Sunday, July 06, 2014

Huge New Snowden Scoop: Ordinary Internet Users 'Far Outnumbered' Legal Targets

From the Guardian via AlterNet:

The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted were catalogued and recorded, the Post reported. The newspaper described that material as telling "stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes".

The material collected included more than 5,000 private photos, the paper said.

The cache Snowden provided to the newspaper came from domestic NSA operations under the broad authority granted by Congress in 2008 with amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to the Post.

By law, the NSA may "target" only foreign nationals located overseas unless it obtains a warrant based on probable cause from a special surveillance court, the Post said. "Incidental collection" of third-party communications is inevitable in many forms of surveillance, according to the newspaper.

More here.

According to polling information, most Americans appear to be shrugging off this sort of thing.  The reasoning for this, or so it is speculated, is that we're all already used to dealing with private companies collecting our information.  Actually, I'm used to it, too.  I mean, I don't like it, and it strikes me that such data collection is easily abused, but I'm definitely used to it.  

But this strikes me as something different.  For one thing, the potential for abuse is MUCH higher with a government entity than with companies with whom we do business; for instance, I know that law enforcement agencies and prosecutors have already been trying to get access to information collected by the NSA, for which they would almost always need a warrant otherwise.  And the old "if you've got nothing to hide, it shouldn't bother you" concept doesn't provide much solace: cops don't try to ascertain the truth; rather, they try to make cases, and when your life is an open book, disparate facts and pieces of information can easily be strung together in creative ways, as with reality television programs, to assemble narratives that don't actually exist in real life. 

What REALLY disturbs me, however, is that this information taken from non-targeted US citizens is, according to the article, "cataloged and recorded."  That is, the NSA is assembling files on everyone who crosses their path.  And that's an ever increasing number of Americans, all of whom did nothing more than end up in the Agency's enormous net.  Needless to say, this reeks of Orwell's 1984, of police states, and military dictatorships.  Why does our government need to have files on regular ordinary Americans?  I don't know the answer to that, but it can't be good.  Actually, I can't think of one good reason that US security agencies would need to have files on US citizens who have broken no laws.  I mean, sure, the IRS, Social Security, okay, they have good reasons, and are usually pretty narrow with the info they collect.  That's legitimate.  What the NSA is doing is NOT legitimate.

Why the hell aren't they destroying the information they don't need?  Again, I don't know, but there can be no good answer to this question.  No, it's not 1984 just yet, but every day we're more and more like the proverbial frogs in the gradually warming pot.  Seems nice so far.  I haven't been thrown into prison on weird Kafkaesque charges.  And, boy, this warm bath is downright comforting!  

And then we're all boiling to death.