Most Americans are unaware that there is a technological explosion taking place that will enable the government to intrude in the lives of every citizen at an unprecedented level. Surveillance technologies have been around for a long time, but it is only recently that storage of and rapid access to vast amounts of information has become possible. Government can now monitor many activities that most Americans would regard as private and protected by the constitution without any real oversight process involved. American telecommunications companies already retain detailed records of customer activities. If you use the internet, some internet providers record every single action taken, to include individual keystrokes.
In Britain this process of corporate and government intrusion is far advanced even though it is bitterly opposed by a large part of the public. A new law is about to go into effect with the wonderful euphemism name of the Intercept Modernization Program, part of the equally splendidly dubbed Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. It will require telecommunications providers to collect and retain all information on subscribers’ activities for a period of six months. Employees of 653 public agencies, most of which have no law enforcement or intelligence function, will have access to the information with no judicial oversight whatsoever. At each agency all that is needed is a supervisor to sign off on the request for information.
In the United States, such records are maintained in a haphazard fashion by the various service providers and can be accessed by the Justice Department through the issuance of a national security letter. The security letter is particularly dangerous from a civil liberties perspective because it does not have any judicial review and it has legal penalties for anyone who even discloses that he has received one. The number of security letters issued each year has been growing dramatically because it is an easy way to obtain information without going through any real due process. More than 35,000 were issued last year. In a recent case in Philadelphia, an internet service provider was asked for detailed information relating to all internet traffic on a certain date, to include IP addresses, times, e-mail addresses, physical addresses, registered accounts, Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers. There is no sign that the Obama Justice Department and FBI will behave any differently than their counterparts under George W. Bush, quite the contrary. – Phil Giraldi, American Conservative Defense Alliance