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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 JasonMick on 10/21/2010 2:25:03 PM , Rating: 2

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.

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.


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
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.

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

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:

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.

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