Thursday, December 03, 2009

We need real surveillance oversite

I just read a fantastic blog post written by Christopher Soghoian.

In it, Christopher reviews the current conditions of electronic surveillance, particularly cell phone surveillance, in our country.

If you've watched a spy thriller in the past ten years, you've been exposed to fantastic and far fetched scenarios depicting people being traced, wire or wirelessly tapped, and spatially located with great fidelity, and these actions are always performed without the authorization or notification of a judge.

It's important that we all realize this is not fiction.

A rational person will probably agree that a certain amount of this sort of capability is in the best interest of our nation and it's citizenry. The problem is, what limits should be put on this tremendous power? If the law enforcement agencies are routinely ignoring reporting and disclosure laws as Christopher convincingly argues, what's to stop those agencies from inappropriate use?

Nothing. The answer is NOTHING.

This is why we, as citizens, need to get involved. We need to ask uncomfortable questions of the people who represent us in government and the people who protect us in law enforcement, and we need to let our fellow citizens understand this situation.

It wasn't that long ago that a guy took control of a democratic nation and then decided to systematically exterminate five million Jews. Granted, Hitler used strong-arm tactics and back-room deals to win his election. Forgive me if the Nazi reference seems overly dramatic, but shouldn't we legally limit the ability of members of our society to engage in strong-arm and back-room activities, particularly when technology makes these activities so powerful?