Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Unnecessary Parsing

I've been reading a lot of commentary on the recently demanded (and granted) powers in the new FISA act -- which basically expands the ability of the government to spy on citizens, using some fairly specious arguments about national security and the ever-present Terra! fear.

There's been much discussion about whether the new rules would allow any incoming or outgoing foreign call from the US would allow surveillance, or whether it has to be a foreign-to-foreign call that just happens to use some US circuits (huh? How does that work?). Even more discussion about how sunsetting the rules somehow makes all this "ok", and that anyone worried about is must be a "tin-foil-hat conspiracist" because the government wouldn't be able to spy on Americans. I think it's been rather conclusively proven that they have, indeed, spied on Americans -- but the rules they defined are such that they don't have to tell anyone about it. See how nicely that works? They can do anything illegal that they want, because they aren't required to actually defend the act, because they explicitly exempt themselves from having to tell anyone about what they do.

But all of this is just unnecessary parsing -- there's no need to pick this apart. Once the executive is empowered to spy on citizens without a warrant, for any reason, and to claim that the details of the surveillance are secret because they impact some nebulous idea of "national security" and do not need to be justified or even revealed to congress or the courts..well, then the executive is empowered to spy on any citizen, any time, for any reason. Period.

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