By Dawud Walid, The Detroit News, 6/11/13
Recent revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) and FBI have been involved in widespread collection of Verizon customers phone records -- as well as communications from nine internet providers -- has sent shockwaves across the country.Programs which started under the guise of counterterrorism during the Bush administration have mushroomed past simple information gathering on potential threats to mass collection of data on citizens.
"You can’t have 100 percent security, and then have 100 percent privacy," says President Obama, a defender and advancer of such programs, in defending broad government snooping. He also used the word "inconvenience" regarding the government having access to our private e-mails, pictures and Skype conversations.
The primary characteristic that separates free societies from totalitarian ones is that citizens need not worry if their governments are monitoring their every move without predication of criminal behavior.
The framers of the Constitution had foresight in this matter.
The Fourth Amendment was written to protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures unless probable causes exist. It’s this principle of freedom that differentiates our legal framework from other nations. Sadly, we are witnessing a steady erosion of these freedoms in the name of security.
Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, says a single attack was thwarted due to this obtuse collection of phone records. I wish Rogers would share this information, so we can access the validity of this statement. The fundamental question is: Are we as Americans willing to live in the land of the Orwellian in the name of feeling more secure? East Germany was a very secure country from extremist attacks, and North Korea is likewise today. No one that I know, however, is willing to live in such conditions for the sake of feeling secure.
Congressman Justin Amash, R-Michigan, wrote a bipartisan Congressional member letter to the heads of the NSA and FBI seeking questions regarding this broad information gathering given that the legal statute for such is confined to foreign intelligence purposes, not domestic. Amash and other Congressmen should push for hearings into the scope and legality of such activities by the NSA and FBI.
"Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security," Benjamin Franklin famously stated.
We have real threats that face our nation, but the erosion of our freedoms is a greater threat to our national soul than any enemy, foreign or domestic.
I hope that our discussions on this issue in the coming weeks can be focused on the nature of contemporary government surveillance and the costs both fiscally and constitutionally to our republic. Long conversations about NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden -- and if certain papers should have released info on NSA and FBI mass data collection -- are distractions from the real issues.