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House says yes to 5 more years of Americans surrendering their freedom in exchange for temporary safety

There seems to be a never-ending battle to spy on Americans in the name of "fighting terrorism" in the United States.  This week the U.S. House voted 301-118 to pass the FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 5949).  The bipartisan-backed bill will give the government a blank check for 5 more years of warrantless wiretaps.

I. How Did We Get Here?

The FISA mess, like many in the government is a story of what seemed like a good idea being perverted to accomplish the exact thing that it was original intended to prevent -- non-transparent and unaccountable wiretapping.

The FISA was designed to eliminate Fourth Amendment violations, and was put in place in the wake of accusations that President Richard Nixon had used wiretaps to spy on political rivals.  The act only allowed for warrantless wiretaps if one of the parties was "reasonably believed" to be outside the U.S.

While well intentioned, perhaps the FISA left open the door to abuse by putting domestic surveillance mechanisms in place.  While the bill criminalized abuse, with a penalty of up to five years in jail, it has been difficult to prove abuse allegations against ranking federal officials. 

But for its flaws FISA did offer some protections for a while.  Then came the PATRIOT Act of 2001, which dramatically expanded warrantless wiretaps, and the "Protect America Act" of 2007 (Pub.L. 110-55S. 1927).

II. Both Romney and Obama Support Spying on Citizens

As with many kind of domestic spying over the last decade, usage went up and accountability went down.  It's hard to say exactly what the results are -- because the public isn't privileged with that information.

But from past warrantless surveillance program reviews, one could safely assume that the program was often used for its intended purpose (fighting terrorism) -- but also often abused in a variety of ways.

William Binney, a codebreaker for the U.S. National Security Agency -- one of the chief wiretapping intelligence agencies -- quit his post in 2001 when he began to witness abuse; U.S. citizens being illegitimately snooped on.

[Image Source: Djibnet]

He commented in a speech at this year's Defcon hacker conference, "NSA's charter was to do foreign intelligence, and I was with that all the way.  But then they took those systems that I built and they turned them on you, and I'm sorry about that."

Both President Obama and former Mass. Governor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are both of the same mind when it comes to this provision and others which will likely lead to spying on American citizens -- they love them.  Both men have vocally supported the extension to the warrantless wiretaps and in support of other kinds of spying, arguing that the need for safety outweighs Americans' need for certain freedoms like privacy.

With such sweeping bipartisan support, the spying on American citizens and erosion liberties is likely to continue to be enjoyed and be advanced in years to come, assuming there is not a radical change in party leadership or some other radical shift in the American political atmosphere.

Source: GOP



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RE: Yeah, right
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 9/14/2012 2:07:56 AM , Rating: 3
That's a subject of debate. Presently, no. As long as American troops are in the terrorists back yards they will focus their efforts there. It's only once we sit back within our borders and relax that they will take a shot at us again on our home turf. Make no mistake, the US government fully understands that keeping troops down range gives the jihadists a closer, easier to hit target than causing trouble for average Americans back home. That is good for political business, as long as Americans aren't getting blown up on their drive to work each day then it isn't real, it's just pictures on TV.

Americans also have very short memories. Give it another 10 years and there will be another high profile strike on American soil and this whole process will start up again. It's a neverending cycle and Americans are rapidly moving towards Europe's dislike of conflict, pretty soon it will be up to China and others to do the dirty work if Americans stay on their present course. Such is the way of world powers it seems.

That might not be such a bad thing either, China has shown it certainly has no problems doing what needs to be done to put down rebels and terrorists. The question is really if they will just stop with those two groups or take it a few steps further.


