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“Major shift” from the norm: clandestine govt. snooping

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Are you familiar as a Colorado reader interested in criminal law topics with secret gag orders?

If you are, you’re likely concerned with their issuance and application. If such orders don’t ring a bell for you personally, perhaps they should. A number of criminal law commentators address them with some alacrity, underscoring their troublesome intrusion on Americans’ privacy rights and fundamental freedoms.

One of those commentators is Microsoft President Brad Smith, head of an uber-sized company that obviously stores a treasure trove of personal information relevant to many millions of individuals.

Candidly, Smith is concerned with gag orders, especially when they come his company’s way via secrecy mandates from government authorities.

And, notably, the degree to which they are incoming is both stark and progressively growing. A Microsoft officer in a key security position says it is shocking “just how routine secrecy orders have become” that target Americans’ sensitive data. That employee states that federal law enforcers routinely seek to secure such information from Microsoft while simultaneously barring the company making any disclosures concerning it.

The result: Thousands of secrecy orders are forthcoming each year, with information being obtained without warrants or even probable cause and targeted individuals having no clue they are under government surveillance.

Just how troubling is secret govt. data sifting, collection?

Microsoft’s Smith and many other commentators highlighting government police action targeting individuals’ proprietary data don’t mince words when stating their view on secrecy orders and widespread surveillance.

Smith especially calls out federal prosecutors. He says that they “too often are exploiting technology to abuse our fundamental freedoms.”

And another critic also taking aim at federal attorneys says that they purposefully make broad-based requests that “enable law enforcement to just simply assert a conclusion that a secret order is necessary.”

Reform calls grow to check and rein in surveillance abuse

There’s a strong reason why an increasingly bipartisan camp of national lawmakers is showing progressively greater willingness to author reform legislation to dampen surveillance abuse.

And that is this: Many of them too have been targets of info-gathering probes pursuant to secrecy gag orders.

Material reform is vital, they say, and it must come from Congress.

“We cannot trust the department [the US. Department of Justice] to police itself,” says one House representative.