Sunday, November 11, 2007

Excuse Me? No, We Do NOT Need to Do That

I'm sorry--did you say that we need to CHANGE the definition of privacy?

WASHINGTON — As Congress debates new rules for government eavesdropping, a top intelligence official says it is time that people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people's private communications and financial information.

Kerr's comments come as Congress is taking a second look at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Lawmakers hastily changed the 1978 law last summer to allow the government to eavesdrop inside the United States without court permission, so long as one end of the conversation was reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S.

The original law required a court order for any surveillance conducted on U.S. soil, to protect Americans' privacy. The White House argued that the law was obstructing intelligence gathering because, as technology has changed, a growing amount of foreign communications passes through U.S.-based channels.

The most contentious issue in the new legislation is whether to shield telecommunications companies from civil lawsuits for allegedly giving the government access to people's private e-mails and phone calls without a FISA court order between 2001 and 2007.

Hell no. We're NOT going to do that.

For an official like that--and no wonder it was one of the vast number of assistants and deputies who threw this idea out there to test the reaction--to suggest that the American people have to suck it up and eat a little humility and part with their rights is ludicrous. But what do you expect these days? What do you expect when your outrage is outpaced by your inability to keep up with all the insane things we're supposed to be outraged about.

We never needed to amend FISA for the existing threats to our country. We amended FISA because the Republicans knew they were going to be caught spying on their political enemies, not terrorists. We need better Democrats to learn these issues and fight for the privacy rights of all Americans. You do not turn the eavesdropping intelligence apparatus of this country back onto its own citizens--at least, not without first getting a warrant to ensure that no one is abusing their power.

Republicans will, on January 20, 2009, at about 2PM Eastern, rediscover:

1. The Constitution
2. Privacy Rights
3. The Bill of Rights
4. Every other thing they've taken a dump on

And they will start jumping up and down and screaming about privacy as soon as a Democrat takes office. They will agitate as if the Republic itself is in danger of imminent collapse. They won't just do it for the gun nut lobby or for the paranoids and for the Black Helicopter crowd--which is about all that's left of their shrinking constituency.

No--they'll rediscover that they were supposed to be Americans during the period from January 20, 2001 to January 20, 2009. They're suddenly remember the rule of law and Habeus and the right to be free from unlawful search and seizure. They'll scream as if they've been stabbed with a million poison pens.

I say, let us have that debate now.

When I talk about better Democrats, what I mean is that I want to see Democrats step up and fight hard--don't give the telecoms immunity. They already have all the immunity they need. What we need is accountability. If they broke the law, let's sort out punishing and fining them and get BACK to the rule of law in this country.

I suspect we need to see a few hundred people marched off to jail. So be it.

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