Can we truly trust our government to protect us from our foreign and domestic enemies? Can we trust the government to execute justice fairly when we know that the IRS treated conservative and liberal individuals and groups differently? The government knows everything about our finances now and will soon know all our health information under Obamacare. Now we learn that the government has our telephone records and reads our e-mails. Can we trust the government to use our “data” for our best good or do we need to worry about the government using our information against us? Can we trust a President and his administration that repeatedly lies to us?
Columnist Charles Krauthammer explained the situation with NSA: “Thirty-five years ago in United States v. Choate, the courts ruled that the Postal Service may record `mail cover,’ i.e., what’s written on the outside of an envelope – the addresses of sender and receiver.
“The National Security Agency’s recording of U.S. phone data does basically that with the telephone. It records who is calling whom – the outside of the envelope, as it were. The content of the conversation, however, is like the letter inside the envelope. It may not be opened without a court order.
“The constitutional basis for this is simple: The Fourth Amendment protects against `unreasonable searches and seizures’ and there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for what’s written on an envelope. It’s dropped in a public mailbox, read by workers at the collection center and read once again by the letter carrier. It’s already openly been shared, much as your phone records are shared with, recorded by, and emailed back to you by a third party, namely the phone company.
“Indeed, in 1979 the Supreme Court (Smith v. Maryland) made the point directly regarding the telephone: The expectation of privacy applies to the content of a call, not its record. There is therefore nothing constitutionally offensive about the newly revealed NSA data-mining program that seeks to identify terrorist networks through telephone-log pattern recognition.”
Krauthammer is more concerned with the “other NSA program … PRISM.” This program is “designed to read the emails of non-U.S. citizens outside the United States. If an al-Qaeda operative in Yemen is emailing a potential recruit, it would be folly not to intercept it” since the Constitution is there to protect American citizens and not everyone in the world. Besides, all nations “spy” on other nations.
Krauthammer considers the real problem to be “practicality” rather than “constitutionality.” “Legally this is fairly straightforward. But between intent and execution lies a shadow – the human factor, the possibility of abuse. And because of the scope and power of the NSA, any abuse would have major consequences for civil liberties.”
The bottom line according to the article is whether or not we can trust our President and his administration. Krauthammer explained that the President “issued a major foreign-policy manifesto” three weeks ago; the major theme of this manifesto was that the “War on Terror is drawing to a close and its very legal underpinning, the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, should be not just reformed but repealed to prevent `keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing.’"
Krauthammer pointed out that while the President was telling us that the War on Terror was ending, the “government was simultaneously running a massive, secret anti-terror intelligence operation.” He questioned why we have the “vast, ever-expanding NSA dragnet whose only justification is an outside threat” if there is no need for it.