, Salem, MA


July 2, 2013

Column: Trust us?

As we head into the long Fourth of July weekend, to celebrate our independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the ideals and the freedoms that Americans have fought and died for seem to be disappearing. The very entities that were created to protect the hallmarks of our free society have been corrupted to the point where, intoxicated with power, they eviscerate daily those same attributes, until it seems that our American heritage almost no longer exists. It’s a classic case of “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The government is becoming antagonistic to our most important assets — ourselves, the American people.

This shift of intentions and purpose in the government had its beginning back on Sept. 11, 2001, when those with autocratic-leaning desires created what is known as the Patriot Act, about which there really is not much that could actually be construed as “patriotic.” But, there is one small element of the Patriot Act, Section 215, that clearly doesn’t allow for spying on American citizens without probable cause and a warrant. There are two different elements working in the government’s communications surveillance program. One monitors digital communications occurring inside American shores going out and communications coming into America from outside American shores. The second element is actual spying on communications, for which probable cause and a warrant are needed, inside domestic shores.

A special algorithm was created in order to filter out from vast amounts of innocuous data that which could be potentially dangerous. This pertinent data is then examined for content. This has seldom borne fruit in the past 12 years, the best example being a plot to be perpetrated on the New York City subway system. Somewhere along the line, a secret request was made to the FISA court for a blanket warrant for all metadata generated by communications inside American shores. Metadata is not the content of the communications, but the data surrounding them, such as the time they took place, their destination, their length and the time they ended.

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