As the New York Times reports, the National Security Agency (NSA) is “not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas.” The agency is “also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners.” Further, in its extensive computer searches of data, the NSA is “systematically searching—without warrants—through the contents of Americans’ communications that cross the border.” This “reveals more about the scale of its secret operations,” though surely not the entire picture, though some realities are clear.
According to NSA whistleblowers the federal agency is “collecting everything, contents word for word, everything of every domestic communication in this country.” And that is despite denials by bureaucrats and politicians, including the President of the United States Barack Obama. This is all supposed to be for our security but there is room for reasonable doubt. For example, federal government agents were reading emails from U.S. Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan to high-profile terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki. In these emails Hasan discussed the prospect of killing American soldiers, but the government did nothing to prevent Hasan from murdering 13 and wounding 32 others at Fort Hood. Worse, the Army called this act of terrorism “workplace violence” and continued to pay Hasan’s full salary while he awaited trial for nearly four years.
While the NSA has been listening in, the Transportation Security Authority (TSA) has been mounting a surge of intrusion through VIPR—Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response, a program with a budget of $100 million, and “growing rapidly,” according to one report. VIPR squads have been rousting people at train stations and other transportation hubs, actions that go beyond the TSA’s original mission of airport screening, and which civil liberties groups say amount to “warrantless searches in violation of constitutional protections.” This too is supposed to promote security but TSA officials would not tell reporters if the VIPR squads had succeeded in stopping any terrorist attack.
That is all “classified,” like the NSA operations now emerging, but here’s the deal. These federal agencies, with ever-growing budgets and mandates, are abusing U.S. citizens by violating their constitutional rights. But the same government that reads citizens’ email and listens to their conversations is not likely to pay heed when alarmed citizens send out an SOS.