Many Americans, perhaps thinking that the land of the free couldn’t possibly devolve into Big Brother, seem to assume that email accounts would be free from surveillance. Wrong. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a champion of internet freedom and all around good guy, received word from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that the NSA was surveilling email communication and phone calls.
EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act request on July 26 relating to the matter, but did not receive documents from the government. As a result of this action, EFF launched a FOIA lawsuit, seeking “disclosure of any written opinions or orders from FISC discussing illegal government surveillance, as well as any briefings to Congress about those violations.”
According to the lawsuit, while the government claims that “FISA Section 702 minimization procedures used by the government is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” the intelligence official stated that “it is also true that on at least one occasion the [FISC] held that some collection carried out pursuant to the Section 702 minimization procedures used by the government was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.
The official stated further: “I believe that the government’s implementation of Section 702 of FISA has sometimes circumvented the spirit of the law, and on at least one occasion the [FISC] has reached this same conclusion.”
Translation: the government argues that the surveillance of emails and phone calls is “reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, but that the intelligence community itself believes that the government has been “unreasonable,” circumventing and violating Americans’ Fourth Amendment protection.
“For years we’ve seen news reports in the New York Times and other outlets about widespread government spying going beyond the broad powers granted in the FAA, but we’ve yet to get any real answers about what is going on,” said EFF Open Government Legal Fellow Mark Rumold. “When law-breaking is allowed to remain secret, there’s no accountability or way to monitor future abuses. It’s time for the government to come clean and tell us about the NSA’s unconstitutional actions.”
That there isn’t greater action coming out of the Senate and House of Representatives, and, indeed, from the Obama administration, is a smack in the face to the American people. Even one such violation of a person’s Fourth Amendment rights is a violation to all.
The FISA Amendments Act, which allowed this sort of bullshit, expires at year’s end; so perhaps if people get loud enough, this Orwellian charade could come to an end.