A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Why I have a problem with Congress extending the NSA’s powers to 2023

It was on January 18th, the day before the government shutdown, that Senate passed the reauthorization of the the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act(FISA) into law, thus continuing or government’s belief that the Fourth amendment is optional.

 This bill basically allows the National Security Agency(NSA) to dig through any Americans phone calls, text messages and emails, without a specific warrant, to target foreigners who threaten  “national security”. It also extended the NSA’s powers to the year 2023. This wasn’t just another purely Republican bill, but actually had some help for our favorite Trump-bashers, or Democrats for short.

FISA isn’t a new thing, as it has been used since 2008 and was set to expire on January 19. Democrats’ and Republicans’ excuse for voting for the bill is that it’s necessary for  “national security,”. which is a vague term that the government uses to justify anything people might question. My problem with FISA are summed up in three points: FISA has been abused by the NSA in the past, it tramples on Americans Fourth Amendment rights, and it has lead to the continuation of the dismantling of Americans constitutional rights.

The knowledge of the NSA’s abuse of their powers, that they are given through FISA, wasn’t widely known until the 2013 Edward Snowden leaks. The leaks revealed how the NSA not only spied on American citizens but also foreign citizens, diplomats, and organizations that are considered a threat to the United States.

For example, according to the Snowden leaks, the NSA tapped the Chancellor of Germany’s phone, pretty much spied on all of Latin America, made a deal with British intelligence to have full access to UK citizens’ communications, and they even provided US diplomats with surveillance intelligence to give them an upper-hand in negotiations in the U.S. summit of the Americas.

If that isn’t invasive enough for you, NSA employees used NSA servers to spy on love interest and exes. Also when Angry Bird was really popular few years ago, the NSA used the app to data mine people’s personal information. There’s a history of abuse by NSA that’s shows that for the majority of time they used this surveillance power to somehow make the United States more powerful than it already is, not protect it from enemies abroad.

 However, many Americans find themselves unbothered by the powers FISA gives the NSA.

“I believe that FISA is a good thing,’’ a Parkdale teacher, who wanted to remain anonymous, stated. “I believe it protects the United States in ways that the general public and even many elected officials will never quite realize fully.”

Some citizens, though, feel that while it could do the country some good, the ethics behind it are a bit shaky.

 “I guess it’s safe, but it’s still wrong,” a Parkdale student, who also wanted to remain anonymous, said. “It’s wrong because it’s their job to protect us and they’re going overboard with that protection.”

However if you want focus on the NSA surveillance impact at home, that’s simple.

For over 200 years or so, the U.S. has this little thing called the CONSTITUTION. Within in the Constitution, there’s the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches or seizures without a warrant, that our federal government blatantly ignores in order to “protect us”.

The Constitution is the law of the land for this country. Everything this nation stands for derives itself from this premier document. To know that our government could just decide that our freedoms and rights are something that can be thrown away in the name of “protecting us” is honestly scary. I mean what’s the next freedom we will no longer have?

If you think that I’m being too hyperbolic, you’re wrong because the government already took our Fifth Amendment rights away from us on New Year’s Eve 2011.

The Fifth Amendment did guaranteed that Americans couldn’t be held for a crime until they were indicted by a Grand Jury. Having said that, you can now thank the crisp signature of everyone’s favorite President Barack Obama, that the military is now able to arrest and detain any U.S. citizen without a trial.

This shows that you can’t give the government an “inch,” because they will not only take miles, they’ll take the whole highway. It might seems outrageous now but there could be a possibility that we may lose all our Bill of Rights in the name of fighting terrorism.

I do understand that this law was created during a time of much fear, since 9/11  did happen just a few years before and the country wanted to make sure nothing like that ever happened again. Yet there are few problems with what they planned and how they executed that plan.

In my eyes, we’ve been fighting ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban to make sure that the world isn’t taken over by people who want to take away our rights and freedom.

Also in those same eyes, I realized that they’d already won.  Before 9/11, the government wasn’t allowed to seize all your personal information without a warrant nor was the military allowed to keep you in a government prison for the rest of your life. 

The War on Terror was lost on the day that these science fiction plot lines became a reality. Laws like FISA and the National Defense Authorization Act, the bill Obama signed to repeal the Fifth Amendment, aren’t just laws that are bad and shouldn’t be protested. These laws are a clear example on how it isn’t about us anymore.

What does spying on Prime ministers and the Pope do for American citizens? Nothing. Our government doesn’t want to be superpower anymore; it wants to be the only power.

Once we allow our government have these almost god-like powers, it doesn’t matter if terrorism is fully eradicated, they will never give those powers back. There’s just no such thing of a government who wants less powers.