Eternal vigilance — Government watches us — and we must watch it
June 06, 2013 11:50 PM | 3157 views | 3 3 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
What was thought by many, especially on the left, to be domestic overreach by the George W. Bush administration in the name of national security now appears to be standard practice under the Obama administration.

On Wednesday, London’s Guardian newspaper reported on a secret court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, itself a secret panel, authorizing the National Security Agency to collect the telephone records of Verizon’s U.S. customers — potentially 121 million subscribers.

The order, permitted through the Patriot Act, covers the phone numbers and locations of both parties on the call, its time and duration, and what are called “unique identifiers.”

It is not clear whether the order applies to other telecommunication companies, but a former intelligence official told The Associated Press it applies to all U.S. phone companies.

The three-month order has been regularly renewed.

The program began at least seven years ago, according to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, putting its origins in the Bush administration. For a change, it appears that key members of Congress had been briefed on the program — at least none of them appeared surprised. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that the program was necessary for homeland safety and that privacy rights were carefully protected. That’s quite a departure from the tone she took when discussing Bush’s “data mining.”

Her House counterpart, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said the records had thwarted a “significant” terrorist attack on the United States a few years ago, but did not give details. A White House spokesman called the program “a critical tool” in fighting security threats.

The government has collected an immense amount of information, and the temptation to broaden its use may become too great. Why not, some agent might ask, use it to detect crimes like money laundering and financial fraud? Having gone that far, why not use it to track individuals holding suspect political views? That has happened before in our history.

But by the same token, the widespread surveillance of telephone, telegraph and mail transmissions was standard practice beginning with the Roosevelt administration during World War II, and continuing under both Republicans and Democrats during the Cold War. Americans historically have been willing to relinquish their privacy rights to some degree in wartime, but with the expectation that such changes were short-term in nature.

The “war on terror” is a gray area, neither war nor peace, although Obama said last month it is virtually at an end. That government surveillance, however, apparently will continue. And this from a president who promised “the most transparent presidency in history.”

For the moment, the response of the White House, congressional leaders and NSA is: “Trust us.”

For the moment, we have no choice. But we should not forget Jefferson’s admonition: “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
Comments-icon Post a Comment
June 08, 2013
If the Patriot Act was so odious, why did Obama sign into law a four-year extension?

Be informed! This is not a left vs. right issue; it is now a citizen vs. government issue.
June 07, 2013
we can thank the Bush administration for the socalled "Patriot Act" among other things that violated our civil liberties. Bush, led by Cheney, paid little attention to Constitutional law in "protecting" us from "evil". As Pogo said, "we have met the enemy and he is us..."
June 08, 2013
And we can thank Obama for his criticism of the Bush policies and practices while he was in Congress, but then adopting then and ramping them up to turbo once he was in office.

The Bush-Obama years represent the greatest turning back of personal liberties we have ever seen in the US. And neither republicans nor the libs are bright enough to recognize it or do anything about it.

Average's time to wake up.

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