"The scale of America's surveillance state was laid bare on Thursday as senior politicians revealed that the US counter-terrorism effort had swept up swaths of personal data from the phone calls of millions of citizens for years. After the revelation by the Guardian of a sweeping secret court order that authorized the FBI to seize all call records from a subsidiary of Verizon, the Obama administration sought to defuse mounting anger over what critics described as the broadest surveillance ruling ever issued.
A White House spokesman said that laws governing such orders "are something that have been in place for a number of years now" and were vital for protecting national security. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the Verizon court order had been in place for seven years. "People want the homeland kept safe," Feinstein said. But as the implications of the blanket approval for obtaining phone data reverberated around Washington and beyond, anger grew among other politicians." (The Guardian)
The revelations of the last several days about the scope of the NSA's surveillance efforts is remarkable in many ways. It started with a whistle blower leaking information and documents to Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian. The scope of what was released dwarfs what Bradley Manning released to WikiLeaks. Like Manning, the leaker of the NSA information is undoubtedly someone with a U.S. security clearance who signed a nondisclosure agreement. The government will will be hunting for this leaker with a vengeance. I signed the same thing as did Colonel Lang. For that reason, I am not linking to any of the leaked classified documents.
Both Obama and Clapper have issued statements acknowledging these surveillance programs. They, and a host of Legislative officials, have stated the programs are all legal and necessary to keep us safe. Obama assured us that no one in the government is listening to our phone calls. Sure, that's not really technically feasible… yet. Clapper's statement is informative in explaining the legal safeguards and how "the Intelligence Community is committed to respecting the civil liberties and privacy of all American citizens." That's probably all true, but "trust us" is not that reassuring of an answer.
My first thought upon hearing of this was of Erich Honecker's pervasive and sordid surveillance state. I remember when we all thought the DDR was an abomination because of all that internal surveillance. I recommend the movie "Das Leben Der Anderen" as a cautionary tale. It could happen here.