The Patriot Act was purposefully written to attempt to balance the fine line between counter-terrorism and the rights of the individual as protected under the U.S. Constitution. The author Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, had expressed his concerns in a recent statement: “As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely troubled by the F.B.I.’s interpretation of this legislation,” he said in a statement. “While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses.” He added: “Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.” (New York Times)
The seizing of phone records, among other data, on millions of American’s, with the administration going so far as to obtain a court order requiring Verizon, one of the nation's largest telecommunications companies, on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries. (AP)
It would be one thing if those listening were specifically targeting incoming and outgoing calls to nations that have a potential for acts of terrorism, however, that is not the case. According to the Atlantic Wire:
"On its face, the document suggests that the U.S. government regularly collects and stores all domestic telephone records," The Week's Marc Ambinder writes of Glenn Greenwald's scoop last night. "My own understanding is that the NSA routinely collects millions of domestic-to-domestic phone records. It does not do anything with them unless there is a need to search through them for lawful purposes." Previous reporting from many outlets suggests that's true. In 2006, USA Today's Leslie Cauley reported the NSA was secretly collecting call records with data from AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth. A source told Cauley, "It's the largest database ever assembled in the world" and that the NSA wanted "to create a database of every call ever made" within U.S. territory. Likewise, in 2011, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer spoke to former NSA crypto-mathematician Bill Binney, who "believes that the agency now stores copies of all e-mails transmitted in America, in case the government wants to retrieve the details later." He thinks the NSA wants all emails to be searchable, the same way we search with Google. "The agency reportedly has the capacity to intercept and download, every six hours, electronic communications equivalent to the contents of the Library of Congress," Mayer said. As Mark Rumold, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Atlantic Wire last night, "This is confirmation of what we've long feared, that the NSA has been tracking the calling patterns of the entire country." Update: In defending the program, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein seems to indicate that the court order is a regular, quarterly thing. "There is nothing new in this program. The fact of the matter is, that this was a routine three-month approval under seal that was leaked," Feinstein said on Thursday..
That’s jaw-dropping invasion of privacy.
From Facebook, to Yahoo, to Apple to Microsoft, and every server in-between – the the NSA has been mining data, from the video’s on posts, to the comment’s one makes from the majority of online providers. (Guardian UK)
Big Brother, apparently, is watching every move one makes, the question being raised is: to what end? The excuse of seeking terrorists would be completely appropriate, if the targets were selective, however, it is broad based, and, not unlike the IRS scandal, where groups were targeted for their political and religions affiliations by that agency, making life miserable for one’s perceived enemies by, what by now can be deemed a paranoid administration, is chilling.
These past few months revelations of multiple abuses of power, pale in comparison to the latest –over the top action. One might think some back peddling would be in short order. For one, it is of no concern if, in listing to a phone conversation, or reading one’s emails scouting for terrorists would keep one safe in the long run, however, if the data is used for other reason, shared between agencies, for example, one might find oneself on the wrong side of the IRS.
This is the reason the size and scope of the Federal government should be limited (let alone the massive bill they present to the American Taxpayer), and the 10th Amendment be applied across the board, giving each state the power to administer its own programs, from healthcare, to education, to environmental policies, without oversight of the Federal government.
If one did not care for the administration in one’s state, they could simply move to another – as it stands now, the long-arm of the Federal Government has taken on new meaning. This is a Libertarian mindset- and frankly, one which should be embraced by most concerned American’s – especially when the powers in Washington are increasingly encroaching on the masses. One might recall that there were those “Tea Party” people, on the fringe, who those on the left, and in the center thought were a bit ridiculous - turned out to be predictive - now, they not only sound valid, they are valid.
The fine line is the intent, and while the intent may have been to protect and defend, the lines must be drawn, the acknowledgements made, and the programs eliminated or downsized, with transparency – something that was promised in 2007 and 2008 – and has yet to take place – that course of action might restore the trust of the average citizen - which is dwindling by the day.