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ISSUE 121 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/28/2007

Big Brother enters D.C.

By Tim Rehborg
Opinion Editor


Friday, September 28, 2007

At the end of last summer, while most of us perched on our hammocks, sipped on frozen margaritas and lazily pushed our way through good beach reads, Congress passed the Protect America Act. This legislation was an amendment to FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which establishes and maintains regulations on government surveillance.

This amendment aims to change the restrictions placed on intelligence officials concerning phone and Internet surveillance. Protect America allows agents to listen in on conversations without warrant and without going through any kind of court, having no obligation to obtain prior approval or to report results.

Since this is part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, it seems that this change has little to do with us, comfortable in our backyard hangout. However, these new regulations apply to conversations that take place between a U.S. citizen and a suspected foreign entity.

You know, foreign like Or-e-gon. Or a California Muslim group currently under investigation and exploited by surveillance practices of this kind.

Now, this is disturbing. Maybe even more so if you're sitting in a hammock reading, let's say, George Orwell's classic satirical novel, 1984.

Remember Big Brother? Remember screens in every room both giving and taking information? Remember how distant and unreal that seemed?

This amendment has terrifying potential. With rights granted in the name of protecting America, government officials have the power to listen in on any conversation or read email messages without asking for permission or presenting valid reasoning.

This seems terrifyingly similar to Guantanamo, a prison where you go to jail without a court order, without knowing your offense and without opportunity to appeal.

The one difference is that the Protect America Amendment could affect you and me personally. I want my rights to muse, lounging in this filtered sunlight and developing opinions that may or may not differ from mainstream America.

Luckily, the amendment is only provisional. It expires this January. Write to your senator now, because Big Brother will be watching.





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