DownsizeDC.org
August 5, 2010
Surveillance: Big Brother Wants More
By James Wilson

In the name of "fighting terrorism," President Obama wants to give the FBI more powers to monitor Internet activities without a judge's approval.

You may think this wouldn't apply to you because you're not a terrorist. You would be wrong. It could apply to anyone and anything that the FBI deems "related" to a terrorism investigation. FBI agents don't even have to go before a court to explain themselves. The FBI alone gets to decide.

Obama wants this new power even though the FBI has abused the powers it already has!

Do you want Big Brother knowing the people you email or the sites you visit?

If you don't, then please tell Congress to deny Obama's request using DownsizeDC.org's I Am Not Afraid Campaign.

You can borrow from or copy the following letter . . .

Now I hear that President Obama wants Congress to give the FBI the power to search my emails and web browsing without my knowledge and with no judicial oversight.

This would rip the First and Fourth Amendment to shreds. Deny this request!

There is no reason the FBI can't request a search warrant even for sensitive terrorism investigations. A federal court (FISA) was set up to address investigations concerning classified intelligence information. Although it rarely denies a search warrant request, the FISA court is an external check that keeps the FBI accountable.

And the FBI needs MORE accountability, not less!

* In issuing National Security Letters (NSLs), the FBI broke the law thousands of times over the past decade http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/20/AR2007032000921.html
* And there is still shoddy record-keeping and lack of oversight in the FBI http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/20/AR2010012002070.html
 * There was even widespread cheating on exams about surveillance procedures! http://edition.cnn.com/2010/US/07/28/fbi.tests.cheating/?hpt=T2#fbid=8jzKjDewgo9

The FBI is out of control. You should be INVESTIGATING the FBI, not giving it more power!

But even if the FBI was squeaky-clean, Obama's request is abhorrent. The Administration is pretending that it's requesting only a technical change and clarification of existing law. In reality . . .  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/28/AR2010072806141.html

* The FBI could collect records reflecting who someone is communicating with in the digital world, Web browsing history and potentially location information -- outside of judicial review
* The power could be used to obtain Internet search queries and Web histories detailing every Web site visited and every file downloaded
* Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, says this power is "much more sensitive than the other information, like name, address and telephone number, that the FBI gets with national security letters. It shows associational information protected by the First Amendment."

As Cato's Julian Sanchez notes http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=obamas_surveillance_power_grab

* This new power potentially allows "investigators to draw detailed road maps of the online activity of citizens not even suspected of any connection to terrorism."
* This could obliterate the First Amendment right to anonymous speech "if chat-forum participants and blog authors could be identified at the discretion of the FBI, without the involvement of a judge."
* Data-mining technology would allow the FBI to find out the membership of controversial groups without judicial process - in violation of the First Amendment and Supreme Court rulings
*"When the goal is to detect the patterns of previously unidentified terrorists, such analysis requires vacuuming up the records of huge numbers of innocent persons, more or less by definition."
* While the "content" of my internet activities is supposedly out-of-bounds, much of it could be discovered through keyword searches and download histories

Sanchez concludes, "If the Obama administration gets its way, an agency that has already proved itself utterly unable to respect the limits of its authority will have discretion to map our digital lives in potentially astonishing detail, with no judge looking over their shoulders. That the administration and the FBI would seek such power under the guise of a 'technical clarification' is proof enough that they cannot be trusted with it."

A New York Times editorial quotes the Obama campaign from 2008: “There is no reason we cannot fight terrorism while maintaining our civil liberties . . . As president, Barack Obama would revisit the Patriot Act to ensure that there is real and robust oversight of tools like National Security Letters, sneak-and-peek searches, and the use of the material witness provision.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/30/opinion/30fri1.html

The President is determined to break his promise. Force him to keep it! Deny this request, and instead, investigate and reform the FBI.

END LETTER

You can send your letter using DownsizeDC.org's Educate the Powerful System.

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Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.

Jim Babka
President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

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