Another day, another battle between privacy and security experts — and the U.S. is all the better for it.
The Bush administration this week sent Congress a recommended update to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that attempts to address gaps created in U.S. intelligence due to the new technologies that have become so pervasive since the law was enacted in 1978.
This law, according to the Federation of American Scientists,
“prescribes procedures for requesting judicial authorization for electronic surveillance and physical search of persons engaged in espionage or international terrorism against the United States on behalf of a foreign power. Requests are adjudicated by a special eleven member court called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”
According to the Washington Post, this proposed update would change FISA to,
“allow surveillance without a warrant of terror suspects who are overseas. The Bush administration believes the FISA court now must approve such spying because many conversations and contacts taking place overseas are routed through U.S.-based communication carriers, satellites or Internet providers.”
The Houston Chronicle reports that Democrats will cautiously support the new bill that would,
“allow U.S. spy agencies to focus on a wider pool of individuals with potential information and their locations, rather than the means by which they communicate. That would allow the U.S. to eavesdrop on multiple cell phones, Internet and other handheld technologies among wider networks of individuals.”
Not so, says the ACLU’s Caroline Fredrickson:
“Even the man responsible for prepping and filing all FISA applications, James Baker, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, has said that, ‘There’s no type of collection that’s prohibited by the statute.’ By the way, FISA was modernized by the Patriot Act, by Intelligence Reform legislation and by the re-authorization of the Patriot Act. In fact, FISA has been updated 50 times since it was enacted in 1978.”
And the Electronic Froniter Foundation writes,
“Contrary to the Administration’s characterizations, its “FISA Modernization” bill is not about “updating” the law and allowing surveillance of foreign-to-foreign communications. Instead, it could radically expand the government’s ability to spy on Americans without a warrant.”
As we’ve said in posts past:
“Even our Founding Fathers battled over balancing this issue. In the blue corner, wearing green trunks is Ben Franklin who said, ‘He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.’ In the red corner, coming in 225 pounds is Thomas Jefferson who said, ‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.’”
And from another post of ours:
“The United States has struggled with this debate over privacy versus security since its inception. […] One thing that is clear about this 200-yr-plus debate is that the opinions and actions of both the defenders of privacy and security must remain engaged and unbending, watchful and most importantly — true to their beliefs to maintain a proper balance.”
We urge both sides to let freedom ring, to keep fighting the good fight till we find a balance between privacy and security.