Yesterday the Supreme Court killed our 4th Amendment right to privacy on-line. In a 5-4 vote, they ruled that the ACLU and other plaintiffs did not have standing to bring their case challenging the FISA Amendments Act that allowed warrantless wiretapping. Since they concluded that “a fear of surveillance does not give rise to standing” and such warrantless government surveillance is secret, no one can challenge the Constitutionality of such surveillance. This Catch-22 is a recipe for unchecked government power.
We now know that the NSA’s secret domestic intelligence program has a name: Ragtime. According to a new book, Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry, about three dozen NSA officials have access to Ragtime’s surveillance data. Additionally, a small number of people in the NSA’s general counsel’s office review the list of citizens surveilled to make sure they have connections to al-Qaeda. While Ragtime may only be able to process 50 different data sets at one time, the facility that the NSA is building in Utah will likely increase that number as well as allow the NSA to store larger amounts of our communications for increasingly longer periods of time.
Doubtless some will say that the existing NSA safeguards are enough to protect innocent people from getting caught up in a government dragnet. However, recent surveillance of the Occupy movement, COINTELPRO and Watergate show government officials will use their power to go after even peaceful dissent. The 4th Amendment was a check on that power. A check that five members of the Supreme Court, many of whom claim to want to return the Constitution to the original intent of the Founding Fathers, feel we don’t need on-line.
It is up us to protect our privacy and overturn such unjust and undemocratic laws. We cannot trust those in power to do it.