Wednesday, May 6, 2015

World States of Surveillance

Updated Below!!!

There are so many issues around to be concerned about.  There's the situation in the Middle East and the plight of Americans in Yemen who have been abandoned by their own country.  There is the situation of migrants seeking to better their lives with perilous trips across the Mediterranean.  There is economic inequality here at home as well as plenty of issues based on race, class and the justice system.   Sometimes I feel as though we are having to address so many problems that it can be overwhelming.

In this post,however, I do want to concentrate on issues of mass surveillance, a very important issue that hasn't gone away.  Quite the opposite.

When this article was posted, Canada was on the verge of adopting some very troubling anti-terror legislation called C-51.  From the article:  "Critics of the legislation say the imminent law gives Canadian spies sweeping new powers to investigate and disrupt broadly defined threats to public safety, with language that makes no distinction between terrorist plots and legitimate political protests and demonstrations. At the same time, it neglects to provide any increased oversight of the country’s vastly empowered chief spy agency, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service."

The article also describes the legislation as having a wide and diverse group of opponents and said public opinion about it had been souring.  You can read here an open open letter which was written by law professors urging the Canadian Parliament to reject this legislation.

And over in France, the anti-trerrorism bill proposed in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack has passed lower House of the French Parliament. The vacuuming up of data and the warantless spying with - basically no oversight -  that this would authorize do indeed sound Orwellian.

Then there's German Chancellor Merkel.  Just check out her first remarks about recent revelations of Germany spying on European officials and businesses.  "And this ability to carry out its duties in the face of international terrorism threats is done in cooperation with other intelligence agencies, and that includes first and foremost the NSA."  Can this be the same person who was quite indignant when it was revealed the NSA spied on her?

Now speaking of the good ol' NSA, The Intercept has a very revealing article about this nefarious agency and its exploits with voice to text.  Oh yes, just imagine the NSA searching through a text of your last phone conversation.  Creepy doesn't begin to describe it for me.

And this is all in spite of the fact that all this mass surveillance has been shown to be ineffective in protecting us against real threats.  This is in spite of the fact that, as is noted by critics, that definitions have been drawn so broadly that anyone could be (if not already) made a target.  This is in spite of the fact that such spying with so little, if any, oversight and privacy protections make it ripe for abuse (see excerpt about Canada's C-51 above).

As the Freedom Act gets debated here(and the privacy/civil liberties community is split as to it having ANY merit), and as HR1466 also gets considered (see this post), we need to be aware and to keep pressure up tor real reform and pushback against the surveillance apparatus.  We need to speak up and to speak up NOW!

UPDATE:  A three judge Federal Appeals Court Panel has ruled mass phone surveillance by the NSA illegal and sent the case back to District Court level for further proceedings...  Read about the decision here.  Small victory, but we'll take it!

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