Monday, August 06, 2007

Surveillance state on steroids

Jacob Sullum over at Reason's Hit & Run has a good post -- more extensive than I'm inclined to do this late in the evening after researching it for the Register most of the day -- on the unwarranted surveillance bill that Congress passed and President Bush signed over the weekend. It includes links to some valuable commentary I can recommend and to the text of the bill itself. A few comments of my own, however:

This bill is a tribute to pusallinimity in Congress -- the only serious argument for greatly expanding executive-branch surveillance power now-now-now rather than doing some technical fixes that account for technology changed since the FISA law was passed in 1978 was the threat that if they didn't do it the Bushies would accuse them of being soft on terrorism if another attack came during the August recess. An even less attractive possibility is that the Democrats figure they'll control the executive branch soon enough, and they won't mind at all having unaccountable power to monitor electronic communications.

Remember how, after the NSA unwarranted surveillance program was made public and acknolwegded in 12/05, defenders said it was only messages between al-Qaida members or other known terrorists abroad and people in the U.S.that the NSA was monitoring? Well, this bill targets anybody reasonably suspected of being overseas -- no requirement that they be a terrorist, activist or anything. And it will be supervised not by a FISA secret court, but by the Director of National Intelligence and the attorney general -- Mike and Alberto -- so there's not even a pretense of judicial oversight. And there's no provision for congressional oversight, not even in the form of regular reports on how many Americans were surveilled, either.

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