An annual government report showed that every warrant submitted by the Feds to spy on Americans was approved by the secret FISA court in 2011. The 1,745 total number of applications and warrants approved was a 10.5% increase over 2010.
An anonymous counterterrorism official said the increase was “in response to materials seized in relation to the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and the resulting investigations.”
Although the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) is secretive and does not reveal the type of surveillance that was approved, it may be the most transparent surveillance program the Feds admit to. At least the warrants are issued and can be counted.
FISA has only been one of the tools used to spy on the communications of Americans.
The FBI, under the authority of the PATRIOT Act, issues “administrative subpoenas” in order to get citizens’ telephone, Internet and banking records, while these organizations turning over personal information have also been conveniently exempt from invasion of privacy lawsuits. According to Huffington Post, 16,511 FBI subpoenas were issued in 2011, down from 24,287 the year before.
Since Bush authorized the NSA to bypass the FISA court to spy on electronic communications of Americans to fight the “war on terror” after 9/11, the number of reported warrants seems moot however much they increase or decrease.
Despite Obama’s 2008 campaign rhetoric to end the practice of “warrantless surveillance,” he not only continued the practice but fought to do so in court in a case where his Administration’s only defense of claiming “state secrets” (so much for his government transparency rhetoric too) was slapped down by a judge in 2010.
Since that ruling, the government and the NSA has been far less public about whether they have the right to secretly, but openly, spy on American’s communications. But they never seem to give up their goal of invading everyone’s privacy in the name of security.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the new cybersecurity bill CISPA that passed the House and waits for the Senate vote, authorizes the NSA to spy on email and other electronic communications. The NSA’s new $2 billion dollar facility set to open in September 2013 all but guarantees it.
So, despite government reports attempting to give the facade of accountability for secret surveillance programs, the details and extent of how much spying is occurring remains hidden from the public.
One thing is certain: if the admitted cases of spying are increasing, Americans can only assume that hidden cases are too; and if CISPA becomes law, expect intrusions into privacy to become even more commonplace.
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