Obama administration 'took Bush's warrantless surveillance to another level'

Obama administration 'took Bush's warrantless surveillance to another level'
The Obama Administration claims it is different from its predecessor, yet it has taken George Bush’s warrantless surveillance to new extremes, Dr. Binoy Kampmark, a lecturer at Australia’s RMIT University told RT.

Amid growing public uproar spurred by the disclosure of two massive secret US surveillance programs, American intelligence services confirmed they collect the private messages of millions of Internet users. However, they insist that the mass surveillance only targeted “non-US persons” who are outside the country.

Dr. Kampmark told RT that he believes this explanation is “nonsense.”

RT:The American intelligence chief claims the data collections are targeting only “non-US persons” outside the US. Do you buy into that explanation, that millions of Americans were not affected?

BK: No, I don’t. I actually think that the point about it is mass surveillance, the point about it is that the tapping into – for example through the order as was mentioned in the broadcast from the foreign intelligence surveillance court –  is that Verizon, for example, full access has been given to virtually all the messages that are sent.

The idea that there are American citizens or non-citizens being involved in this is total nonsense. The fact is that all people are involved. Precisely because a lot of communications involves American service, they might be taking place in another country. But that’s irrelevant. The fact and the matter is that the surveillance establishment that has been created is monitoring these communications as well.

RT:The spy chief also said that the disclosure of a secret court document on phone record collection threatened “irreversible harm.” Do you believe citizens must know of such sweeping surveillance?

BK: Yes, I certainly do think it’s very important that citizens do understand where they are when it comes to the government they have in the country they are in, because, quite frankly, such particular measures that have been taken are extraordinary and quite vast.  What is very interesting about the Obama administration is that they, the officials of the Administration, claim they are quite different from the Bush administration.

What George Bush Jr. did was essentially a case of warrantless surveillance: So that was no warrant, it was surveillance taken en mass. And then, what the Obama administration has done is taken it effectively to another level, for example, using such acts as the Protect America Act of 2007 and the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance] Amendment Act of 2008. We are talking about extensive surveillance. And I think citizens should know exactly what is happening when it comes to these sorts of things. 

RT:  Such tactics are allegedly used to combat terrorism. If it was indeed helping to prevent attacks, does the end justify the means here?

BK: I don’t really think so. [One of the senators] connected with the intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein makes the point that this is all part of the business, “we need to know what’s going on there.” Which is fine; that’s not in itself an objection. But I think it’s fundamental that people do know that this is what is being done. The very curious remarks that have been made some of the senators – one of them is Senator [Saxby] Chambliss – is that no one has made a complaint about what is being done. But obviously people have not complained because they absolutely have no idea that the material that they are putting forth through social media, for example, are actually being tapped into by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI.