Privacy for Me, But Not for Thee


US Senator Sam Brownback is outraged that China may monitor the internet use of hotel guests in Beijing for the Olympics. I mean, what kind of a country would engage in electronic surveillance without any kind of warrant or due process? Only an authoritarian nightmare like China. Or, well, the United States of America. Brownback explains the difference thusly:

We don't put the hardware and software on hotels. If there is a targeted individual that seems to be a likely prospect of terrorists, they must go through the FISA court and ask for a court to determine that there is probable cause to be able to listen in on that information.

That's great. That really is the difference between a bad policy and a good one. In a country with meaningful privacy rights, the government would need to go to a court and get someone to agree that there's probably cause before they're allowed to listen in. But that's exactly what the Bush administration didn't do and what the new legal framework will let them get away with not doing. Maybe Brownback wasn't briefed?

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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