Thursday, June 13, 2013

How much do we trust the watchers...

The recent "revelations" about the "illegal" surveillance program recently are nothing more than a ploy. Congress has known about these activities since they began during the G.W. Bush administration. The fact that congress is acting outraged is absurd, since even if they didn't know the extent to which the NSA was watching us, they still knew their capabilities and what the federal government was legally authorized to do. Furthermore, the level of snooping actually taking place seems to be rather overblown by some to score political points. The exact amount of data being collected is unknown, but whatever it is it would be impossible for humans or computers to go through everything. They're looking for specific, targeted hits of information and keywords. If you're not involved in activity that would alert the NSA, you're probably not being watched, your emails are probably not being read, and your phone calls are not being monitored.
Now, with all of that being said, there is a major question we as a country need to ask. Even if the government doesn't use this surveillance to "watch" all of us, but is only focusing on specific information and people, should they have the right to collect this information on us in the first place? Is this an overreach of government and security? We as a nation haven't determined this. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, it seemed that U.S. citizens were ready to give carte blanche to our security and intelligence establishment to use any means necessary to track down potential terrorists. Now we're trying to backtrack (or maybe not even, but are outraged at the reality of what security means), but either we've already authorized the program, or it's secret and therefore we don't know it's happening. If we as citizens really were that upset about it, we could create a big enough stir to stop the program. Certainly we would be fear-shamed by politicians of both stripes into trying to preserve the program in the hope of stopping future terrorism and protecting overall security; but if we truly believed our individual liberty were being threatened we could stop the program.
I personally could care very little if some computer is collecting my phone records and internet search records, but I do have a problem with the NSA being able to sift through these records whenever they like, even if I'm not a suspect in any particular crime. I think that a lot of people feel the same way. If we want to stop it, let's stop it. If we think security is that important, let's shut up about it and move. Either way, let's talk about this in a real, rational way, instead of allowing politicians to feign anger about something that they've known about and authorized since the program began.

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