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A forever war and fragile rights

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Relax. Yes, the government knows who you call, who you talk to, when, where and for how long. We are filtered through a supercomputer sieve to see if we line up with the latest terrorist profile. Of course we don’t, so this really isn’t a Big Brother situation. We are just innocent specks among the billions and billions of things the government looks through in its search for enemies and their murderous schemes. It’s all perfectly constitutional and approved by Congress under the USA Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. No big deal, they say. Nothing illegal about it. And if I my sister-in-law in England sends an email asking for a muffin recipe, it’s conceivable they know about that, too, not that they care about muffins. They are sifting through billions and billions of Internet conversations daily, all that email and Googling and social media conversing the world does. Since a lot of the world’s Internet traffic goes through the United States, the National Security Agency can pick up tiny bits of suspicious stuff, and from there go to some old-fashioned espionage. Under orders, the big companies like Microsoft and Google help out with this project, in ways they can’t discuss. It is concentrated not on U.S. citizens, but foreigners who lack rights, and supervised by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, its deliberations secret, and cheered on by Congress, mostly in secret. There are checks and balances and “adequate safeguards” and constitutional requirements are strictly followed, in secret. The president of the United States insists the program is “transparent.”

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