should abandon strictly following the Constitution and the protections it guarantees to some degree.

Your opinion and that of Obama administration task force only differ in the sense of to what degree to abandon those protections and how/when to abandon them.

Thus I respectfully disagree with both your opinion and that of the task force, in so much that I believe that legislation should not remove Constitutional protections.


RE: Uh....
By ClownPuncher on 10/21/2010 1:26:01 PM , Rating: 3
Excellent, I wish more voters would realize the Constitution in our country isn't some fortune cookie suggestion.

Government, quit adding "In Bed" after every amendment.


RE: Uh....
By kattanna on 10/21/2010 1:43:32 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Basically that logic boils down to that the U.S. Constitution is no longer the ultimate governmental mandate for the United States government and can be overridden via legislation, without amendment


no where have i stated that the government of the US is above its own laws. In fact i have suggested while a person is within our borders all of our laws in fact apply.

quote:
The Constitution guarantees U.S. citizens the right to due process and privacy and offers no qualifications for where those citizens reside spatially around the globe


on US soil, it sure does. but it is high arrogance to assume our laws trumps the laws of the land if a US citizen is in another country.

how would you react to a saudi citizen stoning his wife for infidelity while here in the US, its a law of their land and within his right. should they trump ours? I think not.

I get tired of the arrogance my fellow country men/women have about the laws & customs of others. its a big reason why americans are not as welcomed in some countries because we dont feel we need to respect the laws and customs of others. we dont have to agree or like it in any way, thats for sure, but while in said country, we had better at least abide by them, or suffer the consequences.

we fully expect foreigners to respect our laws while here, and respect is a 2 way street.

quote:
I believe that legislation should not remove Constitutional protections.


if a proper amendment is passed, like has happened before, then it is entirely possible. but this "law" is nothing of the sort and is in fact trying to circumvent the constitution because it is well known such an invasion of privacy as an amendment would never pass.

thanks for the conversation jason, i am enjoying it.


RE: Uh....
By JasonMick (blog) on 10/21/2010 2:25:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:

no where have i stated that the government of the US is above its own laws. In fact i have suggested while a person is within our borders all of our laws in fact apply.


Nowhere in the Constitution does it suggest that citizen rights may be abandoned by the government when a citizen is traveling outside the country. To be perfectly clear, that is what you are suggesting.

quote:
on US soil, it sure does. but it is high arrogance to assume our laws trumps the laws of the land if a US citizen is in another country.

how would you react to a saudi citizen stoning his wife for infidelity while here in the US, its a law of their land and within his right. should they trump ours? I think not.


First, your example is fundamentally different, from a philosophical standpoint, in that in your hypothetical example a foreign country is trying to PUNISH under its legal code on U.S. soil.

It'd be very different case if a foreign country is trying to exert its right to PROTECT under its legal code on U.S. soil.

Of course it'd be arrogant of that foreign nation to think such efforts would succeed, just as it would be arrogant of us to think our efforts of that nature would succeed. But you'll notice that the Constitution deals little explicitly with punishment, rather it deals with protections.

Whether or not they are on U.S. soil the U.S. government should TRY to protect its citizens' freedoms as guaranteed under the Constitution. It may not always succeed, but unless the Constitution is rewritten to remove that freedom, they are legally required to try.

Under your example government agents are only required to protect U.S. citizens' civil liberties inside the U.S., but are free to violate them outside the U.S. That is absolutely unconstitutional and, in my opinion, illegal.

quote:

if a proper amendment is passed, like has happened before, then it is entirely possible. but this "law" is nothing of the sort and is in fact trying to circumvent the constitution because it is well known such an invasion of privacy as an amendment would never pass.


You might be surprised given the way some things are going. I agree with you absolutely that warrantless monitoring of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil is illegal under the Constitution.

But again, I believe it is equally illegal on foreign soil.

Let us be clear, in your example you're not postulating a scenario in which a U.S. citizens' rights are abused because the U.S. gov't is powerless to stop that abuse (say jailing of journalists in North Korea). Rather you're defending that the U.S. government be allowed to perpetrate that abuse on foreign soil.

