FISA Overreach And Other Surveillance State Realities And Questions

There is a vote likely today on the House re-draft of FISA legislation — labelled at the moment "AMENDMENT TO H.R. 3773." I am hearing rumors of GOP maneuvers — Blunt trying to call the House into "secret session" and/or adjourn before voting anyone? Lots of rumors swirling around the Hill, and there has been a GOP procedural motion to force a vote on the Senate bill before considering the House Dem amendment (obviously, we are encouraging a "no" vote on that one).

The votes won’t likely be until later this afternoon, maybe 3-ish — but calls to Representatives need to be made now to emphasize standing up for the rule of law and the Fourth amendment, and against Presidential/telecom immunity.

We are still taking votes on our Blue Dog accountability poll — please cast your vote today.

In 1978, Philip K. Dick wrote the following:

"We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives. I distrust their power. It is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing."

Viewed in the context of current headlines, it is a remarkably prescient view of where we are through Dick’s frequently paranoid hazy view of the world. Jack Balkin hits various issues surrounding our increasingly surveillance-driven culture:

…These techniques and technologies allow governments to do the jobs entrusted to them more powerfully and more efficiently than ever before.

On the other hand, these developments carry all of the potential risks of a powerful National Surveillance State: Governments can make mistakes in assessing levels of criminality and dangerousness; and their data mining models may characterize innocent activity as suspicious. Without sufficient oversight and checking functions, government actors may misuse the additional knowledge they gain, for example, by instigating abusive prosecutions, or creating discriminatory systems for access to public and private services (like banks, airports, government entitlements and so on). And the more powerful government becomes in knowing what its citizens are doing, the easier it becomes for government to control people’s behavior. (emphasis mine)

These are not partisan issues — they are American ones. They raise questions about priorities, about legitimate limitations on governmental power versus allowance of substantial overreach. As the CATO Institute (a conservative/libertarian think tank) puts the ultimate question:

…civil liberties won’t be preserved through compromise. The partisans of ever-increasing executive power aren’t likely to go away any time soon. If Congress compromises and agrees to further expand executive wiretapping powers, a future president will come back to Congress and argue that the law is still too restrictive and still more compromises are needed….At some point, Congress just has to say no.

Former Reagan Administration DOJ official Bruce Fein agrees. As does Bob Barr. None of whom can remotely be called liberal partisans, as President Bush tried to cast all opposition in his petulant Cartman-channelling presser this morning.

Now is the time to contact your Representative and say that they must stand up for rule of law and say no to Presidential/telecom immunity. At some point, they really do have to stand up and say "no."

KagroX has more. As does emptywheel. And Glenn. And Ryan Singel from Wired. Here as well. And cboldt walks us through the bill/amendment niceties.

(YouTube of Clannad "Theme From Harry’s Game.")

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