President Obama has finally weighed in on the National Security Agency’s bulk collection and storage of Americans’ phone calls.
Under the president’s proposal, the NSA must obtain a judge’s approval before extracting information from a phone company’s database. The records in question would be held by private phone companies. The NSA would no longer be permitted to randomly cast a communications net over millions of phone records without probable cause.
Critics say that his proposal would hamper the NSA’s ability to thwart terrorist plots against US interests. They say that these bulk collections have provided valuable information that has enabled the intelligence agencies to keep Americans safe.
There is no “right” or “wrong” here.
Americans do not want to live in a police state where the government has unfettered access to their personal business. They want to move about freely without their every move falling under the gaze of prying eyes. Americans take their right of privacy very seriously.
That is until a bomb goes off in their office building or at the Boston Marathon.
Then they become outraged that the government failed to keep them safe.
On the other hand to believe that a government with access to a treasure trove of personal information can always be trusted to follow the letter of the law as respects an individual’s rights of privacy is pure folly.
Keeping the country safe while respecting all of the protections afforded us under the constitution is a very difficult proposition. In the aftermath of 9/11 the country wanted the government to err on the side of security. The Patriot Act was born and a genie bearing wire taps computer hacks was unleashed. Now that the horror of that day has faded we want our privacy back.
The president is trying to put the genie back in the bottle.
That will work...until the next terrorist successfully completes his mission.