Edward Snowden, the National Security Administration worker who leaked classified information, should be held responsible for his actions. He violated a legal and moral trust and must face the consequences in a U.S. court of law. The same goes for the U.S. government. Two high-ranking officials are suspected of lying to Congress, which is perjury, and the federal government has very likely overstepped its bounds in gathering intelligence on all of us, ordinary citizens who are not suspected of any crimes. Courts have apparently upheld the legality of the gathering of data, but the explanation that the information is seldom used, and then only with court authorization, lacks credibility after the revelation that telephone, email and computer records are kept on file for future investigations. Another problem, and one that is equally disturbing, is that most people now believe it's acceptable for the government to collect and store such information. Americans, it seems, are increasingly willing to give up Constitutional freedoms, such as freedom from search and seizure, in exchange for the promise of security. Too many of us appear to welcome ongoing surveillance of our day-to-day lives if it might reduce the chance of a terrorist attack. But that surveillance threatens the basic balance of government upon which this country was built. The idea of checks and balances between the various arms of government was put into place by the nation's founders and have withstood the test of time. The USA Patriot Act signed into law in 2001 gives law enforcement the authority to require-among other things- that booksellers and librarians turn over to police information they may have on what you or I may be reading. It also, apparently, makes it OK to store our telephone and computer records in case there is a reason to investigate them at some future date. This erosion of our protection from government abuse comes at a time when technological advances are making privacy invasion easier than ever. Thanks to the increasing sophistication of computer databases and the broadening of powers under the Patriot Act, government could have a central file system containing the travel records of every flier, their addresses, phone numbers, credit cards, driver's licenses, information on cars owned and other details of a citizen's life. Combine this kind of information with the automatic face recognition video systems and we've set the stage for the kind of Big Brother surveillance that once existed only in science fiction novels. And while we're told that the secret telephone database has saved us from attack, there's no reason why we can't get specifics about those attacks so that the American people can see what the actual cost-benefit is of that program. The cat is out of the bag; the data collection program is no longer secret. Included in a public cost-benefit analysis should be the cost of the breach of trust between the government and its millions of law-abiding citizens who are the subjects of spying by their own government. While the focus has been on Edward Snowden, the question of the U.S. government gathering information on its citizens is even more disturbing.
[The editorials that appear weekly in this space are the views of the newspaper as determined by The Chronotype's editorial board. All editorials are written by one or more members of the board, which consists of Warren Dorrance, Sam Finazzo, Gene Prigge and Eileen Nimm.]
Posted: Saturday, July 27, 2013
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This was a well written article on a subject almost everyone can agree on.