re: NSA Dragnet Debacle: What It Means To IT
A good analysis. It's dispiriting that the government's surveillance has been confirmed in this manner-- but is it really surprising? As Andrew suggests, it's a bit unnerving that so much data is being collected, but the point about tax dollars puts the dragnet into perspective.
I don't think that makes it okay--but it makes me less concerned about being personally targeted than about (again, to follow Andrew) the dynamic between citizens and government. Things were already pretty bad; the far right has decided that "facts" matter less than "principles" and "faith," and the left hasn't held the Obama administration accountable for its failings (e.g. why has President Obama forgotten how much Candidate Obama talked about transparency? Would Candidate Obama have taken such a unilaterally harsh stance on whistle blowers?). These conditions, among others, had already polarized rhetoric and neutered Congressional efficacy.
Now, you have to wonder if there's any reversing the widespread disillusionment this will cause. The President points out that Congress has been briefed on this program-- but that's not nearly good enough, and he knows it. Perhaps the realities of a digital, post-9/11 world demand that certain assumptions and entitlements be discussed-- but that discussion never really happened. Never in my life have I seen such a huge gulf between Americans' collective perception of a law and what the law actually does. And that's not okay.
Effective democracy only works when there can be informed debate. I appreciate that national security must be maintained, and that means the government has to keep certain secrets. But I have to believe we could have, as a society, had some conversation about giving up privacy that would also have allowed the government to keep its methods and strategies under wraps. Instead of doing that, we rushed the Patriot Act into law. As a result, whenever the government doesn't feel like having a debate, it can point to "national security" and refuse to admit anything, let alone divulge additional details.
I don't think it's surprising that the government runs a program like this. To be honest, I'm not even sure how I feel about the way the data is being used, now that they have it. I just think it's discouraging that the government didn't have to have a conversation - let alone break any clear laws - to get this far.
InformationWeek Associate Editor