Obama’s expansion of the surveillance state
Julian Sanchez has an excellent piece over at The American Prospect on the Obama administration’s surveillance power grab:
At issue is the scope of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s power to obtain information from “electronic communications service providers” using national security letters (NLS), which compel private companies to allow government access to communication records without a court order. The administration wants to add four words — “electronic communication transactional records” — to Section 2709 of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which spells out the types of communications data that can be obtained with an NSL. Yet those four little words would make a huge difference, potentially allowing investigators to draw detailed road maps of the online activity of citizens not even suspected of any connection to terrorism.
This has serious implications for our privacy online, and represents a serious expansion of government into our personal lives – giving anyone concerned with government overreach yet another reason to have serious doubts about this administration’s commitment to civil liberties. Unfortunately, the vast majority of progressive activists don’t seem all that concerned with this or any other abuse of power the current administration has carried over from their predecessors or expanded upon.
Sanchez ends on a chilling note:
We increasingly live online. We flirt, shop, read, speak out, and organize in a virtual space where nearly every action leaves a digital trace — and where those breadcrumb bits often track us through the physical world as well. If the Obama administration gets its way, an agency that has already proved itself utterly unable to respect the limits of its authority will have discretion to map our digital lives in potentially astonishing detail, with no judge looking over their shoulders. That the administration and the FBI would seek such power under the guise of a “technical clarification” is proof enough that they cannot be trusted with it.
As I’m fond of saying, things will get worse before they get better.