Column, 331 words

Metadata Mining Is Mega Awful

There's no shortage of complaints about the nation's massive surveillance dragnet now that We the People know about it.

Jim Hightower

It’s good to know that our friendly, über-secret National Security Agency is out there every day, protecting our freedom. By violating it.

A whistleblower has blown the lid off the NSA’s super-snoop program of rummaging electronically through about a billion phone calls made every day by us average Americans. This revelation prompted Al Gore to tweet: “Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?”

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ElectronicFrontierFoundation/Flickr

It’s definitely not just you, Al — this latest abuse of the Fourth Amendment is so mega-awful that authorities had to invent a new word for the process: Metadata mining.

Most shocking, however, is the tin-eared, who-cares reaction by both Republican and Democratic leaders to this outrageous meta-surveillance of our private lives.

Take Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican. He blustered: “It doesn’t bother me one bit that NSA has my number.” Hey, Senator Graham, it’s not your number we’re worried about. It’s the government’s collection of our entire country’s numbers.

Or Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican: “To my knowledge, we have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint relative to the gathering of this information,” he blathered.

Hello, Senator Clueless. No one knew to complain since y’all kept the program secret from us. And there’s no shortage of complaints now that it’s out in the open.

President Barack Obama was even more ridiculous. He tried to rationalize his wholesale invasion of our privacy by declaring that Congress knew about the program, as did a special spy court that routinely reviews and blesses it. So it’s all legit, right?

In a perplexed voice, Obama said that if people don’t trust the White House, Congress, and federal judges, “then we’re going to have some problems here.”

Gosh sir, We the People have now learned that all three branches of government have furtively conspired for seven years to violate our privacy — so, no, we don’t trust any of them. And, yes, that is a biiiiiiig problem.

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org

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    Most supermarkets and many other stores have “loyalty cards” that offer discounts on specific products if you’ll sign up for their “club” with your name and phone number. Without this membership the store charges you more. Where do you think that data goes? What is its use? Who do you think has access to that data? Does the NSA?

    As a programmer the depth of access into your private life these cards give is terrifying. They know where you were, what you spent, what you bought, and can infer from that what you did after.