Where is the outrage?

Finally, now that USA Today has broken the story (NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls), people are beginning to take notice.  But is it too little, too late?
Written by Marc Wagner, Contributor

Finally, now that USA Today has broken the story (NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls), people are beginning to take notice.  But is it too little, too late? 

The first hints of NSA data-mining telephone and internet traffic surfaced last year, when a 'leak' at the National Security Agency revealed that the government has been monitoring phone records since 2001.  At that time, we learned that the President had authorized this action without the oversight of the FISA court.  (I find it remarkable that there was a 'leak' at the nation's most secret agency -- that should have been a clue that something was wrong.)

Just a few weeks ago, the web started buzzing with rumors of an engineer who knew of a 'secret room' at an AT&T operations center where the NSA has set up shop.  Now we hear the truth (or some version of it) -- that the government has been spying on us all for five years now -- and none of us have had the benefit of a search warrant to protect our rights! 

The FISA court was established in 1978 under the auspices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in order to provide judicial oversight of the government's activities through issuance of search warrants without compromising national security.  While bypassing the court, the White House left us with the distinct impression that data was only being collected on telephone calls between the United States and foreign locations.  It seems now that we were lied to.  Is this because the FISA court knew the White House was overstepping its bounds?

Before we go any further, what does the Constitution have to say on the subject?  The founding fathers, in their wisdom, crafted the Constitution with three branches of government, each of which would have a role in governing -- and in oversight of the actions of the other two branches.  Then they added the Bill of Rights, including ...

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.

This amendment was written at a time when the government could not read what you wrote or hear what you said without entering your home, reading your papers, and rummaging through your personal effects.  Nonetheless, as the technology has changed so have the legal precedents which have, until now, extended that right of privacy to all forms of personal communications. 

So what happened?  Well, 9/11 certainly played a crucial role.  FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) was the predictable outcome -- at least for those living on the coasts, and in major metropolitan areas.  Unfortunately, too many of us have forgotten the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  So here we are, happily giving up our liberties for a false promise of 'security'. 

What I find most alarming is that of the four telecommunications giants in the United States, only Qwest (the smallest of the 'baby bells') refused to cooperate with the NSA without the benefit of a search warrant.  When asked, the NSA informed Qwest that they were not inclined to seek a search warrant for their activity.  In response, Qwest refused to turn over the data.  So why didn't AT&T, Bellsouth, and Verizon's MCI operation do the same?

As far as I know, AT&T has not bothered to refute the claims of USA Today but both Bellsouth and Verizon (Verizon denies it gave numbers to NSA) have now denied that any calling records were provided to the NSA by them

It is disturbing that both Bellsouth and Verizon used very carefully crafted language -- not exactly confirming or denying what if anything was provided to anyone.  It makes you wonder what kind of pressure they are getting from the NSA to keep the lid on this. 

Our unwillingness to speak out against this breach of our civil liberties brings to mind the writing of Pastor Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

It is time for us to stand up and say NO MORE!

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