On Wednesday, the National Security Agency acknowledged that when investigating one suspected terrorist, it can read and store the phone records of millions of Americans. That’s a huge upgrade from the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, that’s for sure.
According to a story by the Associated Press, it’s quite easy for Americans with no connection to terrorism to unwittingly have their calling patterns analyzed by the government because of what’s known as “hop” or “chain” analysis.
The story said, “When the NSA identifies a suspect, it can look not just at his phone records, but also the records of everyone he calls, everyone who calls those people and everyone who calls those people.”
In other words, if a “suspected terrorist” ordered a pizza and you ordered a pizza from the same place, you are automatically in league with said “terrorist.”
Yes, I’m puttiing “terrorist” in quotes because I’m not entirely sure how the government defines terrorism any more. It used to be pretty black and white but these days everything is a shade of gray. I have a feeling anyone who ever protested anything might be in some database of being potentially a terrorist. This would include me.
Of course, the government has to watch out for itself — and moreover the people it was sworn to protect. But it needs to also watch out for the Constitution that it was also sworn to protect. And I have serious reservations about the Constitutionality of many of the ongoing government surveillance programs.
The problem with ignoring the Constitution and just doing whatever-they-damn-well-please is that in doing so, they’re turning the people of this country into mere subjects. Instead of power flowing up from us (via the ballot booth), it trickles down from Washington to us … in scant doses.
And just like the trickle-down economy is a complete fallacy, a trickle-down power structure is equally flawed. By the time it gets down to folks like you and I, the power is so diluted that it couldn’t run a flashlight, let alone a country.
I realize that there were also members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who are livid about the abuse of power in the NSA. I find that somewhat heartening. Unfortunately, they were outnumbered by those who believe that government is all-important and we aren’t.
Unless you’re content with becoming a subject — rather than a citizen — I recommend you make some noise and complain. But be forewarned, as I already said that I imagine all complainers are added to the top of the “terrorist” watch list.
Scott Leffler sometimes orders pizza with mushrooms. The NSA already knew that. And now you do, too. Follow his public tweets @scottleffler. For a more in-depth look at his life, get a job at the NSA.