Law enforcement investigators typically gumshoe one clue at a time when sleuthing ordinary criminals and evidence. In contrast, the Patriot Act allows terrorism probes to start with all the electronic data, and then toss everything but the relevant items.
NSA and FBI chose a terrorist-oriented “boil the ocean” approach when in April 2013 they convinced a FISA court judge to order Verizon Wireless to deliver all “call data” every day. That means the feds, under a court order, can now study the domestic and international communications behavior of about 100 million consumers (since Verizon customers sometimes call non-Verizon subscribers).
When the feds rake that data and find interesting patterns they can obtain court orders for wiretaps, revealing conversations in real time.
This court order affects a huge percentage of ordinary Americans and the vast majority of us are law-abiding. No one in the know has been forthcoming about why the order was sought, and the FISA court ordered silence on the details. Indeed we became aware of this court order only because a British newspaper published it.
But key questions remain. What is so important as to warrant wholesale surveillance of the American public by the feds and how long should we wait for a convincing explanation?
It had better be convincing because peoples’ trust of the federal government is in short supply.
Indeed, the supply is depleted by the IRS’ targeting of political foes, the DOJ’s evasions on “Fast and Furious,” the preposterous explanation of why Americans died in Benghazi, the unstated reasons why DOJ mounted a 30-phone dragnet against AP reporters, and DOJ’s partisan allegation that a Fox reporter is a co-conspirator because he reported on an issue embarrassing to the DOJ.
Spokespersons defending these abominations loose credence with the public.
This national surveillance offends us because it probes our private lawful affairs. It needs a truthful explanation from someone the public believes is not dumping another load of falsified “talking points.”
Alan Daley is a retired businessman who lives in Florida and who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research. For more information about the Institute, visit www.theamericanconsumer.org.