I stayed up late last night to watch Frontline’s “United States of Secrets” and all I can say is “Wow.” Frontline, if you’re not familiar, is the best if not only, recurring documentary series on television. If you care about the Internet, Privacy, the Fourth Amendment or just the ins and outs of National Security, I urge you to watch “United States of Secrets” now. You can see it free on PBS.org
Prepare some snacks, because this episode is two hours long and it’s only part one. Trust me, it’s worth it. Frontline takes you step-by-step through the post-911 activities of the Bush administration’s efforts to systematically gather phone call and email data from EVERYONE. This is illegal, plain and simple. It’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The Bush administration, influenced by Dick Cheney, (of course) implements this warrantless wiretapping of the American People based on fear and the misguided notion that this is a necessary evil to protect the United States from future terrorist attacks. Frontline goes on to illustrate how the Bush administration used fear and intimidation to silence opposition, most notably, The New York Times.
Unfortunately, “United States of Secrets” isn’t just about the misdeeds of the Bush administration. For all his, “Hope and Change,” President Obama is guilty of the same disregard for privacy as his predecessor. The president is sworn to uphold the constitution of the United States. Both Bush and Obama have failed in this regard. What’s shocking to me is how up front some of these people are about their behavior. General Michael Hayden seems particularly proud of his actions in spite of the fact that he cooperated and facilitated spying on the American public.
The part that burns me the most is that the NSA had a program in place called “ThinThread” which would have allowed for the mass collection and encryption of email and phone call data. Data that could then be unencrypted with the application of a warrant. This would have protected privacy for everyone and been perfectly legal. The privacy provisions of “ThinThread” were stripped out.
The only good news I can take away from all this is that there were people of good conscience that tried to make a difference. People like Edward Loomis, Diane Roark, J. Kirk Wiebe, Thomas Drake, William Binney, Thomas Tamm and Jack Goldsmith recognized that what the NSA was doing (is still doing) violates the constitution of the United States and tried to do something about it. Unfortunately, many of these good people have paid a heavy price for doing the right thing.
Again, you can watch Frontline’s “United States of Secrets” for free now at PBS.org