Thursday, June 6, 2013

(Politics) NSA: NSA spying just one in a string of nails in the coffin of the fourth amendment

The Fourth Amendment has been on the ropes since 9/11 and the passing of the Patriot act so there should be  no shock for Americans when greeted with news that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been monitoring their phone calls  “on an “ongoing and daily basis”[1]. While this should not surprise most observers of US domestic surveillance policy for the last 12 years, it is surely another nail in the coffin of the fourth amendment and undermines the concept of the rule of law as “the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing”[2].

Thanks to a secret court order, the FBI was allowed access to the phone records of US citizens via Verizon that will detail the numbers of the caller and recipient, when and where it took place and how long the call lasted[3]. The numerous breaches of fourth amendments that grants  US citizens the right of privacy has clearly been the strategy of the US government as it has been the policy of two consecutive administrations to keep too close an eye on the communications and movements of  its citizens.

The NSA have been keeping a close eye on the communications of US citizen for the last twelve years without much in the way of due process or court warrants and now according to the ACLU, daily  “intercepts and stores 1.7 billion emails, phone calls, texts, and other electronic communications”[4].  It is also a monster of an organization dwarfing the size of the CIA and         FBI combined[5]. However, despite its power and size to snoop on US citizens, it hasn’t done it without help.

Congress has helped shape the conditions in which this story is possible as it rubber stamped the passing the still controversial 2001 patriot act and more importantly to the context of this story, the amendments to FISA in 2008 which weakened judicial oversight[6]. A number of corporations have played their part including AT&T who had cooperated with the NSA in letting the agency access the records of their customers[7].

The Obama administration is clearly moving away from the fourth amendment telling from its recent appointments of former bush era appointees who were in favour of many of the violation that took place during his regime.   Former Bush era deputy attorney general now shoe in for the position of director of the FBI, was at the heart of one the number of scandals during the Bush administration  regarding the fourth amendment when it was revealed that the NSA, ordered by the president, were spying on Americans without judicial oversight[8].

In sum, the NSA’s further usurpation of power to spy on US citizen is odious to witness as it undermines the fourth amendment and the concept of the rule of law. Its actions have been helped by successive administration looking to monitor the communications and movements of US citizens and thanks to a largely pliant congress and a number of corporations, their freedoms have been much the poorer for it.

[1] G.Greenwald, 2013, NSA collecting phone records of millions daily, court order reveals,
[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid
[5] Ibid.
[6] Cato Institute, 2009, Cato Handbook for policy makers: electronic surveillance,
[7] Ibid
[8] G,Greenwald, 2013, Obama’s new FBI chief approved Bush’s NSA warrantless wiretapping scheme,

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