Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why FISA is Wrong for America

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
Benjamin Franklin

The US Senate voted yesterday to strip the amendment to the FISA bill that would have held the telecom companies in the US responsible for aiding and abetting the Bush Administration's unconstitutional wiretapping "program". The US House, however, has passed a bill that would not provide retroactive immunity for Verizon, AT&T and others that participated, so now the two versions of the bill will have to be reconciled.

The Bush administration has been very good at fear-mongering. Their rational is that the enemy is potentially could be you or me, for example. The extent of their fear has made it seem reasonable for people to give up their personal liberties for the sake of controlling their fear. By using a warrantless system for wiretapping, they have bypassed the US Constitution and have set a potential precedent that we should all heed and fight to eradicate.

In the US, the Constitution provides for individual liberties. The system was built to ensure that no government could ever exercise unreasonable control over the rights of individuals. However, the Bush administration has used corporate America to twist the intent of the law to their benefit. Since the Constitution was written at a time when the current power and scope of a company or corporation was not imagined, it does not specifically protect companies from search and seizure. The government can therefore seize or request with complicit organizations access to commercial databases and drill down to find information about private citizens. This is an affront to liberty. If someone is sufficiently suspicious to be spied upon, then let our government officials follow the law and get a warrant to gain access to the information that they need.

If we do not stop this use of one hand to slap the other by the government, then you might want to reconsider all of the companies with which you do business. Reward programs that record your shopping history can be used to find out what you purchase. Banking records can be used to determine how you spend your money. Airline mile programs can be used to find out where you fly, drive or stay. It is not protected information, except to the extent that companies who gather data on you are willing to protect your right to privacy. It is hard to imagine a more paranoid administration that the current Bush administration, but what if we end up under the thumb of another tyrant down the road? Demand your privacy and demand that those who take your privacy away be liable for their actions. I support a new Constitutional Amendment to provide a Right to Privacy for all of our citizens.

You can help out now by taking action. CREDO, formerly Working Assets, a progressive telecom company, allows you to take action now to tell your Senators and Representatives how you feel about your loss of privacy and the unraveling of the US Constitution. also has set up this page that will allow you to exercise your right to free speech, your right to peaceable free association and your right to speak out against tyranny in our government. I urge all of you to visit both pages and tell your members of Congress how you feel. If they do not vote for liberty and privacy, then you have the right to vote them out in the next election for which they seek your trust.

If this bill is passed with retroactive immunity provided to Verizon and AT&T, I will be going through an annoying process of changing my email and telephone service provider. I hope that I do not have to do so, but I do not want to do business with any company that might have trampled on my privacy for the sake of the paranoia of this President and his legal advisors.

Most of us have nothing that we need to hide. It is the principle of having our personal data used against us that motivates me to write about this threat to our freedom. I hope that you will join me in speaking out.

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