The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a San Francisco based non-profit international digital rights advocacy organization. They are veterans in the fight for internet privacy. The list of their lawsuits is astonishing, and includes Jewel v. NSA.
Although “evidence in the case includes undisputed documents provided by former AT&T telecommunications technician Mark Klein showing AT&T has routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA,” this case was lost Jan 25th of this year. EFF plans to appeal. Regarding their recent upset in court, EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston said: “The alarming upshot of the court's decision is that so long as the government spies on all Americans, the courts have no power to review or halt such mass surveillance even when it is flatly illegal and unconstitutional.”
Many of their cases are lost in large part due to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, namely, her role in passing the FISA Amendments Act (2008) that granted immunity to parties guilty of illegal spying. Where does House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stand on these issues today?
Well, the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act (HR 4061) recently passed the House and is on its way to the Senate. The votes were overwhelmingly yeas, with only Ron Paul and four other congressmen disapproving. Pelosi’s press release (Feb 4th) the day it passed read:
“Today, the House took action to tackle this challenge – strengthening cybersecurity, building public-private partnerships, and investing in the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act marks the beginning of a strong, coordinated effort to address an escalating threat to governments and business.”
Like universal healthcare, this sounds like a great plan… at first. There are many reasons Americans are becoming increasingly upset with congress encroaching on internet privacy. Some don’t like the idea that the government can “declare a cybersecurity emergency” and disable or limit internet access. What Capitol Hill refuses to acknowledge is this: The internet IS our security measure, should some unforeseen occurrence strike and necessitate imminent organization within communities. What if FEMA or other government agencies fail to respond in a timely fashion, as they have been known to do in the past? The average American takes comfort in the potential power of online networking in emergency scenarios.
Also, we cannot ignore the sense of invasion we feel when we know that someone is monitoring every email we send. Or the equally unpleasant feeling that the information we are receiving is censored. Of the two, the latter is more frightening, as it insinuates a propaganda agenda. Would the government stand to benefit from such an agenda?
The historian and philosopher, Bertrand Russel, sums it up well when he says “governments have increasingly realized the necessity of making wars popular, and have used the potent weapon of popular education to that end.” Uncle Sam has in the past been accused of “making wars popular” through modern media. Is there any reason to suspect internet censorship will not be utilized to the ends of national propaganda?
Imagine if we could only access news that encourages the status quo of our international policy. If the Patriot Act and other national security measures are already in play, is it outlandish to suspect that information could be disrupted in the name of “national security”?
We can only hope for the day to come when we no longer have to constantly fight for our Bill of Rights. In the meantime, the more people that speak out the better. Internet censorship is not something we want, nor is any other form of unconstitutional wire tapping.
*Editor's note: The Obama administration is now pushing to track cell phones as well. Read here.