Government seeks to redefine privacy
By PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 53
WASHINGTON - A top intelligence official says it is
time people in the United States changed their
definition of privacy.
Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald
Kerr, a deputy director of national intelligence.
Instead, it should mean that government and businesses
properly safeguards people's private communications
and financial information.
Kerr's comments come as Congress is taking a second
look at the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act.
Lawmakers hastily changed the 1978 law last summer to
allow the government to eavesdrop inside the United
States without court permission, so long as one end of
the conversation was reasonably believed to be located
outside the U.S.
The original law required a court order for any
surveillance conducted on U.S. soil, to protect
Americans' privacy. The White House argued that the
law was obstructing intelligence gathering.
The most contentious issue in the new legislation is
whether to shield telecommunications companies from
civil lawsuits for allegedly giving the government
access to people's private e-mails and phone calls
without a court order between 2001 and 2007.
Some lawmakers, including members of the Senate
Judiciary Committee, appear reluctant to grant
immunity. Suits might be the only way to determine how
far the government has burrowed into people's privacy
without court permission.
The committee is expected to decide this week whether
its version of the bill will protect
The central witness in a California lawsuit against
AT&T says the government is vacuuming up billions of
e-mails and phone calls as they pass through an AT&T
switching station in San Francisco.
Mark Klein, a retired AT&T technician, helped connect
a device in 2003 that he says diverted and copied onto
a government supercomputer every call, e-mail, and
Internet site access on AT&T lines.