In yesterday’s Washington Post, Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani reported that the National Security Agency “is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials….The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices….New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool. The NSA does not target Americans’ location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones ‘incidentally,’ a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result.”
If the people who work for the American surveillance state were capable of that holy grail of reporting, the objectivity of disinterestedness (which does not mean, or did not use to mean, lack of interest), we might be able to afford ourselves a little complacency. But that word “incidentally” sounds suspiciously like the phrase “modest encroachments” President Obama used in June to wave off concerns that we Americans have been stripped of any meaningful privacy rights. If I doubt that agents of the federal government are capable of a lofty “view from nowhere” that would minimize unnecessary intrusions into the private life of a good fellow such as myself, how paranoid am I ? Better to ask, how shortsighted am I if I trust the NSA farther than I can throw it?
Have these NSA revelations gotten almost crazy enough for Congress and the courts to restrain the insatiable appetite of the security apparatus? Crazy enough, at any rate, for Microsoft and other large tech companies to work on stronger encryption methods so as to protect their own business reputations. Those tech behemoths are smarter than to say “I don’t care because I have nothing to hide”–Microsoft, Google, et al. know full well how much private mess is under those black and silver tablet rocks. If the NSA has been spying on the online pornography Al Qaeda leaders watch, perhaps that will help keep America more secure–but how long before they come after your habits too, whatever they are, if you object to their proclaimed need to know everything about everybody?
- US is tracking cellphone locations worldwide (washingtonpost.com)
- NSA gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world – @washingtonpost (washingtonpost.com)
- The NSA could figure out how many Americans it’s spying on. It just doesn’t want to. (washingtonpost.com)
- Rolling Stone: Snowden and Greenwald: The Men Who Leaked the Secrets (cfr.org)