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Editorial: Americans in a dither over government spy program
About politics and other thingsJune 26, 2013 | 1,443 views | 3 comments
There are opposing theories about the current scandal involving the National Security Agency (NSA). One is that it may not be as bad as people fear -- or, it may be much worse.
Some claim that Edward Snowden is a hero -- a whistleblower who deserves protection -- while others mark him as a traitor who should be executed. I’m somewhere in between, still watching as events unfold.
A former government contractor, Snowden set off a firestorm when he released information about a secret government program called PRISM. He revealed that the U.S. government is spying on private American citizens for what he fears could be nefarious reasons. Snowden, who held a top-secret government clearance, has since fled the country, knowing that his life was at risk. He is facing criminal charges from the Justice Department, as it tries to figure out where he is and how it can get him back.
In the meantime, the official line is that by eavesdropping on private communications, the government is protecting us. It claims that, through this “spy” program, they have thwarted as many as 50 terrorist attacks, a claim that itself is being disputed.
Others claim that the government only looks at metadata and not real-time conversations. Either way, the idea that we are being spied upon by our government is a bit unnerving, especially in view of the fact that this administration has recently tapped into journalists’ telephone calls. We question what it might do next.
On the other hand, it seems to me, information sharing has been going on for a long time. The more technology increases, however, the more sophisticated the process. A close second to actual spying could be sharing our private information for commercial purposes. When our son was in high school, I felt slightly vulnerable because we suddenly found ourselves on the receiving end of solicitations geared toward high school seniors. At the same time, the Wilson County News was denied access to names and addresses of graduating seniors. As usual, money talks.
Long before my husband and I turned 50, we began getting invitations from AARP and, once we applied for Social Security, the health insurance companies began bombarding us with information. This process of “sharing” information has only accelerated. As soon as you order something online, ads from that company begin showing up on your Google searches. H-m-m-m. How did they know you were interested in that product?
Everyday Americans are having their information sold and/or shared for various reasons to commercial enterprises all the time. If all this “information sharing” is going on to that extent with nongovernmental entities, you can only imagine the amount of information that is available to the government.
Whether or not they “listen in” on our private conversations and read our communications, they certainly have access to a whole lot of information. Which brings to mind another question. If PRISM is such a powerful and effective tool, where was it when four Americans were killed in Benghazi? We can’t even find out what our president and his cabinet were doing that night.
And how is it that the Boston Marathon bomber was not caught except by a man going for a smoke in his back yard? Why is it that Major Nidal Hasan could not have been identified as a terror suspect before he killed 13 people at Fort Hood?
Every attack only brings renewed calls for tighter gun control on private citizens.I must be missing something. The long arm of the government has become all-powerful, making life and death decisions for people. It’s quite possible that the NSA scandal may be much worse than we’ll ever know.
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Publius Valerius Publicola
June 27, 2013 1:15pm
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