The US government is obsessed about your phone calls, email, web surfing and a log of everywhere that you travel. The obsession has become so intense over the past few years, that they have had to recast the definition of data gathering. After all, warrantless wiretapping and domestic spying is illegal. And so once exposed, Uncle Sam now claims that massive public eavesdropping, archiving and data mining (including building cross-domain portfolios on every citizen) does not count as “spying” because a human analyst has not yet listened to a particular conversation. The way your government spins it, if they have not yet listened into private, domestic conversations, they can gather yottabytes of personal and businesses without any judicial oversight.
The increasing pace of Big Brother’s appetite for wads of personal data is–at the very least–alarming and more specifically, unlikely to result in anything more than a Police State. To learn about some of these events, check our recent articles on the topic of Uncle Sam’s proclivity for data gathering.
Whistle blower, William Binney, explains a secret NSA program to spy on U.S. citizens without warrants
I’m Not Doing Anything Illegal. Why Should I Care?
Here at AWildDuck, we frequently discuss privacy, government snooping, and projects that incorporate or draw upon warrantless interception. In just the USA, there are dozens of projects–past and present–with a specific mandate to violate the Foreign Intelligent Surveillance Act. How can the American government get away with it? In the past decade, as leaks began to surface, they tried to redefine the meaning of domestic surveillance to exclude sweeping acts of domestic surveillance. The Bush era interpretation of USSID 18 is so farcical, that it can be debunked by an elementary school pupil. As the ruse unraveled, the wholesale gathering of data on every citizen in America was ‘legitimized’ by coupling The Patriot Act with general amnesty for past acts warrantless wiretapping. Dick Cheney invoked the specter of 911 and the urgent need to protect Americans from terrorism as justification for creating a more thorough and sweeping police mechanism than any totalitarian regime in history.
The programs go by many names, each with a potential to upend a democracy: Stellar Wind, The Patriot Act, TIA, Carnivore, Echelon, Shamrock, ThinThread, Trailblazer, Turbulence, Swift, and MINARET. Other programs thwart the use of privacy tools by businesses and citizens, such as Clipper Chip, Key Escrow and the classification of any secure web browsing as a munition that must be licensed and cannot be exported. The list goes on and on…
A myriad of dangers arise when governments ‘of-the-people and by-the-people’ engage in domestic spying, even if the motive is noble. Off the bat, I can think of four:
- Justifications are ethereal. They are based on transient goals and principles. Even if motives are common to all constituents at the time a project is rolled out, the scope of data archived or the access scenarios inevitably change as personal and administrations change.
- Complex and costly programs are self-perpetuating by nature. After all, no one wants to waste billions of taxpayer dollars. Once deployed, a massive surveillance mechanism, it is very difficult to dismantle or thwart.
- There is convincing research to suggest that domestic surveillance could aid terrorists, rather than protect civilians.
- Perhaps most chilling, is the insipid and desensitizing effect of such programs. Once it becomes acceptable for a government to spy on its citizens, it is a surprisingly small step for neighbors, co-workers and your own children to become patriotic partners in surveillance and reporting. After all, if your government has the right to preemptively look for dirt on your movement, Internet surfing, phone calls, cash transactions and sexual dalliances, then your neighbor can take refuge in the positive light of assisting law enforcement as they transmit an observation about an unusual house guest or the magazines you subscribe to.
What’s New in Domestic Spying?
This is a landmark week for anyone who values privacy and who understands that domestic spying is not a necessary tool of homeland security. This week, we are learning that US surveillance of its citizens is skyrocketing and a court case is about to either validate or slap a metaphorical wrist. Either way, each event brings us ever closer to the world depicted in Person of Interest. For now, I am citing breaking news. We’ll flush out the details soon.
- Phone location data privacy issue hits federal court Tuesday
- ACLU: Electronic surveillance by US agencies skyrocketing
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Articles on Privacy & Domestic Surveillance here at AWildDuck:
- Chilling developments in domestic spying
- $1 Billion kick-starts Facial Recognition of Everyone
- Can USA Assert Jurisdiction Over Assange?
- Enhancing Privacy: Blind Signaling and Response
- Will Google “Do No Evil”?
- Big biz & Uncle Sam like Tor, sort of…
- U.S. Police Snoop Email, IMs, Phone Records
- Beijing to Impose Encryption Disclosure Rules