Protect (Fool) America Act

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

The title of this writing is the alternative title of the recent FISA update, which redraws the terms of surveillance to fit the needs of the curent “administration.” Definitions, rather than logic, form the bricks of rhetoric. Logic isn’t necessarily required to convince a reader or listener that an action is or is not sound, but both logic and definitions can be manipulated to convince. or persuade. Congress can certainly bound the definition of or supply example of actions that must not be construed as illegal surveillance. S.1927 puts it this way:

`Sec. 105A. Nothing in the definition of electronic surveillance under section 101(f) shall be construed to encompass surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States.

101(f) of the US Code defines electronic surveillance like this:

(f) “Electronic surveillance” means—
(1) the acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire or radio communication sent by or intended to be received by a particular, known United States person who is in the United States, if the contents are acquired by intentionally targeting that United States person, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes;
(2) the acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire communication to or from a person in the United States, without the consent of any party thereto, if such acquisition occurs in the United States, but does not include the acquisition of those communications of computer trespassers that would be permissible under section 2511 (2)(i) of title 18;
(3) the intentional acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any radio communication, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes, and if both the sender and all intended recipients are located within the United States; or
(4) the installation or use of an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device in the United States for monitoring to acquire information, other than from a wire or radio communication, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes.

Real back-door stuff because it introduces ways of circumventing the older definition (how does the definition of “reasonable expectation of privacy” change now if the receiver or sender is outside the US). Communication in this sense is between networked people. We now live in a world of government controlled listening and we can’t even build schools. We already know that the neighbors are watching. (Seen the commercials?)

All this is too much like Babylon 5’s Earth Watch.

In the context of government rigged congressional performances, such as those put on by Joe Lieberman, the new wildlands of bill writing is bad news for all of us.


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