J. D. Heyes
June 11, 2013
Following revelations that the government collected the phone records from every single Verizon customer for three months comes news that the Justice Department is demanding software makers install “back doors” to allow agencies like the FBI to conduct surveillance.
In April The Washington Post reported that a government task force “is preparing legislation that would pressure companies such as Facebook and Google to enable law enforcement officials to intercept online communications as they occur, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the effort.”
In other words, don’t think that the Verizon episode will be the last time Americans have their Fourth Amendment privacy rights trampled by an out-of-control federal leviathan. And of course, as in the case with Verizon, it’s all for our own good and safety. There’s terrorists out there, you know.
It’s all about the terrorists
More from the Post:
Driven by FBI concerns that it is unable to tap the Internet communications of terrorists and other criminals, the task force’s proposal would penalize companies that failed to heed wiretap orders – court authorizations for the government to intercept suspects’ communications.
Industry and former government officials told the paper that typically, when a company is resistant to federal demands for such access, the leviathan backs down. But of course, law enforcement officials with the FBI say such access is crucial – crucial, mind you – to prevent the “going dark” problem, or “the cloak drawn on suspects’ online activities,” the Post reported.
Needless to say, the Verizon incident involved obtaining phone records of every single customer, in a blanket sweep; there was no such scrutiny of “suspects” only. But to the FBI, that doesn’t matter, apparently. It’s all about the terrorists, you see.
“The importance to us is pretty clear,” Andrew Weissmann, the FBI’s general counsel, said in March at an American Bar Association discussion on legal challenges posed by new technologies. “We don’t have the ability to go to court and say, ‘We need a court order to effectuate the intercept.’ Other countries have that. Most people assume that’s what you’re getting when you go to a court.”
But “other countries” don’t have a Constitution. They don’t have a citizenry which expects a high degree of privacy. And they don’t have a system of checks and balances established to protect their citizens from just these kinds of government abuses.
Fines, punishment, jail for non-compliance
Then again, our government is lurching in the opposition direction our founding fathers envisioned, so it should be no surprise that the task force proposal would seek to punish anyone who, for reasons having everything to do with promises of customer privacy, did not want to comply with a court that ordered them to violate such promises, per the Post:
Under the draft proposal, a court could levy a series of escalating fines, starting at tens of thousands of dollars, on firms that fail to comply with wiretap orders, according to persons who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. A company that does not comply with an order within a certain period would face an automatic judicial inquiry, which could lead to fines. After 90 days, fines that remain unpaid would double daily.
And that’s our government today, in a nutshell: You’d better do as we demand, even if it’s not constitutionally permissible, because if you don’t, we’ll punish you.
That’s how massive government theft of Verizon phone records occurred.
“This proposal is a non-starter that would drive innovators overseas and cost American jobs,” Gregory Nojeim, a senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told the Post in April. “They might as well call it the Cyber Insecurity and Anti-Employment Act.”
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This article was posted: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at 4:52 am