by: the Common Constitutionalist
I recently heard an argument presented by a pro-surveillance advocate.
I’m paraphrasing: The metadata being compiled is no more dangerous or intrusive than the Post Office scanning every single envelope they handle, which they do. How is collecting phone numbers or e-mail addresses any more intrusive than that?
I can think of three things right off the top of my head. First: The intrusiveness is immaterial. Unless I’m mistaken, the fourth amendment of the Constitution does not have a clause indicating that search and seizure is okay depending on the severity of the intrusion.
Second: there is an “intention” that the Postal Service will scan and read the envelope that you send. Otherwise, how would it get to its intended destination? The same cannot be said of the electronic data the government is collecting. There is no “intention” of me allowing the government to see this data without first clearing the fourth amendment hurdles.
Third: the Postal Service is a government/public agency. Yes, it’s supposed to support itself, so one might call it quasi-governmental, but it ain’t private.
The companies being mined for data are all private. They are not public entities so they should be afforded the same benefit of the fourth amendment as you and I.
This massive data collection is supposed to be for our own safety and security. That is the way it is being portrayed to the low information citizen, and frankly to all of us, is it not?
Well, anyone who has ever been a cop, or a spy, or done any investigatory work knows that mining for gazillions of bits of information is not the way to catch anyone. Human intelligence, feet on the street and interrogations. These are the things that lead to real actionable intelligence. Electronic data collection is also quite useful when limited and focused properly.
That focus is how we found bin Laden and how we could have found the Tsarnaev brothers ahead of time.
What about the FISA court? Doesn’t it is still have to sign off on this surveillance?
To tell the truth, I’m not 100% sure about that, nor do I think this administration gives a flying crap about getting permission to do anything. But if they did happen to seek permission to hack, eavesdrop or collect everyone’s firstborn, chances are pretty good that FISA would rule in the affirmative. It has been a virtual rubberstamp for the feds.
FISA was developed by Ted Kennedy and signed into law by Jimmy Carter. Without knowing anything about it, I would automatically reject just on that basis.
In its 34-year history, from 1978 through 2012, the FISA court has rejected a grand total of 11 government applications, while approving more than 20,000. That’s pretty good odds.
When running for president, candidate Obama pretended to have serious concerns about the law, then voted for it. He then vowed to rein in its excesses. But last year he demanded the renewal of the law with no reforms and Congress as they tend to do, complied.
Gee, what a shocker. Obama, or any other politician for that matter, said something and then did the exact opposite.
In 2011 there were 1676 applications presented to the FISA court and not one was denied. Let me repeat, not one.
In 2012, the Obamites ramped up the applications to 1789. Again, not one was denied. Give me those odds in Vegas baby!
There is no reasonable or justifiable reason for this data collection of American citizens and there appears to be absolutely no oversight. This is the stuff of paranoid dictators and Kings, not of a constitutional republic.