The Emerging Surveillance State
Last month, the House amended the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to expand the government’s ability to monitor our private communications. This measure, if it becomes law, will result in more warrantless government surveillance of innocent American citizens.
Though some opponents
claimed that the only controversial part of this legislation was its grant of
immunity to telecommunications companies, there is much more to be wary of in
the bill. In the House version, Title II, Section 801, extends immunity from
prosecution of civil legal action 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 any such company, and any “landlord,
custodian, or other person who may be authorized or required to furnish
assistance.” The Senate version goes even further by granting retroactive
immunity to such entities that may have broken the law in the past.
The new FISA bill allows the federal government to compel many more types of companies and individuals to grant the government access to our communications without a warrant. The provisions in the legislation designed to protect Americans from warrantless surveillance are full of loopholes and ambiguities. There is no blanket prohibition against listening in on all American citizens without a warrant.
We have been told that this power to listen in on communications is legal and only targets terrorists. But if what these companies are being compelled to do is legal, why is it necessary to grant them immunity? If what they did in the past was legal and proper, why is it necessary to grant them retroactive immunity?
We should remember
The Fourth Amendment to our Constitution requires the government to have a warrant when it wishes to look into the private affairs of individuals. If we are to remain a free society we must defend our rights against any governmental attempt to undermine or bypass the Constitution.