The news headlines read: Government Files Charges Against NSA Contract Leaker Edward Snowden, who recently fled his first foreign refuge, Hong Kong, to fly to Russia and search for another country willing to adopt him.
So, where are the other headlines exclaiming: Government Sues or Charges Federal Officials with Invasion of Private Citizens' Communications?
The news headlines read: Government Files Charges Against NSA Contract Leaker Edward J. Snowden, who recently fled his first foreign refuge, Hong Kong, to fly to Russia and search for another country willing to adopt him.
Snowden is the former private contract employee for a company doing billions of dollars of top secret security work for the National Security Agency. NSA has intercepted billions of private telephone and computer communications in the name of searching for terrorists.
So, where are the other headlines exclaiming: Government Sues or Charges Federal Officials with Invasion of Private Citizens' Communications? There are billions of telephones and Internet sites overseen and collected by this National Secirity Agency monitoring. Unless the probe is secret, it seems the federal authorities are saying none of the federal officials' collection of those billions of private communications showed any irregularities at all.
However, The New York Times on Monday (6/24/13) quoted Snowden as telling Thee South China Morning Post that the NSA "had tapped into Chinese mobile telephone companies to read millions of text messages;" and "hacked dozens of computers at the prestigious Tsunghua University in Beijing and other companies operated by Pacnet, a major telecommunications company with headquarters in Hong Kong and Singapore." The Times goes on to quote The Guardian newspaper as reporting that in 2009 the United States accessed the conference communications of Dmitri A. Medvedev, then Russia's president and now its prime minister.
Not many major news stories, if any, have mentioned that there are federal and state criminal laws, in addition to the civil ones, that could be used to arrest and charge government officials illegally intercepting wire and Internet private dialogues.
The American Civil Liberties Union is indeed suing members of President Obama's national security team over the National Security Agency's worldwide telephone surveillance of billions of private individuals. But, the government is saying it has only collected detailed and actual telephonic or Internet communications on suspected terrorists. The other millions of Intercepts contained only identifying data and not communications, say federal authorities.
But, victims and their supporting legal experts, object that not only is NSA illegally invading their telephone and Internet privacy, but public communications firms like Verizon and AT&T are willingly assisting the government's illegal efforts. Similar questions have been raised about the conduct of such Internet social networking companies as Facebook and LinkedIn, but their spokespersons deny any improper public interception cooperation with NSA.
However, NSA admits it is especially focusing legally on suspicious foreign calls into the United States, as they can sometimes be outside terrorists' communications. So, is NSA saying that the investigators did not look at or hear a single mistaken intercepted conversation of communication in those hordes of intercepts?
This special foreign intercept focus has created diplomatic problems for the United States' relations with foreign governments, objecting to likely improper or illegal intercepts of communications with no terrorist value.
Since the federal authorities are pursuing Snowden, who worked for a NSA private security vendor, for his newspaper exposes of over the top NSA intercepts of phone and Internet communications, why not include NSA's and other federal intercept officials in their probe? Maybe they have, but it hasn't leaked out into the media?
Computer trespass is a separate form of crime in Kansas, North Caroline, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington. In Kansas, the crime specifications are simple: " Computer trespass is intentionally, and without authorization accessing or attempting to access any computer, computer system, computer network or computer software, program, documentation, data or property contained in any computer, computer system or computer network." Federal officials are not immune, according to this very language.
California law appears to possibly apply to irregularities in NSA's and other federal officials' intercepts. Certainly, it raises the query of why pursue Snowden, and not your very own federal officials. It says: "Every person who, intentionally and without the consent of all parties to a confidential communication, by means of any electronic amplifying or recording device, eavesdrops upon or records the confidential communication, whether the communication is carried on among the parties in the presence of one another or by means of a telegraph, telephone, or other device, except a radio, shall be punished by a maximum $2,500 fine or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both."
Above and beyond these state laws are federal ones like the National Information Infrastructure Act, providing criminal prosecution for knowingly accessing a computer without authorization or "exceeding authorized access for reasons of national defense or foreign relations, or any restricted data."
Federal civil law prevents invasion of the right to privacy. " It can be the basis for a lawsuit for damages against the person or entity violating the right. These include the Fourth Amendment right to be free of unwarranted search or seizure, the First Amendment right to free assembly, and the Fourteenth Amendment due process right, recognized by the Supreme Court as protecting a general right to privacy within family, marriage, motherhood, procreation, and child rearing," says Wikipedia.
We, the public, have to guess that federal officials would be intelligent enough not to breach this law. But we still need to presume that this is so.
Thomas D. Williams, a freelance writer, worked at The Hartford Courant for almost 40 years before retiring in November 2005 to become an investigative freelancer on Internet news sites. He has written a unique nature book, The Spirits of Birds, Bears, Butterflies and All Those Other Wild Creatures. It's summaries, photos and videos are posted on the Internet at http://www.birdscrittersbutterflies.webs.com/
After graduating from Middlebury College in 1962, he became a military intelligence officer specializing in investigating North Korean border crossers and in working on secret and top secret security clearances for government employees in Washington, D.C.
Throughout his career at the Courant, he has been a town reporter, a night police reporter, a state desk reporter, a state and federal court reporter and an investigative team reporter. He has been a supervisor of state reporters assigned to investigative work.
Williams has worked on countless investigations of governmental and business corruption. His earliest inquiries involved the exploitation of immigrants by high priced lawyers using U.S. Congressmen to obtain private immigration bills; and the exorbitant fees charged by lawyers friendly with a Hartford Probate Judge, eventually leading to the state's first impeachment inquiry of the judge. Still other of Williams' inquiries included an expose of Bridgeport Superior Court judge appointing and hiring his friends and relatives for court jobs; an extensive three week two-reporter car surveillance of the state's tax collector who was loafing on state time; misspending of state and federal grants and logging funds by Schaghticoke leaders on the Kent reservation; significant pollution of potential drinking water supplies by Kaman Aerospace; monopoly trash contractors overcharging customers; contract manipulations for companies with political influence at the Mid-Connecticut trash-to-energy plant and the banking bill voting records of legislators with bank interests.
In the past 15 years, he has worked extensively on investigative stories involving so called mysterious Persian Gulf War illnesses haunting U.S. and allied troops, the hazards of depleted uranium munitions and on articles controversies over the safety and legality of the military's mandatory anthrax vaccine.
Throughout his career, Dennie has received numerous local, state and national journalism awards, primarily for investigative reporting.
After retiring from The Courant in November 2005, Williams began freelancing for several Connecticut papers including The Connecticut Law Tribune and for Truthout.org and The Public Record http://pubrecord.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=1, both in depth and investigative reporting news sites.