Thursday, May 14, 2015

Deflated Consequences

I played football in 8th grade. For a week. It was a rather humiliating introduction to how little of an athlete I was as a teenager. Boston’s a pretty big sports town. You’ve got the Bruins, the Celtics and the Red Sox along with the Patriots. I don’t follow the teams at any level of detail but living here you tend to keep up via osmosis – it’s that prevalent in the culture. When championships come around its especially true, and this winter’s Super Bowl provided a much needed respite from the never ending snow, ice and cold. There were accusations that the balls in the payoff game were not inflated to the correct pressure, providing the Patriots with an advantage that theoretically helped them win the playoff game. Many months and investigations later, this week the league suspended Quarter Back Tom Brady over the entire situation and fined the team $1 million. Since it’s the NFL no trial, just punishment. Appeals are in process that could ultimately lead to the matter coming into the legal system. During this same week the NSA snooping program was found to be illegal and there’s no effort to appeal or change the law.

A Federal appeals court ruled that the National Security Agency program that systematically collects American’s phone records is illegal. The USA Patriot Act is the basis that the NSA used to justify the program. The court didn’t rule on the Act, but instead determined that Section 215 of the Act did not permit the wholesale collection of data on American Citizens without justification.

Coincidently the Act is due to expire in June 2015, so the Senate and House are busy determining what changes, if any, need to happen. The problems of the misnamed Patriot Act is something I’ve addressed in prior blogs and is an important issue. What’s important now is not whether the Act is renewed or not – but what’s going to be done about the illegal action.

The court didn’t find anything wrong with the law – not because there isn’t a problem with the law, but because the case was about the records collection. The court found the collecting of those records were not permitted or authorized under the law. So Congress can try to create a law that permits it or re-write the section. The House has passed the U.S. Freedom Act which creates new a law allowing American’s private phone and internet records to be collected without a warrant.

The Boston Globe reports about the ruling: “It did not come with any injunction ordering the program to cease, and it is not clear that anything else will happen in the judicial system before Congress has to make a decision about the expiring law. The data collection had repeatedly been approved in secret by judges serving on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees national security surveillance.”

The law was broken. Repeatedly. There is not an injunction to stop the law from continuing to be broken. Nobody is being fined. Nobody is being arrested. The massive invasion of privacy into the citizenry of the United States is found to be illegal and nobody is held accountable or responsible. If somebody walked into your house and stole your property and the court found them to have broken the law, there’s a consequence. If companies break the law there are fines and jail sentences. If government breaks the law it’s business as usual?

Tom Brady’s being vilified and punished for something where there is not definitive proof of his involvement. It’s not fair and inconsistent with our sense of justice. That’s nothing compared to deflated consequences when the Government breaks the law and keeps on operating as if nothing can stop it.

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