For years the United States has been gathering millions of Verizon cell phone records, as well as foreigner’s emails and data from Google, Facebook and other Internet companies.
It is all to make us safer, President Obama says. It’s to protect us from terrorist acts.
Terrorist acts can happen anyway. Obvious case in point, the Boston bombings.
And that is a case where one of the bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been interviewed by the FBI because the Chechen government feared he was a terror risk. Were his cell phone records among those gathered by the government?
Was his social media activity being monitored? Or was that information collected but lost in the avalanche of records collected from average Americans? Saturday’s New York Times has a story citing an example that the administration is using to justify the policy.
But the example involves a Pakistani email account that had been linked to senior Al-Qaeda operatives.
The tracking of sites and individuals suspected of terrorist ties seems clearly necessary. But the mining of private data from millions of law-abiding Americans raises serious questions about a government overreach in the name of keeping us safe.