The scale of America’s surveillance state was laid bare on Thursday, stated the British newspaper the Guardian, after it had released secret documents of the U.S. government’s wide scale surveillance of millions of Verizon Communications Inc. customer’s phone data.
What’s at stake here is just how far the American government is willing to go to ensure national security. According to the Guardian, Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the Verizon court order had been in place for seven years. ‘People want the homeland kept safe,’ Feinstein said.
The Guardian reported that intelligence committee member Mark Udall, who has previously warned in broad terms about the scale of government snooping, said: “This sort of wide scale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I’ve said Americans would find shocking.” Former vice-president Al Gore described the “secret blanket surveillance” as “obscenely outrageous.”
Provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) as amended by the Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But one of the authors of the Patriot Act, Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, said he was troubled by the Guardian revelations. He said that he had written to the attorney general, Eric Holder, questioning whether “US constitutional rights were secure”.
He said: “I do not believe the broadly drafted Fisa order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF FOREIGN LEAKS
The release of these documents have resurfaced the debate over the proper use of governments spying powers. The United States government and Verizon Communication’s aren’t the only organizations capable of supporting a surveillance society: we have Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, two individuals, who have countered the big robust power of the state and big corporations by surveilling the state, itself.
In an age, where many American news sources are coming under fire for utilizing the rights expressed in the Constition, the right to a free press, we are experiencing just how important it is to access foreign news or news from American’s outside U.S. borders.
In light of the Obama administrations attack on whistle blowers, the revelation that the U.S. government is working with Verizon Communications Inc. to keep a tap on American’s phone conversations, by a British newspaper of all publications, sheds light on the importance of having secret sources with foreign experience and /or who are outside of the U.S. borders.
For example, PFC Bradley Manning — who provided the renegade website WikiLeaks with the 700,000 classified U.S. documents it released beginning in 2010 — has a trial that begins this week in Maryland. Bradley, a U.S. army soldier stationed in Iraq in 2010, was arrested for disseminating these documents to the anonymously operated organization.
In addition to Manning, there is Julian Assange, the alleged ring leader of Wikileaks, who is being help up in an Ecuadorian embassy in London for operating the anonymous organization. Allegedly, Assanage was suspected of rape in Switzerland. Many skeptics believe this rape accusation is a cover by the U.S., U.K., and Swiss government to capture Assange.
Assange’s case is so enigmatic, that its being highlighted in an upcoming movie, “We Steal Secrets”, which explores both the Assange and Manning cases in light of recent claims of government overreach.
While Verizon Communications Inc. and the U.S. governments are in bed together creating a more robust surveillance state in America, it’s good to know that we are not completely left to the wolves: there are people’s and organizations spying on them.