American's lack of interest in NSA snooping is puzzling

In our opinion


Right on the heels of the Supreme Court saying it was OK for police to take samples of DNA from people they might arrest for certain levels of crime came Edward Snowden.

Snowden is the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked top-secret documents disclosing extensive U.S. surveillance of telephone calls and Internet communications. It was surprising to learn that American’s saw this potential threat with relative indifference.

Just 41 percent perceived the National Security Agency’s monitoring of phone and email communication as a concern.

It’s been suggested in a number of circles that the NSA’s studying of millions of American’s communications is not that much different than the threat to our personal freedoms “writs of assistance,” once presented.

Writs of assistance you say, what in blazes are – make that were ­­– those? One must go back to the lead up to the Revolutionary War when the British government sought to enter and search a person’s property without notice if they believed such a place might contain contraband goods that had not paid proper taxes to the Crown.

And so came some of the foundation for the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution: “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.”

It seemed to the Cheney Free Press editorial board that having just slightly more than one-third of American’s polled be concerned about this practice was a concern. But this might just be a general symptom of a disease that might be called American Apathy Affliction.

Had this breach of our personal freedoms and security happened in the 1960s – that time of general civil unrest and an era when so many championed change in civil rights or stopping the Vietnam War – perhaps there would have been more of an outcry from the masses and the majority would have been concerned.

We think you would have seen, pardon the expression, a lot of angry people.

It reflects the mood of the general public in our country and our community, however. Election participation, despite the fact ballots are delivered right to our door via the mail, generally attract tepid response.

We’re guessing citizens would not at all take kindly to some stranger peeking into their homes. So why is there not the same irate reaction to some stranger, from the government no less, doing the same to our personal communications?

There is a feeling that since supposedly the information being tracked is only metadata, who cares?

The term metadata refers to “data about data” but there is software and databases used in the private sector that can provide frightening amounts of personal information on a computer or telephone screen before someone answers.

There are stories about NSA agents listening into personal phone calls – pillow talk – between spouses stationed in Iraq for instance. Now there’s a creepy electronic version of a “Peeping Tom.”

Perhaps, because this snooping takes place in the background, and since 9-11 there’s been a large shift in our attitudes toward being protected, we allow it to happen in the name of security. Well so be it.

CIA director John Brennan recently said the so-called War on Terror is over, but yet, this covert surveillance continues in the name of fighting terror.

Which one is it?

In the case of the Boston Marathon bombings, there was advance knowledge from surveillance that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the deceased bombing suspect, had terror ties. Yet nothing was done to prevent he and brother, Dzokhar, from carrying out the April 15 attack.

While interest in knowing just how far the government has, is, or will snoop into American’s privacy appears lukewarm, one thing we are doing is buying fictional tales of Big Brother at an alarming rate. Sales of George Orwell’s book, “1984” are up 7,000 percent in some locations according to a National Public Radio report.


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