Justice Department documents released today by the ACLU reveal that federal law enforcement agencies are increasingly monitoring Americans’ electronic communications, and doing so without warrants, sufficient oversight, or meaningful accountability.
The documents, handed over by the government only after months of litigation, are the attorney general’s 2010 and 2011 reports on the use of “pen register” and “trap and trace” surveillance powers. The reports show a dramatic increase in the use of these surveillance tools, which are used to gather information about telephone, email, and other Internet communications. The revelations underscore the importance of regulating and overseeing the government’s surveillance power.
Here’s two graphs, one showing the number of orders, the other the number of people affected:
That, my friends, is one exploding surveillance state. Under Obama, the number of people being surveilled has tripled. These two methods allow police, without a warrant, to monitor every number you call and that calls you. Thanks to the PATRIOT Act, they can also get whatever e-mail addresses and IP’s you interact with. They can track your movements from cell phone towers. They are not supposed to listen to calls or read e-mails. But there really isn’t a mechanism to prevent it or punish it either.
Still, the allowed information alone, according to most researchers, is enough to reveal an astonishing amount of information about you. Do we want to take bets on whether this is being used exclusively to fight terrorism? Remember, as Alex pointed out, they can now keep this information, even on non-terrorism cases, for five years. Remember that TSA has already expanded their mission to find people with drugs and other contraband. This isn’t about terrorists blowing things up. This is a generalized tool designed to whittle away at our privacy. And Obama is exploiting it.
As ever, we have to look back and acknowledge that Lee was prophetic:
As I’ve written extensively before, Bush is only a temporary occupant of the White House, and every power that we give to him now will be available to every president who follows him. So many people don’t have a problem with these type of warrantless searches because, on some level, they trust Bush to do the right thing. My problem is that a future president could very easily use these same powers to do some very, very bad things, and as a conservative, I can’t support setting up this type of perilous political situation.
Pen register and trap and trace doubled under Bush and were rising steadily when he left office. But he was a piker compared to the uber-liberal professor now ensconced in the Oval Office who basically took these powers, said “thanks” and exploded them beyond all measure.
The ACLU, bless them, has been all over Obama on this, fighting numerous legal battles to just to find out what they’re doing. But the rest of the Left? The people who called Bush a fascist? You can hear the crickets.