While Edward Snowden continues to live a productive life in Russia, he remains an outlaw in his own country. If he were to return to the United States, he would be prosecuted for revealing government secrets even though a federal court has ruled that the National Security Agency (NSA) acted illegally when it collected data on the phone calls of all Americans. The court accused the agency of twisting the language of the Patriot Act to expand their data collection from suspected terrorists to include every U. S. citizen. What’s more, according to James Bamford of Reuters.com, Snowdens’ disclosers reveal the agency is also “mapping very Internet connection – cellphones, laptops, tablets – ‘of everyone on the planet,’ and has spied on porn sites so as to discredit “radicalizers.’” (“Controversy of the week,” The Week, May 22, 2015, pg. 4.)
Naturally, there are always patriots who will defend these incursions, using fear as a weapon, as did the Wall Street Journal, (WSJ) when it argued we can’t defend ourselves against the terrorists without a massive and intrusive invasion into million’s of people’s private lives. “You cannot connect the dots without, well, dots.” (Ibid pg. 4) Gordon Crovitz, also of the WSJ is quick to point out all this surveillance shouldn’t be shocking. He reminds us that companies like Google and Facebook collect “’staggering amounts of information’ about every one of us on a daily basis.’” (Ibid pg. 4.)
Crovitz is correct but his understanding of the problem falls short. Thanks to technology, these intrusions on our privacy extend beyond government and commercial entities. Myrna Arias claims her former employer admitted “he was using the Xora app to track her when she was off duty and even ‘bragged that he knew how fast she was driving.’” (“Only in America,” The Week, May 22, 2015 pg. 4.)
Unfortunately, the steady and persistent tracking of our habits by government, commercial and private peepers should give us pause. Yet where is the outcry? Bamford may be correct. We may be so accustomed to being watched that intrusive surveillance is the new norm.
The Patriot Act expires June 1 of this year. Congress is already at work on a revised version. The time to raise your concerns to your Congressional delegation is now.