Is Big Brother Watching You?

It seems fitting that 2014 will be the 30th anniversary of the date of George Orwell's famous novel "1984", as personal privacy from government may have disappeared.
Due to "leaks" by Edward Snowden earlier this year, it became known that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been engaged in a massive collection of domestic communications of American citizens, ranging from emails and Facebook accounts to cellphone calls, contact lists and possibly location, and estimated to cover 75% of domestic internet traffic.

Originating from provisions of the Patriot Act passed after 9/11, the powers of the NSA have been authorized by the secret opinions of a secret court (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court).  Initially limited to foreign surveillance, NSA's powers were secretly expanded to include domestic communications in 2011. 

Until the leaks, the extent of domestic data collection was kept hidden even from most members of Congress.  The Director of the NSA subsequently admitted to "misleading" Congress in March when he denied that such a program existed.

The defenders of the programs say that the domestic data will not be misused,  but it has been reported that thousands of known violations have occurred every year, including spying on  personal "love interests".

This secret domestic surveillance has many citizens concerned, creating a rare coalition of liberals and conservatives in opposition.

While several top Congressional leaders support the surveillance programs, there is a bi-partisan backlash from many others.  In July, a House bill to limit collection of phone call data was defeated only narrowly.  A Senate bill to significantly restrict domestic surveillance has been introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden which has substantial bipartisan support.

Among the many questions that have been raised:

Is the current NSA  collection of domestic communications of U. S. citizens Constitutional and legal?

Is extensive collection of citizens' personal data really necessary to deal with domestic terrorism?  Is it worth our loss of privacy?

Should there be public accountability and transparency for the process?

If the NSA programs are so successful, should they be expanded to use for law enforcement purposes, such as organized crime, Medicare and tax fraud, illegal immigration, drug usage, etc. Or will they be used, like the recent IRS targeting, for political purposes.

Is Eric Snowden a modern-day Daniel Ellsberg?


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

7:30 am: Coffee & Networking
7:45-8:45 am: Presentation/Discussion

FAU/BCC Higher Education Complex, 111 E. Las Olas, Room 1110 

Parking available in the City Garage

RSVP to Robert A. Dressler

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