June 26, 2013
By John Glaser

Despite continuing efforts to politicize the revelations about the NSA’s domestic spying programs, the leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden transcend America’s trivial two-party politics. This isn’t Republicans versus Democrats. It’s the government versus the people.

In early 2002, President George W. Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to spy on the electronic communications of Americans without first getting court approval. This was a direct violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which required the government to obtain a warrant showing probable cause that their target was an agent of a foreign power or terrorist organization.

The FISA Amendments Act of 2008, renewed in 2012 with enthusiastic support from the Obama administration, retroactively legalized much of the Bush administration’s illegal domestic spying program by authorizing broad, warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international communications, largely in secret.

But even the loose standards set by the FISA Amendments Act, writes Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute, were “almost immediately misused, resulting in ‘significant and systemic’ overcollection of Americans’ purely domestic communications.”

Snowden’s leaks have substantiated that the NSA not only fails to get individualized warrants, but that it collects, in bulk, the call data of virtually all Americans and stores the content of our Internet activities, including emails, file transfers, instant messages and browsing histories.

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