RE: Yeah, right
By madtruths on 9/14/2012 2:19:56 AM , Rating: 5
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Benjamin Franklin


RE: Yeah, right
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 9/14/12, Rating: -1
RE: Yeah, right
By madtruths on 9/14/2012 4:13:08 AM , Rating: 5
Alright, well just so we are clear, your whole history lesson was something I've known for quite along time. Though it doesn't exactly apply to Americans doing whatever is necessary to accomplish their goals. Considering other than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, all we are doing is giving up our rights every day to be "safe".
The problem is, we no longer do the things that are necessary because we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. However, I completely doubt the founding fathers fought all those years ago for the very same government they created, to do the same damn thing to its citizens. Not to mention the whole part about the British calling the colonials terrorists and the U.S. currently calling certain groups all over the world terrorists isn't making a great point. Simply because you justified everything they are doing because we do/did it. Just saying. Remember, they are the enemy, not me, not you, and neither are the rest of the citizens of America.


RE: Yeah, right
By madtruths on 9/14/2012 4:30:30 AM , Rating: 4
“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.”
Edmund Burke

I know, fallacy at its finest. Though it is kind of a timeless quote, regardless of when it was penned/spoken.


RE: Yeah, right
By Paj on 9/14/2012 7:01:12 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
If you were taught American history correctly, you would know that the British labeled the colonial combatants as terrorists


And as we all know, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Which is all the more ironic considering the role the CIA has played in arming 'freedom fighters' all over the world, only to have them turn into terrorists later.

quote:
Don't think for a second that Americans are above doing whatever is necessary to accomplish their goals. This country was founded on that style of leadership and has thus far not waivered much in continuing that proud tradition. I only hope Americans have the spine and guts necessary to keep this trend going, but it isn't looking so good lately.


There's a good reason for that - its isn't working very well.


RE: Yeah, right
By 91TTZ on 9/14/2012 9:10:52 AM , Rating: 2
Your reply doesn't negate anything he said. Just because events in history may have occurred long ago doesn't make them irrelevant. Usually they happen again and again because these problems are just a reflection of ourselves.

As long as you have humans, you're always going to have corruption, you're always going to have terrorism, and you're always going to have certain elements within your own ranks that only serve to make your team weaker.

While Benjamin Franklin had no idea what was going to happen long after he died, I think that he was describing a concept that remains pretty much constant- that giving up your freedom in order to achieve safety is a slippery slope; a fallacy that doesn't yield you what you want.


RE: Yeah, right
By RufusM on 9/14/2012 12:20:24 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, there's a balancing act between security and freedom and the scales have been tipping against freedom in the US as of late. All governments who can spy on its citizens will do so, legally or illegally. I just don't understand why people are so quick to make it legal. As least when it's illegal the citizens have some recourse through the legal system.

The government should need to jump through some hoops to justify spying on its own citizens. Making spying have less friction just enables more abuse of power.

To truly be safer, we need to have a reasonable number of security checks (borders, shipping, planes, etc.), invest in solid foreign intelligence, have a ready military and everyone needs to keep their eyes open. What we don't want to do is get into the "more government power is always better" mindset because that is just setting up the citizenry for governmental oppression.


RE: Yeah, right
By MrBlastman on 9/14/2012 3:22:15 PM , Rating: 2
I say it should be a two-way street. If the Government wants to have warrantless wiretapping and observation of citizens, then we the people should likewise have the same. We should be able to delve into Government records, all the way up to the highest level of classified and secret without any permit, paperwork or identification.

Fat chance getting them to do that. It's amazing what our citizens will buy into these days. We've been bent over a barrel for a long time now and they don't even realize it.


RE: Yeah, right
By Paj on 9/14/2012 7:19:29 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
That's a subject of debate. Presently, no. As long as American troops are in the terrorists back yards they will focus their efforts there. It's only once we sit back within our borders and relax that they will take a shot at us again on our home turf.


The longer Western troops remain as invaders in a sovereign nation, the greater the unrest. I'm not defending the actions of 'terrorists' - but a foreign occupation isn't exactly going to be sunshine and daisies for everyone.

