Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

July 9, 2013

Citizens only lose when they OK snooping

You can tell me you’re just fine with the federal government collecting not only your telephone records — who you called, when, from where, and for how long — but also your e-mail, your social media postings and every transaction you conduct on the Internet.

Or, you can tell me you’re outraged at a Big Brother kind of surveillance of you and your fellow citizens’ personal lives.

But please don’t tell me you’re surprised.

It is not just that this kind of “data-mining” has been going on for at least a decade or more. It is that you have also been told it has been going on — by a number of people. If you weren’t paying attention, whose fault is that?

William Binney, who worked for the National Security Agency for 32 years, resigned in protest in 2001 after the Bush administration launched a top-secret surveillance program to spy on U.S. citizens without warrants. Binney said that violated the core mission of the agency, which was to collect only foreign intelligence.

He has been saying since then that the NSA is collecting the electronic activity of U.S. citizens — not just phone records. In an interview late last year he estimated the number of electronic documents now being stored at “probably close to 20 trillion.”

When he was asked if things had changed under President Obama, he said yes — “the change is that it has gotten worse.”

The information technology press has reported numerous times on the construction of the NSA’s new data center due to open this September in Bluffdale, Utah, south of Salt Lake City.

Wired magazine reported more than a year ago that the center will be capable of storing almost incomprehensible amounts of data. It will intercept, store, and analyze “all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private e-mails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter,’” the magazine said.

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