What do you think of the NSA programs that monitor Internet activity and phone records?

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cybersecurity
NSA
Privacy rights
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After news broke of the U.S. National Security Agencies (NSA) access to information from a large segment of Internet traffic (social media and domestic companies), discussions about national security and online privacy issues have reached a new high. What do you think of the NSA programs that monitor Internet activity and phone records? Is it necessary, as the NSA claims, for the security of the US or is it an unwarranted intrusion into the personal lives of US citizens?

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  • TomLiotta
    I don't think we know what to think about it yet. Not enough is known. However, more than enough is known for us to be highly suspicious.
    .
    My first difficulty is in thinking in terms of "National Security". We might think of the largest example of a terrorist attack. While it was horrendous, the 9-11 World Trade Center attack also spectacularly succeeded. Yet the federal government of the U.S.A. did not come close to falling. I.e., the 'Nation' remained 'secure'. So, there is the potential for a distinction between security of the 'Nation' and security of citizens within the nation.
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    Granted that the nation necessarily is based upon the citizens, but citizens are killed in crimes every day. The property of citizens is destroyed or stolen every day. It's not unusual for any of it to be done by foreigners and even foreign 'organizations', e.g., drug gangs.
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    I'm not convinced that the security of the 'Nation' is quite at stake from terrorists. So, maybe widespread, wholesale collections of unfocused communication data are not appropriate.
    ..
    At least, so far.
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    However, we also see items such as An Aggravate of Agencies Advises: Banks, spec up your security NOW from earlier today. That's not an isolated discussion nor is it far fetched. It doesn't take much educated thought to see threats like those as truly matters of national security. Further, detection of and subsequent protection from such attacks can require massive unfocused data collections to build effective pattern recognition databases.
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    In short, I can think a lot of things about the topic. But I can't see a way to a conclusion. We don't know enough.
    .
    Tom
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  • Kevin Beaver
    My take on this is elections have consequences. People want (plead for) government in their lives in so many ways. Power-hungry politicians who couldn't survive on their own in the free market cannot discern what's "good" vs. "bad" government. All they see is an opportunity to grow their oversight and increase their job security. Why wouldn't they capitalize on the perceived needs of the masses? It's "for the greater good".
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  • TomLiotta
    "Elections" is a good element to bring in to the discussion. In general, elections reflect the majority of voters. By watching election results, we get info about what most voters want, or at least thought they wanted. It's hard to determine if results are from voters who have no idea of the consequences of their choices or if the consequences are what the voters actually wanted to happen. (And it only relates to a 'majority of voters', not necessarily all who are eligible to vote. IOW, it's most often a minority of the eligible total.) . One aspect that's caught my attention is how members of Congress are currently questioning actions that were (apparently) authorized by... Congress. Since Congressional turnover can happen relatively quickly, this whole issue seems better handled by the Judicial branch rather than Legislative. Trying to legislate actions in this area is always going to be trouble. . We're told that some form of reauthorization happens as often as every 45 days or 90 days (depending on what's being reauthorized and on the source of info). I'm interested in the actual procedural mechanism of that. I suspect it's handled mostly by rubber-stamping form letters with little if any discussion. During Congressional recesses (and election periods), I'd wonder if any consideration is given at all and by whom. . Tom
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  • TomLiotta
    Maybe the most widely used excuse is "If you're not doing anything wrong, you have no reason to be concerned." . Medical issues can affect the private, public and working lives of some people. A discussion with a physician by phone or e-mail is not "doing anything wrong", but disclosure can cause concern, as can manipulation by threat of disclosure. . A small group of innovative young entrepreneurs might use phone or e-mail to discuss characteristics of inventions or basic business plans. None of it is "doing anything wrong", but secrecy can be critical and worthy of major concern. . Anyone might need to discuss plans with an attorney for many reasons, and phone or e-mail might be used at some point. It might simply be a question about consequences of reporting wrongdoing by some major corporate employee and isn't "doing anything wrong". But how much political influence does a 'major corporate employer' have? Are leaks ever possible? If they are, then there is reason for concern. . A large business might have executives and managers discuss potential plans to develop a new business park, perhaps by phone or e-mail. Premature disclosure could have major impact even if those in the discussion groups are not allowed to take personal advantage of 'insider' information. None of the discussion is "doing anything wrong", but all of those involved in discussions, along with general employees, their families, business investors, stockholders and others should rightfully be concerned. . An investigative reporter might be following activities of some powerful political group. Regular reports or updates might be sent to managing editors by phone or e-mail. It definitely isn't "doing anything wrong", but the political implications of access to such communications ought to be of serious concern to every citizen. . I doubt that I've exhausted the list, and I'd be interested in other possible examples. Secrecy and privacy are fundamental to many activities that are necessary in a free society. It has no necessary connection with doing something wrong. . Tom
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