Friday, June 20, 2008

More privacy rights, gone forever

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the warrantless wiretapping bill, including retroactive immunity for the chump telephone companies that let the spooks set up shop right in their headquarters to listen in on the telephone conversations and email messages of ordinary Americans.

Oh, they say the bill doesn't give ex-post-facto immunity, but check this out:

"Instead, U.S. district courts would be able to dismiss a suit if there were written certification that the White House asked a company to participate and assured it the program was legal."
The secret spy room at the AT&T office in San Francisco
(Picture from

So all the Feds have to do is present a letter saying "We told them to do it, and we told them it was legal" even if it most assuredly wasn't, and the telcos go scot-free, even though it was a direct violation of the 1978 FISA law for the government to go around hoovering up every bit of data from the companies without any kind of warrant from a court, and then go fishing through the mountain of information for interesting tidbits. Only after they found something worthwhile would they then go and ask for a warrant to legally obtain the information that they already had.

A crude analogy would be the cops breaking into your house, finding something illegal, and subsequently asking a judge for a search warrant based on what they found in the illegal search of your house. Backwards? Definitely, and that's exactly what the government was doing in these phone cases. Only Qwest Communications had the intestinal fortitude to tell the Feds to take a hike, despite threats and blustering from the NSA.

The House bill was shepherded through by House Democratic Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MD, yet another career overlord (Jeez, he was already in office some thirty years ago when I was growing up there) who doesn't care one whit about citizen rights, as long as his party benefits in the next election, and won't take a hit on the homeland "security" issue. If you care to call his office to thank him for his paternalistic usurpation of your privacy rights, his Washington number is 202-225-4131. Tell him Ben Franklin sent you:

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

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