The Return of ‘Lawful Access’

by matttbastard

Well, isn’t this lovely:

The Conservative government is preparing sweeping new eavesdropping legislation that will force Internet service providers to let police tap exchanges on their systems – but will likely reignite fear that Big Brother will be monitoring the private conversations of Canadians.

The goal of the move, which would require police to obtain court approval, is to close what has been described as digital “safe havens” for criminals, pedophiles and terrorists because current eavesdropping laws were written in a time before text messages, Facebook and voice-over-Internet phone lines.

The change is certain to please the RCMP and other police forces, who have sought it for some time. But it is expected to face resistance from industry players concerned about the cost and civil libertarians who warn the powers will effectively place Canadians under constant surveillance.

Constant surveillance–how so?

The concern of critics is that unlike a traditional wiretap that cannot commence without judicial approval, lawful-access legislation in other countries has forced Internet providers to routinely gather and store the electronic traffic of their clients. Those stored data can then be obtained by police via search warrant.

“That means we’re under surveillance, in some sense, all the time,” said Richard Rosenberg, president of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. “I think that changes the whole nature of how we view innocence in a democratic society.”

Um, yeah, just a li’l bit.

Oh, and, via Michael Geist, it seems our loyal opposition is also doing its part to represent the best interests of the nation by, um, once again proposing its own lawful access legislation–a bill even more odious than the government’s’:

…Liberal MP Marlene Jennings has reintroduced her lawful access private member’s bill, called the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act.  The Jennings bill is a virtual copy of a failed Liberal lawful access bill that died in 2005.

[…]

[T]he Jennings bill would require ISPs to disclose customer name and address information to law enforcement without court oversight.

The Magical ConservaLiberal Unity Pony drops yet another stinking, steaming load on our heads; I love the smell of bipartisan turdblossoms in the morning.

Cough.  Anyway.

From what I can tell, the only substantive difference between Van Loan’s proposed piece of legislation and the one then-Public Safety Minister Stockboy Day tried to surreptitiously impose in 2007 without any public input (before backpeddling quicker than you can say ‘Ogopogo’) is the apparent requirement of judicial approval (which, as noted, may not provide much in the way of protection for a citizen’s private online information–and  Jennings’ PMB offers, um, none).  Otherwise, the state will, in essence, be forcing ISPs to fulfill the darkest fantasies of the tinfoil-adorned black helicopter set.

And, as Impolitical (h/t) notes:

The dangers of such powers being placed with law enforcement and the potential for abuses have been made abundantly clear by the experience Americans have had with the Bush administration and the revelations from whistleblowers in the last year.

Two examples:

Am in full agreement with Geist here:

…Van Loan should commit to active consultations with the privacy community before introducing the legislation; renew the government’s pledge for full court oversight (including for customer name and address information); and there must be full hearings on the bill that place the burden on law enforcement to demonstrate that there is a problem with the law as it currently stands.

Bottom line: this is not a path any purportedly ‘free’ society should hastily embark upon.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Post-partisan Ass-covering

by matttbastard

Paul Krugman wades into the ongoing debate over whether Obama should look back or move forward with regards to extra-legal activities on the part of the outgoing administration:

Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.

[…]

Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.

First, let me make it clear that my sentiments directly and unequivocally intersect with Krugman’s, as outlined in this post. With that said, I’m all-too pessimistic about the likelihood of any serious investigations taking place. As Earl Ofari Hutchinson notes, members of the party that currently controls both branches of Congress (including and especially its leadership) also have bloodstained hands:

The Democratic-controlled Congress passed the “Protect America Act.” This put the Congressional stamp of approval on what Bush did and actually expanded his powers to snoop. The targets weren’t just foreign terror suspects and known operatives but American citizens. Democrats knew this and approved it by inserting in the law open ended wording that permitted legalized spying on anyone outside the U.S. who intelligence agencies “reasonably believed” to posses foreign intelligence information. The law deliberately made no distinction about exactly who the target could be. Then there was the infamous clause that granted immunity from lawsuits to communications service providers that made Bush snooping possible. With no fear or threat of legal action against the companies, the wraps were legally off on who could be snooped on. As an added sweetener the law also gave Bush emergency power to tap for up to a week anyone deemed a terror threat; all without a warrant.

And one can’t forget about the CIA’s torture enhanced interrogation program, of which top-level Democratic members of the House and Senate were informed early on of what was going on, yet at the time chose to do nothing. So, with all due respect to people like John Conyers Jr., any attempt to cast the spotlight on the many, many crimes committed over the past decade and hold everyone who is responsible accountable is, I fear, ultimately a futile pursuit. Forgive and (most importantly) forget will be the mantra that the Washington establishment continues to embrace, purely out of an unhealthy, cynical, yet entirely understandable bipartisan sense of self-preservation.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers