News of the US PRISM government spying program was made public by whistle blower Edward Snowden. Yesterday the House voted to reject an amendment that would remove the authority for the government to collect phone use records of US citizens. With all of this monitoring and spying on its civilians, one would have to wonder, is the US becoming a police state?
According to information leaked by Snowden, which included 41 PowerPoint slides, industry leaders who participated in the program included Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, Facebook, Paltalk, YouTube, AOL, Skype and Apple. The government program that, “extracts e-mail, audio, video, photos, documents, search history and logs” was started as early as 2007.
On Tuesday, General Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, urged Capitol Hill lawmakers to oppose the amendment that would defund the NSA phone collection program.
“We oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a late-night statement. “This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open or deliberative process.”
Republicans and Democrats were divided amongst themselves on the issue. Some thinking the program necessary while others thought it a violation of constitutional rights.
“Have 12 years gone by and our memories faded so badly that we forgot what happened on Sept. 11?” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) chairman of the Intelligence committee.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., founder of the bill amendment, “told the House that his effort was to defend the Constitution and ‘defend the privacy of every American.'”
I find it odd that WH Press secretary would complain about the move to “hastily dismantle” part of the NSA’s data collection program, and that it was a “blunt approach” that was not “informed, open or deliberative.”
Many NY citizens were enraged over these same issues when in a secretive and hurried over-night session, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the NY SAFE act. One of the toughest gun control programs in the US. A law that is still opposed by many Upstate NY citizens and law enforcement officials as being unconstitutional.
Privacy and Civil Rights groups were also upset about how the citizens of Boston were treated when Law Enforcement groups were looking for the two Boston Bombers. Images of heavily armed military looking police units flooding the streets and performing mandatory door to door searches caused quite a stir.
Some think the searches were illegal, though there is an exception to the rule, exigent circumstances:
“An exigent circumstance, in the American law of criminal procedure, allows law enforcement to enter a structure without a search warrant, or if they have a “knock and announce” warrant, without knocking and waiting for refusal under certain circumstances. It must be a situation where people are in imminent danger, evidence faces imminent destruction, or a suspect will escape.”
“Courts look at it differently when there’s a threat of public safety than if the police just want to search,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, in a phone interview with The Atlantic Wire.
Many seem to think that the monitoring of US citizens is necessary to prevent another 9/11 type terrorist attack. Many too are very upset and concerned about the erosion of American’s constitutional rights and privacy, with some thinking that the US is heading very rapidly to becoming a police state.
What do you think?