NSA Hysteria

by Paul Siciliano


You know it is a slow news day when you have all of this so-called hysteria over the NSA seeking phone records from Verizon keeping track of phone calls made and received by its customers for the past three months.  As the day progressed, we learned that the program went back to the Bush Administration - no surprise there.

What we hear little of, is what exactly this program is, and the reason we don't hear it is because of our Federal Government's obsession with classifying everything for national security purposes.  That is what makes this program problematic. 

Clearly, the only information the NSA has access to through this program is a list of phone calls made and received from a particular number and the length of the call.  This is not a wire tap where the government has access to the contents of the discussions.  Further, from what I heard, NSA does not have access to all information.  All that is required is for Verizon to provide this information into a database which the NSA can then access if it receives a warrant from our top secret FISA courts.  Of course, we don't know this for sure since it is top secret. 

My issue is - if the government is requiring a database to be kept of all this information (I guess so as to not let carriers know which numbers are subject to a warrant), why should that be a big secret.  Even without the Patriot Act and all that, the government can get a subpoena/warrant to access the phone calls an individual made and received.  The database, as I noted, is probably done to prevent the carriers from knowing which numbers are being targeted and thus subject to a leak.  If that is so, big deal - let the American people know that this program is going on but not let them know which numbers are being targeted or have been subject to a warrant. 

But, obsession with secrecy and national security grips the culture in Washington - especially, among the defense types.  It's this secrecy which makes average citizens believe something more is going on - and maybe it is.  Regardless, if Americans were aware of a program by which all of the information of what calls are made and received were put into a large database and can only be accessed for certain numbers after a judge signs off on a warrant, people may be more cool with it.  Personally, that does not bother me. 

The outrage will subside in a day or two - it always does.  And, if people are really angry about it, demand Congress to change it, I mean they authorized it, they can de-authorize it.  But once the words "national security" are thrown around, most Americans back off.  Such a shame.