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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

9/9/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Secret FISA court proves why we aren't supposed to have secret courts.

President Obama won permission from the FISA court in 2011 to reverse the collection and use of American's communications, allowing that agency to search domestic communication between citizens. Such searches were previously illegal.

The FISA court authorized collection and searches of citizen's data back in 2011, despite presidential assurances it could not do so.

The FISA court authorized collection and searches of citizen's data back in 2011, despite presidential assurances it could not do so.


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (

9/9/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Obama, Fourth Amendment, FISA, court, secret, ruling, communications, data collection, retention

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A declassified ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) reveals that the Obama administration was given the authority via the NSA to sift through domestic communications for intelligence information.

The FISA is a secret court that handles legal issues pertaining to the NSA and its activities.

According to the declassified document which details the court's 2011 ruling, the Obama administration sought a reveral of a 2008 rule that prevented the NSA from searching through records of intercepted U.S. communications.

We have long been told that the NSA is only allowed to intercept and search foreign communications. We now know this is an absolute lie, and the NSA routinely intercepts the communications of Americans and searches those communications. Furthermore, this practice has been legalized by the secret court trusted to oversee the NSA and encouraged by the Obama administration.

The problem with the ruling, issued by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, is that it strips Fourth Amendment protection from American citizens.

The Fourth Amendment requires either probable cause or a warrant before a citizen's communications can be seized and searched. The NSA is able to ignore these basic rights and lawfully collect information on citizens as long as agents "reasonably believe" that they include foreign communications.  However, there is a recognition that much of the communication they intercept does not meet this criteria. Again, according to secret FISA court rulings, this is okay.

Those communications can also be searched at will.

The ruling also allows communications and records to be retained for an additional year beyond what they were before. This was to provide consistency between organizations, and now allows the NSA to retain your data for six years instead of five.

For ordinary Americans there is little we can do. Even data encryption seems to be worthless. This is what happens when an administration takes office and is directed by a president who fancies himself a constitutional scholar. That president provides minimal oversight to an omnipotent government agency that is trusted to regulate itself with sweeping powers.

The combination is lethal to liberty.

Because the court is a secret court, it isn't subject to media and public scrutiny like other courts. This is the reason why secret courts are a bad idea and we're not supposed to have them.

Unfortunately, most Americans are untroubled by it, believing that as long as they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear. Already, we have sacrificed our privacy on the altar of social networking, so for the NSA to go one step further and collect the balance of our communications seems to be a non-issue for many Americans. Apathy is the primary emotion.

Yet, this is the fertile ground of tyranny. For now, we're pursuing terrorists both foreign and domestic. Supposedly the program has stopped dead, some fifty or more potential terror attacks. We really have no way to confirm these results.

However, there is a decent chance that this technology will someday soon be used to lord over the American people, to police them and ultimately control them. Every other technological innovation has eventually been used as a tool of war and coercion at some point. Eventually, this technology will do the same.

When that happens, we will all wish we had paid better attention.

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