The Senate voted to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but they nixed an amendment which would have required the government to report on American citizens who are caught up in the surveillance. I love the way the AP reported on the supporters of the amendment [emphasis added]:
The Senate majority rejected arguments from an unusual combination of Democratic liberals and ideological Republican conservatives, who sought to amend the bill to require the government to reveal statistics showing whether any Americans were swept up in the foreign intercepts. The attempt lost, with 52 votes against and 43 in favor.
Um, aren’t the liberal Democrats also ideological? Why did the AP only apply that term to conservative Republicans?
Anyway, Reason’s Scott Shackford wonders why Americans aren’t as upset about the government invading their privacy as they are about Facebook, which nobody is forced to sign up for.
The traditional media response to the reauthorization battle has been remarkably nonexistent. As I was managing my shift updating Reason 24/7 yesterday afternoon I was learning the outcomes of the votes not from the Associated Press or anything that popped up on my Google newsfeed, but from tweets from the likes of Adam Serwer of Mother Jones or Julian Sanchez of Cato.
There’s currently nothing on the New York Times web site about the votes (either yesterday’s or today’s). The Associated Press wrote a story about the House’s vote in September but nothing yet from yesterday or today. The Washington Post did post a story this morning. A Google news search will land hits with mostly tech or web-based media outlets.
Compare the lack of response to the way people react to privacy breaches connected to Facebook or Twitter. Media outlet after media outlet carriedreports about a private picture of Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, accidentally being made public somehow through social media channels. And how many of your Facebook friends posted that silly, pointless “privacy notice” on their walls?
The easy response is to blame the media for not keeping the public informed. And while Congress’ and the Obama Administration’s palpable disdain for both the Fourth and Fifth Amendments should horrify all Americans, it should be fairly clear by now that maybe it doesn’t for large swaths of people. Media outlets are responding to their respective markets. Those who are covering FISA are doing so because their readers have expressed an interest.
The degradation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments is an academic or theoretical matter for so many people and often lacks a strong human narrative to draw public outrage. Indeed, the very secrecy behind the application of federal domestic wiretapping has made it impossible to introduce a human narrative.
Our government can secretly spy on us without oversight, but we hear nary a peep about this egregious violation of our rights and the law.
Oh, and I won’t hold my breath waiting for a veto from The Most Transparent President Evah.