Big Brother Get an Extension: House Passes Warrantless Wiretap Bill
September 13, 2012 7:47 PM
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 (
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
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.
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