A couple of weeks ago, in reaction to the revelation of Barack Obama’s seizure of telephone records by Barack Obama’s seizure of journalists’ telephone records, I suggested that, if journalists had been so intent on defending other Americans’ constitutional protections from excessive search under the FISA Amendments Act, journalists might not have to worry about government spying on their own private communications today. I wrote, “The FISA Amendments Act has been used for years by both Bush and Obama to unconstitutionally grab Americans’ private telephone and Internet communications without notification and without search warrant… Reporters, if you’re angry about Barack Obama’s continuation of George W. Bush’s seizure of unconstitutional powers of search and seizure, you should take that outrage, and use it to defend the Fourth Amendment rights of ALL Americans, rather than only complaining about the violation of your own constitutional rights.”
Starting today, American journalists have the opportunity to correct for their self-centered focus on the government’s spying against journalists, and focus on Barack Obama’s larger surveillance network. The Guardian, a British newspaper, has obtained records that prove that assertions by Barack Obama that he is not using the FISA Amendments Act to indiscriminately search through Americans’ private communications have been lies.
The evidence: Records from Verizon show that the Obama Administration has used the powers of the FISA Amendments Act to obtain private phone data from Verizon. The records obtained from Verizon shows the details of millions of Americans’ private phone calls – who they talked to on the phone, when they talked, and for how long. The Obama Administration order directs Verizon to provide the information to the National Security Administration on a “daily, ongoing” basis.
We have all, it seems, been subjected to the kind of unreasonable search and seizure that reporters from the Associated Press have complained about.
Only, in this case, the surveillance doesn’t have even a wisp of justification. Barack Obama cannot plausibly claim that he believes that millions of Americans have been involved in leaks of top secret information from the White House. Under the FISA Amendments Act, President Barack Obama ordered the search and seizure of what are in effect the private papers of millions of Americans without providing any evidence that those Americans were involved in any crime.
We have been warning about this for years: The FISA Amendments Act has been used to create a massive electronic dragnet that indiscriminately spies on the private communications of massive numbers of Americans. Democratic and Republican defenders of the FISA Amendments Act dismissed concerns about the extreme surveillance powers created by the law. They said it would only be used against terrorists, and that ordinary Americans had nothing to fear.
Now, we have undeniable proof that the critics of the FISA Amendments Act were right, and the defenders of the draconian law were wrong. The FISA Amendments Act has created a regime of unreasonable search and seizure – and that’s unconstitutional. The Fourth Amendments of the Constitution requires the government to obtain a search warrant against specific people and specific places, backed up by evidence that specific criminal activity is related to the search. Barack Obama’s search and seizure of massive amounts of data from Verizon does not meet these requirements.
Once upon a time, back during his one term as a U.S. Senator, Barack Obama said he was so concerned about the FISA Amendments Act that he would filibuster the law to prevent it from being passed. Obama broke that promise. Instead of filibustering the FISA Amendments Act, Obama voted in favor of it.
Obama then promised to reform the law if he was made President. Instead, last year, Obama signed an extension of the FISA Amendments Act into law without even trying to reform it.
Now, the cat is out of the bag, and there is good reason to believe that there are other cats in that bag. The Guardian happened to obtain proof of one specific order by President Obama to conduct FISA Amendments Act spying against millions of Verizon customers. The spying problem is likely much bigger than what this one document describes, however. It’s fair to assume that Barack Obama has seized similar amounts of private data from other telecommunications companies, and that he hasn’t restricted his FISA Amendments Act spying just to telephone records. Email, texting, web browsing, and other forms of electronic communication are open for massive surveillance under the law as well.
The FISA Amendments Act has allowed Barack Obama to transform the United States of America into the United States of Surveillance.
Of course, it isn’t just Barack Obama who has engaged in such outrageous electronic spying against the American people. The reason the FISA Amendments Act was passed in the first place was that George W. Bush was caught seizing the private communications records of millions of Americans, and nobody in Congress had the courage to impeach him for the crime. The FISA Amendments Act gave George W. Bush, and the complicit telecommunications corporations, retroactive immunity.
It’s time for that immunity to end.
Barack Obama must resign, and Congress must repeal the FISA Amendments Act. Then, a special independent commission must be given the power to investigate and reveal the full extent of abusive government search and seizure under the FISA Amendments Act and Patriot Act, under both Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
Only the most extreme reassertion of the protections of the Fourth Amendment can give Americans reason to believe that their nation is ruled by a Constitution, and not the whims of Big Brother.