Perhaps it is time for me to blog on the NSA. My favorite lunatic, Randi Rhodes, has already contributed many ways, via broad conspiracy theories, for the government to abuse the average citizen with this information. She has said the government will use this to keep you from getting a job (“yup–they didn’t hire me. Musta been that darned wiretapping!”) to refusing a loan (“I am sure it couldn’t be the debt, and lack of income–the government is meddling in my finances again!”)
This story provides some interesting tidbits. For instance, while the title talks about eavesdropping, the story states that the major action they are taking is identifying calling/information patterns. This is often done without actually listening/reading anything. “Government and industry officials with knowledge of the program told the newspaper the NSA sought to analyze communications patterns to gather clues from details like who is calling whom, how long a phone call lasts and what time of day it is made, as well as the origins and destinations of phone calls and e-mail messages.”
Let’s be honest–we have known the NSA is a large eavesdropping organization ever since the book Puzzle Palace was published. That book ignited several firestorms when it was first published, as well, from people concerned about individual privacy, to those concerned about a government exercising total tyranny. Perhaps the NSA has already been used for all these, we shall never know.
Many years ago, the debate around the NSA actually included a discussion about whether the NSA would provide the action agencies (CIA, DIA, FBI) with any information they gathered, since to do so would reveal the capability of their sources. I believe we should be happy that they have at least been willing to use the information.
The question I have concerning the use of the NSA without warrant is this: If the intelligence gathered is used to identify, and stop, terrorist actions, and doesn’t go beyond that, what is wrong with that? I realize the information could be “mis-used” but that is true of any government agency that collects any information. How much information do you think the Social Security Administration already has on you? Thankfully, the history of the NSA has been one of not using or sharing information, even when useful.
I do not necessarily like anyone eavesdropping on my conversations. Those who know me have heard me argue for more, not less, protection of privacy. In this case, however, the NSA’s commitment to secrecy makes me feel more comfortable that they are actually watching the bad guys–and most likely couldn’t care less about the rest of us!
So, students–worry that your professor may catch you plagiarizing, but don’t worry that the NSA will try to stop you from getting that dream job. What is most likely going to get in the way there is yourself.