It is long held that the government can look at the outside of an envelope as it passes through the postal system. The government can see who is sending a letter, to whom it is being sent, and from which postal location the letter was mailed.
The government, in the twenty-first century, is trying to come to terms with a society that transmits information differently from the postal service. Extrapolating the boundaries of the mail, the government has decided to start collecting the metadata of emails and phone calls, e.g. who is contacting whom, from where, to where, the size of files, the length of phone calls, etc.
Superficially, it may make sense. In fact, many national security professionals on the left and right think it is necessary. The content of the messages and phone calls is not revealed, the documents themselves being transmitted are not revealed, just the metadata — the data from which the underlying phone call, email, or document passes through the series of tubes known as the internet. We know, however, mistakes have been made in the handling and processing of the data.
There is one key issue here — unlike the postal service, private companies control the series of tubes through which the data travels. The private companies are either complicity working with the government (most likely) or are being hacked in some way by the government (least likely).
I do not fault the Obama Administration trying to keep us safe. President Obama has used and expanded the very policies of George W. Bush that candidate Obama attacked. Amazing how the depth, seriousness, and gravity of office can change someone’s world view.
But I think this may go too far. I have long held that the government doing this to foreign citizens has been no problem. In fact, the New York Times leaks during the Bush Administration were about programs that looked at foreigners, their calls and data, and not American citizens in the United States communicating domestically with each other.
The quest to keep us safe is a difficult balancing act. I neither envy the President nor have many answers I could offer him.
My concern is not about this President, but about those under him. Under President Obama, we have seen an Internal Revenue Service harass conservative, Jewish, and Christian groups. We have seen the Department of Homeland Security label tea party activists, evangelicals, and veterans returning from abroad as threats. We have seen the Environmental Protection Agency show favoritism to liberal groups and obstruct conservative groups. We have seen a Department of Justice sell arms to Mexican drug cartels, turn a blind eye to the New Black Panthers, and target journalists. We have seen a State Department bungle its handling of Benghazi and engage in a coverup of the details of just how badly they screwed up. We have seen the Department of Agriculture frivolously dole out taxpayer dollars in the scandalous Pigford program. And this is not a complete list. CONTINUE READING