Be Careful

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There have been a number of good articles on the topic of the surveillance of US citizens.  This post will highlight some articles worth reading.

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Forbes article reminds us that “It is not the actual search and seizure that the Fourth Amendment forbids, after all, but unreasonable search and seizure. So the legal analysis asks what, under the circumstances, is reasonable.”

This Huffington Post Article chronicles the NSA’s efforts to not disclose their activities, “Director of National Intelligence James Clapper sought to clarify his claim that the National Security Agency does not collect information on millions of Americans, telling NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that he gave the “least untruthful” answer possible on the agency’s surveillance program.”  The White House defends inexplicably defends Clapper here.  The article states,”White House spokesman Jay Carney said Clapper has been “straight and direct in the answers he’s given,” and argued the intelligence official had been “aggressive in providing as much information as possible to the American people, to the press, about this very important, very sensitive program.”  The vote of confidence from the White House came just hours after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) publicly questioned whether Clapper had provided “straight answers” at a March hearing with lawmakers.  At the hearing, Wyden asked clapper if the NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions of Americans.”  “No, sir,” Clapper had responded. “There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect [intelligence on Americans], but not wittingly.””

Charles Krauthammer recently stated in a Washington Post editorial, “There are nonetheless two other reasons these revelations have sparked such anxiety. Every spying program is a compromise between liberty and security. Yet here is a president who campaigned on the proposition that he would transcend such pedestrian considerations. “We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals,” he declared in his first inaugural address, no less.

When caught with his hand on your phone data, however, President Obama offered this defense: “You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy. . . .We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.””

The New York Times reports that the ACLU has sued the US Government based on “The program “gives the government a comprehensive record of our associations and public movements, revealing a wealth of detail about our familial, political, professional, religious and intimate associations,” the complaint says, adding that it “is likely to have a chilling effect on whistle-blowers and others who would otherwise contact” the A.C.L.U. for legal assistance.”

The Harvard Law Review recently hosted a symposium on the Dangers of Surveillance.  In the material presented, Neil Richards stated, “From the Fourth Amendment to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and from the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to films likeMinority Report and The Lives of Others, our law and culture are full of warnings about state scrutiny of our lives. These warnings are commonplace, but they are rarely very specific. Other than the vague threat of an Orwellian dystopia, as a society we don’t really know why surveillance is bad and why we should be wary of it. To the extent that the answer has something to do with “privacy,” we lack an understanding of what “privacy” means in this context and why it matters. We’ve been able to live with this state of affairs largely because the threat of constant surveillance has been relegated to the realms of science fiction and failed totalitarian states.

But these warnings are no longer science fiction. The digital technologies that have revolutionized our daily lives have also created minutely detailed records of those lives. In an age of terror, our government has shown a keen willingness to acquire this data and use it for unknown purposes. We know that governments have been buying and borrowing private-sector databases, and we recently learned that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been building a massive data and supercomputing center in Utah, apparently with the goal of intercepting and storing much of the world’s Internet communications for decryption and analysis.

Although we have laws that protect us against government surveillance, secret government programs cannot be challenged until they are discovered. And even when they are, our law of surveillance provides only minimal protections. Courts frequently dismiss challenges to such programs for lack of standing, under the theory that mere surveillance creates no harms. The Supreme Court recently reversed the only major case to hold to the contrary, in Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, finding that the respondents’ claim that their communications were likely being monitored was “too speculative.””

Bob Woodward of Watergate fame, stated on Fox News that comparisons can “certainly” be made to Watergate because the IRS is not independent of the government. “Clearly, in the pipeline, lots of people knew some of this or should know it.  “The road to Watergate is concealment,” Woodward said. “If [the Obama administration does] that, they will dig themselves in a hole.”  Could the NSA revelations be far behind?

 

 

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