Who May Be Spying on You ... and Why?
Whether the Bush administration can legally ignore the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that requires court approved warrants to search the phone records of Americans is a debate for constitutional scholars and lawyers.
As of this writing, the United States hasn’t been attacked again, although the United Kingdom, Indonesia and Spain have been.
The amassing of these data by government raise at least two serious collateral concerns:
1. How secure are the data? In the Dec. 13, 2005, edition of this e-zine, “Lost Data Threatens Security,” I described how the FBI lost more than 500 laptops and had no idea whether they contained any classified data. “One of the most flagrant computer-losers seems to be the U.S. government,” wrote Philadelphia Inquirer’s Akweli Parker this past Sunday. “In response to a congressional inquiry, the Commerce Department revealed last month that it had lost 1,137 computers since 2001, most of them belonging to the Census Bureau.” I have serious doubts that government data protection systems are as tight as those of, say, TRW/Experiàn, which were described in detail in my Dec. 13 story.
2. What are the ancillary uses of the data? For example, if the CIA discovers vast amounts of money are being moved around the world by American corporations, will the IRS be alerted so that it can go on a fishing expedition? I don’t trust Big Brother.
Individuals Spying on Individuals
To secretly intercept private communications without a court-ordered warrant is illegal under § 2511 of the U.S. Code titled “Interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications prohibited.”
The saga of Patricia Dunn’s four-count indictment is especially sad. A former director of Hewlett-Packard, she was elevated to chairman of the board following the firing of Fiorina and was very likely way over her head in terms of vision, experience and management skills. Dunn and four colleagues are accused of (1) conspiracy to commit crime; (2) fraudulent use of wire, radio or television transmissions; (3) taking copying and using computer data; and (4) using personal identifying information without authorization. According to The Wall Street Journal each charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. What makes Dunn’s situation poignant is that during the week of her indictment and arrest, she was scheduled to begin treatment for recurring ovarian cancer.