In light of the continuously-developing NSA spying story, it’s important to look at how substantial the government’s legal justification is for its overreaching, 4th Amendment infringing, domestic surveillance policy, and how said policy can impact the lives of ordinary citizens who supposedly have “nothing to hide”.
First, let’s look at government’s legal argument.
Earlier this month, the Guardian released the NSA order which compels Verizon to deliver customers’ call information to the agency on an “ongoing, daily basis”. Since that time, a plethora of additional information has come to light which demonstrates that the size and scope of federal domestic spying policy goes far beyond the NSA and Verizon.
Nevertheless, the NSA Verizon order demonstrates how the government uses Section 215 of the Patriot Act to trounce the Constitution. Indeed, the order references the highly-controversial section in the very first line. The ACLU has come to the conclusion that Section 215 of the Patriot Act is the specific legal order that authorizes the federal government to surveil the electronic communications of ordinary Americans.
This section 215, according to the organization, enables the government to apply to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court–which NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston calls a domestic spying “rubber stamp”–to obtain legal clearance to circumvent 4th Amendment protections.
In other words, the feds are granted permission to violate Americans’ civil liberties as per the rulings of an autonomous, opaque court that justified the existence of Section 215 in the first place!
The section, according to the ACLU:
…authorizes the government to obtain “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation, even if there is no showing that the “thing” pertains to suspected terrorists or terrorist activities. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure, which require the government to show reasonable suspicion or probable cause before undertaking an investigation that infringes upon a person’s privacy.
“Any tangible thing”, ladies and gentlemen, means ANY form of Americans’ electronic communication, domestic or international. That should be extremely concerning to everyone, even if one has “nothing to hide” –irrespective of ideology.
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