Big Brother Is Listening
The Atlantic has a chilling piece on just how good the NSA is doing soaking up just about every electronic communication in America, including this one presumably: "NSA personnel, the customs inspectors of the information superhighway, have the ultimate goal of intercepting and reviewing every syllable and murmur zapping into, out of, or through the United States. They are close to achieving it. More than a dozen years ago, an NSA director gave an indication of the agency’s capability. “Just one intelligence-collection system,” said Admiral William O. Studeman, referring to a listening post such as Sugar Grove, “can generate a million inputs per half hour.” Today, with the secret cooperation of much of the telecommunications industry, massive dishes vacuuming the airwaves, and electronic “packet sniffers,” software that monitors network traffic, diverting e-mail and other data from fiber-optic cables, the NSA’s hourly take is in the tens of millions of communications. One transatlantic fiber-optic cable alone has the capacity to handle close to 10 million simultaneous calls. While most communications flow through the NSA’s electronic net unheard and unread, those messages associated with persons on the agency’s watch lists—whether guilty or innocent—get kicked out for review.
As history has shown, the availability of such vast amounts of information is a temptation for an intelligence agency. The criteria for compiling watch lists and collecting information may be very strict at the beginning of such a program, but the reality—in a sort of bureaucratic law of expansion—is that it will draw in more and more people whose only offense was knowing the wrong person or protesting the wrong war.
Moreover, as Internet and wireless communications have grown exponentially, users have seen a corresponding decrease in the protections provided by the two institutions set up to shield the public from eavesdroppers. The first, the FISA court, has simply been shunted aside by the executive branch. The second, the congressional intelligence committees, have quite surprisingly abdicated any role. Created to be the watchdogs over the intelligence community, the committees have instead become its most enthusiastic cheerleaders. Rather than fighting for the public’s privacy rights, they are constantly battling for more money and more freedom for the spy agencies."