Over the last decade, as we have written a good deal of material in warning about the extreme government surveillance laws, such as the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act, that have been passed in the name of Homeland Security. During that time, defenders of these laws have claimed the new powers would be used with restraint, and only against evil foreign terrorists. Politicians have dismissed Americans’ concerns about the growing surveillance powers of the federal government as silly and ill-informed.
Now, finally, the full extent of spying against Americans has been revealed. This morning, the Guardian, a British newspaper, revealed that it has obtained a federal court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – and that court order was used by Barack Obama to obtain, through the National Security Agency, private records detailing the personal phone calls made by tens of millions of Americans.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was established only to have special jurisdiction over spying against foreign targets, in foreign countries. The FISA Amendments Act, however, changed that, allowing the government to use its foreign spying networks to engage in backwards targeting of Americans in the United States. Members of Congress insisted that this wasn’t the purpose of the FISA Amendments Act, but now we can see that in fact, targeting Americans for spying is exactly what the FISA Amendments Act was all about in the first place. The court order specifically authorizes spying by the government on billions of telephone calls within US borders, and even on “local calls”.
Now that American government’s spying against Americans is out in the open, members of Congress are admitting that yes, this has been going on all along — and they knew about it. “This has been going on for seven years… and every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this,” says Senator Saxby Chambliss.
Senator Dianne Feinstein says she doesn’t give a damn if the constitutional rights of Americans are being violated. She only cares about terrorists, says Feinstein. “I do not know to what extent meta data was used or if it was used, but I do know this: Terrorists will come after us if they can, and the only thing that we have to deter this is good intelligence.”
So, members of the U.S. Senate say that the only thing we can do to deter the small number of terrorists who very rarely attempt to create acts of violence in the United States is to scrap our system of laws.
I seem to remember that the Oath of Office that each one of these senators took upon entering office said nothing about terrorism. Instead, their duty is supposed to be to protect the Constitution.