NY Times Says Surveillance Is A Threat To Democracy

OK, OK, we know that this is a Republic, but it is a democratic Republic, part of the Democracy political model. And we do have to give them style points for going against Obama and other Democrats on this issue.

New York Times

(NY Times) A new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll found that a majority of Americans are untroubled by revelations about the National Security Agency’s dragnet collection of the phone records of millions of citizens, without any individual suspicion and regardless of any connection to a counterterrorism investigation.

Just as a sidebar, a Rasmussen poll showed exactly the opposite of that WP-Pew poll. A related poll found that 56% think the US government is a threat to individual rights. And it should be pointed out that 50% + of the survey respondents had followed the NSA programs news coverage “not too closely/not closely at all.” So, if they have no real idea about the issue, their opinions shouldn’t matter.

Perhaps the lack of a broader sense of alarm is not all that surprising when President Obama, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, and intelligence officials insist that such surveillance is crucial to the nation’s antiterrorism efforts.

Add in some Republicans, like Lindsey Graham and John McCain who have come out in favor of the NSA program, and others whose main talking points are about prosecuting Snowden.

But Americans should not be fooled by political leaders putting forward a false choice. The issue is not whether the government should vigorously pursue terrorists. The question is whether the security goals can be achieved by less-intrusive or sweeping means, without trampling on democratic freedoms and basic rights. Far too little has been said on this question by the White House or Congress in their defense of the N.S.A.’s dragnet. (snip)

Tracking whom Americans are calling, for how long they speak, and from where, can reveal deeply personal information about an individual. Using such data, the government can discover intimate details about a person’s lifestyle and beliefs – political leanings and associations, medical issues, sexual orientation, habits of religious worship, and even marital infidelities. Daniel Solove, a professor at George Washington University Law School and a privacy expert, likens this program to a Seurat painting. A single dot may seem like no big deal, but many together create a nuanced portrait.

And then what does the government do with the data? Might someone use it for nefarious purposes? Might a politician use it for payback or to target political opponents or the supporters of political opponents? It’s not unheard of. Do a search of “Bill Clinton Echelon.” And it’s not just confined to Clinton: several presidents have used spy agency data to retaliate against US citizens. There’s a fundamental lack of trust in the government, and government does little to attempt to earn back that trust.

The effect is to undermine constitutional principles of personal privacy and freedom from constant government monitoring. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, challenging the program’s constitutionality, and it was right to do so.

It undermines the 4th Amendment, which did not give permission to fishing expedition warrants. Rand Paul has introduced the 4th Amendment Restoration Act for the 3rd time, and hopes that the Democrat led Senate will finally give it the time it’s due. It makes for strange bedfellows when the ACLU and Rand Paul are on the same side, eh? Usually the ACLU is on the side of Democrats regardless.

Even if most Americans trust President Obama not to abuse their personal data, no one knows who will occupy the White House or lead intelligence operations in the future. The government’s capacity to assemble, keep and share information on its citizens has grown exponentially since the days when J. Edgar Hoover, as director of the F.B.I., collected files on political leaders and activists to enhance his own power and chill dissent. Protections against different abuses in this digital age of genuine terrorist threats need to catch up.

Well, we should expect the Times to throw in a little Obama love, though I’m not sure where they get that notion that most trust Obama. The WP-Pew Poll is not the source. Anyhow, no one in government should be trusted with this information.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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