Spying on Americans under Obama II: Five More Years of Widespread Government Surveillance
By Anthony Cuthbertson
January 24, 2013
As the War on Terror enters its second decade, the rhetoric of fear remains effective in silencing opposition to warrantless surveillance, which—along with drone strikes and indefinite detention—seems immune to meaningful legislative oversight or judicial review.
In the name of “national security,” what was once considered in violation of basic precepts of American justice, today is passed off as nothing more than the status quo. And barely a word of outrage is heard.
While pundits and partisans argue about what President Obama’s second inaugural address bodes for the next four years of political in-fighting, the assault on privacy rights that began under George W. Bush shows no signs of abating under Obama. Just before the New Year, the President signed into law an extension to a warrantless intercept program that infringes on basic legal precepts of privacy and, many argue, directly contradicts the Fourth Amendment.
In all the drama surrounding the “fiscal cliff,” the renewal of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA)—the 2008 legislation that allows for warrantless surveillance of the emails, text messages, and internet searches of US citizens—seems to have slipped under the radar.
Under the renewed law, for the next five years the National Security Agency (NSA) can eavesdrop without a warrant on US citizens who are suspected of engaging in conversations with suspicious non-US-citizens. Conversations have to contain “foreign intelligence information”—but exactly how this broad term is interpreted by the NSA is unclear. What’s more, a FISA order on one specific person can be used against entire groups, potentially meaning blanket surveillance on thousands of Americans at a time.