Another issue raised by the Los Angeles Times on the spying program is the fact that there are instances “where one end is foreign and you don’t know where the other is” (Singel, 2007). This only means that the requisite warrants must still be obtained because there is a possibility that the other end of communication may be directed to a person in the U. S. (Singel, 2007). To the many, the hastily passed PAA is a curtailment of the civil liberties of ordinary American people. This was viewed as such on account of the period of time when this law was passed—a week before congressional recess.
Many view this as limited period of time for democracy to take place. The provisions of the law were not even submitted to hearings and deliberations by the public. The constituent public was not accorded a period to express their views, i. e. assent or dissent to the law. The main reason why this was not passed after the first extension is the fact that there is a provision that grants immunity to communications and telephone companies including internet service providers to any liability for breaching privacy rights of their clients to assist the government in pursuit of its spying program under the PAA.
This was viewed as giving the telephone and communications companies a “free pass” for violating anti-wiretapping laws (Standler, 2008). This further contradicts the proviso of the law which authorizes the telephone and communications companies to raise the issue of surveillance before the FISA court because; after all they are already immune from suit by their clients (Standler, 2008). Conclusion The United States is a democracy and civil liberties enjoyed by its citizenry and people are held in the highest esteem.
Despite the heated rhetoric on the necessity and passage of an amendatory law to the FISA and the provisions of the PAA, what must be scrutinized is the manner by which this law was passed and how the provisions of the amendatory law affect the rights and liberties of the Americans. The need to address the issue of terrorism and the appropriate tools that government must provide in order to eliminate another 9/11 attack cannot be overstressed. However, government must see to it first that the procedures and processes by which this is achieved fall with in the bounds and parameters of the constitutional values and mandate.
The hurried manner by which the PAA was passed and enacted reflects the disregard for popular consultation. According to Standler, “democracy was not allowed to set in” (Standler, 2008). The people did not have ample time to convey their views and sentiments to their elected representatives. All government power emanates from the people; as such the people should be consulted on a matter that would greatly and deeply affect the societies they live in. The right to privacy or the right to be secure against unlawful intrusions of the government as embodied in the U. S. Constitution should be respected.
The right to privacy remains to be controversial as its curtailment is tantamount to expanding the power of the government to regulate and direct behavior for the good of a society and conversely, any expansion of the right to privacy is a limitation to governmental power. Necessarily, the PAA or any law that shall amend the provisions of the FISA will diminish the ‘private sphere of a person’s liberty and freedom. ’ These are totally opposed and contending forces which must be balanced and blended so that neither one can be exploited and sacrificed in favor of the other.
Finally, there seems to be no transparency in the surveillance and spying program of government. The accountability features and oversight are not properly fixed under the law. While there are reportorial requirements to be submitted, experience has revealed that there has been an under reporting of the abuses committed in implementing the program. Again, while the court of review is given the authority to review the domestic spying program; it is only limited to throw out those which it deems to be erroneous. This limited capacity of the court imperils any U. S. citizen who may have become a victim of senseless spying.
The law simply lacks the strength of accountability and ‘checks and balances’ mechanism to provide protection and even vindication in cases of abuses of its power and authority. It also is evident that the government in crafting the provisions of the law failed to take into consideration all possible instances which will require surveillance and spying. For instance, it failed to consider the instance when although communication emanates from a foreign country or a territory outside of the U. S. , but said information is directed to an American recipient within the U. S. territory.
Any spying therefore must be covered by a warrant. Clearly, the law was not well thought of as there are certain loopholes to be plugged. In sum, considering that it would be the rights and liberties of the people that would be eventually curtailed; it is only but logical that they must be consulted and that their views be taken before crafting the provisions of the law. It is only through a popular and enlightened consultation that any law that seeks to amend and update FISA, would be successful and acceptable to a constitutional democracy.
- Congresspedia web site. Protect America act. Retrieved on March 17, 2008, from http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/407/297.html