- Fact: The National Security Agency (NSA) has data-mined the call records of millions of Americans. These records were handed over to the spying agency without a court order or warrant.
- Fact: Calling your Aunt Susan in Australia? The NSA is listening. No warrant? No problem. What about for international calls made to a lawyer, doctor or priest? No warrant necessary there either.
- Fact: Mobile phones transmit extremely accurate location information back to the wireless carriers. The FBI, DEA and other federal law enforcement agencies routinely get access to this location data without demonstrating “probable cause,” which is typically required before a judge will issue a warrant.
- Fact: Most mobile providers claim that they do not save copies of text messages sent to phones and pagers for extended periods of time. However, up until the point that the messages are deleted, the companies will happily turn them over to the police without a warrant, requiring only that the prosecutors claim that the records are “relevant and material” to an investigation.
- If you are arrested by the police, in addition to searching your body, they are also permitted to search through your mobile phone and look through anything that they can find. Got an iPhone? They may be able to browse through hundreds of emails from your gmail account using the device, all without the pesky requirement that they first get a warrant.
As the debate over FISA and telco immunity has demonstrated, the telecom companies are willing to completely eviscerate consumer privacy in order to help law enforcement and the intelligence community. With the telcos getting handsomely paid for their participation in illegal surveillance programs, its clear that consumers cannot rely upon AT&T and Verizon to protect their privacy.
The first objection to telling the President to fuck himself on this issue is that it limits the ability of the government to spy on suspected terrorists (and terrorism is, I feel I must remind you, the greatest threat Boise has ever faced. I gather you can’t say this too many times.) This is nonsense on any number of grounds, the most glaring of which being that the government can spy on anybody they want to under the regular FISA law, provided one obtains a court order 72 hours later. The objection then becomes that this becomes too much paperwork later on. Yeah. Optional interpretation:
[T]elecom immunity is NOT just about protecting the companies that helped the Administration break the law. It’s about keeping the public in the dark about the extent of that lawbreaking. It’s not just about protecting Bush’s accomplices, but Bush himself. [...]
Part of the process of suing the telecom companies is discovering just what they were promised or led to believe by the Administration. While Congress has been unconscionably slow in enforcing oversight of the Executive Branch and in uncovering the Bush Administration’s illegal and unconstitutional actions, the legal process could potentially provide the people with another way of learning the truth about how our rights were taken from us. And that’s a thought that likely keeps White House lawyers up at night.
White House lawyers, and the millions of psychosexual grotesques who have been mancrushing on Battle Action Bush since before Al Gore first donned his first earthen tone. Their freak show has gone on for a very long time, and cleaning up after them is going to take decades, but granting people immunity for no fucking reason would not be a good first step. I know I’ve said it all before, and others have said it before and better, but you can’t say this too many times, either.