During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in July 2006, then CIA director Michael Hayden said:"We do not vacuum up the contents of communications under the president's program and then use some sort of magic after the intercept to determine which of those we want to listen to, deal with or report on."
Yet, just last Friday President Barack Obama acknowledged the existence of massive trawling in response to media reports and published classified documents that detailed the government's secret mass collection of phone and Internet communications. Of course he tried to ease fears that Americans' privacy rights are being violated by using a word that many Americans fear more than the loss of constitutional rights. Terrorism has now become the U.S. government's standard rationale when trampling on the rights of US citizens.
Massive Data Trawling is Unconstitutional
What we, as citizens, are allowing the US government and large corporations to do, makes one wonder if anyone in the US has ever read the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution? It's short and sweet and one of the foundation stones of our Republic. It says quite clearly:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
In other words, as citizens of the United States of America we have the right to privacy. It's supposedly guaranteed in our constitution. Yet every hour of everyday the government or some company is busy mining our personal data.
Sadly, just because something is unconstitutional does not mean it's illegal. There is, for instance, no penalty for members of congress or a president for passing/signing a law that blatantly infringes upon a constitutionally protected right and there are no penalties associated with violating the constitution.
Someone, Somewhere is Watching and that Someone Cares
Corporations are already using the data for marketing research. That's why when I visited some obscure websites today, ads started to appear showing me pictures of, and providing links to exactly what I was looking for on line a few hours before. Do we think someone installed a cookie on my disk drive? Or are the sites I visit just taking a wild guess that I spent the morning looking for a Oceanside getaway in Northern Florida?
There was a time when the government only cared about what individuals such as Martin Luther King or John Lennon where doing, and while that's bad enough, now our government cares equally about every American with a smart phone, computer or iPad and gives them all the same celebrity treatment.
Many have suspected that this sort of massive data collection was going on for quite some time. But now the cat's out of the bag and everyone knows that the US government is not only spying on our lives, but also storing an ongoing record of all our activities for future reference and research. And rationalizes the data collection to a fearful public by saying it's being done to "keeping the world safe from terrorism".
I'm reminded of these famous words:
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. Ben Franklin