Kudos to Google For Standing Up to FBI
While many Americans are aware from the news media of every new haircut Justin Bieber gets or the sex of Kim Kardashian's baby, few Americans are aware of the more important revelations in the press in the last week.
The FBI has been secretly harvesting data from our email accounts, telephone providers, and banking institutions without any kind of search warrant or judicial review.
Under the auspices of national security, in 2011 alone the FBI sent out approximately 16,000 letters requesting information on more than 7,200 Americans. A U.S. District Judge in San Francisco, who initially ruled that these letters were unconstitutional, mysteriously reversed course and now is trying to force GOOGLE's compliance.
What does all this mean? It means that the FBI has been spying on and accessing the private data of many Americans without any form of judicial review. Apparently, there are many companies, including Microsoft, that have been complying with these “security letters” and also following the government's command to not tell individuals when they are the target of such a letter. Certainly, the FBI has the obligation and duty to foil terrorism. But such procedures are overbroad and impinge on Americans privacy and right to free speech.
The purpose of having an independent judiciary is so a judge, not the executive branch of the government, can decide independently when there is probable cause to believe that an individual is involved in terrorist activities. Another problem with the National Security Letters are they are supposed to only target terrorism.
What is terrorism? Your guess is as good as ours. The government has recently defined terrorism as American street gangs( blood,crips etc.) and drug trafficking. Under such a broad definition, the government can snoop on just about anyone without oversight by a judge.
Frankly, this office is surprised that there has been so little publicity about this activity. It appears to be part of a growing trend of the Obama Administration to circumvent judicial review and to carry out covert activity based solely upon executive fiat.
As one of the premier criminal defense law firms in San Diego, we despise such activity by the government. As criminal defense lawyers, our mission is to keep the government in check and make sure they do not infringe on our client's liberty in an unfair and unconstitutional manner.
What can you do about this?
First, educate yourself about all of the infringements on your liberty. Being well informed about these oppressive actions of the U.S government may not be as interesting but is certainly more important than the tabloid news about celebrities. As an American you have the right to privacy and to remain free of searches by the government except when there is probable cause to believe you have committed a crime.
Second, write to President Obama and express your strong disapproval for his policies of domestic espionage. Send a copy to your Senator and Congressman.
Finally, support GOOGLE for its heroic battle against the large bully that it is fighting: the executive branch of the Unites States government. Write to your other internet service providers and inform them that you will not use their services as long as they give data to any third party, including the United States government, without a court order.
Ironically, one of Obama's many broken promises was to be an administration of great transparency. To the contrary, through recent actions with the IRS and the FBI, his “transparency” rivals that of the Nixon Administration. Kudos to GOOGLE for fighting for the rights of all Americans And shame on you Barack Obama for your expansion of the Patriot Act, the Banking Secrecy Laws, and now the National Security letters, all of which infringe on the liberty and privacy that all law-abiding Americans have enjoyed in this country previously.
Today, in a shocking post-script to a blog only wrote yesterday, I learn the following:
In a secret order obtained by the Guardian newspaper and published Wednesday evening, the FBI on the NSA's behalf demanded that Verizon turn over all metadata for phone records originating in the United States for the three months beginning in late April and ending on the 19th of July, millions of innocent U.S. customers.) That metadata includes all so-called “non-content” data for millions of American customers' phone calls, such as the subscriber data, recipients, locations, times and durations of every call made during that period.
The Obama Administration has acknowledged this spying and says that it stands behind its actions.
Aside from the sheer scope of that surveillance order, reminiscent of the warrantless wiretapping scandal under the Bush administration, the other shocking aspect of the order its target: The order specifically states that only data regarding calls originating in America are to be handed over, not those between foreigners.
Though the classified, top secret order comes from the FBI, it clearly states that the data is to be given to the NSA. That means the leaked document may serve as one of the first concrete pieces of evidence that the NSA's spying goes beyond foreigners to include Americans, despite its charter specifically disallowing surveillance of those within the United States.
“In many ways it's even more troubling than[Bush era] warrantless wiretapping, in part because the program is purely domestic,” says Alex Abdo, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project.”But this is also an indiscriminate dragnet. Say what you will about warrantless wiretapping, at least it was targeted at agents of Al Qaeda. This includes every customer of Verizon Business Services.”
Yes, national security is very important. But probably the most secure country in the world is North Korea. Why? Because they have no privacy rights and are a police state. Sadly, we are headed in the same direction.