Thursday, May 11, 2006

How Far Should We Let the NSA Go?

USA TODAY has reported that the NSA’s domestic spying program is a lot larger than originally suspected. Turns out, since 2001, the NSA has been working with most major telephone service providers to log every domestic call made. One anonymous source says the agency’s goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders.

Apparently, the NSA is using this vast database to look for patterns that will reveal terrorist activities. There is no word as to whether, by monitoring the phone usage of millions of American citizens, any terrorist plots have been thwarted.

But this is what it’s come to—our government is tracking our calls. They aren’t listening in, but they know whom we call, when we called and how long we spoke. These aren’t just records of suspected terrorist. These are records of a great many of us.

I do not want to sound shrill or alarmist so I will point out that there is no evidence that any of this information has been used improperly. However, it does raise the question of exactly how far we think our government should go in monitoring us in the name of security. Does it stop at our phone calls? Or should our credit card purchases be monitored? How about our Internet usage? Our travel? What organizations we belong to? Certainly all that could be used to uncover patterns consistent with terrorist activity.

Technically, the phone call monitoring and all other kinds of monitoring could be done in perfectly good faith. If you aren’t a terrorist, you’d have nothing to fear. But I don’t have a limitless supply of optimism when it comes to the good faith of our government. I don’t instinctively mistrust the government but neither do I blindly assume that our government is somehow immune from corruption and unscrupulous leaders.

At some point we have to draw the line and say to our government “you can’t do that.” Not because they’re currently abusing their power but because they are opening too many doors that can too easily lead to abuse of power in the future.

I don’t want my day-to-day activities to be monitored—any of them. Not even for my own safety. A monitored society cannot be a free society. We need to draw lines. And we need to draw them now.


Blogger griftdrift said...

Since they aren't actually listening, my first instinct is this is okay. Probably a good use of resources to track potential terrorists.

Then I remember all the cases where Patriot Act provisions were used against non-terrorist activity and I get nervous.

10:50 AM  

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