“It’s called protecting America,” Senator Dianne Feinstein lectured this week, after the Guardian newspaper discovered that US government has been engaging in a massive electronic spying program against its own people.
Senator Feinstein’s argument is simple: America’s liberties, guaranteed by the Bill of Rights should be sacrificed in order to obtain security from terrorist attack.
In order for Feinstein’s argument to be valid, though, we need to accept a simple unstated premise: The sacrifice of America’s liberties is effective in obtaining security from terrorist attack.
We all found out this week that, rather than ending George W. Bush’s attacks on our constitutional rights, as he promised to do, Barack Obama has used the power of the presidency to expand them. Obama has continued George W. Bush’s programs to spy on the American people in the name of Homeland Security.
For every day for more than six years, project PRISM has automatically seized immense amounts of private data collected by Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and other Internet service providers and put that information into government computers where it can be easily searched. Our emails, our photographs, our private chats, our online purchases, our online searches and more have been exposed to the probing eyes of government spies. At the same time, the Obama Administration has been searching and seizing huge numbers of records of private telephone conversations between Americans.
Ominously, this surveillance has been conducted not by domestic federal law enforcement, but by NSA within the U.S. military – as if the American people are regarded as potential enemies and targets by the Pentagon.
Under PRISM an astonishing number of incidents of computerized spying took place without any particular reason to believe that any of the Americans whose private lives were invaded were involved in any criminal activity at all. That’s a blatant violation of the Bill of Rights, which promises the American people that “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.”
Every day, about 3 billion telephone calls and billions more pieces of private online communications have been spied upon by the Obama Administration. That’s trillions of individual points of data, with the numbers of connections between these points of information running far beyond that, into the septillions (that’s 10 to the power of 24).
One might assume that, with these trillions of incidents of spying against Americans, and septillions of connections to be made, PRISM made the USA secure from terrorist attack. That’s the unstated premise that Senator Dianne Feinstein is presuming that we will all make.
This unstated premise, however, is demonstrably false. Project PRISM completely failed to protect the United States of America from a major terrorist incident. The bombing of the Boston marathon this year was planned and executed – and no one in the Homeland Security system had any idea that it was going to happen.
Project PRISM succeeded very well in violating the constitutional rights of Americans citizens and establishing the foundation upon which Big Brother can be founded.
Project PRISM plainly failed to protect Americans from terrorist attack.
The defenders of PRISM are asking us to trade our liberty for a Homeland Security system that doesn’t work. It’s a rotten deal.