FISA Abandons the Fourth Amendment (Again)

Remember how I told you and told you and told you and told you and told you about the Iron Law of Data Collection? That no matter what the government says or promises, data, once collected, will find other uses and will, inevitably, eventually be abused. Remember how the U.S. Government promised that their bulk data collection was for fighting terrorism only and would never be released to other agencies or used for other purposes?

The government's data collection is no exception to the iron law, of course, and in a FISA ruling from 2015 recently unsealed, the government admits that terrorism data is being used for routine law enforcement purposes. FISA, demonstrating its contortionist proclivities, managed to twist itself into believing that this was somehow compatible with the fourth amendment. It isn't, of course, but nothing must be allowed to interfere with the iron law.

This abuse is justified under §702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which is scheduled to expire in 2017. When it comes up for renewal, you can be sure that the government will paint dark pictures of our future if they are precluded from collected this data. When they do, remember two things:

  1. They've already abused the data and will doubtless find new uses for it.
  2. The government is still struggling to point to a single instance (except for four guys who conspired to contribute $8,500 to the Al Shabaab group in Somalia) where their data collection led to actionable intelligence.

It won't be long before some divorce lawyer—using the government's own arguments—will insist that because the data is there and already used for routine purposes, his client should be allowed access to his or her spouse's email and texts.

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