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27 Jan, 2009 06:34

Obama to cut U.S. wiretapping?

It has taken President Obama less than a week to make a u-turn on such workings of the Bush Administration like stem cell research and exhaust emissions. Civil rights organisations hope cuts to wiretapping will be next.

Imagine if someone was listening in on every phone conversations and reading every email – it doesn’t sound too comforting, but it is exactly what the U.S. government has been doing for quite some time.

A presidential order exists in America allowing the National Security Agency to monitor, without a warrant, the international – and sometimes domestic – telephone calls and emails of hundreds of thousands of citizens and legal residents inside the U.S.

J.D. Tuccille, a popular blogger based in Arizona, has been investigating the topic for years.

“We have a situation where our security apparatus – organisations like the NSA and also the FBI – are exercising warrantless wiretaps. They are operating these wiretap schemes outside of any sort of judicial review, and they are conducting surveillance on private Americans, and – disturbingly – on the media, behind the scenes, and using this information for we don’t know what,” J.D. says.

While the American government introduced these measures in the interest of national ‘security’, civil rights organisations and critics are outraged.

“They do it because of the ‘What if one person gets through?’ kind of argument. So I think part of it is that the people in intelligence are not so intelligent! We like to think that they are, that they know everything, they know everyone, they can track everyone and all the rest of it, but a lot of what they come up with is completely bogus,” Danny Schechter from New York says.

Danny – nicknamed “The News Dissector” – is an independent filmmaker, author and blogger. He says the spying has been going on for much longer than people think. At one point, he says, he was spied on, too:

“I had been under surveillance by the National Security Agency, which monitors telephones, and by the CIA, which intercepts mail and all the rest. I got back these files under our Freedom of Information Act showing blacked out documents, and when I analysed it, most of it was completely ridiculous!”

The new American government promises to be more transparent than the previous one, and to give Americans their freedoms back.

However, America’s new Attorney General has said that Obama’s administration will defend a controversial act protecting America’s telecommunications companies from many law suits concerning their involvement with the Bush Administration’s mass surveillance of telephone and internet communications.

This may already be an indication of whether or not the promises of change by Obama will be nothing more than just promises.