Verizon and the N.S.A.: The Problem with Metadata : The New Yorker

Verizon and the N.S.A.: The Problem with Metadata : The New Yorker:

But with each technological breakthrough comes a break-in to realms previously thought private. “It’s really valuable for law enforcement, but we have to update the wiretap laws,” Landau said.

It was exactly these concerns that motivated the mathematician William Binney, a former N.S.A. official who spoke to me for the Drake story, to retire rather than keep working for an agency he suspected had begun to violate Americans’ fundamental privacy rights. After 9/11, Binney told me, as I reported in the piece, General Michael Hayden, who was then director of the N.S.A., “reassured everyone that the N.S.A. didn’t put out dragnets, and that was true. It had no need—it was getting every fish in the sea.”

Binney, who considered himself a conservative, feared that the N.S.A.’s data-mining program was so extensive that it could help “create an Orwellian state.”

As he told me at the time, wiretap surveillance requires trained human operators, but data mining is an automated process, which means that the entire country can be watched. Conceivably, the government could “monitor the Tea Party, or reporters, whatever group or organization you want to target,” he said. “It’s exactly what the Founding Fathers never wanted.”

[And hasn’t the attitude in Washington about this been entirely clear? I always worry when someone tells me something is “for my own good.”]

3 thoughts on “Verizon and the N.S.A.: The Problem with Metadata : The New Yorker

  1. gerry says:

    I’m conflicted about this. The importance of privacy is obvious to me. (What if people I don’t trust win future elections.) However having sons who ride the subways all the time and this policy having foiled the subway bomb plot ………….

    • The thing is, when it comes to stuff like this I don’t trust any government. This one hasn’t proven to be any better than any others.

      As for the Subway plot… doesn’t seem to be the case:

      An in general, the world is dangerous place. And I totally get the desire for greater safety. It’s what drives government. But, this policy has so many side effects… and more and more in the future. Privacy is already threadbare. This wipes it out.

      • gerry says:

        Stopped trusting the government a long time ago, long before Watergate even. The Gulf of Tonkin incident decided it for me (Wayne Morse voted against the resolution, which passed 99-1 and was called a traitor — turned out to be a hero), but I’m still conflicted. I’m waiting for some more definitive information about the subway plot but in any case I’ll lean towards safety (against most of what I stand for).

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