My Thoughts on the Government Snooping Scandal

Check this out, people. Imagine a government–any government. You read a front page news story about that government. It’s been collecting the phone records for all its citizens. Numbers called, locations called from, duration of the call. For months. And what does this government say when asked by the press about this practice? “Oh, that old program? We’ve been doing that for *years*.”

Because if you’ve been doing it for years instead of months, it makes everything all better, right?

A few days later, a second revelation is made about this same government. It’s managed to get direct access to the servers of most of the major tech companies in the world. Google. Apple. Skype. Microsoft. Yahoo. Facebook. AOL.  This access lets them see whatever they want. When pressed about this practice, the government replies, “Oh, that old program? We’ve been doing that for *years*.” It then goes on to assure the people, “We only look for stuff that’s from or to foreigners, not citizens.” And when asked how the people can be sure that’s the case, the government essentially says, “Trust us.”

Oh. My. Stars.

This isn’t the Russian government, people. This isn’t the Saudis. Or the [insert totalitarian government here]. This is the good old US of A. This isn’t the Bush Administration, either. That evil bunch of crooks everyone liked to disparage (though a lot of this started under the Bush administration). This isn’t Cheney. This is Obama.

Let me put this in Geek, so you’ll all understand. Imagine that at the end of Return of the Jedi, right after the Ewok orgy scene, Luke whips out a black hooded robe, puts it on, and then force lightnings everyone to death, unfurling a giant banner that says, “EMPIRE 4 EVER.”

Imagine that Frodo hadn’t thrown the ring back, and that Middle Earth had a new reign of terror, Hobbit-style.

This is what’s going on in America. Right this instant.

When the Verizon thing broke, I was troubled, but I wasn’t incensed. Phone records? Shrug. Who I call. When I call them. I have nothing to hide. (But at the back of my mind, I wondered. What if I did? What if I had family over in the Middle East? Or what if I was back in Jerusalem for a while? And some of the calls I made were monitored, and they were to suspicious numbers, and suddenly I’m under way more scrutiny than I have any idea. It’s not hard to paint a scenario where even the phone records are far more intrusive than any government has a right to get without a warrant.)

But then this article broke. PRISM? Access to everything I do on Google? My searches, my emails, my anything? My work email is through Google, too. The work email that’s supposedly oh so secure. Rife with private information on students? That’s snoopable, too.

And the government doesn’t even need a warrant. It just promises that it won’t snoop on things it’s not supposed to.

Why don’t I mail them the key to my front door while they’re at it? Would they like my bank account information? How about access to my hard drive? Because I TOTALLY TRUST that they’re not going to snoop into things they have no right to snoop into.

Oh wait. Check that. I’ve already been communicating with people outside of the country. Slovakia. Germany. England. Lots of communication. And that means that my information might have been sifted through already. Without a warrant. Without letting me know.

And the justification for this is that THEY’VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR YEARS, SO IT’S TOTALLY OKAY? (Sorry. Some things in life deserve nothing less than all caps.)

As the New York Times points out, Obama’s had a habit of pointing the finger at the Bush Administration whenever he’s been called on the floor for distasteful practices. That, or issued a cloud of “I need this information so the terrorists don’t win. Trust me.” It’s your second term, buddy. The time for blaming Daddy is over. Man up, and eat your Wheaties. You’re doing this because *you* want to.

And it’s just plain wrong.

This is something straight out of a dystopian novel. I can’t simply “trust” the government. Not when it does things on this scale. Not when it tries to hide the things it’s doing, and then when we find out about them, just says it’s for our own good. This is the land of the free, last I checked.

I’m sorry. I’m just outraged, and the rest of the country should be, too. I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat, Socialist, Tea Party, or some other party. If the government wants to be doing something like this, the people have a right to know it’s happening, at the bare minimum. They have a right to be able to offer some input on the matter. If you tell us we can’t know, because then “the terrorists win” and “the program won’t be as effective,” tough luck.

The terrorists have already won.

No tinfoil hat here, people. This PRISM thing is huge, and the outcry against better be just as big. And that’s all I have to say about that at the moment.

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