It’s a great lyric from “The Police” and I could image it coming from some creepy villain in a movie as he whispers it over the phone to his next young teenage victim. It’s a little hard to hear from your government.
The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration, the same friendly looking guy who wanted to “Keep hope alive” is looking to make it easier for the FBI to force companies to turn over the Internet activities of individuals. There are a couple of tried and true lines of reasoning the FBI and other law enforcement agencies like to use. The first is “If you are doing nothing wrong then why would you have a problem with us watching over your shoulder as you search the Internet.” The other is that “We need every tool available to search, find and destroy terrorism”. You can go back to the 1960’s and replace terrorism with “communism” or go back to the declaration of independence and replace it with “the rebels”. Panicking a population in order to force a piece of legislation should always set off alarm bells. Think back to the bank bailout and post 9/11.
The FBI would like to be able to demand this information carte blanche by adding the words “electronic communication transactional records” to be included in the type of information they can demand without seeking a judge’s approval. This, of course, circumvents due process and many Internet Service Providers have fought these demands. The FBI has also included the provision that the Information Service Providers keep these requests secret, of course for national security reasons, but this stops any type of oversight or accountability.
On September 20th the Washington Post reported that the Justice Department says that FBI probes have been improper. The FBI had targeted left-leaning groups that were planning on protesting the Iraq war and placed them on terrorist watch lists. This meant that if you now practiced your first amendment rights in a way that the government found suspicious, you could be labeled a terrorist and placed on an FBI watch list. The practice of activism should not, in my opinion, be enough to warrant investigation or the assumption of guilt.
Intellectual Freedom doesn’t feel quite as free when you can be labeled a terrorist because of what you read and write. The Orwellian shadow of a watchful government has a chilling effect on the curious mind. Most of us understand that it is inappropriate to peer through our neighbor’s windows, is it too much to ask that our government do the same?
Markon, Jerry. “FBI probes were improper, Justice says.” The Washington Post: National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines – The Washington Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 June 2011. .
Nakashima, Ellen. “White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity.” The Washington Post: National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines – The Washington Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 June 2011. .