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What happened to Snowden?

Recently, thanks to Edward Snowden, there has been quite a commotion about the NSA. Snowden has revealed that the NSA has been working with large tech companies to collect information on suspected terrorists. Many people were quick to anger when they found out; shocked that their government could spy on them. They are afraid of losing their privacy and are fighting for their rights. They all cite the 4th amendment and claim that the government can’t do this. Well, unfortunately, those rights were forfeited more than a decade ago by the Patriot Act of 2001.

snowThe NSA is doing exactly what is outlined into the Patriot Act. They can issue a letter to any organization (Microsoft for example) and demand   various records and data pertaining to individuals. There is no probable cause needed; a judge does not even need to be consulted. In addition to demanding your private information from big companies, the NSA can issue a gag order, requiring the companies to remain silent about the intrusion. So don’t blame the companies or assume they are untrustworthy. It is your government which is forcing these breaches in customer privacy. The worst part is that our bill of rights and the 4th amendment can’t protect us; at least not until the Supreme Court rules the Patriot Act unconstitutional.

Now on the flip side of the coin, there are many people claiming that they have done nothing wrong, therefore they have nothing to worry about. These people feel that a small breach in privacy is overshadowed by the protection we gain by stopping terrorist. Unfortunately the NSA method of blanket information retrieval may actually hinder terror investigations. If government agencies are distracted and wasting time spying on innocent American citizens, when they could be following solid leads, how effective can they be? Take the obvious example of the Boston Marathon Bombing. The Russian government warned that the bombing suspects could be involved in terrorist activities. However, the federal government was so bogged down by their overreaching surveillance network that they did not catch it in time. This is boring logistics; not exactly fear inducing to most people. Some people may not be convinced, still feeling safe in their innocence; but a quick look at history will show a similar event when the FBI was first created. J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI, abused his authority. He used the FBI to spy on high ranking political figures, something the NSA could now do. Hoover used this information to blackmail important people into doing anything he wanted. He had files on every political chess piece, about anything from sex scandals to drug abuse, Hoover wanted to control the government, and he almost succeeded. Now imagine if Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, wanted more power. Imagine if he tapped into Obama’s Hotmail account or his Skype account and built a file much like Hoover’s that could blackmail the President. He could use this to force the president to veto a bill that takes away the NSA’s spying abilities or a Supreme Court judge to prevent the Patriot Act being ruled unconstitutional. If you weren’t already worried about the NSA abusing its power I hope you are now. Our rights are important, and when they are compromised we can face dire consequences.

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