Some thoughts on the NSA controversy after a week of wading through charges, denials, counter-charges, and spin.
- When the Russians and the Germans suggest that you should dial back on the secret police shit, you should probably listen. Okay, that's not entirely fair, but you have to roll with the awesome irony.
- Good news! House Democrat Loretta Sanchez, speaking after a briefing to House members from the NSA today, declared that she learned the extent of the domestic surveillance program "is significantly more than what is out in the media today." I can hardly wait.
- We are told that there are checks and balances in how all of that data about us can be accessed, so we are protected from it being used for political or personal gains or attacks. For example, in the last few years the FISA court appears to have actually denied one of the thousands of requests.
- Besides, it's not like dedicated federal public servants would ever allow themselves to be used to harass, stymie, and intimidate political opponents of this or any other administration. That's just crazy talk.
- Setting sarcasm aside for a moment, I have no doubt that what has been revealed so far, and probably what has not, has actually been done within the law. The problem I see is that the applicable Constitutional boundaries of the law were defined back in 1979, when the Digital Age was still in its infancy. We give all sorts of data records to companies, not just related to phone calls, that the US Supreme Court couldn't even imagine 34 years ago. If nothing else, the revelations around the scope and scale of NSA domestic data collection reinforce that we urgently need to have a debate about governmental violations of personal privacy, and we should throw in the now common corporate violations as well.