Originally published April 30 2008
New Legislation in the Emerging Surveillance State
by Barbara L. Minton
(NaturalNews) A new measure, if it becomes law, will result in more government surveillance of innocent Americans without warrants, according to Congressman Ron Paul in his weekly column "Texas Straight Talk". Last month, the House amended the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to expand the government's ability to monitor our private communications.
Some opponents claim that the only controversial part of this legislation is its grant of immunity to telecommunications companies. But a deeper look into the bill reveals much more about which to be wary.
In the House version, Title II, Section 801, immunity from prosecution of civil legal action is extended to people and companies including any provider of an electronic communication service, any provider of a remote computing service, "any other communication service provider who has access to wire or electronic communications", any "parent, subsidiary, affiliate, successor, or assignee" of such company", any "officer, employee, or agent" of such company, and any "landlord, custodian, or other person who may be authorized or required to furnish assistance".
According to Congressman Paul, the Senate version will go even further by granting retroactive immunity to such entities that may have broken the law in the past.
This new FISA bill will allow the federal government to compel many more types of companies and individuals to grant the government access to our communications without a warrant. Although there are provisions in the legislation designed to protect Americans from surveillance without warrant, they contain many loopholes and ambiguities. They are not a blanket prohibition against listening in on all American citizens without a warrant.
We are being told that this power to listen in on communications is legal and only targeted at terrorists. But if what these companies are being compelled to do is legal, questions Paul, why is it necessary to grant them immunity? If their past activities were legal and proper, why is it necessary to grant them retroactive immunity?
History reveals that one in every 100 citizens was an informer for the dreaded secret police in communist East Germany. They volunteered or were compelled by their government to spy on their customers, neighbors, families and friends. When Americans think of the evils of totalitarianism, it is this sort of spy network that comes to mind. Yet, with the modern technology currently in place, what once required tens of thousands of informants can now be achieved by a few companies, coerced by the government to allow it to listen in on our communications. This type of surveillance is against the principles America has always held dear.
"We should remember that former New York governor Eliot Spitzer was brought down by a provision of the PATRIOT Act that required enhanced bank monitoring of certain types of financial transactions. Yet we were told that the PATRIOT Act was needed to catch terrorists, not philanderers. The extraordinary power the government has granted itself to look into our private lives can be used for many purposes unrelated to fighting terrorism. We can even see how expanded federal government surveillance power might be used to do away with political rivals," says Paul.
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution requires the government to have a warrant when it wants to look into the private affairs of individuals. Our continuing freedom as a society now depends on our ability to defend this right, as well as all of the rights granted to us by the Constitution.
About the authorBarbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.
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