Print 80 comment(s) - last by The Raven.. on Oct 29 at 11:44 AM

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 eskimospy on 10/25/2010 6:37:11 PM , Rating: 2
I think the fact that they don't want to give up their comforts is a sign that they don't actually want smaller government.

I sincerely doubt that either of the two parties is likely to substantially change in the near future. They both have the median voter staked out pretty well, and I don't see a realignment of the median voter's preferences in the cards. One of the side effects of the internet is that it tends to surround us with people whom we already agree with, and so we tend to think that our viewpoints have more support than they actually do.

I find some aspects of libertarianism admirable, but I find it highly unlikely that it will be a mainstream political ideology in America any time soon.

I'm saying that we should focus on wiretapping because I don't believe we need to focus on low taxes, I for one believe we need a higher tax, higher service state similar to Scandinavia. (they do have the highest quality of living in the world after all)

The important part here though (and something that I find encouraging) is that while I think we strongly... strongly disagree on the role of government, I feel like I could discuss it with you like an adult, and that's what's important. That's what I meant way back when about the whole tyranny business, the Hitler business, the whatever. It clouds people's ability to address real issues and real problems in a constructive manner.

I guess we can always hope.

RE: What blows my mind
By The Raven on 10/29/2010 11:44:29 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry I've been busy and I wanted to take the time to discuss this further and come up with a well written long response and I am finding that I don't have the time as of late. But basically if you can think about the following questions then we might be able to make some progress as it seems we are deadlocked.

1. Can the gov't get too big?
2. How will they fund such growth?
3. How will you know when it is too big?
4. How will you stop it when it is too big?

Where our discussion goes is dependant on how you answer those questions.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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