Some people are all hopped up about the NSA spying “scandal.” Others, especially the young who bare all on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites, see nothing wrong and are pooh-pooing our concerns. Still others, the power elite, are screaming TREASON.
Let’s take a step back for a moment, and take a deep breath.
For DECADES, TRW, Equifax and others have been spying on everybody and collecting the most private data about you, your family, your addresses, your employment history, your bank and other accounts, and of course your credit history.
For DECADES the telephone company has been recording your “meta data” — date and time of calls, numbers called, duration of calls — for billing purposes, of course.
For DECADES all this info and more was available to law enforcement agencies — that is, the government — upon the presentation of a court approved search warrant in a domestic criminal case, and without a warrant in a national security case.
For DECADES medical and other private insurance companies have been collecting all sorts of personal data in the name of processing claims. Ditto the Medicare and Medicaid payment processing contractors.
The IRS has just been reported having seized 60 million MEDICAL records…
For DECADES Google and other search engine operators have been rumored and accused of actually reading everybody’s e-mail, not just the meta data but the actual contents, for “marketing purposes.” That is, to build a profile of you as a customer that they can sell to advertisers, merchants and manufacturers to target you individually with their ads.
For DECADES the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been sounding the alarm about the threat to privacy from data mining as it became more and more feasible as the power of computers was exploding and the price of memory was plummeting. Now even the cheapest cell phone comes with 8 or 16 GB of memory, something that would have required acres of tape drive or disk drive farms back when today’s geezers were just young punks in college.
There is no new news here, and the debate over this is nothing new, except of course to the low information voters who know more about the sexual proclivities of celebrities and other media whores than the operations of their own nation’s government.
We’ve had this debate at the time when the Patriot Act was proposed and enacted about a decade ago.
We’ve had this debate in Clinton’s second term when the rumors first circulated about “Magellan” or “Majestic 12” or some similarly named government program to monitor all phones and all activity on the internet.
We’ve had this debate in the first couple of the Clinton years when Hillary had 900 FBI files on political “enemies” on her desk.
We’ve had this debate in the Nixon years when he was accused of trying to use the IRS against his “enemies.”
The only thing new here is that someone (such as Snowden) had the audacity to state the obvious, or at least what should have been obvious all along to anyone who’d bother to devote a mere second to some thinking and extrapolating from news stories, that OH MY GOD the NSA and others are actually using the same technology that was developed for private purposes, and that in the name of national security they are doing their job or even exceeding their legal mandate by pushing well-known technology to its limits. We are shocked, shocked, I tell you, that they have the nerve to exploit technology to the fullest extent possible.
If we can learn anything from history, it is that we humans will always use technology to its fullest and will always manage to find legal cover for the practice. National security is always a good excuse.
The problem is not that the government is doing this. The problem is that they are doing it not to our enemies but to us the people whom they are charged to protect from our enemies, and in gross violation of the Constitution that they have sworn to uphold.
Some claim that these revelations amount to treason, yet nothing revealed by Snowden is anything but obvious generalities. To accept the ridiculous claim that these revelations amount to treason, we’d have to assume that our enemies are utter morons, that it is news to them that we can collect and “data mine” billions of phone calls, e-mails and website visits per day. It seems to me that any terrorist, well trained of not, would assume the worst possible case and conceal his moves with security measures, well documented in works of fiction on television, such as the single use of “burner” cell phones. We’d have to assume that our fellow citizens are utter morons if we expect that they’d be surprised by such revelations of technical capability. Well, this one may not be such a stretch.
No, the shock is in the expectation that we the people would believe that this vast domestic spying is done in the name of spying on foreign enemies. We are expected to believe that claim, in the face of a total lack of evidence to support it, such as, for example, that they actually managed to prevent the Boston marathon bombings because they intercepted and analyzed their phone calls in time. Oops, they did not, did they, even with help from the Russians… We are expected to believe that claim, even though it is coming from an administration that refused to use the terms “jihad,” “terrorism,” or “war on terror;” an administration that renamed the Ford Hood shootings as “workplace violence;” and an administration that had no problem starting their turn at governing by declaring that the number one terrorist threat to the nation is domestic and it comes not from muslim jihadist sleeper cells but from the TEA Party and right wing religious conservative white supremacist militias — again without citing a single shred of supporting evidence.
Maxine Watters is on record bragging a few months ago that the Obama campaign machine has collected billions of pieces of data on everybody in the country, that they can use it to pinpoint individual voters for campaign and other purposes, and that this database will be available to any Democrat running for office in 2014 and 2016. Is it a stretch to assume the worst case scenario and expect that a federal bureaucracy, such as the IRS and the EPA, which have already been shown to have leaked private confidential data on conservatives to left wing political organizations, will continue to feed data into such as massive domestic political database? Is it a stretch to expect that this administration and this “civil service” bureaucracy will continue to engage in such blatant misuse of power?
The sad fact is that our government agencies may well need to resort to such massive violations of the Constitution — in the name of national security. In today’s news (from Drudge, Fox News and others) we learn that the NSA or some other agency is hacking the nodes of the internet backbone, through which all traffic must pass, rather than hacking into individually targeted foreign computers. The sad fact is that we may not have any choice but to do intelligence work using only technological tools. Why? Because the policy of killing known or suspected terrorists with rocket strikes from drones is eliminating potentially valuable sources of human intelligence. Kill enough terrorists and there is no one left to capture, interrogate and tell us who the others are. We are left with having to build association trees from the telephone meta data to guess who might be the next terrorist, then pull up the voice files of their phone calls and the contents of their e-mails to confirm. You have to include traffic within the US in this data mining operation, because the sleeper cells, such as the Boston marathon bombers, are already here. And more are coming; the administration, the Democrats and the RINOs are still refusing to secure our borders, and the administration is now planning to admit tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and locate them in cities and town throughout the nation. Gee, can we at least expect that these would be Syrian Christians? Not a chance… That would be discriminatory… It is so much more important to fill our midst with more potential or actual terrorists with recent war experience…
Needless to say, there is an alternative to all this, but there is a snow ball’s chance in hell we’d ever do it. The generation that knew how to win WW2 is dying out, and the generation now in charge is not interested in learning anything from them except total domestic control. It occurs to no one, least of all to anyone in power, that it is possible to do this job without violating the Constitution or how it would be possible to do it.