Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Surveillance concerns - real and imagined

I suppose it's not surprising in light of his sellout vote on telecom immunity, but it's still disturbing that the Obama administration wants to keep certain Patriot Act powers. These three are due to expire and they want them extended.
*A secret court, known as the FISA court, may grant “roving wiretaps” without the government identifying the target. Generally, the authorities must assert that the target is an agent of a foreign power and/or a suspected terrorist. The government said Tuesday that 22 such warrants — which allow the monitoring of any communication device — have been granted annually.

*The FISA court may grant warrants for “business records,” from banking to library to medical records. Generally, the government must assert that the records are relevant to foreign intelligence gathering and/or a terrorism investigation. The government said Tuesday that 220 of these warrants had been granted between 2004 and 2007. It said 2004 was the first year those powers were used.

*A so-called “lone wolf” provision, enacted in 2004, allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of an individual even without showing that the person is an agent of a foreign power or a suspected terrorist. The government said Tuesday it has never invoked that provision, but said it wants to keep the authority to do so.
I'm with the ACLU on this. All of these have already been abused under Bush and the lone wolf is particularly invasive. I'm not a national security expert but I'm pretty sure the government had plenty of means to accomplish this sort of surveillance before the Patriot Act and adding these provisions, that are all too easy to abuse, probably isn't all that necessary.

In contrast this concern trolling is overblown. I'm not worried at all that the White House is archiving publicly available internet commentary. Anyone who leaves comments or whatever on social networking sites and expects them to remain private, shouldn't really be using a computer. The White House isn't the only one harvesting that kind of info. Cripes, every SEO marketer in the world is doing it and while the full details may not be available, it's not like the White House is trying to keep it secret if they're publicly asking for bids on the contract.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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