April 04, 2014

Frank Church - Abuse of state power

The Snowden-NSA-leaks revealed a world of vast, systemic, institutionalized, industrial-scale Leviathan mass surveillance. A system of surveillance that has gone far beyond the original mandate to deal with terrorism. Following the Nixon-surveillance scandal, Senator Frank Church led an enqiry into the misuse of state power. This resulted in the Church Committee.

In 1975 Frank Church said:
"[The National Security Agency’s] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide."
Thomas Paine said in 'Dissertation on First Principles of Government' (July 1795):
"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."

 John Adams said in 1777 in a letter to his wife Abigail:
"Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it."
In 2013 Richard J. Leon, U.S. District Court Judge, (and a Bush-appointed judge at that) called the modern system of surveillance "almost Orwellian". He called NSA surveilling likely unconstitutional:
"The threshold issue is whether plaintiffs have a reasonable expectation of privacy that is violated when the Government indiscriminately collects their telephone metadata along with the metadata of hundreds of millions of other citizens without any particularized suspicion of wrongdoing, retains all of that metadata for five years, and then queries, analyzes, and investigates that data without prior judicial approval of the investigative targets. 
I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary' invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval. Surely, such a program infringes on 'that degree of privacy' that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment."
Snowden said in response:
"I acted on my belief that the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts."
New York Times covered it here. Washington Post here. New Yorker here. More here, here and here.

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