As a liberterian, this scares the crap out of me...
Spychief Mike McConnell is drafting a plan to protect America’s cyberspace that will raise privacy issues and make the current debate over surveillance law look like “a walk in the park,” McConnell tells The New Yorker in the issue set to hit newsstands Monday. “This is going to be a goat rope on the Hill. My prediction is that we’re going to screw around with this until something horrendous happens.”
At issue, McConnell acknowledges, is that in order to accomplish his plan, the government must have the ability to read all the information crossing the Internet in the United States in order to protect it from abuse. Congressional aides tell The Journal that they, too, are also anticipating a fight over civil liberties that will rival the battles over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The argument in favor of such broad latitude for intelligence services goes something like this:
"But Ed" you point out, pretending to know what you're talking about, "the terrorist threat is real and as long as you aren't doing anything illegal, why do you care if the feds listen in? They need all the tools available to them to stop the terrorists"
What if a pencil-necked spook is listening in while you're talking to you grandmother about apple pie recipes, and you start talking politics and harshly criticize the President? Do you want an operative of that administration knowing that you dislike his boss? What if you're having marital problems? Do you want the feds listening in while you discuss it with your best friend?
Do you want some sweaty, nameless, faceless bureaucrat sitting in a van down the street knowing what you get in the mail, who you talk to on the phone, what 900 numbers you call once in a while? Look, once the federal government gets the right to surveil regular, law-abiding Americans for no reason other than they're trying to catch you at something, then this ceases to be America to me.
I am in favor of 1. profiling Americans who use the phone or internet to contact individuals in terrorist-sponsoring countries. and 2. monitoring the domestic and international calls of known or suspected terrorists or terrorist associates.
I realize that there is no constitutional right to privacy(most people think there is), but that doesn't mean the federal government should be granted the right to snoop in the affairs of ordinary, non-suspected citizens.