“Other than the vague threat of an Orwellian dystopia, as a society we don’t really know why surveillance is bad,” writes Washington University Law Professor, Neil Richards [PDF]. Today, the United State Senate reauthorized a controversial Obama-supported surveillance law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008 (FISA), which permits intelligence agencies to monitor international communications, sometimes without a warrant and little court oversight.
Civil libertarians are up in arms, but in the face of deadly terrorist threats, does government monitoring actually harm people? Richards’ attempts to argue that brazen government spying does, indeed, have real-world harms, including mass self-censorship and blackmail, and supplies moderately compelling evidence that will appeal to those naturally scared of the government.
Without the Senate’s support, FISA’s powers were set to expire at the end of the year. Fierce FISA critic, Senator Ron Wyden (CrunchGov Grade: A), who…
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