So, it turns out that, just as under President Bush, the National Security Agency under President Obama is sifting through the data from millions of phone calls. While this may or may not come as a surprise to you, the practice had not been confirmed until it was exposed by the Guardian last night. Now the fallout begins. Here’s what everyone is talking about.
Sound the alarm:
Steven Aftergood, Federation of American Scientists :
At first glance, this appears to be a massive overreach by the government, as well as a massive failure of congressional oversight and judicial review to curb the Administration’s excess.
Michelle Richardson, ACLU legislative counsel:
“Now that this unconstitutional surveillance effort has been revealed, the government should end it and disclose its full scope, and Congress should initiate a full investigation. This disclosure also highlights the growing gap between the public’s and the government’s understandings of the many sweeping surveillance authorities enacted by Congress. Since 9/11, the government has increasingly classified and concealed not just facts, but the law itself. Such extreme secrecy is inconsistent with our democratic values of open government and accountability.”
Gregory Ferenstein, TechCrunch:
Late last year, I wrote about a few actual harms that citizens should be worried about from these types of big-data spying programs. Blackmailing citizens critical of the government seemed like a distant hypothetical, until we learned that the IRS was auditing Tea Party groups and journalists were being wiretapped. Nefarious actors inside the government like to abuse national security programs for political ends, and that should make us all (even more) suspect of government spying.
Conor Friedersdorf, Atlantic:
We don’t know if the federal government has a similar order for AT&T. Or any other carrier. Or if they’re spying on the emails of Americans as well. Why? That isn’t the sort of thing President Obama thinks he needs to tell us, and Congress persists in giving him that latitude. Americans, who haven’t been objecting to any of this in large numbers, aren’t even demanding to know whether or not their government is assembling the most sophisticated surveillance state in human history.
Has fear of terrorism done this to us?
Whatever the cause, the current behavior of the American electorate does not befit a free people.
Cindy Cohn and Mark Rumold, Electronic Freedom Foundation:
Today, the Guardian newspaper confirmed what EFF (and many others) have long claimed: the NSA is conducting widespread, untargeted, domestic surveillance on millions of Americans. This revelation should end, once and for all, the government’s long-discredited secrecy claims about its dragnet domestic surveillance programs. It should spur Congress and the American people to make the President finally tell the truth about the government’s spying on innocent Americans.
Marcy Wheeler, emptywheel:
That is what all the secrecy has been about. Undercutting separation of powers to ensure that the constitutionality of this program can never be challenged by American citizens.
It’s no big deal, says the Administration. But it’s sufficiently big of a deal that they have to short-circuit the most basic principle of our Constitution.