NSA Surveillance: Old News, But the Good News is The Bad News is Making News


In charting some of the administration's (and its apologists') lame reactions to/defenses of this week's NSA surveillance news at Hit and Run, Nick Gillespie noted that one of them was "nothing new here."

True--I'm far from a cybersecurity guru, and this article of mine from over three years ago in the American Conservative, called "Secret Police," noted both the Obama administration's utter lack of concern for Americans' electronic privacy in general, and specifically noted the NSA's FISA-based hoovering of phone and Internet information from telecom providers.

But all of us have short and narrow attention spans, and it's a great thing that some smart manuevering by certain leakers and reporters have gotten us all thinking and talking about it again--and forcing Obama to say ominous nonsense such as, as Scott Shackford noted, that if we aren't happy with the utterly secret level of supposed oversight of these programs, well then, "we're going to have some problems here."

With that stern and bizarre quasi-threat (against him or us?) in the air, it would help to study this Electronic Frontier Foundation chart of the history of NSA domestic spying. It didn't start as Obama's problem, of course, which in a world where partisan concerns trumped the bipartisan desire to expand state power above all might give him an opportunity to play to his base and be a mensch and declare an end to this Bush-era privacy nightmare.

But it's his, and our, privacy nightmare now. It's old news, but in the narrow and limited economy of media and political attention, it's a wonderful thing that it's front-paged now.