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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 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.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

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