Don’t Spy on Me

This week, the Senate is debating FISA, the law that has been in effect since the 1970’s that puts limits and constraints on the government’s ability to spy on us. The provisions of FISA include expanded language to cover new technology, including email, cell phones and other communications. FISA has specific requirements for wiretaps, including showing cause for such wiretaps to a judge before setting them up.

Since 9/11/2001, the Bush Administration has engaged in warrantless wiretapping with no prior approval by the court, claiming that national security depended upon the ability of the administration to wiretap at will without waiting for a court order, despite the fact that the orders were relatively easy to obtain in circumstances that justified them. The Administration now threatens to veto any FISA amendments which do not include retroactive immunity for the telephone companies who so easily obliged the administration requests to spy on their customers.

According to the EFF, AT&T (who assisted in the drafting of the original FISA statutes) engaged in wholesale spying on their customers.

AT&T Corp. (which was recently acquired by the new AT&T, Inc,. formerly known as SBC Communications) maintains domestic telecommunications facilities over which millions of Americans’ telephone and Internet communications pass every day. It also manages some of the largest databases in the world, containing records of most or all communications made through its myriad telecommunications services.

The lawsuits alleges that AT&T Corp. has opened its key telecommunications facilities and databases to direct access by the NSA and/or other government agencies, thereby disclosing to the government the contents of its customers’ communications as well as detailed communications records about millions of its customers, including the lawsuit’s class members.

AT&T maintains one of the major Internet backbones. That means you don’t even have to be a customer of AT&T to be caught in their net. They intercepted every email. Every phone call. They rerouted it all into a top secret room. They saved it all. Every stinkin’ piece, so that our elected officials could, at will, decide that you or I could be a terrorist or whatever else they despised that day.

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) gave a 30-minute impassioned speech on the Senate floor yesterday about the immorality, the illegality, and the unconstitutionality of what the Administration has done. Here’s his bottom line:

The President’s favorite corporations will be unchallenged. Their arguments will never be heard in a court of law. the truth behind this unprecedented domestic spying will never see the light of day, and the book on our government’s actions will be closed for good and sealed and locked and handed over to the safekeeping of those few whom George Bush trusts to keep a secret.

Because he has threatened to veto any legislation which crosses his desk without the retroactive immunity provisions, George Bush has proven that he cares less about our national security than he does about protecting his cronies. Not expanding FISA robs the government of necessary and limited powers to conduct warrantless (but court-approved) wiretaps. Here’s what Dodd said about that:

Secrecy in place of openness; fiat in place of law. Two simple words he offers: “Trust me”. Mr President, I would never take that offer, not even from a perfect president. Because in a republic, power was made to be shared, because power must be bound by firm laws, not the whims of whomever happens to sits in the executive chair. Because only two things make a difference between a president and a king: the oversight of a legislative body and the rulings of the courts and it’s why our founders formed this government the way they did, wth three branches of government co-equally sharing the powers to govern…”

The EFF is asking us to send a message to Congress: Stop The Spying. The picture above is my message to Congress. You can do one too…just get out your cell phone or digital camera or video camera and send a message to Congress that it’s time for the illegal surveillance of this country’s citizens to stop. Put your city and state on it and send it in.

H/T: Liz Henry, BlogHer

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