The jury's still out on the American right to privacy
By Paula WalterOnce again, the US government is mired in yet another controversy. It has seemed lately that there has been issue after issue that has hit the news; the deadly attack in Benghazi, the revelation that the IRS may have targeted specific conservative groups; the Justice Department issuing search warrants for some Associated Press journalists and the recent announcement that there may have been inappropriate actions by employees of the State Department that involved prostitutes. Perhaps the one that seems to have riled me up in the last week is the discovery that information gathered from phone calls is being collected on millions of Americans. It definitely makes you think that indeed big brother is watching.
President Obama recently stated no one is listening to your calls. However, it appears that United States intelligence agencies are gathering information on the number of domestic cell calls you make, the duration of the calls and whom you call. This includes records from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint customers. It has been reported that information is also being collected on e-mails, text messages and video chats from overseas. One source reported that 1,000,000,000, yes, one billion, records are received each day that contain information from phone calls of Americans. The telephone records go into a database that can be accessed by a judge’s nod in a national security investigation in the event of a terrorist event. Apparently this has been going on for approximately seven years, and although many do not like it, these programs are legal.
With the recent announcement by Edward Snowden that the United States was embroiled in spying on its citizens, people have referred to him as a hero, courageous but also a traitor. Cries have come from members of Congress and others that the national security of the country has been compromised as the entire world now knows the United States government has been in the business of gathering facts about people all over the world in their quest to reduce terrorist activities on our own home soil.
The telephone monitoring isn’t between an American and someone overseas. It’s Mary Brown down the road calling her doctor’s office for an appointment. It’s Joe Clark in the next county getting a phone call that his mother has passed away. These are ordinary phone communications between your average, every day Americans. The leaders of our country state they are not out after upstanding citizens, but in search of those who wish to do us harm. It has been reported that there is no data on the content of the actual calls.
Listening to both sides of the argument, you can see how people might agree with the reasoning behind the surveillance, and I respect that argument. However, I still am having a very difficult time accepting that the American government is spying upon its citizens. I understand the reasons for the government’s actions, but it doesn’t set right with me. Sometimes I have a hard time drawing a line in the sand and can see both sides of an argument. The jury is still out on this one for me. Sometimes seeing and understanding both sides of a debate keeps you spinning in circles.
So what about you, our readers? This is a chance for you to voice, vent or express your opinions on the situation. We plan on printing your thoughts on the US government collecting cell phone call information in what we will call “Your Turn.” Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.