Monday, September 27, 2010

Patriot Act 2.0: Obama Administration Attacks Civil Rights to Privacy!

Daily KOS: Several news stories have converged since Friday, and none of them are good news for the fight to protect our civil liberties and right to privacy.

Last week, the Departement of Justice Inspector General issues a scathing review of post 9-11 FBI "terrorism investigations" targeting various peace and social justice groups, finding that the "FBI improperly investigated some left-leaning U.S. advocacy groups after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Justice Department said Monday, citing cases in which agents put activists on terrorist watch lists even though they were planning nonviolent civil disobedience." But on Friday, the FBI carried out raids on the homes of peace activists in the midwest in what appears to be a large scale and unfocused fishing operation against anti-war activists.

Then, via John Cole, on Saturday the Obama administration filed a brief urging the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki's father asking the court to enjoin the administration from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without the benefit of due process. What's particularly disturbing about the government's brief is that it once again rests on states secrets--meaning the administration is asserting that the President has the right to order American citizens killed, without the benefit of due process, and those decisions will be shielded from all scrutiny--including judicial--because they are "state secrets."

And we have two stories emerging today, the WaPo reporting that the administration "wants to require U.S. banks to report all electronic money transfers into and out of the country, a dramatic expansion in efforts to counter terrorist financing and money laundering." That's all transfers. Everything, whether the person transferring the money is under suspicion or not. Currently, banks are required to report transactions over $10,000. What's particularly frustrating about this one, as Glenn points out isn't that it's just a continuation of Bush era excesses in surveillance--it's a continuation of the inefficient and counterproductive collection of data "swamping the Government with more data than it can possibly process and manage."

Add to all that data coming in the other new proposal from the administration.

WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages....

James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet policy group, said the proposal had “huge implications” and challenged “fundamental elements of the Internet revolution” — including its decentralized design.

“They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet,” he said. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.”

As Glenn points out, there are really unforunate parallels in tthis proposal to Saudi Arabia's and the UAE's ban on Blackberries. It's not banning specific devices, but the outcome would not be so different--there would be no means of technology available that couldn't be monitored by the government.

The new law would not expand the Government's legal authority to eavesdrop -- that's unnecessary, since post-9/11 legislation has dramatically expanded those authorities -- but would require all communications, including ones over the Internet, to be built so as to enable the U.S. Government to intercept and monitor them at any time when the law permits. In other words, Internet services could legally exist only insofar as there would be no such thing as truly private communications; all must contain a "back door" to enable government officials to eavesdrop.

This is precisely what Senator Frank Church was warning against after his committee found extensive illegal domestic surveillance by the Nixon and previous administrations. Speaking specifically about the techonological advances the NSA was making at the time:

"That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people," he said in 1975, "and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."

Should the government have the ability to monitor communications? Absolutely--when they have evidence or solidly grounded suspicions of criminal activity and actually get the warrants and follow the requirements of due process that the Constitution demands. That requires smarter, more targeted, and more effective solutions--solutions that are fundamentally American in guaranteeing our Constitutional rights.

-Dead Press- Journalism that's not sold-out!

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