That stance is baffling to me and no matter how you argue it, it unconstitutional.

Returning to the problem at hand, though, surveillance of foreign citizens has been necessary to national security since our nation's earliest days, but I believe that creates somewhat of a paradoxical set of objectives, given that it's increasingly impossible to easily distinguish a civilian party from a foreign one. Again, this is the dilemma which I suggested there was no "easy answer" to.


RE: Uh....
By kattanna on 10/21/2010 4:08:57 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Whether or not they are on U.S. soil the U.S. government should TRY to protect its citizens' freedoms as guaranteed under the Constitution. It may not always succeed, but unless the Constitution is rewritten to remove that freedom, they are legally required to try.


i could not agree more. I have hopefully never implied otherwise. Its that just because you are a US citizen you should not expect other countries to hold it to the same value if you are in their country.

some international treaties have made is so with certain countries, like Britain, but its those treaties that have made it so, not our constitution.

quote:
Returning to the problem at hand, though, surveillance of foreign citizens has been necessary to national security since our nation's earliest days


so very true, but let me quote the relevant amendment

quote:
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.


all it states is "the right of the people". it doesnt make any distinctions between a US citizen and foreign visitors, IMO.

and such, those we let in should be treated the same.

i have wondered before why it is such distinctions are not included and then i come back to that maybe they didnt think it was necessary because when they wrote the opening bit:

quote:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


they assumed we would want to apply it to all of us here within the US. to make that "more perfect union" freedom and equality to all within our borders.


RE: Uh....
By ninjaquick on 10/21/2010 2:29:50 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with trumpage or no trumpage is that the Law is applied not only on the citizen but the governing body. A US citizen is, regardless of universal location, a US citizen. The united states constitution is not only a system set forth to control the citizens of the US, but also to control the gov't.
This is to say, the US gov't cannot, EVER without warrant wire tap a US citizen, regardless of location, since the US gov't cannot compromise a citizens privacy. Yes the US laws apply to all RESIDENTS within the US but also to all US CITIZENS outside the US. You are confusing jurisdiction with the right to enforce law. There are countries where if, as a US citizen, you commit a crime that only breaks US law, you can be arrested and shipped (extradited) to the us. Your Saudi example then would be plausible if:1- It were not illegal to murder in this nation and 2- if the US agreed to allow Saudi international police to have jurisdiction within the US.

Mind you, when entering a foreign nation you have no rights beyond those given to you by the US constitution as you are a US Citizen, if a foreign nation compromises these rights then the US gov't can retaliate if they so desire, if you don't believe me consult an international law professor or embassy worker maybe.

But as a right-less guest in a foreign nation you must abide the laws of the nation in exchange the local gov't agrees to provisionally extend limited rights to you. Most countries have laws in place that give limited rights to Foreign Guests. Some such rights are the rights to carry their currency, pay taxes, use public services, be protected by local law enforcement, etc. This if you enter with a Visa, as an illegal "alien" a government has no reason to extend any right as you are breaking the law, are not protected by provisional guest laws.

So seriously, learn some international law before you go saying the US constitution has no merit overseas. If you are a US Citizen and you are in North Korea helping develop scud 2.0, you will be pursued by military police/international police and will be tried with treason and will be executed. End of story.


RE: Uh....
By Reclaimer77 on 10/23/2010 9:31:31 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
i have always been of the opinion that if i am traveling to another country then i am beholden to the laws of that country, regardless of where i was born. If the laws of the country i am in dont offer the same protections that some of out laws might offer, then thats MY problem.


Other countries don't have a Constitution of expressed specific granted rights. There's a difference between laws and the Constitution.

Your suggestion that Constitutional rights be granted to any person regardless of nationality/citizenship is BEYOND moronic.

Do you know that you just suggested making everyone in the world a potential United States citizen? Or better yet, you actually proposed that the legality and concept OF U.S citizenship be dissolved altogether.


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