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Horrors of Society: Surveillance

The government is listening to and watching you. Let's give them something to talk about! On this episode, the ghouls talk about how exactly the government watches us, why they get away with it and what's the deal with Edward Snowden, whistleblower or traitor? How does your Facebook friends count affect government surveillance and more! We watched Snowden (2018) and played Orwell, the video game. 

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Kat's Facts - Why we should be afraid

So let’s start with the what: The government has been spying on us since technology gave them the means to do so. I remember being in 7th grade, we were talking about the Patriot Act in History class, and I remember this vividly cause it was one of the times that I got called on to answer a question, and actually had an answer. I had gone to Olive Garden with my Grandpa the night before, as we often did when I was younger, and he talked to me about current events, which happen to be about the Patriot Act at the time cause I was 12 and I guess that’s what you talk about. So our teacher asks us, What is the Patriot Act, and is it good or bad? And my 12 year old self stands up proudly and says “The Patriot Act is an abuse of our 4th Amendment rights.” Mind you the only reason I knew that was because my Grandpa told me about it the night before, but still I was like feelin myself feeling all politically woke or whatever. So moral of the story is, we been known, and we still are kinda just like eh the terms and conditions are really long, I think ima just scroll and agree, it’s probs fine. Ultimately I think it comes down to us not really getting the severity of it all, and not really grasping the true depth of power the government has through this action of essentially illegally tapping into our digital lives. It kinda ties back to that privileged thought that well if they have nothing to hide then they shouldnt mind being searched. It goes back to thinking people deserve what they get, and that like the great ol government wouldn’t search through nice peoples stuff. They’re looking for terrorists, so like why should I be worried right? Well we should 100% be worried. It gives the government the means and the control to influence us even further. Our last ep touched on how big money rich people fuel the government and thus control the populace. Imagine adding the fear that all your conversations and feelings that you’ve privately expressed could be manipulated and taken out of context to create the implication of guilt. Taking out of context information and using it as “evidence” to convict you of a crime, or to blackmail you. We easily could have our most private information, secrets, pictures, used against us because they live in our devices and we think that they are safe in there. Snowden and other whistleblowers lit it up when they let everyone know the true depth to which the US govn, NSA, and FISA have been spying on us. The use of phone and internet metadata, and communication logs, for domestic and foreign observation. The actions being taken without a warrant, and trials being held without public knowledge or a jury. Ultimately the Government acting extremely illegally and then being real butt hurt when they got caught. We’ll get into the details of Snowden when we get to our films though. Today though, according to the ACLU:

Congress has just decide on the fate of The Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act of 2020, introduced by a bipartisan group of members including Sens. Wyden (D-Ore.) and Daines (R-Mont.). The bill is a response to the spying abuses that seem to pile up by the day — the collection of over a billion call records, spying on a prominent Trump advisor based on flawed evidence, and use of extraordinary measures to prevent courts from judging the legality of the government’s practices.

  1. strong reforms to Section 215 of the Patriot Act — The bill puts a definitive end to the call record program, which was recently suspended by the NSA amid a cascade of reports revealing unauthorized record collections and legal violations. The bill also heightens the legal standard that the government must meet to collect records under Section 215 and rightly requires the government to purge those records within three years, with limited exceptions.

  2. The bill also attempts to rein in other national security authorities that the government has abused. For example, it inserts a sunset into the Justice Department’s “National Security Letter” administrative subpoena authorities, which the government has often misused to collect information in non-terrorism cases and pressure companies to turn over information that the government should only be demanding with a court-ordered warrant in hand.

  3. The bill takes a first step towards ensuring that individuals trapped in the government’s surveillance regime can better exercise their constitutional rights. In particular, the bill requires the government to notify individuals in cases where information “obtained” or “derived” from Section 215 collection is used against them. It also defines the meaning of “derived,” in FISA, to prevent the government from engaging in legal gymnastics and evading its notice obligations.

  4. the bill takes an initial step towards reforming the secretive, one-sided intelligence court. The Carter Page debacle brought the deficiencies of the court into stark relief: despite numerous omissions and inaccuracies, the FISA court approved an initial application and three subsequent renewal applications targeting the Trump campaign advisor for surveillance. To help prevent these types of abuses in the future, the bill would enhance the power of amici curiae — “friends of the court” whom the FISC currently appoint in a narrow number of novel and significant cases — to raise concerns in a larger subset of proceedings or to recommend a case review by a higher court. In addition, the bill would put in place several added transparency measures to give the public a better understanding of how the government is using the Patriot Act and other spying powers.

For one, the bill fails to fully protect the rights of defendants by ensuring they have access to FISA applications and orders in cases where intelligence information is used against them. If, like Carter Page, someone was improperly surveilled on the basis of government misstatements or omissions, they should have the ability to prove the government was wrong. Along the same lines, the bill does nothing to ensure that individuals who are spied on — but never prosecuted — are notified. Criminal statutes like the Wiretap Act have long required after-the-fact notice to surveillance targets, with provisions designed to protect ongoing investigations. There is no reason that a similar requirement should not exist in the intelligence context.

Second, Congress needs to place greater limits on the Patriot Act and other surveillance powers to strengthen First Amendment protections and ensure intelligence authorities are not abusing the laws to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, and other protected characteristics.


Masks/Art against Suveillance - What can we do to fight it?