CALIFORNIA June 8, 2013 — The recent exposure of NSA’s collection of massive amounts of cell phone metadata has rightfully called into question how far our privacy and Constitutional protections have eroded since the dawn of the war on terror.
The Intelligence Community has served our nation in remarkable and exemplary ways, typically without fanfare or publicity. Within this community, the National Security Agency has vigorously pursued its twofold mission: exploit foreign signals and communications for intelligence purposes (SIGINT); and safeguard critical information from exploitation by adversaries.
Although the NSA isn’t immune to controversy (recall the 1975 Church Committee and President Bush’s Warrantless Wiretaps), its historical focus has been purely foreign. not domestic. information exploitation.
Many Constitutional authorities claim certain forms of general domestic spying are both justified and legal, many civil liberties groups are rightfully outraged. The legal minutia will be argued by both sides for years to come.
However, for today the issue has to do with what trust should we place in our government to benignly collect information against citizens when no crime has been committed.
Arguably, the government has a valid Biblical role in maintaining order and peace (1 Timothy 2:1-2). It does this by enforcing just laws and keeping records on property ownership, driver’s licenses, criminal records, and myriads of other common interest activities.
It becomes problematic, however, when every citizen using a phone is considered a security risk before any criminal activity actually occurs. Even the hapless TSA only selects “random” people for detailed scrutiny.
Although businesses gather interpretive information on us, they do it to improve their competitive edge. They don’t have the power to arrest, prosecute and jail us like the government has.
I’m not comforted that “only” cell phone metadata are collected, such as who was called, when they were called, how long the conversation took, and where the call was made. Our e-mails, internet search habits, bank and credit card transactions, Facebook postings, tweets, even medical records are all potentially collected and data mined by intelligence analysts or computer search engines.
Have we already forgotten how the IRS used just a few key words to identify and target groups for discriminatory harassment based on ideological leanings?
Are we to believe there’s absolutely no possibility of using phone records to identify those seeking mental health care of any kind so they can be flagged during gun purchase background checks? Could candidates for federal appointments (i.e. judges) have their calls screened for any contact with conservative groups or friends that are opposed to a president or presidential candidate?
For that matter, can we be certain our entire phone conversation isn’t recorded and available for analysis?
Wait, what about a legislator making questionable calls to other men’s wives, or accessing internet pornography? For a corrupt administration, it can become tempting to use an “inadvertent” leak of damaging information during an opponent’s campaign.
As a physicist, what if I have an academic interest in nuclear weapons, particularly dirty bombs, and do research on the internet? Do you think someone in the intelligence community might take note and look for relationships with subversive political groups – like Tea Parties?
The old argument that “I haven’t done anything wrong, so I’ve nothing to hide” forgets how 20th century regimes treated those thought to be inferior or non-conformist. Even Herod in Jesus’ day destroyed others in order to preserve his authority (Matthew 2:1-18). Clearly we don’t have the same situation, but self-serving power hates competition, and an administration that barely conceals its contempt for Biblically based conservative values can’t just be trusted to respect our rights and freedoms.
In fact, the warning signs are already there with Benghazi, the IRS and the targeting of investigative reporters for the AP and Fox News. If these are happening during relatively peaceful times, what can we expect during a true (or fabricated) national emergency?
Many will think this is pure paranoia, but history shows what happens when governments are not restrained to their core (in our case enumerated) powers. Even the Apostle Paul recognized the value of historical perspective in guiding the future (Romans 15:4). Shouldn’t we be just as diligent to learn from the past and protect our unique freedoms?
The Fourth Amendment to our Constitution prevents unreasonable searches and seizures without a Warrant and probable cause. This presumption of innocence is a key to our legal system and national life. But treating every American as a potential criminal not only violates this premise, it provides tempting opportunities for politically motivated abuse.
Remember NSA’s twofold mission? Like it or not, it’s been turned on its head: instead of focusing only on foreign adversaries, it now targets Americans; instead of safeguarding our information, its creating data bases that political power may use for purely political purposes.
In Biblical times when the wicked gained power, the people groaned (Proverbs 28:12; 29:2). We’re rapidly approaching that time.
Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankKacer or #BiblicalPolitics
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