Acronyms with Acronyms with Aggro Names: Games People Play Waiting for Affordable Healthcare

Air Cascadia
program date: 
Thu, 06/14/2012

Worried about the Lieberman-Collins Cybersecurity Act? You should be. As we've explained before, it poses serious threats to online rights.

The Cybersecurity Act (S. 2105), sponsored by Sen. Lieberman and Sen. Collins, compromises core American civil liberties in the name of detecting and thwarting network attacks. While Internet security is of the utmost importance, safeguarding our networks need not come at the expense of our online freedoms. That’s why civil liberties groups, security experts, and Internet users oppose this bill.


Sometimes you feel it coming but you don't see it.  Well,  The US Supreme Court says it will  hear a challenge to legislation expanding the government's power to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance. What is actually on trial is the protection of constitutional liberties and the judiciary's role as a check against unlawful government action.


The case, Amnesty v. Clapper, was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). FISA was enacted in 1978 following revelations that the government had been spying on millions of Americans. For decades, the FBI and other agencies had targeted legitimate political opposition and civil rights activists in the name of defending the country against communism and other security threats. FISA required that the government obtain a warrant before engaging in foreign intelligence-related surveillance of Americans and created a special court and procedures to regulate government activity in this area. The act represented a compromise: it provided more lenient rules for foreign intelligence surveillance than for ordinary law enforcement investigations, but it also protected individual freedoms through carefully drawn limitations on the government's domestic surveillance powers.


The 2008 FISA Amendments Act (FAA) guts that compromise. The FAA authorises the government to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans' international communications. The FAA, to be sure, purportedly targets people overseas and not the telephone calls and emails of individuals located in the United States. But the international communications of American citizens and residents will inevitably be swept up in the mass acquisition orders that can now be obtained without individualised suspicion or judicial oversight. Under the FAA, the government can acquire thousands or even millions of US citizens or residents' overseas communications without ever identifying a specific target, even if the government knows in advance that all of the communications to be acquired will originate or terminate inside the United States.

 The FAA, moreover, eliminates meaningful oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the special court created by FISA to oversee foreign intelligence surveillance. The FISC, for example, cannot alter or revoke its prior surveillance authorisations even if it believes the government has failed to comply with statutory limitations.

The FAA's practical effect is to provide the government a virtual blank check to monitor the international communications of US citizens and permanent residents.

The plaintiffs in Amnesty v. Clapper include journalists, attorneys, and human rights advocates.

  • Length: 14:31 minutes (6.65 MB)
  • Format: MP3 Mono 44kHz 64Kbps (CBR)


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