Can you hear me now? Even if your service sucks and your friend can’t hear you, don’t be surprised if that phone call is still being heard someone else. According to a source in USA Today, the National Security Agency has been “secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans,” using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth.
That’s right; the companies you pay so you can talk on your phone are now giving the government your call records and who knows what else. Of course with access to records of billions of calls, the NSA can see directly into the private communications of millions of people. The NSA is not saying they are listening to the phone calls or even getting the caller’s name, address, or any other personal information, but then again they are not saying much at all. Maybe they want to leave the talking to rest of America so they can eavesdrop – we mean “view the records” of everyone’s calls.
The phone numbers the NSA does collect can easily be cross-checked with other databases to get what few personal details the caller has left. So even if they are being a good little secret program, their thoughtful privacy shield for the public can be broken with a simple call or internet search of the phone number on the list.
Last year, President Bush said he had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop (without warrants) on the “narrow target” of international calls and e-mails of Americans and others inside the U.S. with suspected ties to the al-Qaida terror network. But without warrants, who is keeping a record of the NSA?
Last week, the Justice Department attempted to question the NSA and the warrant-free eavesdropping program, but the NSA would not grant the necessary security clearance to continue the probe.
So basically no one can watch what they are doing but we should trust that the government is not abusing its power. It’s like we’re putting a child in a room full of candy, shutting the door and hoping they don’t eat too much.
Now the same man, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, who headed the NSA from 1999 to 2005 has the President’s nomination to become the director of the CIA. Hayden would have overseen the NSA’s call-tracking program and he seems to know how to keep a secret. He has keep his lips sealed when questioned about the program.
The Patriot Act was the start of this whole snooping trend. In late April, the Justice Department released a report stating that the FBI issued thousands of subpoenas to banks, phone companies and Internet providers last year. Under the Patriot Act, the FBI has the power to monitor the activities of U.S. citizens and they are using their power aggressively.
We at the Campus Times understand the desire to keep the public safe and informed. But we don’t agree that a record of grandma’s calls should be passed around.
If the government won’t listen when the Justice Department tries to speak with them in court, maybe we should all shout our concerns into our phones. They only seem to want to listen to us there anyway.