Good Question: How Much Is The Gov’t Watching Us?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On the new CBS show “Person of Interest,” a clever citizen comes up with a computer that analyzes all of the data the government is monitoring from its citizens. He uses that data to stop crimes before they happen.

That’s the Hollywood version of government spying, but what’s the truth? How much is the government watching us?

“It’s staggering, and it’s driven by technology,” said Chuck Samuelson, head of the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The Patriot Act gives government and by extension local police departments huge new powers.”

The Patriot Act allows the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens, but the NSA is supposed to get a warrant.

“It certainly authorized a lot more surveillance,” said Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota Law School professor, and former chief ethics lawyer at the Bush White House.

Could the government read our email?

“The government can do that, but they are supposed to go through a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” said Painter.

They can analyze emails too. According to Painter, in 2010, there were about 1,500 requests for warrants, “and almost all of them were granted.”

The Washington Post investigated this topic, and reported that “every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.”

Some are concerned that more of the surveillance is for domestic criminal matters rather than terrorism.

“If we start using surveillance for things like taxes, then Big Brother is watching way too much,” said Painter.

The increase in surveillance cameras also has privacy experts concerned, because under the law, there’s no expectation of privacy when you walk down a public street.

“They have better things to do than watch you or I, as we’re not suspects,” said Jay Cline, president of Minnesota Privacy Consultants. “If you turn on the spigot and capture everything, there aren’t enough people to analyze the filtered information.”

But if they’re trying to track you, they can.

“The NSA has back doors to everything, all your cell phones,” said Samuelson. “There’s no security program they can’t beat.”

More from Jason DeRusha
  • Mel

    Person of Interest was a great show. I highly recommend it. We, as citizens need to start worrying when we see small satellites being put at all the intersections and on top of the corner of buildings.

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  • Watching you

    Obama is watching you via AttackWatch

  • Kent

    There’s no going back. Soon the investigating underground will know what brand of toilet paper I use. Oh wait..they already do.

  • dlm

    Look all you want, I have nothing to hide.

  • BigWheezy

    Thanks, Bush! Another monumental disaster created on his watch.

    • I'm Just Sayin'

      @BigWheezy, You mean George Bush that did it with the democrats blessings? You mean while our Current President that has been in office for almost three years now and voted fo rit and failed to repeal it, is that the george bush you are referring to? What part of yoru life are yo uso afraid fo the government knowing about? WE al lknow specifically they are looking for terrorist, not yoru average Joe buying weed or donking his neighbors wife.

  • Fat Albert

    Is it OK if we flash them?

  • PFred

    Okay, from what it says in the report, “in 2010, there were about 1,500 requests for warrants, “and almost all of them were granted.” If you think about all the crime that goes on in this Country and there were only 1,500 requests, that isn’t anything compared to how many millions of citizens there are. I doubt there is any reason for people to panic. There are terrorists, drug dealers, etc. that they are worried about, not your average person on the street. The article is blowing things up just to make the news and to put people into a panic. The government needs search warrants, etc. to get into your records. They don’t have the authority to just go in and willy nilly snoop into someone’s phone, internet or email records. I also believe the heightened security camera use is for our own security and for our communities, not for, as you say “BIG BROTHER!”

  • MARK

    dumb, da-dumb, dumb…

  • Joey Olson

    There was a special on History or Discovery. It was called Under the Radar. Homeland Security and other agencies have some cool things to work with. Like the man in the article said, if they wanted to track you, it is almost impossible to hide.

  • jim sims

    This is Old fashion Communism.
    Isnt it ironic…

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