Barack Obama says that the unconstitutional abuses of the FISA Amendments Act are justified by fear of terrorism, and he promises that he’ll use the unrestrained spy powers the Act enables only for the sake of good things, and “monitor” it, if elected President.
Will Obama “monitor” the use of reverse targeting, I wonder? Reverse targeting is a highly unscrupulous spy technique to evade the law in order to broaden spy powers to practically anyone that the spy masters want to target – even if they’re not legal targets or criminal suspects in any sense. Reverse targeting starts out with a particular target that the spy program is not truly authorized to conduct surveillance against, and then works to find someone who is subject to spying who is in contact with the actual target. In the case of President Bush’s supposed “overseas” spy program, American citizens are targeted, but aren’t named as the targets. Instead, someone overseas is the official target, and then the spies trace that person’s connections back to the actual target, using guilt-by-association.
For example, Gary Barnes in Ottumwa, Iowa may not be a legal target for electronic surveillance, given that he isn’t suspected of be related to any crime in any way. However, if he is of some interest to the government, for non-criminal reasons, the spy masters can engage in reverse targeting, in which Raul Frankenbaum of Berlin, Germany is targeted because he lives overseas and therefore is a viable target. Raul Frankenbaum, the spy masters know, happens to be in contact with Priscilla Hornblatt, who lives in Des Moines, Iowa and is the head of the company that Gary Barnes works for.
Gary Barnes has been in contact with Priscilla Hornblatt. So, the spies who claim to be targeting foreigner Raul Frankenbaum can just trace this second-hand foreign connection back to the person they’re really targeting: Mr. Barnes. In the eyes of the law, Mr. Barnes becomes a target of surveillance just because he happens to be connected to Raul Frankenbaum. The truth is that this supposedly incidental connection was reverse engineered – through reverse targeting, and the purpose of the entire operation was to use government powers to spy against Mr. Barnes, even though there’s no reason to suspect him of any crime.
The FISA Amendments Act allows for this kind of dishonest and abusive reverse targeting to go on, making practically anyone American living and working in the United States a viable target for government spies.
Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of United States Representative Diana DeGette, who was part of a coalition of members of Congress that tried to insert protections against reverse targeting into the FISA Amendments Act earlier this year. They failed. Their proposed protections against reverse targeting are not in the FISA Amendments Act.
Congresswoman DeGette tried to point this out on Friday, speaking before the House of Representatives, but most members of Congress didn’t even have the courtesy to listen to her, and most of those who did ignored her warning.
I repeat the warning of Representative DeGette here:
“The strong protections against reverse targeting contained in prior House measures, which I supported, are absent from this bill. Reverse targeting, which refers to spying on Americans by targeting those abroad with whom they are believed to be communicating, opens a loophole for the Federal Government to violate the privacy of American citizens.”
Barack Obama is among the Democrats who are not listening to the warning of Representative Diana DeGette. Can Barack Obama really support the use of reverse targeting to spy against innocent American citizens? If he votes for the FISA Amendments Act, yes he can.