Government spying isn't over by a longshot

  • 4 June 2015
  • NormanL
Government spying isn't over

The political class has, for the moment, gotten over its hissy-fit regarding the expiration of the metadata collection provisions of the Patriot Act. New provisions, lauded by almost all sides, are set to go into effect. So where do our constitutional rights stand today? Pretty much where they were before all the talking began:

As journalist Conor Friedersdorf warns, “Americans concerned by mass surveillance and the national security state’s combination of power and secrecy should keep worrying.”

In other words, telephone surveillance by the NSA is the least of our worries.

Even with restrictions on its ability to collect mass quantities of telephone metadata, the government and its various spy agencies, from the NSA to the FBI, can still employ an endless number of methods for carrying out warrantless surveillance on Americans, all of which are far more invasive than the bulk collection program.

As I point out in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American Peoplejust about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people. Just recently, for example, it was revealed that the FBI has been employing a small fleet of low-flying planes to carry out video and cell phone surveillance over American cities.

Then there are the fusion and counterterrorism centers that gather all of the data from the smaller government spies—the police, public health officials, transportation, etc.—and make it accessible for all those in power.

Yes, we should take notice of, and some comfort from, the temporary setback government spying endured at the beginning of the week.  It is exceedingly rare in modern politics to see the power of the state even slightly curtailed.

But we should be under no illusions that a new era of constitutionalism and respect for individual rights has arrived. On the contrary, government remains as deeply interested in what you do and say as ever -- and has any number of ways to get that information. 

The only way to keep up the fight to limit government power and end its abuses is through action. The Response Action Network has no intention of letting go of the government spying issue, and we will continue to keep you informed. That's just part of the fight. The rest comes down to you. Demand straight answers from your politicians on where they stand regaridng our fundamental rights. And then watch how they vote on those same issues.