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Unread 12.21.07, 06:10 PM
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Wave goodbye to privacy

Wave goodbye to privacy

You may want to think before you send your next email. A central witness in a California lawsuit against AT&T recently testified that in 2003, he helped connect a device that diverted and copied every (EVERY!) phone call, email, and Internet site accessed on AT&T lines onto a government supercomputer.

Somewhere, George Orwell is smiling.

This testimony comes to light as Congress looks to pass new legislation to amend the 1978 Foreign Surveillance Act. The new version of the law would protect telecommunications companies from civil lawsuits that may arise from allegedly giving government agencies access to peoples' private emails and phone calls without a court order between 2001 and 2007.

Last summer, Congress changed the same law to allow the government to eavesdrop inside the United States without court permission, as long as one end of that conversation believed to be originating from outside the U.S. (You know that the operative phrase in that last sentence is "believed to be.") This law went by the wayside because it was said to be "obstructing intelligence gathering." Get used to that phrase.

Think that's bad? During the debate over the latest amendment, Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence said, "It is time people in the United States changed their definition of privacy." It's as if a character from 1984 sprung from the page and started spewing double-speak, isn't it?

I believe the threat of terrorism to be real. And I'm happy when the government is actively doing something to try and root out the threat before it can do more harm. But as the struggle against terrorism continues, our privacy rights will continue to dwindle in the name of national security. And no matter the reason, loss of privacy is supremely un- American.

Watching the watchers and reporting back,

William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.
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