Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Follow Up To Yesterday's Surveillance Discussion

I just wanted to briefly follow up on yesterday's discussion of the new surveillance measures passed by Congress. I've read a bit more and there's more in there that I don't like. (For some brief and informative thoughts try Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy here and here.)

Most importantly, the law refers not only to foreigners, but to anyone located outside the United States. There are also apparently mandates on internet service providers and telecommunication companies to comply with the new program. Let me just be clear on my position- I'm sure I don't understand all the nuances of the legislation, but I'm still happy that they put something down on paper. When it comes to international relations, spying, and espionage, I just don't trust the government to follow the law, period- the fact that this program needed to be passed by Congress, shows us how this sort of spying has been skirting (if not breaking the law) for years. Getting something on the books holds the promise of at least slightly more accountability.

We can only judge these sorts of programs based on the harm they do, because the truth of the matter is that we won't know the program's efficiency until decades down the road, because of the need to protect national security secrets. All we can do is look for the abuses - and so far, I haven't heard of any. So, maybe the law sucks, but it seems to me that when it comes to national security and government spying, the government is pretty much going to do whatever the hell it wants. And I'm not sure that's such a bad thing.


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