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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 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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