Two recent articles have highlighted this need for a revision in our thinking about National Security and Privacy. One of the most important considerations is this fact. Without Security, Privacy doesn't matter. We, as Americans, have a right to expect a certain amount of Privacy in our daily lives. However, some of the current laws REQUIRE us to give up both in a flawed attempt to protect privacy.
The first article for your consideration comes from the AP. OK to Spy on Kidnappers Took 9 Hours describes the ridiculous lengths to which our Government must go to protect our basic freedoms. In the name of privacy, we have failed to permanently revise the laws relating to the FISA Court to reflect technology advances.
Last spring, with insurgents apparently holding three American soldiers in Iraq, it took the U.S. government more than nine hours to begin emergency surveillance of some of the kidnappers' electronic communications.Why did surveillance of the kidnappers' electronic communications take over 9 hours? The answer is Technology, and specifically the American Communications Networks. These Networks are the most efficient in the world, and as a result the kidnappers communications passed though them on US Soil. This prevented our Government from intercepting them without a warrant.
To be Clear, we could not listen to FOREIGN KIDNAPPERS, ON FOREIGN SOIL, because the Electronic Communications passed through DOMESTIC COMMUNICATIONS NETWORKS ON AMERICAN SOIL. This is lunacy, and extremely dangerous. We were prevented from monitoring the Electronic Communications of foreign kidnappers who held 3 Americans Hostage.
The delay was a centerpiece of the Bush administration's argument to Congress in late July that the law requiring court orders to conduct electronic surveillance inside the United States was dangerously restrictive.But this amendment expires after 6 months and Democrats have vowed to prevent this essential tool from being made permanent. What are they thinking? Shouldn't it be the First Priority of our Government to protect our security and thereby insure our Privacy? Makes Sense to me.
Congress subsequently approved an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that removed the requirement for a court order to intercept foreign communications on U.S. soil. The original law was written to protect Americans from inappropriate government surveillance.
The Second article is Today's Featured Article at the OpinionJournal of the Wall Street Journal. (Surveillance Showdown) The opening paragraph of this article asks the question we should all be required to answer.
Would any sane country purposefully limit its ability to spy on enemy communications in time of war?Congress will soon take up this question again, and the answer seems clear to all but the Democrats. The permanent reform of the FISA Court Legislation must be brought up to current technology capabilities.
Privacy activists, civil libertarians and congressional Democrats argue that both foreign and domestic eavesdropping must be subject to judicial scrutiny and oversight, even if this means drastically reducing the amount of foreign intelligence information available to the government, without ever acknowledging the costs involved. [emphasis mine]What kind of insanity is this? Foreign Intelligence is specifically granted by Constitution to the Executive Branch of Our Government. For this Foreign Intelligence Gathering process no warrant should be necessary.
Warrantless surveillance is also constitutional. The Fourth Amendment prohibits only "unreasonable" searches and seizures. Although today's privacy advocates routinely claim that warrantless searches are inherently unreasonable, that position is insupportable. The Supreme Court has repeatedly approved numerous warrantless searches, balancing the government's interests against the relevant privacy expectations. Thus drivers can be subjected to sobriety checkpoints and international travelers are liable to search at the border.Fear of "Big Brother" Government listening to our communications is warrantless (pun intended).
For several years I Prepared Income Tax Returns for a living. Certainly the returns I completed contained very sensitive and confidential Personal information. Obviously, this was a reasonable warrantless search I conducted to lawfully complete the Return. Many of those individuals whose returns I completed fully expected that I remembered their most intimate Tax Details. The truth was I did not specifically remember many details because it was a job, not a thrill seeking adventure.
More importantly, my reputation was at stake. My reputation developed through trust, was my source of continued business and therefore my means of support. I earned trust and therefore grew my business.
Reputation and Trust is the business of the Government too. Many of us remember the disgrace of Richard Nixon and more recently Congressman Duke Cunningham. No politician wants this to be his legacy. Even more important, many of the people involved are not political appointees. They are Honest, trustworthy citizens and members of the Military. For the most part, these are individuals who try to do the best job they can, because they believe in what they do.
The government does utilize a series of "minimization" procedures governing how foreign intelligence information is handled to prevent its inappropriate use or disclosure. As explained by CIA Director Michael Hayden in 2006, referring to the post-Sept. 11 terrorist surveillance program before it was subjected to FISA: "if the U.S. person information isn't relevant [without foreign intelligence value], the data is suppressed." The fact that senior U.S. government officials (unlike their counterparts in other countries) do not routinely have access to the unredacted surveillance-generated information about American citizens, and that the system is operated largely by career civil servants, provides an additional layer of privacy protection. [brackets and ellipsis in original]In a nutshell, if we prevent electronic monitoring of foreign communications for National Intelligence purposes because they pass through US soil based Networks, we will limit the Intelligence to low level operatives. This is because the higher levels are not stupid. They know the best way to prevent interception is to insure US legal protection by using US Based Networks.
National Security and Privacy, in this case, are 2 ends of the same sliding scale. There is a balance point which can insure both, but if the slider is moved too far towards one end, we will loose both.