President Obama is in trouble! His government has been spying on Americans and keeping the country in the dark about surveillance activities. If Snowden hadn't kicked the chicken coup and sent the world's media into an expose-publishing frenzy, the domino effect that unveiled so many of the NSA's apparently illegal spying activities would have never materialized.
This Friday, President Obama will be making a speech at the Justice Department. Legislators and the general public alike are looking forward to the day with expectations of radical changes. With the world close at his heels, Obama had no other option but to create a Senate Committee to act as a review panel and investigate into allegations about NSA's online privacy invasions. It is expected that President Obama will refer to the recommendations presented by the Presidential Advisory Committee for investigation in to NSA's surveillance practices.
In December, this panel submitted 46 recommendations advocating changes in the NSA's surveillance protocols and practices. This week, the same review panel testified their recommendations to the Senate Judiciary Committee at Capitol Hill. The panel's findings have been challenged by Judge John Bates, former chief judge of this secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Judges have also expressed reluctance in contributing to the development of NSA
related debates. If you think that is terrible than this is probably a bad time to tell you that judges want to reduce transparency in court rulings related to the NSA. They perceive that an increase in transparency during court rulings might increase misunderstandings amongst the American public.
From the looks of it, the government seems to have gotten it together and most of the panel's recommendations are expected to be rejected. The few that are accepted will probably only be implemented partially if implemented at all.
Spying on Afghanistan and Iraq makes sense, but mass-spying activities targeting Americans does not fit into any equation. The world does not like the sound of unchecked power invasion of the common man's privacy, and neither do Americans. If the ends are expected to justify the means, then the law should be the same for everybody – simply slapping on a 'good guy' label does not give Uncle Sam the permission to point at anybody and start an investigation.
Listing down the crimes that NSA has committed against online privacy would be unfair since a lot of them still remain unproven – and unlike the NSA, we will wait for further research-based evidence before we start pointing fingers.
However, there are two blatant mass-level violations that merit mention:
- Collection of phone records – justified by the government under Section 215 of the Patriot Act of 2001
- The Prism Project – justified by the government under the FISA Amendments Act of Section 1881a of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008
All the people have to arm their arguments with is the Fourth Amendment. Under the Fourth Amendment, the government is obliged to present probable cause before carrying out any surveillance activities – especially if the surveillance is expected to be invasive.
Dare I say it every American seems to be alone in the fight for online privacy and safety. After all, when the law-enforcers become out-laws, there is very little hope left for the townspeople. Options are limited and measures have to be taken at the individual level. Running to soften gun control laws won’t help this time.
Keep your firewalls updated and don’t send/receive data unless you absolutely have to. If you can’t stay off the grid keep your VPN activated at all times. There is no other way out of this mess but to keep our heads under a virtual private tunnel while we wait for yet another storm to pass.
Obama's Adressess the Nation on Friday, 17th of January
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