You’re probably aware that last week the news broke that the NSA has been collecting telephone information about all Verizon customers for the past seven years, specifically “telephony metadata” such as which numbers called which other numbers at which time. Oh, and they can access all the stuff on Google, Facebook, and Apple servers.
The news has shocked people who have been paying no attention to the government’s actions over the past decade.
We certainly can’t say that about the ALA, which has kept a close watch on the Patriot Act from the beginning. Thus, it’s not surprising that they released a statement in response calling for “accountability and transparency in nation’s surveillance laws.”
But it might be that the ALA is concerned over nothing. C’mon, let’s think about it.
First, it’s not the content of the phone calls themselves, at least not yet. It’s not even the names of the people who are making the calls, at least not yet. It’s just numbers. And for Gmail, they’re only looking at foreigners. Probably.
Second, unless your number is linked to a number that the government claims is linked to a terrorist, you’re fine, probably. And it’s not like you’re emailing terrorists, is it? And this has got to work, because there have never been innocent people who have made it onto terrorist watchlists or no-fly lists or such. Ever. So just relax.
Third, the government is just trying to protect you, even you mean librarians who are all concerned about library patron privacy or whatever. Okay, so the protection was secret. But if the government went around telling people that all telephone use was monitored, then the terrorists might stop using telephones completely, and that would be bad. Maybe. I guess.
Then the terrorists might have to start communicating via email or Internet sites, and those are definitely not all being monitored by the government, except that they are. (I just want to say to the government that I’m fine with that. Really.)
Fourth, even if Congress was listening to you, which it’s not (except in a government surveillance kind of way), they’re all fine with this. Check out these great defenses:
From Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “Right now I think everyone should just calm down and understand this isn’t anything that’s brand new.” See? This is old news, at least for your senators who have been informed about it for the past seven years. So just calm down already. “That’s old news” is a classic response to news politicians don’t want to talk about. If it was really old news, no one would be asking so many questions.
And from Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) “This is nothing particularly new. Every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this, and to my knowledge we have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint relative to the gathering of this information.”
There you go. No citizens have registered complaints relative to the gathering of information that they knew nothing about until last week. He went on to add that no citizens have registered complaints about the ongoing gathering of information from AT&T and Sprint or Google’s servers, either, so there.
Fifth, President Obama is pretty happy with it, too, making the man so many librarians loved five years ago maybe a little less lovable. Republican senators and the President agreeing on something? They can’t agree enough to govern the country together, but they can sure agree your communications need to be monitored. So you can be pretty sure that thing won’t change.
Sixth and finally, it’s probably not a good idea to criticize the NSA. As we learned from the documentary Mercury Rising, if you mess with the NSA, the NSA will mess with you, even if you’re an adorable little autistic child. The safest response is just to say that you think whatever the NSA does is fine by you. There’s nothing to worry about. Just move on.
That’s my response, NSA, in case you’re reading.