Monday, May 14th, is the deadline for
cable modem companies, DSL providers, broadband over powerline, satellite internet companies and some universities to finish wiring up their networks with FBI-friendly surveillance gear, to comply with the FCC's expanded interpretation of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.
CALEA originally only applied to telephone communications, but last year the Federal Appeals Court in Washington, DC upheld an expanded interpretation of that law and applied it to internet service providers as well. It needs to be said that CALEA doesn't address the standard of evidence required to obtain warrants. Certainly, though, law enforcement agencies will be more likely to seek warrants on networks that have been made accessible to their preferred methods of eavesdropping.
What truly disturbs this partisan Democrat is that CALEA was passed and signed into law in 1994, by a Democratic Congress and Democratic President. I don't remember it's passing specifically, but the Democratic Party was fighting the perennial charges from the GOP that we are "soft on crime" or other such nonsense. This type of legislation is exactly the type of thing that Democrats of that time would pass in order to stave off - unsuccessfully, of course - the coming "Republican Revolution."
Right now the country is focused upon the myriad of ways the Bush Administration has attacked our fundamental rights as Americans: suspending habeas corpus, warrantless wiretapping, imprisoning individuals without charges, deporting prisoners to countries that will gladly torture them for us (when torturing them ourselves seems too inconvenient), maintaining secret prisons in Eastern Europe. And beyond all of that is the shadow cast by the war in Iraq, the wanton waste of American lives and treasure, the fact that we have made Iraq a much worse place than it was when ruled by one of the 20th century's most ruthless dictators.
These are GOP problems, though far too many Democrats have been complicit in making them happen. Other GOP problems, of course, are the US Attorney purge and the ever-widening corruption investigations into GOP Congresspersons. Places like TPMmuckraker.com and the rest of the liberal blogosphere are keeping busy just picking the low-hanging fruit.
But as the Bush presidency finally comes to a close and this nation begins it's difficult but happy task of assigning him to well-deserved oblivion (serving only as an example of exactly who we do not want in political office), the apparatus of the liberal blogosphere will not be able to rest or scale back. We are in the process of building incredible resources for ordinary citizens to keep an eye on what the government is doing, and these resources need to keep working no matter who holds a Congressional majority or is in the White House.
CALEA and the expanded interpretation of it are great examples of this need. The Democrats made the law, the Bush Administration sought the current expanded interpretation in 2002. It's my belief that private industries are not obligated to do law enforcement's job for them. It is my further belief that the American public's willingness to trade liberty for perceived increase in safety did not spring into being on September 11, 2001, though the events of that day and their subsequent manipulation by the GOP government have accelerated the process and put this attitude into sharp relief.
Our work has only just begun.
cross-posted at Ezra's place