A whistleblower has exposed the National Security Administration’s warrantless spying on millions of ordinary Americans, and conservatives are divided in their reactions. Dick Cheney and Michele Bachmann are calling former NSA contractor Edward Snowden a traitor. This may be the only time I ever disagree with them.
Snowden revealed that judges are approving warrants allowing the government to obtain “inadvertently acquired” information without a search warrant. This includes the contents of emails and listening in on phone conversations. It is ostensibly authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
This is terrifying when you consider how easy it could be for the government to target someone, then make it look like they “inadvertently acquired” their confidential information after poring through gobs of information. The government is permitted to retain the information for up to five years. As an attorney who formerly handled public records requests for the government, I assure you it is easy to retain records for longer than that without anyone noticing. Snowden said that he had access to obtain this information from virtually anyone with a personal email address.
This administration cannot be trusted not to abuse its authority and target political enemies. The government has already been caught using the IRS to target conservatives, so it should not be trusted with wide access to the average American’s personal information without a warrant. As someone who has been targeted by a fishing expedition – the State Bar of Arizona demanded to know everything I had ever blogged, including anonymously, over a period of five years - I greatly fear giving the government the ability to conduct fishing expeditions that violate the Fourth Amendment. Because technology has become so vast, and the laws have become so vague - many no longer require intent - one civil liberties attorney argues that it can easily be shown that the average American commits three felonies a day. Put this all together and it becomes very easy for the government to target anyone.