Spying on the people

NSA HeadquartersThe ACLU argued in court today against the NSA’s domestic spying program. The program, secretly started after the Sept. 11 attacks, allows the NSA to monitor phone calls and e-mails to and from anyone it suspects of being a terrorist. It bypasses the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a body put in place in the 1970s to approve warrants for domestic spying.

Here’s how the AP put it:

“The federal government defended its warrantless domestic surveillance program in court for the first time Monday, saying it is well within the president’s authority but that proving that would require revealing state secrets.”

In other words: We have the right to do this, but…uh…the document that proves it is secret and we’re the only ones who can look at it. Don’t worry though, you’re screwed.


  1. FLYdude

    Yes, this is a good idea. Let’s limit the ability of the NSA to track terrorists. Unless you’re up to something illegal, I don’t see how you can have any issue with these sorts of things, it’s not like the NSA is interested in your personal life. You also still have in-person communication should you have to discuss something really really sensitive.

  2. Clint

    So there should be no limit? I don’t buy the argument that I shouldn’t be worried unless I’m doing something illegal. What’s to stop them from spying on undeserving citizens – activists for instance. There needs to be some sort of check on the power of the executive branch and that’s exactly what FISA was before the NSA decided to circumvent it.

  3. FLYdude

    Why are you so worried about being spied on? So they spy on your example innocent activist. Then what? If he hasn’t done anything illegal, they can’t do anything. And if he doesn’t do anything suspicious, then I’m sure they’ll move on to someone else.

  4. Clint

    Combine this unwarranted spying with unlawful detention at Gitmo and with a mindset of security over freedom and you’ve got a government that’s not exactly upholding civil liberties. What’s to stop the NSA from detaining and arresting said activist with little to know justification? My fear is allowing this government any leeway in removing checks to power because they’ve shown no hesitation in taking away peoples’ freedoms.

  5. FLYdude

    Gitmo is a special case of hostile foreigners arrested and detained abroad. Due process still exists in the United States and is guranateed by the Constitution, which is what would stop the NSA from taking action further than spying. Privacy, however, is not mentioned in the Constitution at all.

  6. Andrew

    The executive branch should be able to spy on people it has reason to believe are terrorists. However, it’s an important check on executive power that they be required to seek a warrant first. If the executive branch can approve it’s own wiretaps, what’s to stop them from spying on whoever they want – say, political enemies of the Bush administration? Even if they don’t find anything illegal, they could still intimidate or blackmail their political opponents.

    President Bush wants us to trust him that he will not misuse his power. However, even if you trust the Bush administration, there’s no guarantee that future administrations would be so scrupulous with their new powers. Warrants help keep the executive honest, and allowing the executive to spy without them sets a dangerous precedent.

  7. Andrew

    Re: Gitmo –
    We know that not everyone detained there was “hostile” – many posed no danger to us whatsoever. We know this because the government has released over a hundred of them – after as many as three years imprisonment – without charging them with any crime whatsoever. If these men were so dangerous, why are they being let free? Could it be that they were simply some rather swarthy-looking individuals who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time?

    If it’s wrong to indefinately detain American citizens without charging them or producing any evidence against them in a court, why isn’t it wrong to do the same anybody else?