How convenient is FISA for Big Brother?
I’d say quite convenient:
Congress authorized the collection program amid a great debate about the degree to which the government was expanding its surveillance authority without sufficient protection for Americans’ privacy.
Authorized by Section 702 of the amended Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the program did away with the traditional individual warrant for each foreign suspect whose communications would be collected in the United States. In its place, the FISA court, which oversees domestic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes and whose proceedings are secret, would certify the government’s procedures to target people overseas and ensure citizens’ privacy.
Of course those procedures are, to put it bluntly, open to interpretation, but we’re supposed to rely on the good intentions of those who do this to ensure via constant monitoring and checking, that they’re not intruding on the privacy of an individual citizen.
But who would know if they were? And, more importantly, what accountability would there be for it?
Now there are those who will point out, and rightfully so, that the 4th Amendment only applies to American citizens. And I don’t disagree. But who is watching the watchers? Or in this case, listeners. Who is exercising reasonable and competent oversight? Oh … the agency itself? Well, who else is authorized, given the secrecy? Congress? Wow, as easy as that bunch is snowed by just about everything, that’ got to give you a warm fuzzy, huh? They think passing a law takes care of any problems, right?
“What’s most striking about the targeting procedures is the discretion they confer on the NSA,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security program.
If you have any experience with government, you know then that when the word “discretion” is used in relation to describing how they can do their job, it means it is up to interpretation. Their interpretation. You know, the old “wink, wink, nudge, nudge”
I’m sorry, but given what I’ve seen around the world and studied about other governments in my lifetime, I’m not happy with any part of government exercising “discretion” in that sense, especially when they could easily use their discretion to violate my rights. And in the case of the NSA and many other government agencies, I believe that’s more than a possibility, I put it in the probability category (human nature 101).
In figuring out whether a target is “reasonably believed” to be located overseas, for example, the agency looks at the “totality of the circumstances” relating to a person’s location. In the absence of that specific information, “a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States or whose location is not known will be presumed to be a non-United States person,” according to rules on the targeting of suspects.
“Yeah, you know, I’m not sure about that location so we’ll assume it’s a “non-United States” person.” How hard would that be?
But hey, don’t you feel secure?