I am shocked at the National Security Administration’s email, phone tapping and text message surveillance scandal.
I am not shocked that someone in the government would see the potential political and national security benefit of having the information.
I am not shocked that a government agency would use national security as a cover story to help them spy on any person, anywhere.
I am not shocked that the Patriot Act – which lowered the bar for probable cause for wiretapping and other information gathering activities after the 9/11 attacks – would be expanded by de facto rulemaking in the bureaucracy to go beyond specific searches of people who are engaged in suspicious activity and now can include wholesale lists of emails to and from people with no history or suspicion of crime or terror activity.
What does shock me is that someone has the time to do it all.
When I watch movies like the Bourne Identity, Bourse Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum, I laugh at the idea of a room full of people with access to every phone line, computer and video camera from anywhere on planet earth to track spies and other people.
How could these people working 10 hour shifts keep up with the whereabouts of well-trained spies – much less a bevy of average citizens.
I work way too many hours every day already and I barely have time to read my own emails and text messages. If I could avoid every phone call, I would.
I can see how a team could track a few high-value targets. But this massive surveillance that has been alleged would take thousands of people a lot of time to weed through the data even with very advanced search criteria.
According to the man who blew the whistle on the questionable activity, no one is safe.
"Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector. Anywhere," whistleblower Edward Snowden said. "I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email."
I hope at some point one of them wiretapped one of my calls where my six-year old adopted son who has been in America for two years tried to explain what he had for lunch that day in his broken English. That agent would probably have asked for reassignment after making it through that call.
This is a problem.
It isn’t a problem because people have something to hide. It is a problem because we have a right to privacy. Those rights are being trampled.
Page 2 of 2 - But the only person in trouble is the whistleblower.
It is time for the President and Congress to lead on this issue and put these agencies back inside the cages from which they so easily escaped.
It is time for a second look at the Patriot Act. National security is important, but without personal security, it’s value is tarnished.
We should be able to protect both.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org