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NSA Warrantless Wiretaps Continue, Where is Congress?

August 29, 2012
Trevor Timm

The New York Times Reminds Us the NSA Still Warrantlessly Wiretaps Americans, and Congress Has the Power to Stop It

Last week, the New York Times published two important op-eds highlighting how the National Security Agency (NSA) has retained expansive powers to warrantlessly wiretap Americans after Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act in 2008. And unlike in 2005—when the exposure of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program provoked widespread outrage—Congress is now all but ignoring ample evidence of wrongdoing, as it debates renewing the FISA Amendments Act before it expires at the end of this year.

The first op-ed published by the Times, written by longtime national security reporter Shane Harris, recounts the controversy over the Orwellian-sounding “Total Information Awareness” (TIA) spying program proposed by former national security advisor John Poindexter in the aftermath of 9/11. The TIA aimed to “scan the world’s electronic information — including phone calls, e-mails and financial and travel records” and was widely condemned for allowing wholesale violations of Americans’ privacy. Congress, which had been more than willing to weaken privacy protections in the name of national security in other areas, voted to dismantle the program in 2003, acknowledging it went too far.

Yet, as Harris describes, “Total Information Awareness” is alive and well within the NSA. The NSA has adopted nearly all of the TIA’s features into its warrantless wiretapping program, except for two: “an application that would ‘anonymize’ data, so that information could be linked to a person only through a court order; and a set of audit logs, which would keep track of whether innocent Americans’ communications were getting caught in a digital net.”

In other words, the NSA is currently operating the same program Congress explicitly rejected over privacy concerns, with even fewer privacy protections than the original program called for.

And now… the rest of the story. …..

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rwolf permalink
    September 2, 2012 6:14 am

    Where Did NSA Put Your Wiretapped Phone, Fax and Private Email Communications?

    In 2008 Telecoms were granted government immunity after they helped U.S. Government spy on millions of Americans’ electronic communications. Since, Government has not disclosed what happened to NSA’s millions of collected emails, faxes and phone call information that belong to U.S. Citizens? Could those wiretaps perhaps illegal, become a problem for some Americans? Neither Congress nor the courts—determined what NSA electronic surveillance could be used by police or introduced into court by U.S. government to prosecute citizens criminally and civilly.

    For Example there are over 400 U.S. laws and violations mentioned in the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 and Patriot Act that can subject private property to civil asset forfeiture. Under federal civil forfeiture laws, a person or business need not be charged with a crime for government to forfeit their property. HR 1658: the passed “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” effectively eliminated the “statue of limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture. The statute now runs five years from the date police allege they “learned” an asset became subject to asset forfeiture. With such a low standard of civil proof needed for government to forfeit property “A preponderance of Evidence”, it is problematic law enforcement and private government contractors will want access to NSA and other government warrant-less wiretaps—to relentlessly sift through Americans’ past electronic communications for evidence to arrest Americans and or civilly forfeit their personal and businesses assets under Title 18USC and other laws. Under the USA Patriot Act, witnesses and government contractors may be kept hidden while paid part of the assets they cause to be forfeited from Americans. Private security corporations and their operatives work so closely with law enforcement and U.S. Government they appear merged with federal authorities in a similar manner that Hitler’s private Gestapo secret police merged its activities with the Reich Government to target German Citizens for arrest and property forfeiture.

    U.S. Government wants the power without a warrant, to introduce as evidence in criminal prosecutions and government civil trials, any phone call record, email or Internet activity. That would open the door for Police to take out of context, any innocent—hastily written email, fax or phone call record to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause a person’s arrest, fines and or civil asset forfeiture of their property. Of obvious concern, what happens to fair justice in America if police become dependent on “Asset Forfeiture” to pay their salaries and operating costs? Congress should pass legislation that raises the standard of evidence required for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture from a mere “Preponderance of Evidence”, to “Clear and Convincing Evidence.

    The Patriot Act specifically mentions using Title 18USC asset forfeiture laws: those laws include provisions from the passed Civil Asset forfeiture Reform Act of 2000—for “retroactive civil asset forfeiture” of “assets that were already subject to government forfeiture”, meaning “property already tainted by crime” or “later connected” to a criminal investigation in progress” when HR.1658 passed. That may apply to more than 400 federal laws and violations.

    A corrupt despot U.S. Government can too easily use no-warrant-(seized emails, Internet data and phone call information) to blackmail Americans, corporations and others in the same manner Hitler utilized his police state passed laws to extort support for the Nazi fascist government, including getting parliament to pass Hitler’s 1933 Discriminatory Decrees that suspended the Constitutional Freedoms of German Citizens. A Nazi Government threat of Asset Forfeiture of an individual or corporation’s assets was usually sufficient to ensure Nazi support.


  1. Call To Action In Protecting Freedom: The Surreptitious Lame Duck Attempt At FISA Reactivation: « Political Vel Craft

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