The Federal Government Is Still Spying and Tracking Us

While the state governments continue to steal Americans’ rights in response to COVID-19, the federal government has its own rabbit to pull out of Uncle Sam’s hat. People have paid little attention to the surveillance state that has developed as a result of the 9-11 attacks, and even after Edward Snowden put the abuses right in front of their faces, they generally accepted spying and other measures as the status quo that does not really affect their lives.

Since this is the case, the government has little motivation to alter its course, and recently, the Senate went bold and struck down an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that would have prevented law enforcement from searching web browser and internet search history without a warrant. Equally chilling, is the Trump administration’s new Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) watchlist that allows for tracking and monitoring without a warrant of Americans on the list. Apparently, the Fourth Amendment is just a suggestion in the twenty-first century.

The fact that the FBI or other government agencies can search people’s records without a warrant is bad enough, but thirty-seven senators from both parties decided to blatantly vote against Americans’ rights by shooting down the amendment introduced by Senators Ron Wyden and Steve Daines. Unreasonable searches and seizures became big in an era where the terrorists were lurking around every corner, and the government needed to spy on all Americans to stop a few of them. Now the government can continue to cry to secret FISA courts (ones that hardly ever turn down requests) when it wants its way with Americans’ online search details that are private and give descriptive insights into their personal lives. Although this is not a new measure or something that most Americans do not understand occurs, it is appalling that politicians take advantage of the people like this and that a few senators decided to not show up for an amendment that only required one more affirmative vote to pass.

President Trump’s new TOC list allows the monitoring of Americans who are suspected of being associated with transnational criminal organizations, but the list includes political groups that operate across national boundaries. Although the list sounds good on the surface because it takes aim at cartels, gangs, money laundering, computer hacking, and healthcare fraud, what is startling is that there does not need to be evidence that an American on the list is committing a crime for them to be warrantlessly surveilled. Some may say, “well, there must be a good reason why someone is on the list, and maybe those people should be monitored.”

The problem with this mentality, besides the Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations, is that a similar list, the Terrorist Screening Database, which has over a million people and many Americans included, has inaccurate and incomplete information. The government does not inform those on the list and provides inadequate means for redress if one does find out and would like to challenge it, and those on the list may be unable to exercise their right to travel or to not be unreasonably searched. The watchlist was challenged in court in 2019, and a federal judge ruled that this violates people’s rights of due process and threatens to place people who are not terrorists on the list erroneously. If President Trump’s TOC list models after the terrorist watchlist, there may be thousands of Americans who are not criminals being tracked or watched, and this is not something that our country should be proud of.

In general, Americans are becoming more and more willing to sacrifice liberties for a false sense of security, and nothing proves this point more than the current coronavirus crisis. Fear has caused people to accept authoritarian measures that nobody would have thought would be possible just one year ago. The big brother surveillance state may now cross over from terrorism to disease prevention with new calls for increased contact tracing. Will the federal and state governments soon track our every movements or gain access to our records in order to prevent us from spreading the disease? Edward Snowden suggests that this may lead to negative consequences and an “architecture of oppression”.

The good news though is that there was some success with an amendment introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee that would limit FISA courts and allow for a civil liberties representative during the hearings to be able to access classified information and have more of a voice when a case may involve infringement on Americans’ rights. We will see what comes of this, and we may see the government attempting to find ways around this. However, it is a good start.

Thank you for reading, and please check out my book, The Global Bully, and website website.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on May 18, 2020 17:11
No comments have been added yet.