After 10 years and 2 wars with absolutely nothing to show for it, a new, non-military approach is sorely needed.

quote:
It's a neverending cycle and Americans are rapidly moving towards Europe's dislike of conflict, pretty soon it will be up to China and others to do the dirty work if Americans stay on their present course. Such is the way of world powers it seems.


It would appear that Europe has learned much from its disastrous colonial past. Maybe it has retreated too much into it's own shell, but many (myself included) would say that the European and US response to the Libyan civil war was much better handled, (at least as well handled as foreign military intervention in a civil war can be). Although recent events might prove otherwise!

quote:
China has shown it certainly has no problems doing what needs to be done to put down rebels and terrorists.


Within it's own borders maybe - but it sure as hell isn't getting involved in the Middle East if it can help it. Syria and Iran rely hugely on Chinese support, and they know it.


RE: Yeah, right
By Reclaimer77 on 9/14/2012 9:31:00 AM , Rating: 2
Please, don't hand me that crap that we have all these terrorists just because we've "invaded" their soil. That's hogwash and you know it.

This is a deeply determined group motivated by ideologies formed thousands of years before America was even an idea.


RE: Yeah, right
By x10Unit1 on 9/14/2012 10:28:55 AM , Rating: 1
Well we have meddled in their affairs for awhile so we can have their resources. If they didn't have resources we need/want, we wouldn't be there.

They maybe be deeply motivated but we poked that hornets nest too many times.

What if the situation was reversed? What if a group of Americans killed 3000+ innocents in another country and that country started to bomb and occupy our streets? Would you be okay with that?


RE: Yeah, right
By jRaskell on 9/14/2012 11:21:36 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
so we can have their resources.


It's rather misleading to say that. We buy those resources, and those countries are quite wealthy as a result of that. I'm not trying to justify any sort of meddling by any means, just pointing out that your statement is misleading.

quote:
What if a group of Americans killed 3000+ innocents in another country and that country started to bomb and occupy our streets? Would you be okay with that?


I have never, and will never, be ok with the killing of any number of innocent people, for any reason. I am not aware of our country harboring or supporting any domestic terrorist groups, and I would be vehemently against any such support if it exists.


RE: Yeah, right
By Reclaimer77 on 9/14/2012 11:23:11 AM , Rating: 2
Moral relativism at it's worse.


RE: Yeah, right
By Paj on 9/14/2012 11:30:44 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
That's hogwash and you know it.


Really?

You think incidents where helicopters cause innocent civilian casualties aren't going to incite anti Western sentiment?

You don't think that Western spies overthrowing democratically elected leaders to install a puppet government would make the population harbor some degree of ill will?

C'mon, you're smarter than that. Revenge is a powerful motivator.

quote:
This is a deeply determined group motivated by ideologies formed thousands of years before America was even an idea.


How could they hate America before America existed?

Please try not to be a bigot. This has nothing to do with Islam. The overwhelming majority of Muslims live peacefully amongst other societies, pay their taxes, live, laugh and love like everyone and abhor terrorism as much as anyone.

Its like saying Christianity is evil based on the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. Its a small, fundamentalist minority who are totally committed to their cause - every religion has them, but it doesn't meant the religion itself is the problem.


RE: Yeah, right
By Reclaimer77 on 9/14/2012 12:22:50 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
You think incidents where helicopters cause innocent civilian casualties aren't going to incite anti Western sentiment?


And that leads to 911? Really?

Please just stop, I know what you people have been shoveling since this whole thing started, and nobody is buying it. These people have been radical nutjobs for thousands of years!! Read some goddamn history.

The bodies of those Americans in Egypt are barely cold and you repeat this stupid shit? How dare you. Oh right, I guess the fact that an embassy was on their "holy soil" was justification in your eyes.

You anti-American Liberals just love this issue, because you get to point and say "see? They hate America too!".


RE: Yeah, right
By Reclaimer77 on 9/14/2012 12:35:32 PM , Rating: 2
You know what, lots of things cause me to have "resentment". But so what? Do you think that's an excuse for their behavior? Does that make it okay? Is this a proper way to voice your concerns or effect change?

