Big Brother is watching you

Erica Weisburn

Thanks to the second five-week expansion of the U.S. Patriot Act, the government could be watching your every move. And you thought you only had Santa Claus and God to worry about.

More than four years ago, Congress passed the U.S. Patriot Act to give law enforcement agencies broad new tools to fight terrorists. It gave the government expanded power to search business, library, phone, e-mail, bank statements and other personal records.

What people tend to overlook, however, is that it also allows the government to search without showing proof or records that link the requested information to terrorism. In other words, no connection has to be made between the target under surveillance and any terrorist activities.

Also, “cases can now be pursued when surveillance is a ‘significant’ rather than a ‘primary’ purpose of the investigation,” according to The New York Times on Feb. 7.

As a matter of fact, at this point, search warrants are becoming less of a requirement and more of an option. As reported in The New York Times, “A single warrant can now cover multiple communications involving a target, without specifying a particular telephone line, computer or facility.”

I feel the lack of limitations on these powers leaves plenty room for government corruption and intrusion. The act causes many Americans, Democrats or Republicans, to be concerned about the law’s impact on their basic civil liberties and right of privacy.

Currently, the legality of Bush’s spying program is being questioned. Congress isn’t thrilled at the wording of the Patriot Act, which makes it superior to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act issued after the Watergate scandal.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is questioning whether it’s possible to rework the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to accommodate the program.

“Unfortunately, President Bush has peremptorily dismissed suggestions that the law be rewritten, asserting that doing so would risk revealing secret capabilities,” according to The Washington Post on Feb. 6.

I feel that by allowing the National Security Agency to continue watching the American public in the safety of their homes and businesses, President Bush is abusing his power of authority to essentially eavesdrop on America.

There is no real way of knowing the effectiveness of the act in preventing future acts of terrorism. So, spying on almost everyone who has ever said the word “terrorist” is asinine.

According to the National Public Radio Web site, the NSA has monitored thousands of international calls and e-mail of people in the United States. In only fewer than 10 of those instances has a suspect been further investigated.

War or no war, taking civil liberties away from Americans has no substantial purpose. Not to mention, it probably doesn’t increase the rapid declining presidential approval ratings.

Expanding the act by five weeks, once again, only gives the administration more room to further abuse its power and infringe on the freedoms that make us Americans.

The Washington Times states it perfectly: “The question Mr. Bush and his surrogates evade can be simply stated: What constitutional authority empowers the president to nullify a federal statute that balances the privacy of U.S. citizens within the United States against national security in times of war because he prefers unconstrained spying?”

Erica Weisburn is a junior newspaper journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].