As Americans read stories about how the United Kingdom betrayed its own soldiers for daring to take a photo with Tommy Robinson or how the Deep State right here at home tried to spy on Donald Trump before he won the election, it’s nice to know that, since the Founding, the U.S. government has been limited in the ways it can use and abuse the citizen.
But what if there were a way around those pesky protections? That’s the question the Biden administration seems to be investigating today, and it may well have found an answer: public-private partnerships. You see, despite more recent legislation and technological advancements, the law still more or less protects Americans from their own government spying on them – but private companies are an entirely different story.
According to CNN, the Department of Homeland Security is discussing plans to join forces with outside entities as a way of circumventing the limitations it faces. Although the DHS has stated that all of its work is “consistent with the Constitution,” these would-be partnerships may provide an intelligence-gathering resource that is too hard to resist.
Liberty Is a Liability
Even with a slew of new laws and regulations coming out of Washington, D.C., the government is still limited by those pesky protections built into the Republic. Liberty is a liability for statists, and so they need a workaround. The answer, it seems, is letting private firms do the dirty work and simply pass along the results. These companies could do things the government can’t, like assume false identities to infiltrate groups and gain access to private messaging apps. While the government can’t go any deeper on social media than the public posts, the platforms themselves have access to all sorts of personal information, including private messages.
That’s the real and obvious way in which working with private parties circumvents government limitations, but what of the very real potential for hypothetical crimes? What would happen if a private party working with the government obtained interesting information through criminal means? How difficult would it be for the Department of Homeland Security to simply adopt a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for this kind of information?
FISA and FOIA Get the F Out
As Liberty Nation Legal Affairs Editor Scott D. Cosenza, Esq. pointed out, “the procedure of surveilling U.S. citizens under FISA offers a much lower hurdle for the government to overcome before they’re allowed to listen in on what Americans are saying.” But even then, there are hurdles. Why else would so many “flaws” have been necessary in the warrant application to spy on Carter Page? The legal authority to pay third parties for information, no questions asked, removes any need to go through this tedious process.
Then there’s the Freedom of Information Act. The FOIA is, as LN’s Sarah Cowgill put it, “a handy and frequently utilized tool for researchers, journalists, and other media types.” It allows people to request the facts directly from the relevant government agency. But here’s the kicker: It’s only applicable to federal agencies. If some private party did the dirty deeds – whether legal for a private party or not – there’s no way to hold the government accountable. Like Pontius Pilate, an agency can simply wash its proverbial hands of the matter and be absolved of all responsibility.
Read more from James Fite.