War is peace, surveillance is privacy
So now they're going full Orwell and claiming that government surveillance is actually protecting your privacy:
As Congress considers legislation to reform the surveillance practices of the National Security Agency, senior intelligence officials have said publicly that they'd be willing to modify key aspects of how one of the most controversial programs is run. But now, the top lawyers for the NSA and other intelligence agencies are pushing back on that idea, arguing that they should be allowed to continue building a massive database of phone records on every American. It'd be better for American's privacy rights, they claim.
They argue that having the companies hold on to all our data instead of storing it in a huge government data base means that local and state authorities could use it more easily and that it would be accessed by shyster divorce lawyers and the like.
Patrick Kelley, the acting general counsel of the FBI, said the phone company data could be made available to "other levels of law enforcement enforcement from local, state and federal who want it for whatever law enforcement purposes they're authorized to obtain it." He also raised a frightening prospect: "Civil litigation could also seek to obtain it for such things as relatively mundane as divorce actions," he said. "Who's calling who with your spouse ... So if the data is kept only by the companies than I think the privacy considerations certainly warrants scrutiny."
That's funny, especially considering the kinds of things we know the NSA has done. But be that as it may, this notion that we must keep the data forever just in case the government might want to use it in the future is the fundamental problem. I see no good reason why anyone should keep all this information forever, whether it be private companies or the government, simply because it might be useful to law enforcement. Just as we are not required to give the government every piece of paper we've ever sent or received (or the post office is not required to copy every piece of mail that passes through it's hands and "hold" it) just in case law enforcement might want to use it some day, neither should we have to give the government our digital correspondence "just in case."
I'm sure this particular group of very nice FBI and NSA employees would never do anything untoward with all that information they are storing. They sound like wonderful people with only our best interests at heart. But I'm afraid I just don't have the same faith in everyone. In fact, having watched our own government lose its collective mind after 9/11 and invade countries that didn't attack us, torture and imprison innocent people and build prison camps where the people detained are facing a kafkaesque nightmare because they allegedly can't be tried and can't be freed, you'll have to excuse me if I don't have a whole lot of faith that some future crisis won't "require" some future Dick Cheney to use some of that information they've been hoarding in ways they promise us they'll never use it today.
The party line here is that these listeners have convinced themselves that they must do all this lest some terrorist slips through their fingers. At yet, we have mass shootings every week in this country and the government follows constitutional requirements based upon the principle that there are dangers of living in a free society and we all must be willing to take the good with the bad. So I'm not convinced that it's a surfeit of concern for American lives that's driving this. And I'm very suspicious about just what is.
So no, they shouldn't be allowed to run a dragnet on everyone in the world and keep the information stored in some vault just in case they want to search through someone's data in the future. There's nothing different about that than the old practice of keeping dossiers on every citizen and telling them they have nothing to worry about as long as they are model citizens and do nothing the government doesn't think they should be doing. I think we know what to call a society like that.