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Commentary :: International
Can U.S. Government use NSA Spy-Wiretaps against Citizens in Court?
19 Jan 2008
Determining what NSA electronic surveillance can be used by police or introduced into court by Government, may be the next battle Americans have to fight.
It is not surprising the Telecom Industry wants “Retroactive Immunity” from at least forty law suits after they helped government spy on Americans’ personal phone calls, faxes and emails? But Not so obvious or discussed by major media is what happens to NSA’s millions of illegally collected emails, faxes and phone call information that belong to U.S. Citizens? Will that information be deleted or copied? Or Used In Court against Americans?

Depending on the legal scheme the U.S. Government devises to let the phone companies off the hook for spying on its Citizens, could set NSA free—to share its “illegally collected wiretap information” with local, state and federal police in order to initiate almost any kind of criminal investigation.

Determining what NSA electronic surveillance can be used by police or introduced into court by the Government, may be the next battle Americans have to fight.

Previously prosecutors were not allowed access to the Justice Department’s “intelligence files” for domestic criminal prosecutions. In 2003 a court ruling lowered that barrier, allowing prosecutors to review old surveillance. In 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft asked government prosecutors to review thousands of old intelligence files including wiretaps to retrieve information prosecutors could use in “ordinary criminal prosecutions.”

It is problematic Law enforcement agencies will want to use NSA’s old illegal wiretap evidence and other surveillance to go back perhaps decades to arrest Americans and/or civilly forfeit their homes, inheritances and business using only a "preponderance of evidence" under Title 18 of the United States Code. The Patriot Act specifically mentions provisions passed in Rep. Henry Hyde’s bill HR 1658 "The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000." HR 1658 included a "retroactive asset forfeiture provision" that applies retroactively to assets already subject to government forfeiture, meaning "property already tainted by crime" provided “the property” was already part of or later connected to a criminal investigation in progress" when HR.1658 passed.

In 2000 after HR1658 passed the “old statute of limitations” died that gave government “five years” to seize property from the actual date a “property” was involved in crime. Police now have five-years to seize property from “whenever police claim” they learned a “property” was made subject to civil asset forfeiture. There are over 200 U.S. laws that can subject property to civil asset forfeiture.

Imagine NSA sharing its illegal-domestic surveillance information with countless police agencies that are dependent on forfeiting Citizens’ property to pay their department’s operating costs. Police can too easily take an innocent person’s hastily written email or phone call out of context to allege a crime was committed. Imagine Police using the Patriot Act’s low standard of proof “a preponderance of evidence” to judge NSA illegal domestic wiretap information, perhaps to go back before 2000 to civilly seize a Citizen's home, business or other property. No conviction is required for the U.S. Government to civilly forfeit a Citizen’s home or business. Under the Patriot Act, witnesses can be kept secret while being paid part of the assets they cause to be forfeited.

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Re: Can U.S. Government use NSA Spy-Wiretaps against Citizens in Court?
20 Jan 2008
The issues raised in this article should be brought to the immediate attention of thinking Americans before Harry Reid folds on behalf of the phone companies—getting Congress to approve their “Retroactive Immunity.” Congress has to first determine if NSA illegal wiretaps would become admissible to court by granting the phone companies Retroactive Immunity.

After the phone companies are given “immunity” expect countless law enforcement agencies will want to sift though millions of illegal NSA emails and faxes looking for possible wrongdoing and leads that can be used to seize a Citizens’ and business property under broadly written civil asset forfeiture laws.

After reading this article I now wish I had more carefully and clearly written business emails to ensure government could not misconstrue them. Then who would think the government was illegally spying on its own people and had secretly voided our Constitution.

This is the first Web site I know of that has brought this information to the public. It appears the public as been so distracted whether phone companies should get “Retroactive Immunity” no one thought to ask what NSA was going to do with our illegally seized emails, faxes and phone call information.