Lauren Weinstein, an expert in privacy issues and technology, presented an update on such topics as secret wiretapping, Echelon, and camera surveillance. Much of the government's current wiretapping efforts may not meet "probable cause," (which had been used in the past to get a court order) and thus is raising controversy, he said. At this point, most of the targets for interception are international calls, he added.
The system known as Echelon refers to an even wider umbrella of surveillance. Using advances in digital technology, voice and other data is remotely intercepted, said Weinstein. Yet such technologies may be increasingly less effective against terrorists and instead serve to invade the privacy of ordinary citizens. All three branches of government should get involved to watch what one another does in order to prevent falling down a slippery slope, he commented. For example, a judge might be more capable of making certain decisions concerning wiretapping than an NSA technician, he said.
Weinstein also discussed the profusion of camera surveillance, taking place in a number of American cities, as well as Great Britain, which has also begun tracking license plates. The standard explanation is that "you have no expectation of privacy in public places," he related. RFID chips in US passports were recently approved and he raised the concern that non-authorized people may be able to read the electronic information they contain.
Ice Age Update
First hour guest, researcher Robert Felix commented on the current European cold snap and said climate changes could be leading towards a mini-ice age there. He believes the process is hastened by cyclical factors, such as releases from underwater volcanoes, which lead to increased evaporation and giant snowstorms. If we go into another El Nino cycle, this could also kick us into an ice age, said Felix.