Warrantless wiretapping, among other intrusive forms of surveillance used to “combat terrorism,” should be a subject that draws your attention. After all, you’d think that in the USA we’d be protected by some legal document from unwarranted intrusion into our private lives by the very government we, as a people, employ to protect our rights. Sadly, that isn’t the case in our current political climate.
“Every man should know that his conversations, his correspondence, and his personal life are private.” — Lyndon B. Johnson
A federal appeals court in the 9th Circuit has ruled to overturn a warrantless wiretap ruling previously made involving an Islamic group that claimed that its members’ rights were violated by the warrantless wiretapping program started during the George W. Bush administration. The ruling was made simply because the government itself is immune (by some interpretation) to lawsuits waged by private individuals and groups. Essentially, our only recourse as citizens is to vote on election day.
This immunity can only be lifted if Congress specifically inserts a waiver of sovereign immunity to the bill. Congress didn’t, and generally doesn’t make such an act. Hence, the government’s actions are more difficult for the average citizen (or victim of warrantless wiretapping) to fight back.
What About You?
Did you know that the National Security Agency (NSA) may be watching you already? Actually, two whistleblowers from the agency have already come forward with claims that the agency (intended to protect our citizens from terrorists and other enemies that wish to do us harm) is already spying on every American citizen using powers given to it courtesy of legislation such as the Patriot Act. This surveillance includes your actions, communications, and even whatever it is you do while you’re online.
If you want to get a better idea of just how badly you’re being surveiled here in the US, just do a search for companies like Acxiom, initiatives like those that encourage ISPs to keep an eye on your download habits, and let’s not forget our own government’s odd plans to use home appliances for data mining.
Even though the government itself might be protected against damages for lawsuits involving passed legislation, this ruling is just another sign that perhaps we’ve given too much leeway to our government. I, for one, feel safer knowing that I control my own privacy.
I spent years writing and reporting on politics and privacy news, and the one thing I learned doing so is that what you don’t know can really hurt you down the road.