These people are evil and they are doing evil things, criminal things, injustices. You can sit there and wring your hands all you want.

I guess that reporter they raped half to death then took a video tape of her being beheaded was just keeping the Arab down right? So she had to die. Go tell her parents how justified they were and how much you understand their motivations.

Thanks Paj, you've set me free from the shackles of civilized society. Next time I have a grievance with someone, I'll just strap a bomb to myself and take out a bunch of innocent people who had NOTHING to do with the offender aside from a lose regional association.

Go to hell.


RE: Yeah, right
By Paj on 9/14/2012 5:57:45 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
You know what, lots of things cause me to have "resentment". But so what? Do you think that's an excuse for their behavior? Does that make it okay? Is this a proper way to voice your concerns or effect change?

These people are evil and they are doing evil things, criminal things, injustices. You can sit there and wring your hands all you want.


Once again, you are putting words in my mouth, and jumping to a conclusion I never made. I never sought to justify their actions. If it makes it easy for you to construct falsehoods, then go for it. If you have some insight to add, then I'd love to hear it.

quote:
I guess that reporter they raped half to death then took a video tape of her being beheaded was just keeping the Arab down right? So she had to die. Go tell her parents how justified they were and how much you understand their motivations.


Well, that escalated quickly.

You're seriously going to bring rape into this? I literally have no idea what that has to do with anything.

What is it with American politics and rape lately? Everyone seems to be bandying it about. Is this something I'm missing? Is rape some sort of icebreaker conversation topic in the US? Because it's pretty fucking wrong everywhere else mate.


RE: Yeah, right
By madtruths on 9/14/2012 2:43:16 PM , Rating: 2
"If wise and learned philosophers of the elder world…. Should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind? Let our answer be this: …She has uniformly spoken among them …the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights; … she has abstained from interference in the concerns of others , even when the conflict has been for principles through which she clings as to the last vital drop that visits the heart."
John Adams

Just so we are clear, I am not a liberal and I do not hate America, but one thing I do greatly dislike are people who would make America something it was never meant to be. If you care to, read up as much as you can on the founding fathers and their beliefs, be it political or whatever and maybe you will understand this.


RE: Yeah, right
By Paj on 9/14/2012 3:03:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
And that leads to 911? Really?


I have no doubt that many in the Middle East see the West as an enemy, due to the constant political interference over several decades - the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran, continued support of repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Kuwait, and Yemen.

Does this excuse terrorism? No, absolutely nothing excuses the killing of innocent people. Does it explain it? Many have said it does.

quote:
These people have been radical nutjobs for thousands of years!! Read some goddamn history.


Every civilization has behaved like nutjobs at some point throughout history. The British Empire committed unspeakable atrocities all over its empire, as did many of the colonial powers. Germany did the same during WW2. Slobodan Milosevic brought Eastern Europe to ruins. Pol Pot, Stalin, the list goes on. And some Muslims are crazy fundamentalists too.

But you are ignorant of history if you think the Islamic world has contributed nothing. While Europe engaged in pointless holy wars during the dark ages, Islamic scientists were devising trigonometry and refining our knowledge of optics, medicine and astronomy.

quote:
The bodies of those Americans in Egypt are barely cold and you repeat this stupid shit? How dare you. Oh right, I guess the fact that an embassy was on their "holy soil" was justification in your eyes.


Please don't bring up straw men again. The death of Chris Stevens in Benghazi is tragic - from everything I have read about him, he was a very intelligent, kind and gifted diplomat, which makes his death, and the deaths of all the embassy staff, all the more tragic.

I don't seek to justify what the perpetrators did, because nothing can. However, I do want to understand what motivated them beyond "Islam is evil and therefore all Muslims are crazy". This is exactly the same simplistic reasoning they deploy against the West. It doesnt solve anything.

quote:
You anti-American Liberals just love this issue, because you get to point and say "see? They hate America too!".


