It was a dark and stormy night when firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
> I am curious as to what people think of the issue of national security
> vs. privacy in light of the recent revelations.
I would suggest that the first point is, the government must not
violate the law. And simply having some high official say "it's legal
if I say it is" is not a defense. If the government (or contractors,
at the government's direction) violates the law, the parties involved
should face the same legal consequences as you and I do if we violate
Violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by "engaging in
electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by
statute", which in this case would mean without warrant or court
order, has a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine,
plus a civil liability to *each* aggrieved party of "(a) actual
damages, but not less than liquidated damages of $1,000 or $100 per
day for each day of violation, whichever is greater; (b) punitive
damages; and (c) reasonable attorney's fees and other investigation
and litigation costs reasonably incurred. " My desk calculator
couldn't deal with the number you get when you figure "not less than"
$100/day for 5 years for 2 million people. At least if we get $10,000
fines from all the Administration, NSA, AT&T, etc. people involved, it
will help offset the civil damages a little.
"Orders" hasn't cut it as a defense since Nuremberg.
This is especially important in an administration where the President
thinks that if he crosses his fingers when signing a law, the law
doesn't apply to him.
The second point would be, we know it won't be limited to national
security (or, "national security" will be redefined to include whatever
the official in charge wants to spy on). Think how useful that
communications information could be in solving a drug case. Already,
prosecutors are misusing the "Patriot" act by classifying their crime of
choice (say, producing methamphetamine, or tax evasion) as "terrorism".
Or a corruption case. Or, since it's secret and nobody will know, why
not use it to find out who leaked that info to that reporter. Oh, the
data is there, we can tell who called who, why can't it be subpoenaed by
a divorce lawyer? That's why courts need to supervise on a
case-by-case basis, to prevent those abuses.
I think you may have opened up a firestorm of a topic.