U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning on Tuesday announced her solution to the rampant and unchecked violations of privacy and civil liberties by U.S. government: Abolish the secret surveillance court.
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In a 129-page bill (pdf), the former intelligence analyst argues that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court system charged with processing government surveillance requests should be dismantled, and subsequent requests should instead be made to “the oldest and most tested court system in America: the U.S. district courts and courts of appeal,” Manning writes in a Guardian op-ed introducing the legislation.
Because of its lack of transparency, the current FISA court system has had a host of “systemic” oversight problems, Manning notes.
“The U.S. intelligence community is in a very poor position to be trusted with protecting civil liberties while engaging in intelligence work,” she writes. “When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail; when you’re a skilled intelligence professional, everything looks like a vital source for collection.”
Despite the passage of the USA Freedom Act last June, Manning notes, “the major concerns over ‘bulk collection’ and ‘mass surveillance’ of citizens have not yet been substantially addressed in the U.S., because the legislation leaves mostly in place the secret courts.”
The bill also includes some limitations for electronic surveillance permitted under the so-called Cybersecurity Bill, CISA, which passed the Senate last week.
The document was penned from inside the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where Manning is currently serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified information that exposed the U.S. military’s crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other things.
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