Merry Christmas from your friends at the NSA. Seriously though, this is getting a little silly. To show you just how ridiculous the commentary has become, check out this article from the Duffleblog.com and this video from the ACLU.
"They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" Thanks Benjamin Franklin. Said some two-hundred and fifty years ago and just as true today. The ever increasing scope of surveillance - and abuses of that scope - is in some ways inevitable. I don't mean to say it's right (whatever "right" means), morally acceptable, worth the cost to our individual liberties, or actually effective at finding terrorists (or probable terrorists). Bureaucracies, especially in our system of government, are extremely resilient, sometimes self-serving, and often narrow-minded in scope. It's not their fault, it's just the nature of the beast, a symptom of bad governance. Without proper oversight and transparency, abuses such as these occur in all agencies. This is essentially Abu Gharaib level dereliction of duty and lack of leadership, combined with an intelligence community that allows for almost zero transparency between themselves and the public they serve. Is it an invasion of privacy if you don't know your privacy is being violated? Some in Congress apparently say no:
Some would answer the following question, "Should the NSA be tapping my phones?" with this answer, "Honestly I don't care, I'm not a terrorist or criminal so I'm good." But that attitude is exactly the problem. Soon the somewhat justified taps become completely illegitimate, with analysts tapping in to the communications of friends, family and significant others - even "possible" significant others. If this happened via a pair of binoculars, a physical wire tap at someone's home, and breaking into their house to steal their photos off their iPad, it'd be considered predatory stalking. Though many consider privacy a right, there is no express right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution. However, in numerous articles and amendments it is considered assumed by many citizens and legal scholars alike. For more in depth discussion, check out the link below:
These top-secret programs, brought to light by whistleblower/traitor/"hero of the proletariat" Edward Snowden, are anathema to individual liberty and privacy. Whatever you think of the man who leaked the information, now that the cat is out of the bag we as a society have some hard questions to answer. What level of transparency should we have in order to keep the public abreast of these issues? What kind of oversight (or lack thereof) lead to these programs, the growth of scale involved and the abuses that occurred? Is massive trolling of the entire internet an effective means of gathering intelligence and conducting counterintelligence? I cannot answer any of those questions, and unfortunately, even if I could - they're classified and you don't need to know.