The latest shocker as reported last Friday:
“The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.”
The document reveals that NSA collects data “directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”
It’s all about protecting us, according to James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence. He said “information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.”
Many members of Congress agree, including Democrats and Republicans. Others are troubled by the inherent risks of abuse and outright violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
The data dragnet, deployed in the name of preventing terrorism, struck a raw nerve even with leading lights of the liberal wing of American politics. The New York Times is now disenchanted with President Obama.
In a scathing editorial signed by its editorial board, the Times said concerning the disclosure of federal agencies collecting telephone call data: “the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.”
The Times said, “Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.”
Then came this zinger: “The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.”
The Post reported that a “User’s Guide for PRISM Skype Collection” said, for example, that Skype “can be monitored for audio when one end of the call is a conventional telephone and for any combination of ‘audio, video, chat and file transfers’ when Skype users connect by computer alone.”
That knowledge “drove a career intelligence officer” to provide the Post with PRISM materials “to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy,” the newspaper reported. The intelligence officer said: “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type.”
How unreasonable is this kind of search and seizure?