Sunday, May 14, 2006

Conservative Bob Barr in the AJC: Listen up; our rights are at risk

Listen up; our rights are at risk-- an op-ed by conservative libertarian Bob Barr: "Electronic surveillance. Domestic spying. Data mining. Eavesdropping. Pen registers. Trap and trace devices.

These and other terms, probably quite familiar to former federal prosecutors and tired, old CIA-types like me (I spent about eight years with the CIA back in the 1970s), were not, until recent weeks, among the everyday vocabulary of ordinary Americans. They may still not be.

Yet, an increasing number of Americans are concerned about a super-secret government agency capable of monitoring, storing and listening to virtually any Internet or phone conversation in the country.

Why? Because the power to take away one's privacy necessarily carries with it the power to demean, control and even jail a person. Moreover, if the government does these things without first securing court orders, it is violating not only the laws of the United States but the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees us the freedom not to have the government listen in to our conversations without probable cause to believe we've done something wrong. Federal law also requires that the government secure an order before it can properly go to a telecommunications company and demand to know the numbers we've called on our phones or the numbers of persons who've called us (trap-and-trace and pen-register devices), or which Internet addresses we've sent to or received communications from.

If that seems to be a mouthful, it is. A lot is at stake here."


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