Keep some straw for next time. I know I bang on about the USA a lot on here, but I dont hate it. I despise some elements of it's foreign and domestic policies, but that doesnt mean I hate the USA, or it's people. Its a great country that has given a lot to the world.

I just hate to see the same mistakes being made. After two of the most prolonged, unproductive, costly and ultimately pointless wars of modern times, now Iran is in the crosshairs. When does the madness stop? Do you not tire of war?


RE: Yeah, right
By Reclaimer77 on 9/14/2012 3:37:31 PM , Rating: 1
???

Before it was America, it was the Jews and Israel. Before that, it was some other group. Are you aware of history? When in the last 1000 years has the Middle East EVER been a region free of hate, bigotry, violence and oppression?

Are you even aware of the history? You obviously cannot be. Anyone blaming America for this seemingly recent rash of Islamic terrorism has some sort of agenda they're pushing, plain and simple.

quote:
However, I do want to understand what motivated them beyond "Islam is evil and therefore all Muslims are crazy".


Talk about straw men? Thanks for pulling that out on me, cause I never went there! Why do people from your side of this debate always insist on calling your opponents racists and bigots?

quote:
But you are ignorant of history if you think the Islamic world has contributed nothing.


See? Where the hell did I say that!!!! WHERE!!!??? FUCK YOU!

quote:
I know I bang on about the USA a lot on here


Yeah you think? I never noticed /sarcasm.


RE: Yeah, right
By Paj on 9/14/2012 6:37:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
When in the last 1000 years has the Middle East EVER been a region free of hate, bigotry, violence and oppression?

Are you even aware of the history? You obviously cannot be. Anyone blaming America for this seemingly recent rash of Islamic terrorism has some sort of agenda they're pushing, plain and simple.


I would laugh if it wasn't such a tragic question. Where in the world has been free of such turmoil in the last 1000 years? Please don't say Europe.

By contrast, the Ottoman Empire existed for nearly 9 centuries, with the Islamic Golden Age occurring during this period while Europe bickered over religious and territorial wars.

Most countries in the Middle East are young, formed in the 20th Century by carving up the spoils of war after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Iraq, Saudia Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan... all of them created out of thin air by Western European powers. And with them, came a growth of Arab nationalism. Then they did exactly the same thing with Israel, and I think we can all agree that that isn't going particularly well.

So yes, I have a pretty reasonable understanding of the history.

quote:
Thanks for pulling that out on me, cause I never went there!


No?

quote:
This is a deeply determined group motivated by ideologies formed thousands of years before America was even an idea.


There. You place the blame with the core tenets of Islam, and completely ignore the wealth of contextual or historical factors. Are you even aware of any of the history of the Middle East? From the looks of your poorly constructed jingoistic jibberjabber, it doesn't seem that way at all.

quote:
These people have been radical nutjobs for thousands of years!!


Again. Pretty hard to read it any other way. Unless there's some subtle facet of your argument I'm missing?

I'm not defending the disgusting animals that use the slightest provocation to incite violence that result in the deaths of good men.

But it's important to learn from the situation, so it can be prevented from happening again. And I don't think invading Iran is going to help, I think it will only make things worse.


RE: Yeah, right
By Reclaimer77 on 9/14/2012 10:44:24 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'm not defending the disgusting animals that use the slightest provocation to incite violence that result in the deaths of good men.


Except you clearly are. Hello? What exactly do you think we're discussing here?

Whatever, you're just another "blame America first" terrorist apologist. Talked to one, talked to them all.


RE: Yeah, right
By Paj on 9/15/2012 12:02:13 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Except you clearly are. Hello? What exactly do you think we're discussing here?


Seeking an explanation for behaviour != defending them.

Is that clear enough? You think sending thousands more troops to win a 'hearts and minds' campaign in Iran is seriously going to work?


