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Posts Tagged ‘Right to Privacy’

“Hello Mrs Miller, this is Harvey Johnson can I speak to Debra Sue?” Did you hear about Hugo and Kim; did they really get pinned? And are you guessing where I’m going? No, Bob and I did not play in Bye Bye Birdie in high school, although come to think of it, that would have been swell. But after hearing about our government’s secret court order to direct Verizon, my cell carrier and virtually every family member and friend’s too, to turn over their metadata, not sometimes, but on an “ongoing basis,” I was flabbergasted. Or to use a more British term, since the Guardian broke the story, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/nsa-phone-records-verizon-court-order Gobsmacked!

OK, slowly but surely I realize that privacy is becoming so last year. Everybody is tweeting, linking in, texting and Facebooking their lives away in public. But at least you can decide which picture goes up on Facebook. Look at me, I’m blogging to you right now, but at least I’m in charge of what I’m saying. I control what can be seen, and try to keep some sense of privacy by referring to my kids with pseudonyms. Now, I’m assuming, the NSA knows how often and how long I talk with the Bride. And who I’m voting for on The Voice!  BL5Da16CQAAqdjZ.jpg-large

Now you know too. I love The Voice, I admit it, send me to Gitmo.

Remember when I told you how our little town was the first in the country to outright ban the use of drones? Well that brave measure came from Charlottesville’s Rutherford Institute,  a nonprofit organization “…dedicated to the defense of civil liberties and human rights.” It seems fitting that Mr Jefferson’s Village would host such an organization. And the Rutherford’s director, constitutional law attorney John W Whitehead, recently wrote a book that has a few tongues wagging. A Government of Wolves posits we are fast becoming a police state – think about the overused and possibly racist “stop and frisk” programs in big cities, and think about when the city of Boston was put on a lockdown after the Marathon bombing.

The book “…paints a chilling portrait of a nation in the final stages of transformation into a police state, complete with surveillance cameras, drug-sniffing dogs, SWAT team raids, roadside strip searches, blood draws at DUI checkpoints, mosquito drones, tasers, privatized prisons, GPS tracking devices, zero tolerance policies, overcriminalization, and free speech zones.”   https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/on_the_front_lines/nprs_all_things_considered_weekend_edition_spotlights_constitutional_attorn

And this week SCOTUS rules in Maryland V King that the police can take your DNA just for being arrested! Secretly investigating newspaper reporters for possible security leaks is one thing, but as one intrepid news anchor named Roaseane Roaseannadanna used to say,  “Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it’s always something–if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.” Or as Former Vice-President Al Gore said in a tweet: “In a digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-22793851

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Sit down, take a load off. We’re not talking about Weight Watchers here; we’re going to talk about warrantless wiretapping. Just because you think they’re watching you…doesn’t mean they are, does it? I have to admit that conspiracy theories will always get my attention. Then I move on, attributing most of the paranoid delusional rhetoric to a bunch of crazies. But this past weekend, I was staying up late with Real Time and Bill Maher on HBO. Getting the TV fixed definitely cuts into my healthy sleep habits. Welcome back Bill to your new season you are the Left’s answer to Rush Limbaugh. Maher routinely comes up with one or two-liners like this: “I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what’s philosophically wrong with Republicans. It’s like asking what’s intellectually wrong with lobsters.” http://www.real-time-with-bill-maher-blog.com/real-time-with-bill-maher-blog/2013/1/18/party-foul.html

But his closing soliloquy left me sleepless in Cville. Now it’s probably not a good idea to lay your head down on your pillow after hearing that we Americans have just been giving most of our fundamental rights away without so much as a whimper. I’m talking about all of us, red and blue Americans and any other colorful configurations. He pooh poohed the idea that we are losing our 2nd Amendment rights and got right to the heart of the matter, saying,

“The Senate quietly reauthorized the National Defense Authorization Act while everyone was so concerned about the fiscal cliff, and there wasn’t even a peep out of the “freedom” crowd. In fact, people seem to be okay with government surveillance and warrantless wiretapping at this point….Does anyone care that this is the new normal?” I was lying awake and thinking about baby robotic drones overhead stealing my ideas about how to make a better lasagna.

Then I read this – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/google-transparency-report_n_2537153.html Now everybody knows that one usually needs to acquire a warrant from a judge before snooping through a private citizen’s home. But your email and internet searches are another matter; maybe your mail box is federally protected, but your inbox is fair game. “From July to December 2012, Google revealed, the company received 8,438 total requests for information about 14,791 users or accounts in the United States. Requests were up 34 percent from 2011 to 2012.” Yes folks, requests from law enforcement went up 34%!! I wonder what the stats will be for 2012 to 2013. The article goes on to say that only 22% of the time is a warrant involved; the FBI and/or police will simply write up an administrative subpoena.

It’s good to know that privacy advocates and Google (Facebook would you chime in here) are trying to reverse this trend, and hats off to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for passing an amendment to reform the very broad law ironically titled the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was passed by Congress in 1986 based on technology at the time. In 1986 the Rocker was 2 years old and we all were wearing shoulder pads! Leahy spearheaded his plan for governing internet surveillance in November saying this is the first step in corralling the Department of Justice, “…growing and unwelcome intrusion into our private life in cyberspace.” Still I’m not too hopeful it will go anywhere in our congenial House of Representatives.

The Tea Partyiers are worried the government will take away all their guns; that helicopters will be landing in their back yards. That’s why they need assault weapons. Maybe the “freedom” they are fighting for is misleading? Maybe both parties need to worry more about how incrementally we have given up our right to privacy. Background checks to buy a lethal weapon? Sure. Emails and social media about a shoe sale in Cville – What? Technology races ahead while civil liberty law limps along trying to play catch-up.
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