In recent years this country has undergone some massive shifts regarding the average American’s personal privacy. Primarily, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration began an effort to remove any barriers that impede different parts of the government from working closely and sharing information, primarily in regards to terrorism, yet the reach has gone far beyond that restriction.
Following 9/11, the so-called “sneak-and-peak” provision of the Patriot Act was claimed to only be used in instances of national security or terrorism. However, since its inception, the Patriot Act and its ambiguously worded intentions, have allowed for Americans’ data to be collected on a massive scale that have little to no relevance in regards to national security or terrorism. In fact, it was revealed that the provision was overwhelmingly used in narcotics cases, which are clearly not a matter of national security.
Despite the government’s initial insistence that this was not happening, in 2013 it was revealed, based on documents leaked by the former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, that the NSA had tapped into links connecting Google’s and Yahoo’s data centers overseas and collected millions of personal records a day from the servers.
Now, despite this past revelation, and the fact that the NSA publicly announced that they were ending the very data-mining program that is now being expanded, the New York Times reports that NSA data will now be shared with other members of the Alphabet Mafia, such as the FBI or CIA, without first applying any screens for privacy. It could be considered that at least now the secret data-sharing and spying on the American public is being publicly acknowledged and done in the open, instead of being carried out in their typical clandestine manner. Yet there is something quite foreboding about the fact that the government no longer feels the need to hide this gross intrusion and violation of Americans’ rights. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the IRS have been getting information from the NSA for years now, and without a warrant.
The ACLU of Massachusetts blog Privacy SOS explains why this is important:
What does this rule change mean for you? In short, domestic law enforcement officials now have access to huge troves of American communications, obtained without warrants, that they can use to put people in cages. FBI agents don’t need to have any “national security” related reason to plug your name, email address, phone number, or other “selector” into the NSA’s gargantuan data trove. They can simply poke around in your private information in the course of totally routine investigations. And if they find something that suggests, say, involvement in illegal drug activity, they can send that information to local or state police. That means information the NSA collects for purposes of so-called “national security” will be used by police to lock up ordinary Americans for routine crimes. And we don’t have to guess who’s going to suffer this unconstitutional indignity the most brutally. It’ll be Black, Brown, poor, immigrant, Muslim, and dissident Americans: the same people who are always targeted by law enforcement for extra “special” attention.
This essentially confirms what most “conspiracy theorists” have thought for some time. Yet, as with most cases of this type, the theorists were either disregarded or laughed at until the reality hit the docile public square in the mouth. This happens typically in the form of a deceptively agreeable Fox News story (or insert your most hated mainstream outlet here) that makes it seem as if it’s just another recap on something that has “been going on openly for years” with only national security in mind of course; and the only reason the viewer didn’t know about it was because they weren’t up on their “current events.” When in reality, their actions are not only unconstitutional, but illegal, and only being revealed in the first place because they were caught breaking the law. As no one ever seems to be held accountable for the egregious breaches of trust and constitutional law that have seemed to become common practice in recent years, it has become apparent that these men operate on a completely different level with their own personal set of rules that can clearly can be disregard at will.
“Before we allow them to spread that information further in the government, we need to have a serious conversation about how to protect Americans’ information,” said Alexander Abdo, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer.
The move to take this secretive operation and create circumstances and laws to allow for it to be done openly, has been under development since 2008. This obvious violation of the Constitution, where stolen information can be used to whatever end they see fit, was initiated by President George W. Bush. Bush set the change in motion through a little-noticed line in a 2008 executive order, and the Obama administration has been quietly developing a framework for how to carry it out since taking office in 2009.
Robert S. Litt, the general counsel in the office of the Director of National Intelligence, said that the administration had developed and was fine-tuning what is now a 21-page draft set of procedures to permit the sharing of American’s personal data. When asked if the public could have access to the current draft of the proposed procedures the office spokesman responded,
“Once these procedures are final and approved, they will be made public to the extent consistent with national security,” Mr. Hale said. “It would be premature to draw conclusions about what the procedures will provide or authorize until they are finalized.”
As much as that may seem a logical answer, national security and all, at what stage of this nation’s development did the people lose their right to have their voices heard on matters that directly affect their lives? The executive branch can apparently change its own rules without first going through Congress or a judge because the data comes from methods of surveillance that lawmakers failed to include in the main law that governs wiretapping; otherwise known as FISA.
This should serve to remind Americans that as the power of the Federal government continues to grow, the further away this nation’s falls from its founding ideals; and the closer it grows to the very thing it was founded to prevent. History has shown that any power granted to the Federal government will inevitable be used wherever they see fit, despite any original restrictions.
“Extraordinary powers we grant government in wartime rarely go away once the war is over. And, of course, the nifty thing for government agencies about a “war on terrorism” is that it’s a war that will never formally end.” Radley Balko, The Washington Post
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