US wants more powers to spy on its own citizens

Christopher Sewerd Policy

The US senate has caused a stir in an attempt to pass through legislation that would increase the ability for the government and its agencies to have unlimited access to all the communications of every American citizen.

Since the revelations of Edward Snowden became public, communications data or as it is better known, metadata has been a hot topic of conversation. While the actual content of your phone calls, emails and other communication data may not be stored, Metadata, the outer casing of your communications can be and are stored, this is the times of calls, the length, who calls who and more. It recently became apparent that secret service agencies kill based on metadata, it is no small matter.

Like any country that wants to pass laws, the US is no different, when a particular change goes against what the majority are likely to object to, the way of passing them is via the back-door, or in a hushed manner. The Intelligence Authorization Act for 2015 was rather quickly rushed to the house floor containing a Senate amendment that had no real debate around it.

In US law making terms, the act was set to be passed using a “voice vote” which allows for an act to be passed with no record of the voting outcome. With communications data access at an all time boiling point, any act or law that affects this area would be one that should be not only highly publicised but also greatly considered and recorded.

With the act centring on the sensitive area of communications data affecting every American citizen, the usual voting system used would be a roll call that is used for the majority of pieces of major legislation.

It is little wonder that the act has been attempted to be passed with very little fuss or public knowledge. In a recent survey carried out by CIGI, it was discovered that 64% of American citizens are either very concerned or somewhat concerned about the police or other government agencies monitoring their online activities. Increasing the ability the government and its organisations have would only cause further anger from the American public.

Representative Justin Amash was one of the first to raise the issue and demanded that the voting be done via the roll call system that would require everyone who voted would have that vote recorded. Not only this but due to the rushed nature of the bill he asked his legislative staff to investigate and look for “unusual language” to determine exactly what the bill entailed.

The basic premise of the bill is to allow information already gained in a domestic situation through spying by the various organisations to be directly passed to local law enforcement such as the police without the intervention of any type of court order. This would allow for a free flow of information and little regulation against abuses.

As has been the case in many countries around the world, the fear of “terrorism” is being used to push through laws that restrict the freedoms of individuals. Far from being the home of the free, the US is on the brink of becoming a surveillance capital with the freedoms of individuals serious curtailed.

Pressure groups are calling on US citizens to call their representatives to inform them that you do not agree to the new spying bill.

The bill that has only a 31% chance of being enacted was passed and is now in the stage to progress to the president.