Ministry of Love? How May I Direct Your Call?
If the federal government expands its existing surveillance powers any more, it’s going to be able to supply the White House power grid with electricity generated exclusively by the Founding Fathers spinning in their graves.
The U.S. Senate approved espionage legislation yesterday that would not only grant the National Security Agency sweeping new powers to intercept international phone calls and emails, but it would also grant retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that participated in the government’s post-9/11 warrantless domestic spying program.
With a 68-29 vote, the Senate passed the revision to the 30-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act along to the House of Representatives, which has already taken issue with its telecom-immunity provision. Said Sen. Chris Dodd (D., Conn.), “[The Senate has] just sanctioned … the single largest invasion of privacy in the history of the country.“
Sen. Russell Feingold (D., Wis.) was equally incredulous. “It is inconceivable that any telephone companies that allegedly cooperated with the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program did not know what their obligations were,” he said. “And it is just as implausible that those companies believed they were entitled to simply assume the lawfulness of a government request for assistance.”
Ah. And that being the case, it follows that we shouldn’t simply assume the lawfulness of a government request for broader clandestine surveillance powers. Right?
Said Michael Sussmann, a former Justice Department intelligence lawyer who represents several telecommunication companies: “This is a dramatic restructuring of surveillance law. And the thing that’s so dramatic about this is that you’ve removed the court review. There may be some checks after the fact, but the administration is picking the targets.”
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