Now that Edward Snowden has given us an inkling of how far our government will go to invade our privacy , we are also learning that the oversight of that surveillance seems little more than a rubber stamp. Records reveal that members of the FISA* court, which grants the government the right to open our emails or listen to our phone conversations, has turned down only 10 request out of 10,909 between 2001 and 2012. Worse, FISA judges are appointed by one person: the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. (“Robert’s power over surveillance,” by Ezra Klein, excerpted from Bloomberg.com for The Week, July 19, 2013)
So much authority resting in the hands of a single person is worrying enough. But Anne Flaherty of the Associate Press has come up with another set of facts equally troubling. The invasion of our privacy isn’t free. To accommodate surveillance activities, telephone companies “are raking in millions in U. S. Tax dollars in hefty fees.” (“The high cost of snooping,” by Ann Flaherty, excerpted in The Week 7/ 19, 2013 pg. 10)
AT&T, for example, charges the government a $325 “activation fee” for each wiretap and $10 to maintain it. Verizon charges $776 for the first month and $500 after that for access. Microsoft, Yahoo and Google refuse to reveal what they charge. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, an email can be turned over for a mere $25. (Ibid, pg. 10.)
I admit, information like Flaherty’s forces me to wonder if American enterprise doesn’t sometimes make the Chinese drool. We’ve invented a system whereby those subjected to surveillance get stuck with the tab. Now that’s ingenious.
(Courtesy of www.inkity.com)
*Court created as part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act