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America Is Watching You
Posted on Oct 30, 2007
Add to this that the parsing technology being used to secretly gather information is notoriously unreliable and can turn up false positives linking innocent Americans with crimes, terrorism and other “forbidden” activities. With the disbanding of Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure without court warrants or probable cause, no Americans, not even those who are apolitical and believe they have nothing to hide, are safe. Under this judicially unregulated Orwellian system of total information awareness, all Americans who use the Internet and/or the telephone (which means virtually all Americans) are suspects in a massive, nationwide (and global) government dragnet.
The Washington Post has reported that granting retroactive immunity to the telecoms will have the effect of “wiping out” pending lawsuits against AT&T. This, however, is an oversimplification because not even Congress has the power to immunize anyone against being held accountable for the violation of another’s constitutional rights.
According to Lee Tien, attorney for the EFF, “When you’ve got pending lawsuits and suddenly pull the rug out from under them ... that’s a major attack on the role of the judiciary.”
If the bill becomes law, Tien said, plaintiffs’ attorneys will argue that the grant of retroactive immunity violates the separation of powers and involves an attempt to legitimize the violation of the plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment right to privacy. In that case, Congress will have acted to provide a major impediment to the survival of a free America in a monumental battle to be waged in the courtroom—and quite possibly the Supreme Court.
Square, Site wide
Congress should therefore act responsibly in the first place by unequivocally refusing to grant retroactive immunity to the telecoms. For it to do otherwise is a breach of trust with the American people and a precedent fraught with peril.
Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., is a media ethicist and critic. His most recent book is “The Last Days of Democracy: How Big Media and Power-Hungry Government Are Turning America Into a Dictatorship.” He is a first-prize winner of the 2007 Project Censored Award.
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