Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The NSA Spying Program, and What it Means to Americans

Jacob Sullum has a good article today on the NSA's spying program under Section 702 of the Patriot act. You can find it at at The mass online dragnet warrantless surveillance hits the target, along with many other people. Sullam ends his article thusly:
According to the Obama administration, all this is old news and no big deal. "These reports simply discuss the kind of incidental interception of communications that we have always said takes place under Section 702," Robert Litt, general counsel to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, told The New York Times on Sunday. "The most that you could conclude from these news reports is that each valid foreign intelligence target talks to an average of nine people."

If the mass collection of sensitive information about law-abiding people is to be expected, as my Reason colleague Scott Shackford observes, it is not really accurate to say it happens "inadvertently" or "not wittingly," as Clapper put it in congressional testimony last year. When such a wholesale invasion of privacy is the inevitable and predictable result of certain intelligence methods, choosing to use those methods means you are doing it on purpose.

The program may, or may not be effective at stopping terrorism.  I personally suspect it is not.  Finding the true terrorists in a sea of ordinary Americans is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.  But, in any case, the debate about the NSA spying on Americans comes down to deciding whether as a nation we value liberty, or a smothering all protective government.  For there can be no true safety.  Our government can smother us with "love," but it can not guarantee our safety.  Put in such stark reality, I'll take the liberty to defend myself, thank you.

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