Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Patriot Act, Cyber-Edition

Lockheed Martin employees at work in the company's NexGen Cyber Innovation and Technology Center, which monitors internet threats, in Gaithersburg, Maryland. (photo: Eric Schulzinger/Lockheed Martin Corp.)
By Zachary Katznelson, American Civil Liberties Union
24 October 11

Cybersecurity is the new buzzword in Washington, capturing a wide range of potential responses to internet-related threats both real and imagined. Congress is starting to play a role, considering legislation that purports to make cyberspace more secure. But many of the solutions being offered echo those of the deeply flawed Patriot Act, enacted ten years ago this month.
Just as the Patriot Act swept aside long-standing constitutional protections against government prying into private lives, current cybersecurity proposals threaten to expand the government's ability to collect personal information - even when there is no indication that the people targeted have been involved in any wrongdoing.

Over the past decade, we have learned that such policies fail on two fronts: they are largely ineffective and they violate civil liberties.

The Patriot Act presumes that if the government could know more of what we do with our daily lives by monitoring our e-mails and phone calls, downloading our financial transactions, and tracking our locations, it could spot patterns and find terrorists. The Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches have mattered little as claims of national security swept such concerns aside.

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