Wednesday, June 25, 2008

4TH Amendment.....Going............Going..............GONE!

In With a New Law, Out with the Fourth Amendment!
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Compare that with the recent "compromise" legislation that will allow warrantless surveillance of Americans' electronic communications that Congress is set to approve. The bill amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) gives the U.S. National Security Agency — the world's largest intelligence agency — carte blanche to engage in wholesale "data mining" of email communications, telephone calls, faxes, etc. And there's absolutely no requirement that the government describe "the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."Instead, the NSA's "Terrorist Surveillance Program" (TSP) appears to rely on mining the data streams of U.S. telecommunications companies to analyze transactional records of telephone and email traffic. Supposedly, they're searching for patterns that might point to terrorist suspects. In other words, are you — or anyone else in the United States — acting in a way that merits eavesdropping? If you match one of these profiles, the NSA apparently assigns a human analyst to listen in on your telephone calls and read your email. Again, there's no warrant required. This apparently happens tens of thousands of times annually. Most of the time, the NSA doesn't find anything suspicious. What about a warrant backed by probable cause? Apparently, only in those 10 or so cases that merit a full investigation does the FBI obtain a search warrant or domestic wiretap warrant. Under the new FISA law, the only role the courts play is to approve the computer algorithms the NSA uses to decide which messages merit further investigation. That decision is in the hands of the secret court set up 30 years ago to oversee wiretaps in national security investigations. In its 30-year history, this "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court" has turned down only a handful of NSA surveillance requests. But now, its role is just to rubber-stamp whatever algorithm an NSA technician decides to use. The remainder of the law is a joke, although I'm not laughing. For full details, see my blog right now. The bottom line: The FISA amendments shift the decisions about which U.S. citizens to spy on from the courts to virtual priesthood of NSA technicians operating in secret and creating surveillance algorithms that only they understand. It's hardly an oversight to state that this type of wholesale surveillance makes the Fourth Amendment a quaint anachronism. So, so long Fourth Amendment. It was nice to have you while you were here.

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