Will this thing not die? It’s like some monster out of a horror movie that keeps coming back and causing trouble in the sequels, no matter how many times it appears to have been defeated.

The House of Representatives is currently considering a “compromise” updating of the FISA law that would, among other things, still give the President sweeping authority to spy on American citizens and grant immunity to the telecommunications corporations who have been helping Bush spy on us since 9/11.

All of us. Yes, you too.

Do I sound paranoid? I’m not. It’s not paranoia when the breach of privacy you are concerned about is actually happening.

See, after 9/11, George and his buddies decided that they needed a bit more information to help them track terrorists. So they asked all the major telecoms to start giving them their data about who is calling whom, when, and how often.

Most of the telecoms went along with this cheerfully, even though it was a clear violation of the law that was in place at the time, which required a warrant to see even a phone user’s records. The companies knew this. They were well aware of the law (they had lawyers who could probably recite the relevant portions of the law in their sleep) and chose to act in violation of it. They started providing the government with tons of data, all about whom you are calling, and who’s calling you.

Now, you may think, “I’m not doing anything illegal, so there’s nothing to fear.” And, in your individual case that might even be true. Maybe.

But it means that the government – specifically, the political forces that are in control of the executive branch of the government at the moment – has access to a whole lot of information that we, as members of the public, might not want them to have access to. Information about perfectly legal activities that could nevertheless create big problems for law abiding citizens.

What sorts of things am I talking about? Reporters’ anonymous sources. Whistleblowers who try to halt dangerous or illegal practices. Sometimes the government doesn’t like what these sorts of people have to say, yet it may be critical for public safety or national security for them to be able to say it safely, relatively free of the fear of retribution.

Of course, there are lots of other reasons to be concerned with all this data. The Bush administration seems to be real big out outsourcing things to private corporations, and it wouldn’t shock me to know that some of these corporations had acquired the data. Where is the assurance that your information will not be made public? Or used for other purposes? Information about your calls to doctors, or lawyers, or mental health care providers, for instance.

And if you find yourself wondering why this issue keeps resurfacing, and why it may pass this time when it’s already been voted down due to public outcry…well…the telecoms give an awful lot of money to congressional campaigns, to candidates in both parties.

There is apparently going to be a vote on this tomorrow. Call your representative and tell them to vote against the FISA compromise!

The always thorough Glenn Greenwald over at Salon.com has been leading the charge on this. Crooks and Liars and Daily Kos have been fighting the good fight, too. They have much more information on the subject than I do, so be sure to check them out!

I still think Bush and Cheney should be impeached, but maybe we need to be looking a little wider than that now. Self-serving bastards.

jane doe

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