90 Miles From Tyranny : All the Bad Stuff You’ve Heard About NSA Spying Confirmed

Monday, October 14, 2019

All the Bad Stuff You’ve Heard About NSA Spying Confirmed

Recently declassified court documents confirmed all of our worst suspicions about NSA spying.

Many people view NSA spying as relatively harmless. They argue it doesn’t violate the Fourth Amendment because the agency doesn’t even look at most of the information it collects.

This is a fallacious argument. Virtually nobody would sit by and let federal agents come into their home, make photocopies of all their personal papers and then store them away with the promise of “we won’t look at them without a warrant.” Sweeping up and storing electronic data is no different.

Even if you buy these silly legal gymnastics, by storing phone calls, emails, location information, and web searches belonging to millions of Americans, the NSA facilitates unconstitutional, warrantless surveillance.

And a 138-page ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg confirmed just that. It revealed that the FBI regularly accessed millions of Americans’ data that was unconstitutionally gathered and stored by the federal spy agency. The government is accessing this information. It is not obtaining warrants. And this does violate the Fourth Amendment.

ACLU staff attorney Patrick Toomey told The Intercept that the FBI used the information for “fishing expeditions.”
“These opinions reveal devastating problems with the FBI’s backdoor searches, which often resembled fishing expeditions through Americans’ personal emails and online messages. But the court did not go nearly far enough to fix those abuses. The Constitution requires FBI agents to get a warrant before they go combing through our sensitive communications.”
Documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed the existence of warrantless dragnet surveillance programs run by the NSA. The court ruling centered around spying “authorized” under Sec. 702 of the Foreign Service Intelligence Act (FISA). Under this provision, the government can collect data on Americans who are communicating with non-U.S. citizens without a warrant.

As Andrew Napolitano explained, “the FISA-created process permits a secret court in Washington to issue general warrants based on the government’s need to gather intelligence about national security from foreigners among us. It pretends that the standard is probable cause of foreign agency, but this has now morphed into the issuance of general warrants whenever the government wants them.”

A typical FISA warrant authorizes government surveillance on all landlines, mobile devices and desktop computers in a given area. While the process was created to monitor foreign agents, it sweeps up reams of data belonging to...

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