You would think that the government was listening in to the secrets of 200 million Americans from the reaction and the hyperbole being tossed about. And you would think that rather than a legal court order which is an inevitable consequence of legislation that we drafted and passed, something illegal had been discovered to the government’s shame.
Nope. Nothing of the kind. Though apparently, the U.K.’s Guardian, which broke this faux-scandal, is unrelenting in its desire to scale the heights of self-congratulatory hyperbole. Consider this from Glenn Greenwald, the author of the piece: “What this court order does that makes it so striking is that it’s not directed at any individual…it’s collecting the phone records of every single customer of Verizon business and finding out every single call they’ve made…it’s indiscriminate and it’s sweeping.”
Having labored as a police reporter in the days before the Patriot Act, I can assure all there has always been a stage before the wiretap, a preliminary process involving the capture, retention and analysis of raw data. It has been so for decades now in this country. The only thing new here, from a legal standpoint, is the scale on which the FBI and NSA are apparently attempting to cull anti-terrorism leads from that data. But the legal and moral principles? Same old stuff.
It's a pretty sobering column, and considering the speed at which national security minded Republicans are suddenly pretending deafness and blindness to the program in order to avoid any responsibility for it, I'm going to agree with Simon here.
For his part, President Obama addressed PRISM today:
“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” Mr. Obama said, delivering a 14-minute answer to two questions about the surveillance programs at an event that was initially supposed to be devoted to the health care law. “That’s not what this program is about.”The president’s remarks, during a four-day trip to the West Coast, were his first since the revelations this week of programs to collect information about phone calls and Internet traffic. Mr. Obama said the programs help prevent terrorist attacks and they are kept in check by rigorous judicial and Congressional oversight.He acknowledged that the public may be uncomfortable with the broad reach of the formerly secret programs, but he said he believed the government had struck the right balance between the need to fight terrorism and the need to protect privacy.“You can’t have 100 percent security and then also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” Mr. Obama said, repeatedly stressing that the lawmakers from both parties and federal judges were aware of the efforts. “You know, we’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”
And this is true because, as Josh Barro says, Congress and the American people demanded that Something Be Done To Keep Us Safe.