I miss the days when people were upset that the government was working as hard as it could to make sure every aspect of your life was open to their review in the name of “national security.” At least then, when George W. Bush was doing it, it seemed like America was concerned that, for all intents and purposes, the government just assumed you were working on filling your basement crawlspace with canned food, M4s and Molotov cocktails, secretly plotting to re-enact Fight Club in your spare time.
As fun as that sounds, of course, revolution is an expensive hobby and my generation is too unemployed to make things like this happen. And probably too lazy. After all, the “Workers Revolution” was started by actual workers, which really doesn’t describe my generation at all. And plus, Obama said ‘Change” and whatever, so that obviously means no one is listening on my cell phone calls to my grandma.
A House committee on Tuesday reauthorized broad electronic eavesdropping powers that largely legalized the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.
The House Judiciary Committee, following the Senate Intelligence Committee’s lead last month, (.pdf) voted 23-11 to reauthorize the FISA Amendments Act. The legislation, expiring at year’s end, authorizes the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and emails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is outside the United States. The communications may be intercepted “to acquire foreign intelligence information.”
The FISA Amendments Act, which the Obama administration said was its top intelligence priority, (.pdf) generally requires the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court to rubber-stamp terror-related electronic surveillance requests that ensnare Americans’ communications. 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.
Weirdly, according to current criminal justice standards, they still need a warrant to read your mail, so if you really are planning something, you could pretty much find some lovely stationery, hand-write your terrorist plot and snail mail it to your buddies. And, of course, just writing that means that I will both now get my mail opened consistently (even when it doesn’t have the gift cards the USPS routinely steals), aaaaaaaaand the next FISA act is going to contain a measure specifically directed at lovely stationery. Poor Kate Spade. She never knew what hit her.