Monday, September 21, 2015

Congress punts with USA Freedom Act, putting NSA's political risk back in "private hands"

I’ve generally stayed away from “one-sided” battles on some issues, like NSA spying.  I agree in general with Rand Paul’s solution, “Get a warrant!”, and in some ways Paul is among the more “innocuous” GOP candidates (a “leave-me-alone-kind-of-guy” – quasi libertarian).  Larry King interviewed Paul last June:
Aaron Mackey has a story for Electronic Frontier Foundation today, updating First Unitarian Church v. NSA, link here.  EFF reminds us that Congress has effectively offloaded the political liability for spying onto private telecommunications carriers with the USA Freedom Act (link). 

So the big companies will keep our data (which they already do) and can be subpoenaed for fishing expeditions.

Yes, we have to be proactive uncovering terror plots, most of all the unconventional WMD ones (while there is so much attention to lone wolves). And I agree that for the “average American”, the practical risk of his or her life being compromised by such a search is indeed remote.  But it is not zero, and prosecutors have been known to instantiate politically advantageous interpretations of vague laws to go after possibly unpopular defendants (and not just Muslims). 

Although it’s “highly unlikely” (a favorite term of my own late father) in practice, it’s conceivable that a small business owner who processes his or her own credit card customers with an e-commerce host could get dragged in to a situation.  That could further limit opportunities in small business.  Self-published book authors, despite Amazon, for example, often feel they should also be able to sell their products themselves (or feel pressured to prove that they can do so).

In the meantime, the sloppiness of Trump in handling obviously lunatic questions and the unconstitutional claims by Carson as to who should not be elected to office are both rather appalling.

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