Sen. Leahy—NSA Surveillance Effectiveness Is Not the Point


Big Brother

The scope of the national security state's surveillance activities is becoming depressingly ever more "transparent." But not because the National Security Agency or the Obama Administration are more forthcoming, but because their hands are being forced by telltale leaks from Edward Snowden about the sorry details of their massive intrusions into the private lives of Americans. As Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) pointed out during a hearing yesterday: 

"I don't want transparency only when it's convenient to the government," Franken said. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, he added, "has known for weeks that this hearing was coming and ODNI released this only in the minutes before this hearing began. That doesn't engender trust."

For his part Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) noted at the hearing:

The phone records of all of us in this room reside in an NSA database.  I have said repeatedly that just because we have the ability to collect huge amounts of data does not mean that we should be doing so.  In fact, it has been reported that the bulk collection of Internet metadata was shut down because it failed to produce meaningful intelligence.  We need to take an equally close look at the phone records program.  If this program is not effective, it must end.  And so far, I am not convinced by what I have seen.

I don't give two damns about the senator's judgement with regard to the spying program's effectiveness. It would be even more "effective" if we all were required to wear geolocation monitors that uploaded our recorded conversations to a database that could be queried by federal agents when "something goes wrong." Effectiveness of surveillance is not the point; violation of our constitutional rights is. According to the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That's as much "transparency" as we need to defend our country and preserve our liberty. The government needs to be "transparent" to the citizenry, not vice versa as the NSA and its defenders evidently believe.

Disclosure: I am not a constitutional legal scholar, just fed up. End of rant today.