EDITORIAL: Privacy Board report gives civil liberties its back hand [Albuquerque Journal, N.M. :: ]
(Albuquerque Journal (NM) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 09--For civil liberties' advocates who want the U.S. government's massive data collection practices reined in, an independent government board's blessing of the National Security Agency's Internet spying practices came as a surprise.
Just six months ago the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board had said the NSA's bulk collection of domestic phone call records was unconstitutional and should be stopped.
However, board members last week adopted a report that said the agency's Section 702 powers used to spy on foreign targets in the U.S. was legal, effective and protected Americans' rights. The report endorsed the agency's warrantless wiretapping that has been used to request or force organizations to place technical backdoors into hardware and software to help the NSA and the CIA obtain information. That came just weeks after the House of Representatives voted to ban them and to prevent the NSA from searching government databases for information on U.S. citizens without a warrant.
The international community has been outraged since former NSA contract administrator Edward Snowden released volumes of classified documents last year that revealed the NSA's data mining of not just calls and Internet activities of suspected terrorists and foreign operatives, but also of the leaders of more than 30 foreign countries -- including U.S. allies -- and millions of Americans not suspected of any crime.
While the Privacy Board made a few suggestions for change, it essentially dismissed the implications of massive and unfettered surveillance on free speech, civil liberties and the legal requirement of probable cause for warrants before going on fishing expeditions involving innocent people.
Later this month, the Privacy Board takes up NSA's use of executive order to scoop up unencrypted data from Google and Yahoo.
The American people understand the need for government surveillance targeting terrorist and criminal activities, but they want it done within the law and without trampling on constitutional rights.
Congress should not let this report be a setback to curtailing what has become a serious infringement on Americans' civil liberties.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.
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