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Is Big Brother Here for Good?

February 9, 2015 in Economics

By Patrick G. Eddington

Patrick G. Eddington

Last week, President Obama revealed his proposed “reforms” to the intelligence community’s electronic surveillance practices. Ignoring the pleas of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and privacy and civil liberties groups to end the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records, the president has chosen to keep the program in a lightly modified form.

It is a tribute to the power of the national security state that Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA abuse have not resulted in any real reduction in NSA’s powers and that no consequences have befallen those responsible for the abuses.

If we are to end our post-9/11 national security state, the congressional leadership must come to believe that blocking efforts to restore the Bill of Rights will result in real political consequences.”

Those responsible for authorizing and running these programs—including two presidents, their respective NSA directors, attorneys general and a slew of other lower-ranking officials—have successfully constructed a system of mass surveillance that operates in an accountability-free zone politically and is manifestly ineffective. But the true threat these programs pose is to the very experiment that is America—a country created in response to the very kinds of warrantless searches embodied in these and other post-9/11 government activities.

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Today, through surveillance collection programs like Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the federal government has stored data showing if you’ve ever visited a website offering ammunition for sale, whether you’ve ever called a gun shop or shooting range, and whether any of the people in your calling circles have done so. The same situation exists with respect to any calls you’ve made to a psychologist or psychiatrist, or to a family planning organization, or to an overseas chapter of an international human rights organization you support. The list is endless, and the federal government has no business having any of that data.

Of course, these assaults on the Bill of Rights would not have been possible without the active participation of Congress. The original sin was the passage, just six weeks after the 9/11 attacks, of the Patriot Act.

Having worked in the House of Representatives for over a decade and participated in multiple political campaigns, I understand well the intense pressure House and Senate members faced to “do something” in the wake of the attacks. But the Patriot Act was offered up and passed based …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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