It's bad enough that the NSA is spying on every call we make. But that doesn't stop state and local law enforcement from wanting in on the all-you-can-eat surveillance buffet. Here in Massachusetts, Attorney-General Martha Coakley is proposing a bill that would allow the AG and the DAs to take out electronic wiretaps for an array of much more minor crimes than is presently allowed. More worryingly, the bill would also allow wiretaps at phone company switching stations, meaning that your phone call data could be collected if you merely share a phone company with a suspect.
I'm horrified at this, and for the last few months I've been working on a petition to stop it, which launches today. I would love some MassKossack signups!
Follow me below the orange fruitloop for details.
The bill, called “An Act Updating The Wire Interception Law” (S. 654 / H. 3261), will come up for a hearing before the Judiciary Committee of the Massachusetts legislature on July 9. Its major provisions would:
1) Remove the requirement that an electronic wiretapping warrant be connected with organized crime, or indeed with serious crimes more generally. Potentially, even minor crimes like marijuana possession could become eligible for wiretapping by state authorities.
2) Double the length of an authorized wiretap, from 15 to 30 days.
3) Legalize mass interception of communications at telecommunications switching stations, rather than through individual wiretaps on individual phone numbers.
To me, the first two of these are unwise, and the last is flat-out unconstitutional. The Fourth Amendment requires particularity: you can't just collect everybody's stuff and then promise only to look at the stuff that pertains to the investigation of a crime.
I'm doing this on my own time, entirely with our own funds, though I have arranged for the ACLU, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future to all launch petitions today on the same issue. I intend to bring the completed petitions to the Judiciary Committee hearing, and to set up constituent meetings with key legislators.
Seriously, we need to stop this thing. We may not be able to take down the NSA, but there's every chance we can stop this before it spreads. The AG claims it's about reducing crime (of course), but it really is not: we're blessed with historically low crime rates. It's about keeping an eye on dissidents and troublemakers and people who seem out of the norm. Plus, we really must not allow the Democrats to become the party of Big Brother! So please sign, and share it with your friends.