New spying revelations ominous

Published 1:29pm Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sheesh, a columnist takes one little week off and the whole political world gets crazy … crazier than usual, even.
The full extent of the U.S. government’s snooping activities came to light as I was crossing items off my checklist for my children’s first trip to Disney World.
It put the whole mega-amusement park experience in an interesting perspective. Of special note was the finger print identification now required, along with our valid ticket, for entry to the wide worlds of Mickey … each and every time.
I’m kind of stunned at the sheer volume of disturbing information that’s come out since we last spoke. We barely had a day to freak out about Verizon and the other cell phone companies giving our call records to the NSA.
Then came news of PRISM, the massive NSA project to sweep up and analyze nearly everything that crosses U.S. Internet servers.
Did it ever cross your mind to wave hello to the Department of Homeland Security or the NSA as you posted things to your Facebook page? Because you should’ve … they might not have cared, but as the reports on the NSA’s PRISM program detail, they could see it.
Used Google to drop a note to an old college buddy in law enforcement? They might have even noticed that one. “Law enforcement” is on Homeland Security’s list, as is “police” and “cops.”
What if it’s a completely innocent sentence, some typical Facebook status material?
“I’m about to Exercise so I can find the Initiative to Drill holes in some tin to fix the Threat of a Leak in the shed. Then I’ll Crash.”
Every capitalized word in that sentence, except “I’m,” “I’ll” and “Then,” would cause Homeland Security’s computers to ping.
God forbid a sports fan “goes nuclear” over his team’s secondary letting a receiver catch that long “bomb.”
The scary thing about this — among, of course, all the other scary things — is that the companies involved in most of the recently revealed domestic spying projects is that the companies involved cooperated fully. Microsoft, Apple, Verizon, Facebook, Google and others took a call from Uncle Sam requesting the keys to everything and said “here ya go!”
Like our government, which has so clearly forgotten who it works for, the giant companies we depend on have forgotten who makes their tremendous profits possible.
In the supposedly dark days of the Bush administration, it was a bridge too far to spy on those making phone calls to terrorist hotbeds like Yemen, Saudi Arabia or Iran.
But under Obama, it’s no problem that the government is spying on everybody making calls to everybody, and also sweeping up every little thing we put on the Internet.
Perhaps its a necessity of this ongoing War on Terror. But if that’s the case, how were the Tsarnaev brothers — since found to have been quite active on the Internet — able to hang out in Boston, with their stellar Chechen background, long enough to hatch and execute the marathon bombing.
If these intelligence programs couldn’t catch those two, exactly what good is it?
As Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) put it in a speech on the House floor last week, it’s none of the government’s business when I call my mother.
Grayson is one of the handful of Democrats who have been refreshingly evenhanded in this recent scandal-palooza.During the freak out over the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Courts, there were ominous signs, but based on the number of warrants signed by those courts, the spying was, or at least seemed, limited to specific terror-related cases.
But they’ve only had a few dozen FISA warrants per year issued on average in the Obama administration. Why? Because now they’re getting warrants for specific service providers, Verizon for instance, which then gives them anything and everything.
But Dick Cheney was the illegitimate son of Darth Vader and the Antichrist?
We already know that elements in the government have no problem targeting those with specific beliefs for special treatment.
There needs to be some check or oversight to make sure the information dragnet doesn’t get merged with the ideological inquisition.
Otherwise, our republic is toast.

David D. Goodwin is political editor of The Wetumpka Herald. Contact him at david.goodwin@thewetumpkaherald.com.

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