The Guardian newspaper in London Wednesday night reported that the National Security Agency has long collected phone records from some 100 million Verizon customers in the United States. The secret court order that allowed the NSA to obtain that, according to documents obtained by the Guardian, requires the phone company to hand the information over to the NSA on an “ongoing, daily basis.” The order covered international calls, as well as communications inside the United States, and customers were not aware of it until the Guardian story was published.
The following statements from public policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at email@example.com and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 312/731-9364.
“What makes this news doubly distressing is that it comes to U.S. citizens from an overseas news source on nearly exactly the anniversary of the day that the U.K. and the U.S., together with other allies, launched the D-Day invasion of Normandy to restore freedom to Europe.
“The fact that this is a bipartisan problem extending across administrations is further proof, if any were needed, that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and that those who would trade liberty for security will soon find that they have neither. All in all, this is a sad, sad way to commemorate one of the world’s most important anniversaries in the annals of freedom.”
“Should we be surprised at this news when the U.S. Supreme Court has just declared police may make the DNA of persons who have been convicted of nothing government property, potentially to be kept forever? When we have recently seen the Boston metropolitan area put under martial law and entire families dragged out of their homes at gunpoint by men dressed in military garb and backed up by armored vehicles and helicopters? When millions of travelers are subjected to virtual strip searches and physical groin gropes just to board a plane?
“George Bush may have started a war on terror, and Barack Obama may be speaking of eventually ending it, but it’s already over. The terrorists have won.”
“Privacy is very important. We would like the government to get off our backs. The administration should be more transparent and explain why this unusually extensive search is really necessary.”
“The audacity of monitoring everyone’s phone calls in hopes of catching a small number of terrorists demonstrates the unconstitutionality and self-contradiction at the heart of mass government surveillance. There is no probable cause for which to search any particular individual’s call records, merely a probability that someone, somewhere used a telephone to assist in the planning or commission of a crime. This reasoning nullifies the Fourth Amendment, the very point of which is that government cannot search or seize ‘persons, houses, papers, and effects’ at random.”
“The recent Obama administration attacks on personal liberties are frightening and lengthy: surveillance of the emails and phone records of journalists; the IRS debacle; the Benghazi scandal and cover-up; drones; and the National Defense Authorization Act that allows anyone the government doesn’t like to be held indefinitely, including U.S. citizens arrested on American soil. And now we learn of another attack on our liberty.
“This action by the NSA, which possesses the most advanced array of equipment and scientific personnel to listen to whomever it wants to, proves that the Obama administration is carrying out a plan of ‘change you can believe in.’ Our Constitution is openly and brazenly violated and it reminds me of how Russians, Chinese, Cubans, and many many others lost their freedom and paid dearly with tens of millions of innocent lives.”
“What is the difference between this and the Soviet dictatorship many of us fled in hope of coming to a free country?”
“If there is not a tremendous backlash that results from this news, it will show that we truly have not learned very important lessons from history.”
“The larger the amount of irrelevant data, the easier to hide things that might be important. Monitoring everybody diverts attention from what might be a genuine threat. Thus, the administration doing this suggests that the purpose is not to find terrorists but to find nonsupporters of Obama.”
“Our constitutional liberties are virtually unbounded. The government’s ability to infringe upon them is specific, delineated and delimited. Thus the government’s all-encompassing, boundless data grab from (at least) Verizon is an egregious assault on the people.
“The government needs to get specific court permission for specific, finite data. They should not ask for – or be granted – such blanket, open-ended data-grab authority. That they asked for and received permission for data-grab authority in advance of the grab – on an ongoing, rolling basis – is worse still.
“This is just the latest example – but maybe the worst – of the Obama administration’s complete disregard for the Constitution and the freedoms from government overreach it guarantees us. Here’s hoping the stunning totality of all we’ve lost will cause us to rise up and demand that it all be restored.”
“This report validates the unheeded warnings of skeptics at the time the Patriot Act was drafted – that rather than employ the law to investigate and stop genuine terrorist threats, the government would use it as a giant fishing net to collect as much information as it could about citizens as they go about their business, whether or not they are under suspicion. That’s exactly what’s happened.
“There is absolutely no justification or rationale for this unprecedented level of surveillance on millions of ordinary Americans. The FBI and NSA must suspend the FISA order immediately. Further, this abuse of power should give Congress the impetus to review the Patriot Act with an eye toward repeal, and reverse the government’s ever-escalating attack on privacy and due process.”
“Over the centuries, with the development of new technologies, the courts have considered the application of the principle of the Fourth Amendment. Is a conversation on a telephone protected by the Fourth Amendment, necessitating a warrant for a wiretap? Might the government use eavesdropping devices and thermal imaging to monitor people in their homes? Might the government aggregate a database on the population enabling it to ‘profile’ everybody for any reason?
“The Courts in countenancing this monitoring of the entire population in the name of the war on terror has utterly failed us. Congress should identify the particular judges who have cooperated with the Department of Justice and hold hearings as to whether they are subject to removal from office, or else consider an amendment to the Constitution adding as a cause for removal repeated failure to protect the rights of the people guaranteed by the Constitution. The Congress should immediately prohibit the use of public money for the purpose of any massive monitoring of the people, thus restricting search and seizure to the identification of particular places to searched and particular persons and things to be seized.”
“This really creeps me out. Did you ever see the movie ‘Minority Report’ with Tom Cruise? Before you know it, if the political elites have their way, we will have the ‘thought’ police!”