It pains me to write this because on a certain level it compromises one of the greatest perks of a Democracy – privacy. Here’s the latest “Obama Bombshell” on the subject. It’s about the National Security Agency (NSA) collecting metadata on the world’s citizens. As an outgrowth of the revelations that Verizon and maybe AT & T and maybe other major communications players are in on this horrific invasion of the privacy of all Americans, most Lithuanians and every country in between, not to mention indignant world leaders, especially French President Hollande, who was forced to end an 8-year romance with his girlfriend after he confessed to repeatedly dragging comely actress Julie Gayet to his favorite pied -a’-terre after a stop at Victoria’s Secret.
Our American president, who presumably doesn’t have Hollande’s proclivities (breathless Enquirer blaring headlines, notwithstanding) is calling for a wholesale change in the way the U.S. conducts its surveillance program. A “wholesale change” basically already on the schedule. Interestingly enough, the order covering the Verizon involvement called for only metadata and not personal conversations.
If I were Al Qaeda, or one of their like-minded brethren, and heard about these new limitations, I’d be dancing in the streets of Karachi and Damascus, or maybe one of those underground clubs or wherever else warm-weather fanatics, bent on U.S. destruction, gather.
Can I be candid here? The reason I’ll compromise my privacy stance is because I don’t want to see another 3,000 people killed by planes slamming into huge buildings in the nation’s biggest city or anywhere else in this country. The terrorists hate us almost as much as the Tea Party hates gays and minorities and they’re not even remotely backing away from planning another monstrous act, or two or two dozen on American soil. But, we’ll risk it because we don’t want our “privacy” invaded? Well, maybe if we’re doing the French President thing of cheating on our significant other; I’ll give you that. Otherwise, and I know this is a departure from my progressive ways, they can capture all the metadata they want about what numbers I call.
In fact, I’ll tell them right now whom I call the most. My NCAA bracket-crazed son in Kansas, my Democratic County Party Chairman, and, of course, my dear spouse and my other adult children. There, I’ve said it. Metadata? Big whoop! If anyone reading this has had your conversations recorded and you’ve been visited by people in dark suits, let me know. If you qualify as defined, chances are extremely good that you’ve got terrorist connections or you’re in some deep doo doo with the local gendarmes. Privacy? The first thing law enforcement will do with suspects of especially heinous crimes is dive for their cell phones and check out numbers, texts, whatever is available. Hell, Judge Judy delights in going through defendants’ text messages.
Yeah, we purport to value our privacy, here and abroad, where all those “calls” are being monitored. There are only 645 million twitter users. Facebook claims 1,310,000,000; that’s ‘B’ as in billion adherents and good old YouTube, about three times that number. Privacy? I doubt there are any secrets on any of those platforms. We can’t wait to blab about our private lives. A huge percentage of users hit their computers immediately after getting out of bed in the morning and tell the world what they’re going to be up to. And before they go back to bed, they tell the world what they’ve BEEN up to. Privacy?
There’s a gawky teenage nerd in Stockholm who knows your Social Security and Driver’s License numbers, your chat room sex chats, your jockey underwear and bra sizes and what meds your taking. Every time you order anything off the Internet, you’re feeding information candy to potentially millions (“This call might be monitored for…blah, blah, blah”). File for public office and the state gets into your financial business. File your taxes and bunches of people can pretty much tell what kind of life you live.
And that nosy Barack Obama has been given virtually blanket permission to collect via legislation passed during the George W. Bush administration and even earlier. The Patriot Act became law in the shadow of 9/11. And the 2008 FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act), adds to a law in effect since 1976. An outgrowth of FISA is FISC, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The court is made up of Federal Judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Their decisions are subject to review by the court and an offshoot of FISC.
There has already been a Supreme Court case on the subject filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and after March 28th, any attempts to “listen in” on given conversations must be reviewed by FISC and proof that the conversations are tied to terrorism is required. There are overseas instances when warrantless surveillance occurs, but there must also be a review for the reasons leading up to such an action, pretty much the same as it’s always been.
Unless you’re a terrorist, you have nothing to fear from this surveillance. I’m not happy about it, but if you have a better idea, let’s hear it. Collectively, around the world, there are billions of calls, maybe in excess of a trillion. Do you really think, as a practical matter, NSA is just going to randomly listen to calls that do not involve potential terrorism? As for those who would wish us harm, and there are plenty of ’em, in 2006, British police foiled a plot to utilize liquid explosions on ten aircraft headed to the U.S. In 2009 and 2012, U.S. intelligence uncovered plots to use nonmetallic explosives to blow up two flights. Was the tragic flight 370 being set up for the same purpose or a practice run as some have surmised? Don’t know and probably never will. And it’s not only the aircraft threat, it’s suicide bombers and ground attacks around the world.
Since 2000, a sourced Wiki page tells us there have been roughly 160 terrorist attacks in assorted Muslim and non-Muslim countries. Israel was a particular target, having gone through 63 terrorist’s attacks in that time frame with countless casualties. About a year before 9/11, 17 American sailors were killed in an attack on the USS Cole. Then came 9/11 followed by such obscenities as the Fort Hood mass murder of 13 by a U.S. Major named Hasan. An attempted car bombing in Times Square was averted, but if the Pakistani-born U.S. Citizen had succeeded, many would have died. The Benghazi and Boston Marathon terrorist events certainly remain uppermost in our minds. If you want to go back 30 years, some of us remember the Beirut barracks bombings like it was yesterday. 241 servicemen perished that day when drivers from the so-called “Islamic Jihad” drove two truck bombs into separate barracks. News footage of a fiercely burned U.S. Marine still resonates in my mind.
Yeah, having someone know what time I ordered my Pizza is a drag, but until we come up with something better, we’ll have to live with it. Otherwise, we might die without it!