Ellen Ratner is the White House correspondent and bureau chief for the Talk Radio News service. She is also Washington bureau chief and political editor for Talkers Magazine. In addition, Ratner is a news analyst at the Fox News Channel.More ↓Less ↑
Our Founding Fathers would be turning over in their graves. They would not be very upset about Gen. David Petraeus and his affair, as Ben Franklin is said to have sired a few children out of wedlock.
They would have been upset by the government interference in privacy. Philandering is nothing new, and that was before Facebook and other forms of social media, including Gmail that General Patraeus used. It is quite astounding that the CIA director thought he could communicate with Paula Broadwell by putting communications in the draft folder and thinking no one would find it. Patraeus is, as they say, “so last century.”
Any decent private investigator who can get a few hours of access to his or Paula Broadwell’s computers could have gotten into his Gmail account. If a private investigator can hack into email, the government armed with court orders can do just about anything. Most Americans do not know that the government computers monitor all overseas email and phone calls and that the computers can pick up on 60,000 phone calls at one time. Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is another way the governments have access.
InformationWeek’s Thomas Claburn quotes Google senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou, “[G]overnment demands for user data have increased steadily since we first launched the Transparency Report.” In the first half of 2012, the period covered in the report, Chou said there were 20,938 inquiries from government organizations for information about 34,614 Google-related accounts.
That is a huge number. Basically, companies will chose the easiest way out: Fight the government or give in. And they almost always give in. Google has fought government intrusion, but it is big enough to do it. Small companies do not have the clout or the money. According to InformationWeek, however, Google complied with 90 percent of government requests.
So, now we move to a peskier problem: drones. Most Americans believe that drones are good thing. They save American lives by avoiding ground combat, they can kill with pinpoint accuracy and they kill the bad guys. Maybe. It all depends on how you classify insurgents and “bad guys.” There have been recent reports that all males of military age are classified as insurgents to lower the collateral damage counts. Others, and I am among the others, believe we have trial by jury and everyone deserves a fair trial. If a drone kills you and your family, there is no trial. Innocent lives are taken, along with the targeted “bad guy.”
What Americans aren’t considering is that drones are a slippery slope – and not just for killing bad guys without trial, but for privacy issues. Thom Hartmann, a well-known TV and radio host, wrote, “And this week, the Department of Homeland Security announced it plans to double its fleet of Predator drones flying inside the United States.
“Already, DHS has spent $250 million on a fleet of ten surveillance drones to fly U.S. skies – but according to the group California Watch, DHS signed a contract worth nearly $500 million to purchase an additional 14 drones to spy on us. DHS is also encouraging local police forces to purchase their own drones – and has dished out $4 million to local agencies to ‘accelerate’ the purchase of unmanned surveillance drones.”
What about our privacy rights? If the government can follow your love affairs, or how you spend your money and then track your movements, then where and when do you have privacy? This was not an issue that was discussed during the 2012 election, but it should have been.
Sen. Rand Paul is on this issue, and it is great that someone in Congress is. He wrote an op-ed declaring, “When I have friends over for a barbecue, the government drone is not on the invitation list. I do not want a drone monitoring where I go, what I do and for how long I do whatever it is that I’m doing. I do not want a nanny state watching over my every move.
We should not be treated like criminals or terrorists while we are simply conducting our everyday lives. We should not have our rights infringed upon by unwarranted police-state tactics.”
He introduced a bill called the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012. Like most bills these days, it will get bogged down and not make it past committee. It is too bad. Sen. Paul has it right, and so did the Founding Fathers.