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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

 
Block That Kick

by dday

Senator Reid just informed his colleagues on the Senate floor that, because of all the other bills in the queue (like the housing bill, and the Iraq supplemental), FISA may not get a vote until after the July 4 holiday recess.

This is honestly the best we can hope for right now. Sens. Dodd, Wyden and Feingold are ready to filibuster and gamely trying to get colleagues to do the same (Sen. Dodd's speech tonight was a bravura performance), but realistically the numbers to stop cloture aren't there. However, that could change if the delay continues. And getting this to the recess means being able to get in a lot of Senators' faces on their trips back home. In addition, there's going to be a very short window in August where a ton of must-pass bills have to get through Congress, and throwing FISA in with that mess means that anything can happen.

Now, after that bleak bit of hopefulness: I'm sad to report that it's only because the Senate REALLY REALLY wants to pump billions into endless war in Iraq that we have a shot to delay the deletion of the Fourth Amendment. Quite a Hobson's choice. This is more an acknowledgment from Sen. Reid that he finds the housing bill and the Iraq supplemental (which includes unemployment benefits extension and the GI Bill) to be more important than FISA, and so he's going to prioritize. I don't think it means anything more than that. Overall, the fix is still in. All we can do is keep trying to delay.

But let's be honest: the truth is that the federal government, on a bipartisan basis, is largely indifferent to their constituents' privacy. Since 9-11 the situation has gotten far worse, but the surveillance state has been building for decades.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

* No right to privacy in constitution, though search and seizure protections exist in 4th Amendment; case law on government searches has considered new technology
* No comprehensive privacy law, many sectoral laws; though tort of privacy
* FTC continues to give inadequate attention to privacy issues, though issued self-regulating privacy guidelines on advertising in 2007
* State-level data breach legislation has proven to be useful in identifying faults in security
* REAL-ID and biometric identification programs continue to spread without adequate oversight, research, and funding structures
* Extensive data-sharing programs across federal government and with private sector
* Spreading use of CCTV
* Congress approved presidential program of spying on foreign communications over U.S. networks, e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, etc.; and now considering immunity for telephone companies, while government claims secrecy, thus barring any legal action
* No data retention law as yet, but equally no data protection law
* World leading in border surveillance, mandating trans-border data flows
* Weak protections of financial and medical privacy; plans spread for ‘rings of steel’ around cities to monitor movements of individuals
* Democratic safeguards tend to be strong but new Congress and political dynamics show that immigration and terrorism continue to leave politicians scared and without principle
* Lack of action on data breach legislation on the federal level while REAL-ID is still compelled upon states has shown that states can make informed decisions
* Recent news regarding FBI biometric database raises particular concerns as this could lead to the largest database of biometrics around the world that is not protected by strong privacy law


So go ahead and make calls to your Senators, and they'll be tracked (by more people than you think), but we have a ruling class that has invaded your privacy more and more over the years. All for your protection, of course. The daddies in Washington want you to know they have an eye on the bad guys for you. Problem is, they think you are the bad guy.

This isn't likely to be stopped until those of us committed to civil liberties can make our political power manifest. Here's a way to work on that:




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