When journalist Glenn Greenwald broke the news about The National Security Agency’s on-going collection of “information on all telephone calls” in Verizon’s vast network, the United States population exploded with questions, demanding answers. Greenwald revealed that the massive data collection effort started on April 25 and is to end July 19. And, while Greenwald says he doesn’t know if Verizon is the only telecom under the NSA’s spell, a flip back in time will reveal there are, more than likely, others involved.
Flash back to a December 16, 2005 article in the New York Times in which James Risen and Eric Lichtblau disclosed that the Bush era spy order, which ultimately led to the 2008 FISA Amendment Act, was signed in 2002. This virtual dragnet of customer communications involved AT&T and Verizon, Sprint Nextel and others. One company that didn’t turn over records, Qwest, says it was approached about turning over their customer information in February 2001…a full six months prior to the tragic September attack that spurred several pieces of legislation to supposedly save the United States from terrorist attacks.
Anyone interested can get an overview of our country’s surveillance background by watching a clip from the widely acclaimed documentary, Washington, You’re Fired.
The Bush’s wiretapping and data mining was disturbing, but, at the time, most American’s were scared because of the September 11 attacks. Is it possible more people didn’t recognize the threat to our liberty, or were willing to ignore it, because the population believed it made them safe?
Those Bush Era wiretaps were more than illegal; they were unconstitutional. Judge Vaughn Walker explains in his decision in Tash Hepting vs AT&T Corp:
“Accordingly, AT&T’s alleged actions here violate the constitutional rights clearly established in Keith. Moreover, because ‘the very action in question has previously been held unlawful,’ AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal.” Pg 68
Judge Walker was referring to the 1972 Keith Decision, United States v US District Court, a landmark case unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court. In the decision, the Supreme Court upheld the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan’s findings that wiretapping was unconstitutional and violated the Fourth Amendment. This also proves that listening in on other people’s conversations was going on way back in 1972.
Judge Anna Diggs Taylor also found no constitutional basis for the spy program. She stated that the program violated the existing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was already in place to protect the population from an out of control Executive Branch. Judge Taylor further found that the Bush spy program violated the separation of powers, and the United States population’s rights to both privacy and freedom of speech. The Sixth Circuit Court answered a government appeal and stayed Judge Taylor’s decision.
The Bush Administration was forced, then, to pass an amendment to FISA, granting retroactive immunity to the telecoms that, willingly and without the warrants required, turned over their customer records.
Today’s NSA/Verizon relationship is much like the Bush NSA/Telecom fiasco. The NSA required Verizon to hand over information on every single communication throughout Verizon’s network. The day after his NSA/Verizon bombshell, Greenwald exposed another. Through its previously secret PRISM program, according to Greenwald, the NSA has been collecting information from users of Apple, Google, Facebook, Skype, Microsoft, Youtube and others, some communications as early as 2007.
During the Bush wiretapping fiasco, then-Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Donald Kerr, told the US Population it would have to redefine privacy. Privacy, according to Kerr, can no longer mean anonymity, but that “government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information”, according to the Associated Press.
The question begging an answer is,
“If government has now taken it upon itself to safeguard our private communications and financial information, who is going to protect us from the government, the members of which take an oath to defend the Constitution?”
After all, two separate judges found the spy program, under Bush, to be unconstitutional. And, how does our “Constitutional Expert,” President Obama, not see the unconstitutionality of his spy program?
The more interesting part about the Obama and Bush spy programs, since one seems to be an extension of the other, is that it’s not the first time portions of the United States general population have found themselves being surveilled.
The Supreme Court cases Katz v United States and Berger v New York, both from 1967, dealt with invasion of privacy. In Katz, the FBI didn’t bug that actual phone, but the phone booth, itself. In Berger, New York police bugged Berger’s office. The factor common in Katz, Berger and the Bush and Obama communications dragnets is the eavesdropping in to private conversations. In both Katz and Berger, the Supreme Court ruled the procedure unconstitutional because it violated the Fourth Amendment. Justice Potter Stewart, writing the decision for Katz, established that the Fourth Amendment protected “people,” not simply their property.
In his Katz decision, Stewart stated:
“…what he seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected.”
What should be clear by now, and not just with those labeled “conspiracy theorists,” is that that this country has become a surveillance society, and it has been as far back as the 1960′s, at the least. Something else well-established is that the United States government is willing to break the law that governs them, the Constitution, in order to spy on the United States population. Is it any wonder that people refer to the present conditions of the United States as a 1984 Society?
End Notes: NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily
Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts
NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls
Pre-9/11 wiretap bid is alleged
NSA Segment Washington, You’re Fired
Roadblock for Telecom Immunity
AT&T Violated Your Civil Liberties – Summary of the Bush Era Wiretapping Fiasco
NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others
Intelligence official: U.S. must redefine privacy
Judge Finds Wiretap Actions Violate the Law
ACLU et. al. v the NSA – Judge Anna Diggs Taylor Ruling
Katz v US
Nine Companies Tied to PRISM, Obama Will Be Smacked With Class-Action Lawsuit Wednesday
FBI sharply increases use of Patriot Act provision to collect US citizens’ records
Glenn Greenwald: ‘Dozens’ of stories to be released on NSA domestic spying
NSA chief, two weeks ago: ‘We’re the only ones not spying on the American people’
A.C.L.U. Sues to Bar ‘Dragnet’ Collection of Phone Records
Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968
William Lewis Films