I personally have never been very concerned about my so-called “privacy.” Truth be told, I’ve felt we’ve been over-concerned about privacy.
Whether it’s the forms in the doctor’s office, the cameras to catch shoplifters or drivers running red lights, I’ve had no problem with these measures and can’t quite understand why there are objections based on the “invasion of privacy.”
If you’re doing something illegal and getting caught by an eyewitness or a camera, I believe this serves the greater good.
Along comes the IRS scandal and now the NSA surveillance programs, and I begin to have some second thoughts. In the case of the IRS, it wasn’t the problem of the procedures for granting tax exempt status to non-profit organizations. The problem was the illegal harassment of targeted conservative groups by, as yet, an unknown number of government employees pursuing their own partisan agenda.
The NSA situations exploded when a former CIA contractor/employee revealed a top-secret order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court requiring Verizon Business Network to make all its records available to the government. Also revealed were the existence of two government snooping programs. In a program called PRISM, we are told tech companies have given the government unprecedented, direct access to data generated by their users. These firms included Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple. “That has been interpreted to mean that the NSA could obtain emails, video chats and other communications without having to make specific requests of the service providers or having to obtain court orders for each search.
Could what happened with the IRS happen with the NSA data-mining program? I’m afraid it could. I always questioned the competence of government administrators. The IRS situation has blown my confidence in the ability of government administrators to remain non-partisan in their implementation of our laws and regulations.
I have no idea that the IRS scandal came about on orders from higher ups, but I’m sure the polarized climate of the hostile DC politics made a contribution to this happening.
What I think it comes down to is this: If the government or private entities invade the privacy of individuals who are caught breaking the law, that’s okay with me.
On the other hand, if the government breaks the law by illegally misusing the data (NSA) or the powers given to them, like the IRS, I think the punishment should be severe, uncompromising and swift.
Civil libertarians claim the NSA data mining itself is an invasion of privacy. I don’t think so as long as the NSA administrators use the data to enhance our security as authorized by the FISA court under the Patriot Act passed by Congress. If they misuse these provisions, as the IRS has, the full hammer of the law should come down on them.
No one, including the alleged leaker, Edward Snowden of the NSA surveillance program, has outlined any harm or abuse that has taken place. His prosecution maybe a bit tricky. By contrast, the prosecution of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who gave classified information to Wikileaks honcho Julian Assange, will be a lot easier. The release of that information did cause a lot of harm to a number of people.
Americans bristle at the idea that the IRS has singled out political organizations that applied for tax-free status, but don’t seem too worked up about NSA data mining. A Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll out last week found that 62% of Americans say it’s important for the government to investigate terror threats even if it intrudes on personal privacy.
Fifty-six percent say it’s okay that the NSA ”has been getting secret court orders to track telephone calls of millions of Americans in an effort to investigate terrorism.”
Forty-five percent say it’s okay for the government to read everyone’s emails if officials say it might prevent future terror attacks.
Each of us has to evaluate the need for security, as well as the privacy issues, to make your own determination on what you’re comfortable with.