Public apathy over surveillance

  • Article by: David Rieff , Foreign Policy
  • Updated: August 26, 2013 - 8:08 AM

On their face, Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency’s secret mass electronic data surveillance system should have created a political firestorm for the Obama administration and Congress. Not only have PRISM and related programs been used to collect information about Americans with the cooperation of most major Internet and telephone companies, but when news of the program leaked, officials first insisted that the programs had only tangential domestic implications because they targeted foreigners outside the United States — reassurances that were quickly undone by further revelations. In other words, the government lied to the public and was caught.

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hobie2Aug. 25, 13 9:56 PM

I see the headline story on the NSA spying on UN conferences that is the big story in the rest of the world didn't make it on the strib. What I don't get is why people blame the one who tells of the spying, and not the spying... It seems obvious that 1) if you didn't do the deed, no one could report the deed; and 2) if the deed wasn't any issue, then what harm would there be if the deed were reported?...

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RankenFyleAug. 26, 13 7:21 AM

And with every comment we make, every question we ask, the higher our profile rises in the eyes of those who watch.

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pumiceAug. 26, 13 7:45 AM

Re: "And with every comment we make, every question we ask, the higher our profile rises in the eyes of those who watch." Which is why all of us should be commenting and questioning, RankenFyle. (I'd add "every purchase we make" and "every Internet search we make" and "practically every move we make" to your list.) The debate which is being obscured--shrouded in secrecy, if you will--is "How much privacy are we willing to give up for convenience and/or security?" Like they say, "Freedom isn't free."

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pumiceAug. 26, 13 7:55 AM

Re: "How much privacy are we willing to give up for convenience and/or security?" That question has other components as well: "How much surveillance has been outsourced to private corporations? Is it possible to regulate e-surveillance?"

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Don9539Aug. 26, 1310:52 AM

Somewhere along the line, at 2000 or 3000 E-mails saved, my file system became unmanageable. If I needed to access many of them I would not even remember they exist. If I did remember them I might not be able to find them. Does the government not face similar problems managing the mess as they get to the 3rd or 4th zillionth record saved?

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summerguy3Aug. 26, 1311:46 AM

I recall seeing Stuart Varney ask an opponent to surveillance something like: "If the US eliminates surveillance and a terrorist succeeds in detonating a nuclear device in a large city, what will be your response?" To the point of the author regarding apathy, I believe that if the issue were not so complex, there would be a stronger public reaction. But, in my eyes, Mr. Varney's question stands and this opinion writer should be capable and willing to explain how his perspective would protect US citizens better.

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123PJohnAug. 26, 1312:27 PM

NSA officials who lied to Congress should be fired. The NSA is spying on US citizens and violating our 4th amendment constitutional rights.

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wiseoracleAug. 26, 1312:36 PM

Are we talking about US citizens detonating bombs? Because thats who's surveillance scrutiny we are talking about! I don't think anybody has ever really said, lets stop performing surveillance on foreign\terrorists communications. And to Don9539's point - please explain how keeping and attempting to perform data processing on years and years worth of citizens communications... will help stop a bomb\plane crash next week\month? First off, the volume is so difficult to analyze effectively; and secondly, the data has become so old\stale\historical in nature, that it strains credibility to call it actionable intelligence data. Historical data on *US citizens* is only of value to the J. Edgar Hoover's of this world... and remains a violation of our Constitution. Stop terrorists = yes; spy on citizens = no. Use scare tactics to get people to capitulate to your need to spy = no!!

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borisbadenovAug. 26, 1312:37 PM

"Does the government not face similar problems managing the mess as they get to the 3rd or 4th zillionth record saved?"

And that justifies the government collecting information on you and about you?

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