Surveillance Bill: The Worst of All Worlds

– The steady erosion of our liberties and the unending decent into ever and ever more partisan politics bodes ill for what was once the world’s most enlightened nation state.

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Months of troubled negotiations over new surveillance legislation ended in the House of Representatives today, with the approval of the so-called FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Hailed in some quarters as a “ compromise” after the capitulation of the Protect America Act of 2006, the new surveillance bill is nothing of the kind: on core issues of privacy and accountability, there is no compromise, since little in the measure honors those two values.

Since the New York Times‘s revelation of massive illegal surveillance by the NSA, electronic privacy has been a battlefield for claims of executive power and civil liberties. In 2006, the Administration used the shadow of midterm Congressional elections to stampede both Houses into temporary authorization of sweeping new powers in the Protect America Act (PAA). The measure’s grants of new authority had sunset clauses, which expire either immediately before or after the 2008 elections.

The PAA set the scene for another legislative bait-and-switch: On the cusp of national election contests, the Administration rang alarms of crisis, claiming the nation is losing spying capabilities. Legislators inclined to protect civil liberties weighed their exposure to soft-on-security attacks against their allegiance to constitutional values. Either way–in terms of raw power or partisan advantage–the Administration and its supporters win.

More…

– research thanks to Michael M.

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