Yesterday, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) expressed fear that “foreign-owned hotels in China face the prospect of ‘severe retaliation’ if they refuse to install government software that can spy on Internet use by hotel guests coming to watch the summer Olympic games.” Brownback, who is pushing the Senate to urge China to reverse course, said China’s action is “not right” and “not in the Olympic spirit.”
This morning on CNN, asked by host John Roberts if China’s action amounts to “spying,” Brownback continued his outrage:
BROWNBACK: This is the public security bureau in China requiring the installation of hardware that they can listen to anybody and everybody’s and their communications and their recordings that are sent over the internet in a real-time purpose or over long-term. That’s spying, John. […] Your internet communications can all be monitored in a real time basis by the public security bureau of the Chinese government. I think they’re clearly intent upon spying. they’re going to be spying.
Brownback seems more concerned about the Chinese government’s spying practices than the eavesdropping being conducted right here in the U.S.
In early 2006, Brownback questioned the legal basis for the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Nevertheless, as Glenn Greenwald notes, Brownback voted last year in favor of the Protect America Act which allowed the government to monitor international communications without warrants and without “meaningful oversight by either Congress or the courts.”
Brownback also recently voted for the FISA reform legislation which gave the government greater powers “to tap directly into the U.S. telecommunications systems in order to monitor international emails and telephone calls with no individual warrant required.”
When asked about the difference between the Chinese and American spying practices, Brownback said, “We don’t put the hardware and software on hotels.” He added that the Chinese program can be used “on journalists,” “on athletes,” “on their families,” “democracy advocates,” and “human rights advocates “ — seemingly oblivious that all these groups could be spied on here as well. (HT: Atrios)
Matthew Yglesias has more.