SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

August 8, 2013

Watson: Government collects data to look for threats

(Continued)

FISA established rules for wiretapping, search warrants, surveillance and investigation of intelligence targets. It permitted authorized, covert surveillance, while maintaining both secrecy and court and Congressional oversight. Notably, it set much stricter rules for spying on American citizens than those it set for noncitizens and foreigners.

It is important to note that FISA has worked well. The FISA court has issued literally tens of thousands of search and wiretap warrants, with very few complaints or challenges. It is also important to note that FISA, by its very founding, reaffirmed the principle that Americans do not expect to be investigated for exercising our wide-ranging rights.

Which brings us back to what we have learned about the government’s data collection efforts since 2001. Essentially, all types of surveillance — physical, video, phone, online — have increased steadily, to the point today where we can safely assume that there are no private communications if any third party or filtering medium is involved.

That sounds terrible — and Orwellian — but it may pose no threat to our personal liberty. My reading of what has happened is this: The nature of the plethora of communication technologies has evolved so fast and offers so many avenues for bad people to plot bad things, that the only way to detect them is to continuously monitor all communications everywhere — globally.

Furthermore, other circumstances have changed. The nature of bad people, and the nature of the tools at their disposal, have become many magnitudes more dangerous than, say, 30 years ago. Terrorist fanaticism has become more robust, more widespread, and more mobile and far-reaching than ever before. And the variety of weapons has become much larger, more available, more lethal and potentially staggeringly devastating (think electrical grid shutdown) than ever before in history.

Lastly, the world itself has become small, overcrowded, interconnected and strained, and the design and dependencies of modern society contain all sorts of extreme vulnerabilities. Ironically — as we lament the ubiquitous surveillance that computers make possible — it is the very conversion of everything to computer control and online operation that is the source of one of the biggest vulnerabilities we have.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion

AP Video
Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate
Helium