Last night the Senate burned the midnight oil (so to speak) in trying to pass an extension to the Patriot Act. It is amazing how something could be so Constitutionally wrong and yet seem necessary in the times we live in. Why is there such a problem?
Forgetting Presidential year politics, the trouble in passing a modified Patriot Act stems from the NSA/FBI/CIA’s prerogative to collect telephone records and then search them with a court order later. Why the objections?
Why should not the FBI search telephone records, detect that suspect A has contacted numbers known to be terrorists, get a court order and then confirm the terrorist connection?
The opposition to section 215 boils down (IMO) to whether you can trust the Government or not. Hmmm.
The Constitution’s 4th Amendment protects American against “unreasonable search and seizure”. The NSA had no “constitutional” right to collect meta data of all calls made in the US. You might ask, if the NSA confined its searches to finding terrorists and “preventing” terrorist acts, how can that not be in the public’s best interest?
The underlying fear is that the NSA would yield the meta data to the FBI, CIA, the Treasury Department (taxes), or any other Government Department wanting to know if anyone was breaking laws or regulations. This practice is often called “fishing” and has been generally disallowed in courts as evidence. With a court order, searching meta data for a specific suspect, could identify many others also who might also have violated some law or regulation. This could lead to the possibility of many being charged as guilty until they could prove themselves innocent. Does this sound like a third world country?
Interestingly, Americans have already ceded the power to collect meta data to the phone companies. Google and most other on-line retailers already possess means to track our movements in real time. Privacy seems now to exist only for those with no phone or credit card. Hmmm.
I guess we should ask how many terrorists or terrorist plots have been uncovered? Hmmm. None. Hmmm.