You are being watched.
But, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
Isn't that right? That is what the watchers want us to believe.
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution reads as:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
The NSA's Prism is the latest (and most expansive) program whereby information regarding communication amongst everyone is collected and stored. The government claims it does not keep the content of said communications, but even if that was true, that should not give us any calming of mind. The data that are collected includes who called who, when, for how long and from where. If one of the people in the exchange is not a citizen, then the content can be monitored - even real-time.
The data collection is just the continued progression of the ever-expanding State presence in society. Though the Supreme Court ruled against it (somewhat in U.S. v. Jones, 2012), the Obama administration and Federal government continue to state that a warrant is not required to affix GPS to someone's car, so that an individual's movement can be monitored. The increase of cameras in public places, use of drones for police work, checkpoints and stop-and-frisk are various ways that the State already has been monitoring us, invading our privacy.
With technology, the State is able to track everywhere we go, know who we communicate with and for how long. Again, this is taking those who are monitoring us at their word - that they are not listening to, reading or storing the contents of all those various types of communication.
With that ever-present eye of Big Brother, let's put this issue into context. Through the various programs, even at the benign level its defenders try to portray it as, is no different in observation than a police officer trailing you, taking notes about where you go, who you talked to, for how long. The corollary of that is the web of connections inherent in social networks and relationships - who did the one you talked to, talk to?-what about those they talked to?-and so on.
Would a warrant be required for an officer of the law to trail you, monitor you, collect your metadata, even if the contents were not captured? Would a warrant be required for an officer of the law to enter your house and catalogue your possessions? Would a warrant be required for an officer of the law to answer the phone for you, to get who you were speaking to, who you were calling, as well as reading your mail before you send or receive it? Yes, a warrant would be required.
Just because we do not see Officer Friendly camping out in our yards, handing us our mail or our phones does not mean there is any difference between what that would be, and what the NSA is doing. The data being gathered is being held onto by the government, stored for later use. The State will look into their database to see who you spoke to, when, how long and the network of who they spoke with, and so on.
Here is where defenders of the invasion decry 'If you don't have anything to hide, then you shouldn't care.'
This foolish statement gets offered regularly by those who think that security can be purchased at the cost of liberty - after all, if you want to be secure, you shouldn't mind the State invading your privacy because it is for the 'greater good,' that is to combat terrorism.
No, it isn't.
Those people who make such a statement fail to understand the nature of principle, focusing only on the concrete example before them - of that concrete before them, just a small part, not the whole - selective attention and self-imposed blinders.
Through the acceptance of the specific act, the principle that is set is the violation of liberty for the greater good, of those who have done no wrong, violated no rights and are not conspiring to do so. 'It's just a little encroachment,' nothing more. After all, the laws are there to protect us.
Keep in mind how vastly laws are different or can change from state to state, not to mention Federal law is an ever-expanding mass of legal forms in the way the State may use of force to make citizens capitulate. How do lawmakers stay busy?-they pass more laws. We don't need any more of an example of how grossly the State may change its ambiguous stance on a position than to look at then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's corrupt statement: We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.
Terrorism itself is ambiguous - a helpful characteristic for the State to use the term to punish those deemed troublemakers, or to avoid using for pragmatic political purposes.
Nidal Malik Hasan murdered 13 people and attempted to murder many more. Prior to his murder spree, he had prompted investigation by the FBI for communication with one the State had formally declared a terrorist; Hasan chanted 'Allahu Akbar!' as he continued murdering. Hasan's murder spree was deemed as 'workplace violence.'
Brandon Raub, a marine who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, posted comments - including song lyrics - on his Facebook page that were critical of the government; he was detained and placed in a mental institution, being deemed dangerous, needing immediate mental help. He did not violate anyone's rights.
Senator John McCain advised that the US is also a battlefield. Such a pronouncement makes it so we all are potential enemy combatants, and enemy combatants do not get rights. It is an excuse to say that the content may be monitored. It is just the step beyond what Raub already experienced.
Combine the database, the vast social networks permanently linked, along with the selective implementation and finish the concoction with those in the government trying to show how busy and productive they are by passing new laws and see how the government will be able to look back: who was your doctor?-what kind of doctor was he, and did he change his specialty?-what other doctors did you talk to and when? Did you speak to a gun dealer?-what about someone who knows a gun dealer? Did you post something critical of the government?-do you know someone who posted something critical of the government? It may not be critical now, but when a new administration comes in that takes over usage of the database, did you state anything that the new rulers do not like?
The IRS is going to be invested in healthcare; states have passed laws legalizing (to varying extents) marijuana - that the Federal government does not observe; states have different laws regarding how one may own different types of firearms; abortion laws are always under review to be changed. Have an opinion on any of those issues? Know people who have opinions about those issues? Those connections will end up in the database - if not more than just connections.
At the defenders' own words, the system tracks when, how, for how long those communications existed. Those who are critical of the system (including whistleblowers) state that more detailed data are tracked - contents.
Even at the best case scenario that the defenders try to paint on the invasion of privacy - or as they prefer to call it, just data mining - it does not take away that the illusion of non-intrusion, of not having an actual officer present collecting the data, by its nature sets the principle that without having specific reasonable suspicion and probable cause that the State can interject itself into our lives.
It does all this without preventing what it was supposed to prevent: forewarned by others, both Hasan's Fort Hood shootings and the Boston bombings were not prevented though the NSA's program was in place.
The State (meaning those composing the government) will do what it wants, when it wants, and how it wants, without our knowledge or consent; the programs were created as such in the first place.
This is the ever-present eye of Big Brother making sure the people are obedient. With the threat of force, the State passes laws dictating what we may and may not do; with expanding surveillance, we are being watched to make sure we remain obedient. Making people obedient, removing the options from someone takes away the rational part of the rational animal leaving just an animal, like a sheep; a Shepard keeps his flock safe from predators, but also fleeces all, while even slaughtering some in the herd.
Who is watching you, and for what reason?