One thing for sure: I learn lots by writing this blog. A couple of weeks ago, several news sources reported, via a former defense contractor leak, Verizon was ordered to turn over all of its customers’ phone records to the National Security Agency. Well, I’m a Verizon customer and, on the face of it, I didn’t like this at all. So I started doing some digging. As is usually the case, this issue is complex, and I’m blaming that on the government. The implications for national security versus personal privacy are huge.
The impact of the 2001 Patriot Act
The practice of monitoring phone records, among other security surveillance activities, has been around since the inception of the Patriot Act in 2001, an outcropping of the terrorists’ attack on the U.S. Many of the act’s provisions were to sunset beginning December 31, 2005. All along there has been Republican vs. Democrat conflict about the act’s provisions but some of the security activities were set up in an additional bill that has allowed them to continue. Civil liberties issues have been hotly debated between the two parties – no surprise there! However, on May 26, 2011, President Obama signed the Patriot Sunsets Extension Act of 2011, a four-year extension of these three key provisions in the Patriot Act: roving wiretaps, searches of business records, and conducting surveillance of “lone wolves” — individuals suspected of terrorist-related activities not linked to terrorist groups. I guess viewing Verizon customers’ phone calls is part of that search of business records and is continuing now because … because why, I wonder.
Is this the best way?
Yes, the NSA follows people of questionable origins with questionable activities talking to questionable people but, out of Verizon’s cabillion customers (90-million wireless, 12-million residential and 10-million commercial) that might represent like 20 people???? I’m sure this is too simplistic, but might it be better to identify the questionable people and then subpoena Verizon for their phone records??? That’s the part that has me bothered. Access to all MY information can be strong-armed when the vague ‘for the good of us all’ blanket is tossed out there.
I don’t have definitive reasons or the Ph.D.-level information to form an outstandingly cogent argument either in favor of or against gathering this information in this manner. But I don’t like it either way. It rankles my sense of privacy and I think it perhaps always will.
The bigger issue…..????
Perhaps a bigger issue is: if we give our private information to Yahoo or Macys.com or Facebook, is it okay for the government to have that same info?
What do you think? Does this ‘invasion’ piss you off or do you see the justification in the name of security and safety of the U.S. and all its citizens? Perhaps you view your privacy as contingent on what the government identifies is important. Perhaps you just thought it must have been a slow news day and you don’t really care one way or another. And finally, maybe no one in America thinks anything is or should be private anymore. I’d like to know….
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