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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: What blows my mind
By The Raven on 10/22/2010 5:57:07 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I mean, the entire purpose of government is to tell people what they can't do, so they are always going to be taking away your right to do something.

This is NOT what OUR gov't is for.
We should all be familiar with this...
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.”

There is nothing about telling people what to do in there.

Or how about this?
quote:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The pursuit of happiness could involve cigarettes. Though of course it doesn't for me. But that is the great thing. That we as individuals can make those decisions. We are free to throw our lives away if we wish. We are free to lounge around on Sunday instead of going to church. We are free to play video games non-stop. Hell we don't even have to be employed. We are free to do all of that to the extent that we can afford to support ourselves. The problem is that now that the gov't is involved in the welfare of these people they become the gov't problem and we have to ban (or tax into non-existance) cigarettes because it is bad for the health of the people whether they choose to do it or not. (And that is why cigarettes are being banned. It is not because of people not liking the smell or what not. It is first-hand and second-hand smoke concerns regarding public health. It is the same with the Snickers and tanning. That is one issue I have with socialized medicine BTW.)

quote:
One man's tyranny is another man's 'getting to go to the bar without coming home stinking like cigarettes'.

Well you and I have freedom to go to the bar and enjoy it without cigarettes. But because it is a health concern, the guy who wants to go to a bar that caters to smokers, can't... because there aren't any: they're prohibited by law because they are public places (CA law that is). So it is nice that YOU have a place to drink (ironic isn't it? Because someone who's been drinking alcohol is more dangerous to bystanders than someone who smokes cigarettes) but the guy who likes to smoke gets the shaft.


RE: What blows my mind
By eskimospy on 10/23/2010 12:21:12 PM , Rating: 2
Can you explain to me how the US government would establish justice or ensure domestic tranquility without laws prohibiting/sanctioning certain behavior? Can you explain how the US government would provide for the common defense without taking actions that some of the state would find coercive and against their will?

The quote from the DOI is a nice rhetorical statement, but it's not a governing principle. Of course the rights to life and liberty aren't inalienable, if an axe murderer is running around killing people, we alienate his right to liberty as fast as we can. The pursuit of happiness could mean anything. We might disagree on where to draw the line at what behavior government can or should prohibit, but the fact that the government can and must prohibit some behavior really is beyond debate.

I feel like debating individual laws isn't really useful, but I would have to say that I just moved to NYC after spending 10 years in California, and everyone I knew, smokers included, loved the smoking ban. What better way to meet girls than outside lending them a light?


RE: What blows my mind
By The Raven on 10/25/2010 12:13:36 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The quote from the DOI is a nice rhetorical statement, but it's not a governing principle.

Our struggle for independance and formation of our country was based on these principles. And you really want to write it of as rhetoric?

quote:
Can you explain how the US government would provide for the common defense without taking actions that some of the state would find coercive and against their will?
Yes, the same way I could explain that the "Iraq War" was unnecessary. I don't think you need any further explanation as I assume you are an anti-Iraq War democrat.

quote:
Of course the rights to life and liberty aren't inalienable, if an axe murderer is running around killing people, we alienate his right to liberty as fast as we can.
Agreed. So why an I being punished by having my money taken away from me??! I didn't murder anyone or steal from anyone!!

quote:
The pursuit of happiness could mean anything.
Exactly my point. The gov't can't define that. So how can they legislate it? They can't. What they can do is legislate in ways that protect freedom.

quote:
I just moved to NYC after spending 10 years in California, and everyone I knew, smokers included, loved the smoking ban. What better way to meet girls than outside lending them a light?
Ahh...You spent 10 years in my dear CA... you must have caught something ;-)

Personally I love the smoking ban myself (that is to say, the effect of it anyway). But I don't think it is right. I also get some great benefits from our tax structure as well it would seem. But I don't think it is right. I have benefits available to me because I am "latino" too. But I don't think it is right. If the gov't gave me a million dollars just because they felt like it, that would be great. But it isn't right. And what does that have to do with freedom, domestic tranquility, common defense, or the pursuit of happiness? Nothing.

I would make temporary exceptions myself to these kind of laws as it is at least in some part due to the gov't why people smoke in the first place. If they want to make a temporary law to undo the damage they caused in the first place then that is fine I suppose. But to make smoking in public an outright crime is rediculous (again, especially since the laws regarding alcohol aren't held to the same standard).

quote:
the fact that the government can and must prohibit some behavior really is beyond debate.

"Can and must" is beyond debate, but to what extent and which laws? Abortion is obviously wrong, right? We can't let people do that? Premarital sex is wrong too. No no, you can't do that! Being Japanese during WWII, oh no you didn't! We'll have to lock you up for that. Spending money on a lawnmower? Well if you want to do that you will have to get the gov't involved by paying taxes on it and the fuel that you put into it and the land that has the grass growing on it and the paycheck that paid for it all and the company who gave you the paycheck. And yeah it's only 1%... oh what?... it is up to 20%+ now?! Ok well that is ok but don't go any higher now you hear... What!? you want to raise my taxes again? Seriously?!!

Both parties grow gov't and both parties want your money and power. If you have a problem with wiretaps and brownshirts, then I'd hold on to your money as not to fund such horrendous activities because the money has always come first throughout history.

Embrace freedom or it will fly from you.

quote:
What is it, in a few words, that all Republicans believe? We believe - along with millions of Democrats and Independents - that a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
-Gerald Ford, RNC, 1974.


RE: What blows my mind
By eskimospy on 10/25/2010 6:54:58 PM , Rating: 2
I actually participated in the Iraq War, but you're right that I was against it and still am. I still require an explanation though, because while I believe the invasion of Iraq to be foolish, I certainly accepted it as a legitimate exercise of government power. You appear to be saying that it is not?

I seriously don't know how a government would promote tranquility, establish justice, provide for the common defense, etc. without exercising the power to either prohibit some exercises of freedom or to coerce otherwise free people to do things they don't want to do. So seriously, I stand by my analysis of the purpose of government as being an entity that exists to tell people what they can't do. (or what they must) Now we have chosen to put specific limits on our government's ability to do this, but I don't believe that changes its nature. You mentioned 'legislating in ways that protect freedom'. Can you give me some examples of how to structure a society using only laws like that?

You aren't being punished by having your money taken away by taxes, taxes are the price you implicitly accept for living in this society. I'm really not trying to say 'if you don't like it, leave', as I consider that comeback to be juvenile, but honestly the US is absolutely up front with the price of admission. Hell, the right to tax you is written into the Constitution (in two places)

As for the smoking ban, a few things. First, it is a state law and so not subject to the Constitution. Second, while the preamble is a nice start to the document, it isn't actually used to determine if something is constitutional or not. (I mean the Constitution is already seriously vague, and to try and figure out if a law 'establishes justice' or not would just be mind bending) Congress is granted pretty vast powers in the Consitution, with the commerce clause and the general welfare clause covering a huge array of potential laws.


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