The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was implemented under the Bush administration and continued under Obama’s watch. The ever-broadening program has recently been approved in Congress for an additional five years and carries with it the ability for “surveillance” of international phone calls and e-mails, made or sent by Americans, not requiring a federal warrant. Additionally, domestic phone calls and e-mails may be monitored if an American is “believed” to be communicating with Al-Qaeda or any other known international terrorist network.
Pushed through the House by Republicans, the Obama administration agrees that the legislation is a top priority in keeping our country safe. What is questionable is how far-reaching the powers of surveillance will go and how many of our freedoms we Americans are willing to give up in order to remain safe. Botched programs like the now-infamous Fast and Furious, failure to increase security at our embassies and consulates abroad on one of the most hallowed anniversaries in our nation’s history, and the implementation of camera wielding drone aircrafts monitoring Americans at home should force us all to question whether or not any of this is truly necessary.
As reported by David Kravets on wired.com, “The government does not have to identify the target or facility to be monitored. It can begin surveillance a week before making the request, and the surveillance can continue during the appeals process if, in a rare case, the secret FISA court rejects the surveillance application. The court’s rulings are not public.”
How does this impact each one of us? If the CIA (an institution supposedly used only in clandestine foreign intelligence gathering), NSA, or another spy agency decides there is cause to “listen in” to a conversation you are having with someone, or perhaps read private e-mail communications you send or receive because you said or used specific “hot words or phrases,” they may do so without penalty. If an appeal is filed to stop the eavesdropping, the surveillance may continue until such time the appeal is accepted or denied. What becomes of the information gathered has not been fully realized as yet either.
The Senate must now take up the FISA bill given to them by the House. Unfortunately, for many who disagree with this policy, it will most likely be passed; and quietly, our sovereign freedoms will continue to erode, leaving our children and grandchildren with only a skeleton of what the United States once stood for and against. As Benjamin Franklin now famously wrote, “They who would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety.”
Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com (Creative Commons)
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