Dealing with the NSA’s Data Collection Policy

By Armend Lajka

At a time when information about any subject is so readily available to anyone with a smartphone in his hands, it is becoming increasingly difficult to understand how our government operates.

The subject that is most cryptic to us is our own security. We don’t know how we’re being protected. Most Americans have been content with this because they put their faith in their government.

Americans didn’t question the government’s secrecy until the National Security Agency (NSA) revelations last June. Before that Americans knew that their government was hiding something from them, but they didn’t question it. They had faith in their government to do the right thing.

Edward Snowden showed that the NSA was not only spying on the US’s enemies, but on Americans as well. The New York Times cartoon, “Reining in the N.S.A.” aptly depicts the NSA as Doctor Frankenstein’s monster. The monster is massive and carries a pair of headphones in its hands that it uses to keep track of what Americans do at every moment.

According to Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian, the NSA collected almost three billion pieces of information about Americans in February 2013. If such a figure is collected monthly, that’s 36 billion pieces of information per year about our telephone calls, emails, and online activities.

Proponents of the NSA’s activities indicate that these programs collect massive amounts of information, which means that not everything collected is thoroughly read. However, collecting this data changes the relationship between individuals and their government. How can Americans trust a government that peeks into their lives without asking?

This data collection certainly goes against the Fourth Amendment, since the NSA obtains personal information without a warrant. This data could easily be abused.

Proponents also claim that this information can help the US discover terrorist activities. However, the massive amounts of information may prove to be more of a hindrance than an asset. For example, the US missed the warnings from Russia that could have prevented the attack at the Boston Marathon.

Similarly, the US again had all the necessary info to stop the Underwear Bomber, but due to the massive amounts of information, it missed the attack.

The US government must be more open about how it protects Americans. Not disclosing information because it threatens national security is understandable. Once the NSA has its hands on our emails and telephone calls though, we should have a direct say in what they are doing with them.

We don’t need every detail, but the government should just give us something, a tiny morsel so we have an idea about what is happening.

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