Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wake up and smell the surveillance

I consider myself pretty lucky. I was born in the US, a baby boomer kid from a middle-class suburban family. I went to good public schools, got a great education, and have a strong sense of my rights and privileges as an American citizen.

For the most part, I take for granted my right to express my political views, to criticize public officials, and live my life in relative safety, privacy, and security.

That’s why, for a lot of us typical Americans, it may be easy to be complacent about the increasing incursions on our civil rights. We don’t worry, on a basic level, about our fundamental rights to free speech and privacy being invaded -- at least the ones we exercise outside of the bedroom. Even if we’re not thrilled with a particular administration at a particular period in time, we tend to assume a basic trust that our essential democatic rights won’t be violated.

It’s time to wake up and pay attention.

This morning, I woke up to NPR’s report on Google filing suit to object to the Bush administration’s attempt to get Google to turn over its records regarding EVERY Google internet search within a one-week period. (Check this out.) The Bush administration claims it needs this information to establish the constitionality of a child pornography statute which the Supreme Court has already struck down as too broad and invasive of privacy rights. It’s hard to imagine what could justify such a wide and undefined search of private records as to want to look at every Google search over a week’s span. Those would be OUR internet activities the government would be getting, mind you, without any cause whatsoever to believe that our searches are in any way related to child pornography. This is what I’d call a fishing expedition. And it’s not hard to imagine all sorts of ways in which this information could be misused. Doesn’t it make you think about what you might not search in Google if you thought the government would be searching your records for some undefined "security" reasons?

And, of course, there is the secret surveillance against American citizens that the Bush Adminstration has authorized, without any court review whatsoever. It’s all in the name of national security, right? I keep thinking that Joseph McCarthy thought HE was acting in the interests of national security, too.

Hmmm...I’ve called and talked to my friend in Guatemala on the phone...could those conversations have been listened to? What about our friends in Bermuda? Bermuda is a huge international banking site, in part because it’s so protective of financial information. Do terrorists hide their money there? Are conversations and emails to Bermuda residents watched and listened to?

Thank goodness for the American Civil Liberties Union. I’m a card-carrying member, and one of my proudest possessions is an award I received from the ACLU for some pro bono legal work I did in New Hampshire. So, I was especially gratified to hear that the ACLU has filed suit against the Bush administration to challenge his claim of authority to have the NSA conduct this secret surveillance against Americans. I immediately got online and made a sizable donation to them.

Someone’s got to speak up for our rights. If you want to help the ACLU protect our civil liberties, here’s where you can.


  1. from one card carrying member to another: hang in there. times are weird, scary and shocking.
    but i did not know about the Google issue. very scary.

  2. I SO AGREE WITH YOU DIANE. Thanks for putting my feelings into such eloquent words.
    Love the new Counting the Days Left with Bush button!

  3. Thanks. I'm one of those "radical militant librarians" (terminology courtesy of the FBI) who is so very concerned about a number of threats to our right to privacy. We ALL need to be awake and informed and to SPEAK UP!