The U.S. government has been looking and often gathering and collecting data on almost every phone call, website visited, and credit card transaction we make. In case you want to get caught up one this issue which hit the news world hard yesterday, this article on the National Security Agency (NSA) program called Prism is a good quick start. Here's a juicy quote of a quote from the article:

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who know about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.

While it's hard to feel happy about this, could it be necessary to prevent another 9/11? If it did prevent something like a nuclear device being detonated in Chicago killing a million people, would it be worth it? Does this revelation give the bad guys notice that they need a new way to stay in touch?

Obviously, a government needs some secrecy, but how much is too much?

Tags: Agency, FBI, NSA, National, Security, data, mining, privacy, secrecy

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I think that as a society we are becoming more and more public.  We give our data and information out everywhere for all kinds of reasons, most of them being for convenience of one sort or another.

There's an old Chinese proverb that says.. 'if you don't want someone to know something about you...don't do it'.

I think we are well on our way towards having very few secrets from each other.  This is already changing the world.  The internet may be the precursor to some form of future human gestalt where we ALL are literally connected.  We may end up sharing a hive-type collective consciousness.  Privacy may become rare.

That said...

I certainly don't want people listening in on my phone conversations or reading my email without my permission.  I don't want anyone digging around in my personal business... not because I have much of anything to hide but just because its without my consent.    We may be moving towards an information sharing collective, but we aren't there yet.   I still desire the security that people aren't digging into every aspect of my life.

According to a Washington Post/Pew Research poll, almost 2/3 of Americans are comfortable with the NSA's activities revealed so far.

Q: What do you think is more important right now - (for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy); or (for the federal government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats)?


Clearly, as long as congress and the President react primarily to majority opinion, these activities will continue. To stop them, may take a Supreme Court decision.

I guess the words of Benjamin Franklin doesn't mean much to the American public

 Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

How is liberty the issue? Isn't it privacy?

Come on Unseen seriously?

Right to privacy is a human right which falls directly under the liberties of the 4th Amendment which says :

"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.

Also right to privacy is a human right according to UN Declaration of Human rights which The US is voted in favor of  in 1948 and is bounded to it. Human rights fall under natural born liberties. 

Hence trying to give up some liberties for security is actually a bad thing after all. Once you give up a liberty or a right to government, you will never get it back. Look at the FISA act passed in 1978, the father of the Patriot Act, not only is it still in use today, it is exactly what gives the Patriot Act its powers. Basically Patriot Act is the extension of the FISA act. 

"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.

Those are all references to privacy.

Liberties are not the same as rights, the Bill of Rights refers to rights, they are there and cannot be taken away, liberties are something you give your kids or your dog and can be removed at will.

In fact, rights stand in opposition to liberty. When you give one person or institution a right, you take a liberty away from other people (or institutions). Name a right and I can tell you how that right was created by creating a limitation elsewhere. Most obviously, when a right is created, the liberty to interfere with the right is created simultaneously. If you have the right to use a jackhammer starting at 7 a.m. (a law which seems to be almost universal), the right to do anything about it evaporates.

How is liberty the issue? Isn't it privacy?

Say the government is using surveillance to target political opponents, dissenters, and critics. How many officials would step forward and blow the whistle, knowing they'd probably spend the rest of their lives on the run or in prison? (The tally so far from the NSA: 1 ) The secrecy makes it extremely difficult to know when the government’s surveillance powers have been abused. 

And abuse them they do. It's practically routine. The DHS conducted illegal surveillance of Occupy Wall Street protesters. The FBI illegally spied and retained information on political groups because of anti-war views. The White House orders the CIA to start a smear campaign to destroy the reputation of a college professor critical of the war in Iraq. The Sixth District Court vacates the Stored Communication Act-- an act by which the entire US government had illegally claimed it didn't need search warrants anymore to seize email--  because "to the extent that the SCA purports to permit the government to obtain such emails warrantlessly, the SCA is unconstitutional".

That's real deal: real abuses, real violations of the law (by law enforcement), and actual legislation that attempted to strip away a Fourth Amendment right-- real liberty-- all in the name of government spying. And that's just a short list of what we know about.

There are other implications for privacy on liberty as well. When people feel like "the man" is watching them they think twice about exercising basic democratic freedoms: visiting (or publishing) perfectly legal but unpopular or officially disfavored Web sites, joining groups with controversial political or social views (like TA), or criticizing government policies and officials.

That's the chilling effect of surveillance on privacy. The exercise of other rights (especially First Amendment rights) are inhibited: public discourse, expression, debate, criticism and protest. All of those things are essential to freedom and democracy.

The kind of liberty you are talking about is self-imposed. One person may feel inhibited another person not.

The kind of liberty you are talking about is self-imposed. One person may feel inhibited another person not.

Which means nothing. The United States Supreme Court has long-since established that the chilling effect is a threat to First Amendment liberty and it does not require everyone to feel the same chill to declare a cold snap. 

You're citing the Supreme Court. Will you cite them as well if they decide that what's going on doesn't infringe on the 4th Amendment?

Let me cite Jean-Paul Sartre's dreadful freedom: we are always free at all times, like it or not.


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