Many of the revelations and various scandals over the last couple months have been a treasure trove for affirming everything that libertarians believe and have been warning about. The government is already big enough to violate our rights wholesale, and more information about the scope of their surveillance and data collection hits the news everyday. The latest is about the top secret NSA program PRISM, exposed in a leak of the classified document which details the program. Apparently the FBI, CIA, and NSA have back door access to the servers of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Skype, Facebook, AOL, Youtube, and Apple, and can collect user information at will. The Guardian obtained the leaked document and exposed the vast, “1984” style surveillance which has been growing in the United States exponentially since Obama took office, but was first initiated under President Bush.
A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.
The program costs about $20 million per year, in order to give government the ability to violate our Fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. The Constitution is quite clear that for the government to be able to collect data on its citizens, they must go through due process, first showing probable cause that a crime has taken place, and obtaining a warrant to further investigate the suspect. No warrants or due process is involved in this collection and storing of innocent civilians’ data. The whole PRISM program gives insight into why the NSA built the new gigantic data storage facility which was recently completed in Utah. The FAA, Fisa Amendments Act, is the surveillance law used to justify the PRISM program, which was renewed in December of 2012.
When the law was enacted, defenders of the FAA argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the PRISM program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.
When the NSA reviews a communication it believes merits further investigation, it issues what it calls a “report”. According to the NSA, “over 2,000 PRISM-based reports” are now issued every month. There were 24,005 in 2012, a 27% increase on the previous year.
In total, more than 77,000 intelligence reports have cited the PRISM program.
That means 77,000 investigations have been initiated based on evidence illegally obtained by the government, without court orders or warrants. Government is too big, and the latest scandals have shown us that their good intentions cannot be trusted. The government will in fact, and has been caught, harassing reporters, intimidating political organizations, suppressing free speech, subverting due process, and spying on average, everyday innocent American civilians. The checks and balances need to be restored in this country, starting with eliminating whole agencies at the federal level. It is time states step up and reclaim their rights, so that our strong centralized government cannot hide what it is doing, and get away with violating the Constitution on a regular basis.
Repealing the 16th amendment which funds the excess of federal government through the authorization of the income tax, would be a great place to start, as well as eliminating the back door tax through inflation initiated by the Federal Reserve. This would mean the federal government would need to roll back their unconstitutional programs and agencies in order to continue funding their real responsibilities laid out in the Constitution. And the best way to begin restoring states rights would be to repeal the 17th amendment, which made it so U.S. Senators are now elected by popular vote in their states, where as they used to be elected by each state legislature. This process of giving the legislatures a voice in the federal government made it so that state governments were represented in the federal government, and could kill legislation harmful to states, or enact legislation which protected states’ rights. Decentralizing control, and decentralizing our government will provide more checks in our system, to make sure our rights are not violated by governments who have grown too big and strong to be stopped from violating individuals’ rights.
What more abuse of power will it take to convince the American people that our federal government has moved beyond its role, and grown too big? What will it take for people to suspect the government of wrongdoing enough to limit their powers? I hope it doesn’t have to get much worse than this.