Since the government won't tell us what they are doing with the records of all the phone numbers we call (from where, at what time, etc.) or the trail of all our internet doings (blogs, YouTube, gmail, Facebook, etc.), I don't feel bound by the usual standards I apply here -- by an obligation to try to ground my speculations in some evidence. That's what they get for refusing to level with the people who involuntarily pay the bills for this stuff.
What follows is blowing smoke out my ass, though I suspect it captures some truths.
The government considers all of cyberspace a theatre of war, a war in which we are actively engaged. Actually, we know that's how they view it. They apparently combined with the Israelis to unleash a damaging computer worm to attack Iran's nuclear efforts. Who knows what else they are cooking up?
What if collecting everything we do in the ether really has little or nothing to do "preventing terrorism"? Any successes they've had are "classified" -- sorry, unless you put up some evidence, that's a synonym for "not credible."
What if the data collection activities are only an excuse for the development of cyber war capacity? Maybe we're all part of some grand war games exercise. Could be. In World War II, my mother was part of a civil aviation "warning system" that recruited housewives to stand in fields and log any planes they saw. It was pretty unlikely that Germans or Japanese would be flying over the shores of Lake Erie, but they "did their bit" for the war. She came to suspect they were training army recruits in using a newfangled technology called "radar" -- the apprentice soldiers' observations were compared with those of the human observers.
I retain the old fashioned idea that the citizens of a democracy ought to have some say in whether they are fighting a war; if this is really what is going on here, we need to demand a more active role than being guinea pigs for security nerds.
Maybe the government works so diligently to keep us scared shitless of terrorism, not only because it makes us pliable, but because they personally are scared shitless. Hear me out. Unless some America-hating crackpots get ahold of nuclear weapons, nothing some terrorists can do here presents an existential threat to the nation. Seriously. The 9/11 attacks were an atrocious crime -- 3000 dead amid televised images of destruction made for a terrible toll. But the damage to people and buildings in New York and Washington barely caused a hiccup in the national economy or the fabric of life. The damage from 9/11 we did to ourselves through proliferating security theater and stupid, destructive, expensive wars on people who had nothing to do with the crimes.
Terrorism, however dramatic and frightening, cannot overthrow this country.
Preventing terrorist attacks is worthy work. But incidents on the Boston Marathon scale -- 3 dead, hundreds badly injured -- are far more likely than another 9/11. And we're just beginning to realize that. This country is no stranger to violence, even violence involving multiple victims. Why, as the President defended NSA snooping on Saturday, a few miles down the road a gun man was killing five victims, probably "innocent" victims. That sort of thing is part of who we are. In 2010, 11,000 people in this country were murdered with guns -- but individual gun ownership is held by many to be an inviolable Constitutional right.
Politicians in office remain terrified that some minor terrorist event will destroy their tenure. The White House certainly acted that way after the Fort Hood shootings, a trauma that has passed out of national memory (except perhaps among immediate survivors and relatives of victims.) Ditto their scurrying around with quart-size clear ziplock bags after the Undiebomber.
In addition to enjoying the enhanced authority that terror of terrorism gives them, I wonder if our pols know something that is obvious if one bothers to think about it: they really are targets for terrorism. That is, if most of us got blown up by some hating nutcase, we'd just be unlucky collateral damage -- terrorists don't much care who they kill so long as the deed gets attention. But politicians (and their loved ones) are actual targets. That's not nice to have to live with.
Dianne Feinstein has always been an authoritarian. This item is not just me blowing smoke. When Dianne defends secrecy and lack of accountability in government (like this), she's in her natural element. Take it from this San Franciscan who remembers her as mayor, she's always governed from the stance that she knew best and we should all just shut up and let her make the decisions. I do not trust her for a minute on matters of civil liberties or democracy. She hates all those impediments to doing as she thinks would be good for the proles.
It's a sad pass we've come to. I'll give the last word for now to the whistleblower, Mr. Snowdon, who leaked the bad news: he says he acted because NSA data collection is