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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 Paj on 9/14/2012 6:37:18 PM , Rating: 2
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.

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


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.

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
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
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?

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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