As reported by the New York Times on February 25th, the Obama Administration will soon be permitting the NSA (National Security Agency) to share data with other agencies (like the FBI) without applying any screens for privacy. This change would revoke longstanding restrictions on access to emails, phone calls, messages acquired overseas, and other data. The goal is to increase security by giving more intelligence agencies access to more data.
This Orwellian scenario is exactly what privacy advocates have been afraid of. Now people in your own hometown will be able to spy on you with the power of the NSA. And it has absolutely nothing to do with terrorism. The new rule will give domestic law enforcement officials access to massive amounts of communications data (obtained without warrants) they can use to lock people up.
If the FBI wants to check up on you, they won’t have to invent a reason why you might be a “national security risk.” They can just plug your phone number or name into the NSA’s data trove and peek into your private information. This sort of spying, which will soon considered “routine,” can be forwarded to local or state police. Police are sure to use this new power to target certain demographics they already pick on.
We already have evidence that the “sneak-and-peek” provision of the Patriot Act – designed to be used only in terrorism investigations and national security – has been utilized in narcotics cases.
And we’ve known for years that the IRS and DEA have been getting info from the NSA, but since this data was obtained without a warrant things could get messy at court. In fact, agencies were advised to use “parallel construction” when explaining to defense attorneys just how they got their hands on the information.
So in effect, the new rule formalizes and validates practices that have being going on under the radar. While it’s good to have the new data-sharing policy out in the open, it’s quite ominous that the government feels no need to hide what they’re doing.
It’s important to remember that any and all powers granted to the federal government in the name of national security will inevitably be used for other reasons. Powers granted during wartime rarely disappear when the war is over. And will the war on terror ever be officially considered “over?” Probably not.
Editor’s note: This is the worst kind of slippery slope. The interface between the FBI and local law enforcement is intentionally porous, since cooperation helps solve cases. Think about when your local sheriff suddenly has access to your phone calls and data. Intrusions into your life could happen at any time, and privacy will be a thing of the past.
This is so disturbing.