Amidst the major global stories about the Ukrainian crisis, the Syrian civil war, the missing Malaysian airliner, etc., there was a story that deserved considerable attention, but it was quickly removed from the headlines and TV cable news programs. It should have been page 1 news for many days as it affects everyone’s lives and where the USA is going as a nation. I wanted to post about it when the story came out, but am finally giving it some of the attention it deserves.
In January 2014, the “Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board” of the US Federal Government (had you ever heard of that wing of the federal government before?) issued a ruling that the NSA’s massive spying program targeting the private information of law-abiding US citizens was “illegal” (first link). This Board voted 3-2 that “The bulk telephone records program lacks a viable legal foundation…implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter and has shown only limited value.” Please read that again. The US Federal Government’s own Board that monitors such issues found the NSA’s spying program lacks either a constitutional or a legal basis for its existence.
The second link adds that this Federal Board recommended that the NSA should “purge its massive inventory of millions of Americans calling records.” To undo the wrongs of the NSA’s super-secret spying program, no less an action than this was deemed necessary by the majority of the panel members of this Board. Interestingly, the two dissenting votes were from members appointed not by President Obama but by President Bush. It now seems apparent, based on media reports, that it was under President Bush that this “unconstitutional” and “illegal” spying program began. Even one of the sponsors (Rep. Sensenbrenner R-WI) of the Patriot Act, which has been used to justify this massive NSA spying on law-abiding US citizens, has gone on record that the NSA’s spying went far beyond anything permitted by the Patriot Act (as documented in previous posts).
I can recall when the Patriot Act was being debated in Congress in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedies. One item of debate was whether “roving wiretaps” could be permissible. A “roving wiretap” would be one which would permit law enforcement agencies to track or spy not only on the phones that were being used by suspected terrorists or criminals but also upon those whose phone numbers were called by people whose phones were being tapped via a search warrant due to probable cause of wrongdoing. I recall one member of Congress arguing against roving wiretaps on the ground that “even terrorists call out for pizza.” No one ever dreamed in that debate that the Constitution would be so ignored and that the Patriot Act would be so contorted to permit spying on everyone…all the time…everywhere…by any electronic means available to the NSA.
The fig leaf that the NSA used to justify this wild spying effort was that it was permitted by the secretive FISA court. In my view, the FISA court is to a real court what a diploma mill is to a real University. The FISA court, according to media articles cited in previous posts on this topic, almost never refuses any NSA request for a search warrant. That is why the vast throngs of millions of Americans who have not been suspected of any wrongdoing of any kind are still being spied upon as if they were suspected terrorists or criminals. Another way of looking at the NSA’s essentially “in-house FISA court” is to liken it to a secret court of the foxes who always decide that it is the right of the foxes to go into every chicken coop to steal whatever the chickens have. Many readers will recall that a US Federal Judge has also ruled that the NSA’s “spying on the innocent ” program is “likely unconstitutional” (third link). One of my favorite TV shows is NCIS and in one of them Agent Gibbs tells a person that they could be arrested for “illegal surveillance.” A Federal Judge and the Federal Government’s own watchdog Board have gone on record that everyone in the NSA involved with spying on people who have had no search warrant issued against them for likely wrongdoing is apparently guilty of “illegal surveillance.” If the US Supreme Court ultimately rules the NSA massive spying program against innocent people was and is unconstitutional, a lot of NSA officials and personnel will be looking to the White House for presidential pardons.
I’m sure the founding fathers would be horrified at the NSA’s spying program. They were so concerned about people’s right to privacy that they wrote a Constitution which included the Fourth Amendment. Courts have long ruled that law enforcement agencies can only enter a person’s physical premises with a search warrant, and even then, a Judge must be convinced that there is probable cause of wrongdoing before issuing such a search warrant. I can see no reason why the Constitution should not also be understood to mean that one’s electronic premises cannot be violated without the same necessity of a search warrant issued only after probable cause of wrongdoing is demonstrated to a Judge.
The ultimate ruling of the Supreme Court on this issue is of major biblical significance. Revelation 13 foretells that a global governmental system will emerge at the very end of this age that is led by miracle-working deceivers, and that this system will have the power to monitor and control everyone’s financial transactions (verse 17). The NSA’s massive spying program all over the world is putting in place the global monitoring system whereby the eventual “beast” system could monitor and control everyone. If the US Supreme Court rules the NSA’s spying effort must be ended and its records dumped, it signals to me that the beast system’s reign may not be as oppressive or recognizable as many Christians expect. After all, Jesus Christ himself warned that the final system on earth would be so deceptive that it will appeal even to “the very elect” (Matthew 24:24). The final beast system will be doing and saying things that many Christians will like.
I’m hoping the US Supreme Court supports the founding fathers’ original intent in this matter, and that the US Congress will finally do something and place specific limits on all government spying efforts so they require search warrants based on actual evidence of wrongdoing before anyone’s physical or electronic premises can be searched.