RE: Yeah, right
By Reclaimer77 on 9/14/2012 12:57:40 PM , Rating: 1
Oh and why did they attack New York fucking City if they were making a "statement" about military occupation? Last time I checked there were no military bases in downtown New York! How was that an act of "revenge"?


RE: Yeah, right
By Paj on 9/14/2012 6:40:48 PM , Rating: 2
Last time I checked, the Pentagon is a military base.


RE: Yeah, right
By Reclaimer77 on 9/15/2012 7:36:25 AM , Rating: 2
Once again Paj excuses away thousands of civilian deaths to support his argument that there was some novel and honorable goal on the part of the perpetrators of 911.

You seriously disgust me. Your disdain for my country could not be more clear.


RE: Yeah, right
By Paj on 9/15/2012 11:58:38 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Once again Paj excuses away thousands of civilian deaths to support his argument that there was some novel and honorable goal on the part of the perpetrators of 911.


Just refuting your original point, and for the third time, I neither said, nor inferred any such thing.


RE: Yeah, right
By FITCamaro on 9/14/2012 9:09:24 AM , Rating: 2
I agree with what you say.

However if the past 4-5 years have shown me anything, even if I agree with what they want to do and trust those doing it, the reality is that those I trust will not always be in charge.

As far as a right to privacy, no such right exists in the public space. Certainly your home cannot be invaded, your mail searched, etc. But there is no Constitutionally given right to privacy that people try to use to fight against things like red light cameras. Certainly states can endow their citizens with that right though.


RE: Yeah, right
By Paj on 9/14/2012 9:12:32 AM , Rating: 2
Do you think that the right to privacy is important enough to be included in the Constitution? In the context of Federal vs State legislation, I think it's an interesting point to discuss.


RE: Yeah, right
By FITCamaro on 9/14/2012 12:36:51 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not against such an amendment. It's just not there now.


RE: Yeah, right
By x10Unit1 on 9/14/2012 10:34:29 AM , Rating: 2
You say dislike conflict like it is a bad thing. We should be striving toward less conflict. Humanity should be a little better than this now.


RE: Yeah, right
By polishvendetta on 9/14/2012 11:39:38 AM , Rating: 2
Honestly I think most of the American government brings it on them selves these days and makes the United States a target.

People think that because America is a world power we should be meddling and influencing emerging countries. We take that heavy handed "father knows best" approach even though we are a very young country. That pisses a lot of people off, including me as one of its citizens.

Its great to encourage growth and provide aid to people who need it, but when we do it so unevenly there are countries that are going to feel jilted and treated unfairly.

The organizations that want to cause damage to the US do so because they think America is over reaching. Terrorists dont hate fredom unlike George W Bush said. They just want to be free to live their lives how they see fit.

Who are we, as a country who has been around for only 400 years, to tell people and contries whos history in their land stretches several thousand, they they arent living right?


RE: Yeah, right
By PaFromFL on 9/15/2012 10:07:53 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly! We didn't have these problems before we began meddling in the affairs of other countries. The terrorists don't attack other countries that richer and freer than the US (e.g. Switzerland) because those countries mind their own business. And the terrorists had problems meeting their recruiting quotas until we invaded the Middle East. And our leaders are delighted to obtain power for themselves and billions for their buddies through the use of a little fear mongering. And our religious right is ecstatic that they can finally restart religious wars that will fill their empty pews and coffers.

US citizens have been brainwashed to believe that the "terrorists" attacked us for no good reason. Before 9/11, our lopsided foreign policies supported much suffering and death in the Middle East. The enemies that we created were ignored politically, were not strong enough to fight back conventionally, and eventually resorted to terrorist tactics as a last resort. When mothers are willing to blow themselves up to hurt you (or Buddhist monks set themselves on fire when we meddled in Vietnam), maybe it's time admit that you are not smart enough or honest enough to meddle in the affairs of other countries.


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