Every American has to face the possibility that their telephone conversations, their Facebook posts, their web searches, and their electronic bill payments are being recorded by the National Security Agency (NSA) and examined for signs of disobedience.
Revelations that NSA is scooping up billions of bits of data mean we are no longer on the sidelines, and our internet freedom as we thought we knew it is over.
On a perfectly normal June day a light went on and the bars of the cage were revealed. The electronic playground that the Internet gave us is now hemmed in by whirring computers that examine the data trail you leave behind. The Freedom promised by the digital age – freedom to communicate with people around the world and explore a vast array of music, literature, pictures, and information – is now cruelly compromised.
The extent of the surveillance is staggering. A former CIA employee, Edward Snowden, released a secret order from NSA ordering Verizon to provide information about “all phone calls in its system both in the U.S. and other countries.” This includes things like the identities of both individuals on the call, the date, time, and duration of the call, and the location of each phone. Undoubtedly, other phone systems received the same orders from the giant spy agency.
NSA also runs a surveillance system called PRISM that collects data from Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Skype, YouTube, Microsoft, Apple, AOL, and PalTalk. This includes search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats carried on by foreigners, Americans overseas, and Americans whose communications include people outside of the U.S.
While NSA officials, the President, and Congressional leaders say that this spying is being done to protect us from terrorism, that definition is being stretched to cover a wide array of conversations. For example, a former NSA staff person said one of her jobs at the agency was to listen in on calls being made by the International Red Cross and Doctors without Borders. Another former staffer recalls how NSA phone tappers would share with each other examples of intimate calls they heard: “it would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, ‘Wow, this was crazy.’”
Bottom line: the government no longer spies on “them.” It spies on you.
Remember that this is only a moment in time; the expansion of the power to watch you and track your movements is an on-going process. Once this controversy blows over, the next thing on the agenda is drones. Police departments and Sheriff offices all over the country are preparing requests for surveillance drones to fight crime.
Unless. Unless we all get busy and fight back now. Google some stories and learn more about NSA surveillance; sign petitions; join the ACLU; read Glen Greenwald’s commentary at The Guardian; email your Congressman; post your opinion on Facebook. Don’t let them take your electronic Freedom away.