NSA’s Incessant Information Gathering Must Be Controlled

Oliver Bok, Editor in Chief

I don’t consider myself a private person. I simply don’t have much to hide. I don’t really care who knows the banal details of my everyday existence. I’d venture a guess that most people who have grown up in this internet era feel similarly. Everyone shares everything nowadays.

So what should the NSA revelations mean to us? We already give our information away to Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Why should we care if that data is going to the government too? After all, they’re keeping us safe! The government needs to collect bulk information about its citizens because finding a terrorist is like finding a needle in a haystack. We’re the haystack! What’s wrong with being a haystack? Why should I care about the warrantless metadata collection of the NSA?

Here’s why: while throwing away and undervaluing your right to privacy may be typical nowadays, you must recognize that the NSA’s warrantless society-wide snooping is antithetical to freedom and democracy.

The NSA documents have shown that there are basically no safeguards against an individual analyst targeting whomever he wants; on a technical level, an analyst can type a phone number into a database and receive that number’s call record.

According to The Guardian, several NSA analysts have used their power to spy on their personal love interests. In fact, this practice is common enough that there is even NSA slang for this kind of abuse: LOVEINT. Pretty gross.

But what if an NSA analyst decided to look up a political figure’s metadata? And figured out they were having an affair? And leaked it to the media? That’s a totally plausible occurrence. Or what if the NSA decided to unmask a journalist’s source? Well, that’s probably already happened in the Obama Administration’s ongoing War on Journalism — the Obama Administration has convicted more whistleblowers than every single previous administration combined.

Not only is the potential for abuse far too great, but the bulk collection program isn’t even effective. There’s no evidence that any terrorist attack has been averted because of the bulk collection program. In fact, former NSA employees have made the case that this kind of bulk collection makes us less safe. The NSA has less time and resources to pursue the actual terrorists — the kind of people they could get specific warrants for — because they’re spying on us.

Here is a great example of the energetic incompetence of the NSA: It came out last week that the agency has spent large amounts of manpower and resources on spying on World of Warcraft and Second Life. In fact, according The Guardian, “So many different U.S. intelligence agents were conducting operations inside games that a “deconfliction” group was required to ensure they weren’t spying on, or interfering with, each other.” And did all of this effort lead to any intelligence? No! In fact, there’s zero evidence that terrorists even considered using these games to communicate. And yet, the spying continued.

The NSA is a bloated, arrogant, runaway agency. The NSA needs to be brought under control, for both our freedom and our safety.